Mental Toughness

Most of us are racing against ourselves.  We are not going to win the race.  We may not even place in our age group.  Most of us are somewhere in the middle of the pack, and therefore the race is probably about meeting a personal time goal, or sometimes just finishing.  This can create a problem, as if you are only racing  against yourself you are the only one who can push you.  I sometimes wonder if the top 3 runners have it easier, because they have the win to motivate them.  Maybe even a prize purse.  But even those top 3 runners have to race against themselves. Regardless of where you fall in the pack, a good race often comes down to mental toughness.  You’ve probably heard the quote that your toughest competitor is the little voice inside your head telling you to quit.  Oh so true.  So how do you train yourself to be mentally tougher?

I had a not so stellar trail race recently in Vail.  I went into it telling myself it was just a training run, but I  guess I still expected to do better than I did. My legs felt like lead as soon as the trail started heading up.  I can make a million excuses: my epic workouts earlier in the week meant that my legs were already tired.  I started the race too fast. The 3 glasses of Sangria on the 4th of July didn’t exactly fit in to my usual pre-race hydration routine.  But ultimately it came down to my mind.  It was telling me to give up.  To slow down.  To stop altogether.  To stop making my body hurt so bad.  On that day I was not as mentally tough as I wanted to be.  I gave in to my mind, and I slowed down.  But on the other hand,  in a way I did win that race against myself, because I didn’t let my brain stop my body.  I kept going.  I finished.  And the view from the top was pretty sweet.  In the end, I think that race helped build my mental toughness, because slow or not I pushed past the mental wall and kept going.

Mental toughness is a popular and important concept in all sports. To help me address this crucial topic, I asked one of the most mentally tough athletes I know, my sister Kim Dobson, who just so happens to be the Pikes Peak Ascent female course record holder as well as the family record holder for longest time standing in a freezing river,  for her advice on training and racing tough.  [Side note: standing in a cold river or lake is also a great way to build mental toughness!] Below are her tips, interspersed with some quotes I find motivational, and hopefully you will too.

Tips for staying mentally tough during training and racing:

photo(3)

Me suffering during the La Sportiva Vail Hill Climb

– Have a specific goal for your event and a plan to achieve your goal.  Keep your goal in mind during hard workouts.  Each workout you conquer puts you one step closer to your goal.

“In the midst of an ordinary training day, I try to remind myself that I am preparing for the extraordinary.”- Shalane Flanagan

“Somewhere in the world, someone’s training when you aren’t. When you race him he’ll win.”    -Tom Fleming

-Accept that it is going to hurt.  Great accomplishments do not come without a price.  Be willing to endure the pain.  After all, it was you who set your goal!

“You ain’t gonna get out of the race pain free, so you gotta pick your pain- the pain of the race or the pain of regret!”- Greg McMillan

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great!”  -Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

-It seems obvious, but when the going gets tough remind yourself that the suffering will end.  The satisfaction of knowing you ran as smart and as strong as possible will far outweigh the temporary pain of a race or a workout.

“Some people hit walls, others crush them”- Nike ad

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever”- Lance Armstrong

-Break the workout/race into thirds or fourths.  Have a goal for each portion, which might include hitting a certain time, distance, or effort level.  Set high, yet realistic targets.  Gradually step up the intensity and effort level as you work through each portion.

“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”  -William Faulkner

Training specific tips:

-Practice staying mentally tough during hard workouts.  Train your mind to keep pushing your body beyond what you think is your limit.

“Your legs will give out long before your muscles

-Before a workout, remind yourself of your goal and how this particular run will put you closer to that goal.

“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare”- Juma Ikangaa, 1989 NYC Marathon winner

Jungfrau

Kim giving it her all to maintain her third place position at the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland

Tips for staying mentally tough during your race:

-Remember all of the hard work you have put towards your goal.  The hours you spent training, mornings you woke up early to squeeze in workouts, the sacrifices you made, and the challenges you endured while training.  Don’t give up now and waste all of your efforts.  Now is the time to dig deeper than you have before to accomplish your goal.

“Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in the muscles”- Alex Karras

-Stay relaxed and confident before and during your event.  It’s normal to feel excited and nervous, but feeling overly anxious will likely hinder your performance.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” –Steve Prefontaine

-Recite a mantra that will keep you relaxed and engaged.  Make it simple, three or four words that have meaning to you.

