By Lindsey Benoit, Women's Health Director of Communications and Special Projects
I was sitting down with my friend Jen earlier this year, who just so happens to be Women's Health magazine's Fitness Director, a recent Ironman finisher and a certified trainer, about setting our New Year's goals. Anyone who has met Jen Ator knows she is one of the most motivated and inspiring girls around, so I was eager to make strong resolutions. Ultimately, I came up with two big goals -- learn how to play the Ukulele and run a half marathon. Never in a million years would I think that learning to play an instrument would be easier than training to run 13.1 miles. I mean, isn't running supposed to be skill we are naturally born with?
In high school I thought I would join the cross-country team, but that was short lived, and I ended up hiding in the bushes with a friend after running about 10 minutes, waiting for the rest of the team to pass us before joining back in at the end of the run. The idea of running 13.1 miles on purpose was not something I thought I would willingly do -- let alone become one of my goals. I decided if I am going to do this, I am going to do it big and find a race that would be a magical experience for me. Naturally, runDisney popped into my head. I made up my mind and decided that the Wine & Dine Half Marathon sponsored by New Balance was the race for me -- a mix of hard work and fun at the most magical place on earth. Plus, delicious food and wine doesn't hurt. I was sold.
What sets this race apart is the start time. The race doesn't begin until 10 p.m. -- quite the contrast to my early morning training runs. I work long hours, so I prefer early morning workouts. Transitioning from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. is adding yet another challenge to my first long-distance run. For tips on adapting, I turned to the experts to give insight on how to prep for a night race to be ready to go on November 8.
Before Race Day
Prepare your body for the nights: "It's best to have at least two training runs that start about the same time as your night race," says runDisney coach and certified trainer Jeff Galloway. "Not only does this get the body used to running in the evening, you'll also learn how to schedule eating, which foods to avoid and how much fluid you need."
Don't do anything new race week: "No matter what time of day you're racing, you should always abide by racing rule number one: go with what you know and avoid trying anything new. This isn't the time to try new shoes, new food or drink, gear or anything else you haven't used. Stick with the routine that works for you," according to Runner's World Big Book of Running authors. "If you're traveling to a destination race, save the culinary excursions for post-race when you can savor every morsel without concern."
Know your route and get your gear ready: "Use the extra time you have. Set everything out that you'll need to take to the race. Pin your bib onto your shirt, place socks inside shoes, pack up your gear check bag, etc. Make sure your GPS watch and iPod/phone are charged if you're using them," says Women's Health Fitness Editor and frequent marathoner, Caitlin Carlson. "If you have time, drive to the start of the race in advance so you can get an idea of the parking situation and how far you'll have to walk. As it is a night race, you will want to be more familiar with the route. You can look up the course map online so you know where all water stops and bathrooms are along the course and be prepared for any big elevation changes or turns in the course. Doing all of these things well in advance of the race is super smart as it can minimize pre-race jitters!"
Be bright, stand out and test-drive your outfit: "For night races, reflective gear, glow-in-the-dark apparel items (like the Beacon jacket from New Balance or limited edition Fresh Foam and 1,400 glow-in-the-dark footwear) will certainly help with visibility. Costumes at all runDisney races are certainly encouraged and enjoyed, but make sure you can run comfortably in it for 13.1 miles. Avoid any clothing that would cause you to overheat," says Kristen Tenaglia, New Balance Tracksters and winner of the 2013 Wine & Dine Half Marathon. Plus, Carlson notes, "If you're going to run with novelty items, take them for a test run in your training first (even though you might look a bit silly!). That tutu may look super cute, but it also may chafe or slide all over the place during your run."
Day Of Race
Sleep in and nap: "On race day, sleep in and then take it easy! A great thing about an evening race is you don't have to wake up super early, says Carlson. "Try to squeeze in a 20-minute afternoon power nap."
Stay off your feet: "Stay off your feet as much as possible the day of the race, says Tenaglia. "Avoid going to the parks in the hot sun and being on your feet for hours, save that for post-race. You don't need to sit and nap all day, but try and conserve energy so that you can put it towards the race."
Eat properly: "During the day, make sure you are hydrating properly, drinking enough that your urine is barely yellow or even clear, states Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N and Official Nutritionist for runDisney. "Eat a solid breakfast with a combo of complex carbs (pancakes, bread products, cereal/oatmeal), plus some protein and a bit of fat. Lunch should also be fairly substantial with complex carbs and protein like a sandwich. Avoid fried food and other high fat foods because they can upset the stomach. Also avoid anything that tends to give heartburn or gastric reflux. Dinner should be about 5 p.m. and consist primarily of carbs with a little protein and low in fat. It could be pasta, potatoes, rice, tortilla, etc. with chicken or fish or other protein. No alcohol the day before or the day of the race prior to the race. Have a snack about 8 to 9 p.m. and continue to hydrate. The snack can be a granola bar or piece of fruit."
Warm up: "You can't expect your body to just take off at your goal pace when your legs aren't warm yet," says Carlson. "Doing a dynamic warm-up (think walking lunges, jumping jacks) and then jogging for just 5 minutes before the gun goes off can ensure you're ready to hit the ground running -- literally!" Tenaglia also adds, "Make sure you jog lightly for 10 to 20 minutes, about 45 minutes to 1 hour before the start of the race to get your muscles warm. Breaking the sweat barrier means your body is warmed up and ready to go. It's typical for runners to be waiting in their corrals for a good amount of time before the start of the race, so plan accordingly and continue to do some light stretching in the corral to keep your muscles loose."
Don't start too fast: "Start slow and stay even," says Bart Yasso, author of Runner's World Big Book of Running. "Run the first 10 percent of the race slower than you normally would with the idea you will finish strong and avoid burning out early." Galloway explains, "Whatever you save in the first half, you can use at the end."
Fuel up: "Find out what they are serving before the big day so you can make sure it sits well with you and if it doesn't, bring you own, explains Yasso. "You should be getting 4 to 8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes, adds Gidus. "Depending on your pace, you may want to hit every stop even if it's just for a few ounces/swallows of fluid. The fueling during the race is no different than other half marathons. It's just the eating leading up to the 10 p.m. race that changes."Get motivated: "Having a positive mental strategy can keep us focused and away from negative thoughts generated by the stresses of running (exertion, heat, crowds, goals)." Galloway has four tips:
- Have a mantra and repeat it: "I can do it! Or you've got this!
- Mentally focus on the next walk break, the next mile marker, how good you will feel at the finish.
- Laugh, smile, adjust pace and put in walk breaks if you need them.
Be in the moment: Having fun and taking pictures with the characters is a must. Both Tenaglia and Galloway agree, "If you've never raced at night, it's definitely a fun and different experience that you might end up liking better than morning races.
Eat and enjoy: "Make sure you eat something after the race, says Gidus. "You may be tempted to just go back to the hotel and shower and go to bed. Have a snack or post race meal of carbs and protein and of course fluid." Galloway adds, "enjoy every endorphin and the part afterward."