Recently my mom has joked that hers is “Not bad for an old lady”, which was kindly reworded to “Damn good for an old lady!”

Sometimes I will recite a line from the movie What About Bob- “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful!”

Kim sometimes uses the mantra “relaxed, efficient, strong”

-Have a plan, but also be ready to adapt to and push through unexpected challenges during your race.   A lot can go wrong in a race.  Set your sights on running excellence rather than running perfection.

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will”- Mahatma Gandhi

Train hard. Stay strong. Remember: you are capable of more than you know!

Training (or trying to at least) in the Heat

I had planned on blogging about mental toughness this week, inspired by a not so stellar performance at a race last weekend.  But when my planned 8 mile run turned into a 4 mile run due to the heat this evening I decided I need to address a more pressing topic for July in Denver: training in the heat.  I’ve never considered myself to do particularly well in the heat, but I swear it wasn’t this difficult last summer.  It’s hard enough to go for a run after a long day of work, and with the heat lately my legs feel like lead and my body feels S-L-O-W!  I tend to pride myself on the fact that I don’t get cold easily, and I often joke that getting cold is 90% mental ( I even managed  to run on some 12 degree days), but getting hot is a whole other thing. While my Weatherbug app claimed my run was only 89°F my body would argue otherwise.  I tried to slow down but it didn’t make the run feel more manageable.  Ultimately, I gave up and cut the run in half (I guess I better get on that mental toughness blog…).

One of my new favorite quotes happens to be “there is no such thing as bad weather, only weak minds”, but besides just toughing it out or moving your workout indoors, is there anything a runner (or any athlete for that matter) can do to beat the heat? Here’s what I’ve either learned :

  • Avoid the heat if possible (duh).  Typically mornings are cooler so try to fit in your workout before heading off to work if possible.  If you aren’t a morning person, consider a night run (assuming that you have a safe and reasonably well lit route).  Not only will a run after sun down be cooler, but there is something about running in the dark that feels more like an adventure than a day run.
  • Wear light colored clothing. Loose fitting clothing may also be cooler.
    • Columbia Omni Freeze clothes have special technology that supposedly helps keep you cooler.  I’ve only had one experience running in one of these shirts, and I did feel delightfully cool, but it was probably in the 70s and I was in a forest. You can check them out here:

http://www.columbia.com/Omni-Freeze/Technology_Omni-Freeze,default,pg.html

  • A light colored hat to keep the sun off your face may also help, but you lose a lot of heat through your head-meaning it may actually make you hotter.  If you do wear a hat keeping it wet can help.
  • Bring extra water and sip more frequently.  Heat means more sweat so you may also need more electrolytes than during cooler long runs.
  • Lower your expectations.  You’ll be less likely to break mentally if you accept the fact that you’ll likely be slower in the heat, at least initially.  Supposedly your body will adapt to the heat after a few weeks of running in it.  Doesn’t seem to be working out for me this summer though!
  • Seek shady routes. In Colorado in particular there is usually a big temp difference (or at least perceived difference) in the shade vs the sun.
  • Run near water if possible.  This one isn’t so easy in Denver, but if you have access to a lake, river, or even an ocean front running alongside it will help cool you down.
  • Wet yourself.  No, not that way!  But dumping some water on your head and neck can have a surprisingly cooling effect, at least for a bit.
  • Run with friends.  Okay, a friend won’t actually help keep you cool unless they squirt water at you (which is an option I suppose), but having company may help distract you from the heat and make your run more enjoyable.

All this being said, be safe.  If it’s a record heat wave seriously consider moving your run indoors.  Also be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration (headache, confusion, loss of muscular control, clammy skin, goose bumps, hot or cold flashes, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness) and listen to your body.  If you feel awful, stop or at least walk for a bit to cool down.

Stay cool out there!

 

Can I Visualize Myself to the Finish Line?!

As I was driving home from a training run on Mt Evans last weekend, sitting in I-70 traffic, I started thinking about how the words “awesome” and “awful”, although fairly opposite by definition,  sound pretty similar.   I’m guessing they both come from the same root word-“awe”, which according to a quick Google search is defined as “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder”.  Yup, that about sums up how I feel about Mt Evans.   I’m betting that the Mt Evan’s Ascent will be a roller coaster that is both awesome and awful, possibly at the same time, and hopefully ultimately worth the battle.

I am at that weird place in training right before a race where there is really nothing you can do but sit back, relax, eat right, and hope that you’ve done the appropriate training to reach your goals. It’s sorta like that last hour before a big test.   There is typically a fair amount of freaking out during this time, but cramming won’t help, and might actually hurt you.   But there actually is something I can be doing: visualizing a successful race.  I once heard about a study that had basketball players practice visualizing themselves shooting the perfect free-throw over and over again.  They never actually touched a basketball, but their shooting average went up (sorry if that is incorrect basketball terminology).  So just by merely imaging yourself performing your particular sport with perfection, you may actually improve your performance.  The theory was that, if you do it right, you can “trick” (or teach if you are a glass half full kind of person) your brain into thinking you’ve physically practiced a bunch of free throws, and new neural pathways can be created, because your brain basically doesn’t know the difference between doing a free throw in real life and only imaging you are doing one (again you can choose to think of this as awesome that the brain is this powerful, or awful that the brain is this stupid!)  Think of it as an imaginary dress rehearsal.   It’s pretty cool stuff.

I’ve seen visualization mentioned in many other articles, so I figure it’s worth a shot.  I’m not talking cheesy “The Secret” type stuff, just simply picturing myself running up the course, feeling strong and fast, pumping my arms and breathing steadily….I’m feeling better about it already!

And even if it doesn’t help, it’s unlikely to hurt me (note to self: do not visualize self tripping and falling!)  If nothing else, doing it may help build confidence in my abilities and distract me from all of my nervous thoughts about what may go wrong during the race.

So time to sit back, eat carbs, and visualize success!

 

For info regarding visualization or “mental imagery”:

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/mentalimagery.html

Post Race Recovery

When I turned 30 seven months ago, I declared this year “The Year of Jen”.   I didn’t have a firm idea of what that meant at the time, but basically I wanted to have a year of great adventures and epicness(yes I know that’s not a real word).  Although The Year of Jen is over halfway done, the Summer of Jen has just begun!  While The Year of Jen has unfortunately not been entirely epic (I did do my first destination race, the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in Disneyland, but I haven’t taken any international trips and I still don’t own a puppy), The Summer of Jen promises to be interesting to say the least as it features me subjecting myself to 2 hardcore races: the Mt Evans Ascent and the Pikes Peak Ascent.  I also have a couple of other fun, less intimidating, races on the calendar.  First up: the Greenland Trail Race 8 miler this weekend.  Which brings me to the topic of post race recovery.  Since I have more than usual on my racing calendar this summer it will be important that I properly recover from all of my races and training runs.  This means good post exercise nutrition, proper stretching (something I’m not always good about) and rest days (but not too many).

Here is my plan for the first race of the season(note: this is based on science as well as personal experience).

Post race nutrition recommendations

-Within 30 minutes of finishing consume:

  • Carbs (1-1.5grams/kg body weight)
  •  Protein (10-20 grams)
  • Fluids(16-24 fl oz for every pound lost)
  • Electrolytes, particularly sodium (1 pound of sweat loss contains about 100 mg Potassium and 400-700 mg Sodium depending on if you are a salty sweater-which I think I am)

 

*My real world plan: since this is only an 8 mile race I’ll go with the lower end of the carbohydrate recommendation, for me that will be about 62 grams of carbohydrate. Since I won’t be weighing myself pre and post race to determine exactly how much water weight I lose (and I haven’t bothered to do training runs where I calculate my sweat rate), I’m going to have to estimate.  My plan is to drink 1 packet of Generation UCAN chocolate protein shake (33 grams carb, 13 grams protein, 140 mg Potassium, 240 mg Sodium) made with 12 oz soymilk (15 grams carb, 9 grams protein, 150 mg Sodium, 450 mg Potassium) as well as 20 fl oz of G2 (12 grams carb, 75mg Potassium, 270 mg Sodium).

Grand total: 60 grams carbohydrate, 22 grams protein, 660 mg Sodium, 665 mg Potassium, and 32 oz of fluid (but I’ll probably drink another  8 or so ounces of plain water as well).  A little high on the Potassium (who knew soymilk was such a good source?!) but otherwise pretty spot on.

Post Race Recovery

-Cool down: to burn as much lactate from your legs as possible (and lessen soreness) it’s recommended to go for a short slow jog or walk after the race.  I’m not hard core enough to go for a run after a run, but I will make an effort to walk around.  Any movement will help. Definitely don’t jump straight into a car or you’ll regret it later!

-Stretching: after cooling down to help keep muscles as loose as possible. I’m not always good about stretching, but my plan is to spend at least a few minutes stretching all of the muscles in my legs, butt, and hips. I won’t have my foam roller on me, but will use that later in the day as well.

-Rest days: I once heard an exercise physiology professor say that an athlete’s rest days are actually the most important training days.  They are the time when the body really heals and recovers, allowing it to work harder in the future and get stronger.  My plan is to go for a bike ride the day after my race to keep my legs loose, take the next day completely off, then resume with an easy run the day after that.  Then back on to full on training for Evans and Pikes!

So there’s my plan. Take what you find helpful, tweak it for yourself, and wish me luck with the Summer of Jen!

Eating Protein and Fighting Aging

Protein gets way less bad press than fats or carbs.  Sometimes I think it gets too much good press actually, such as the super high protein diets that are promoted for weight loss. Truth is protein is very important since it supplies the building blocks for just about every tissue in your body.  It also helps with recovery after workouts and satiation after meals, helping you to stave off hunger until the next meal or snack.  However, loading up on excess amounts (beyond what your body actually needs that is) isn’t going to help out your health or fitness.  I think people forget that excess protein can be stored as fat, just like excess carbs or dietary fat.

So why am I writing about protein? Because of a quote I recently read in SCAN’s Pulse newsletter that caught me off guard.  The comment was regarding protein intake after exercise as it relates to muscle repair and it said “this could make a meaningful difference over the course of a year, particularly for athletes over 30 years old who slowly lose muscle as a normal part of the aging process”.  Well crap.  I feel I handled my 30th birthday last year relatively well, mostly by ignoring the fact that I have entered this decade in life.  I’ve always said age is just a number anyway.  But this comment bothered me.  Whether I tell myself I have the fitness of a 22 year old or not, the reality is my body is 30 and apparently that means I’m going to start losing muscle mass.  Another joy of aging!  So I’ll do my best to fight it.  Here’s my plan and how you can too: getting enough total daily protein, incorporating optimal amounts of protein post workout, and strength training regularly.

Post Workout Protein Recs:

According to the article (and many others on the same topic), eating optimal amounts of protein shortly following a workout can help speed recovery and prevent muscle loss, since post exercise not only do the muscles need protein but they are primed and ready to utilize it.  There isn’t a lot of good data that suggests that one protein type is significantly better than another (i.e. whey, casein, soy) so pick the one you like best.  If you like it, you’ll be more likely to be consistent with consuming it.  This particular article didn’t give specific post workout recommendations, but generally it’s recommended to consume 10-20 grams of protein in the recovery window (within 30-60 minutes post workout).

Daily Protein Recs:

Another key point the article (which was based on a recent study) suggested was that the optimal amount of protein at meals for athletes is about 30 grams.  Beyond this amount there are no additional health benefits and you run the risk of storing the excess protein as fat.  Fall significantly short of this number and your muscles may not be getting as much protein as they need, which means you could lose muscle mass. The 30 grams per meal recommendation actually equates to a higher daily protein intake than what typical recommendations have called for, depending on body weight, which this study did not factor in.  According to traditional guidelines, the minimum amount of protein necessary to prevent deficiency is 0.8 grams/kg of body weight per day (0.36 grams/lb of body weight). That equals 49 grams for a 135 pound person.  However, that’s the minimum to prevent problems and if you are an athlete you definitely need more. The typical recommendation is for endurance athletes to consume 1.2-1.4 grams of protein/kg of body weight per day (0.54-0.64 grams/lb). So a 135 pound runner, for example, would need about 73-86 grams of protein a day, slightly less than 30 grams x 3 meals. Strength athletes need more, 1.4-1.7 grams/kg of body weight per day (0.64-.77 g/lb). Whether you go with the body weight recommendation or the 30 grams times 2 meals, these protein levels are not difficult to obtain if you are a meat eater. The key is to space your protein intake more evenly throughout the day, as it’s likely that your breakfast falls short.  An egg, for example, has 6 grams of protein while a 6 oz steak has about 42.  Vegetarians will have to work harder to make sure they meet their protein needs.  It’s okay to add a protein powder or bars as a supplement if you are not getting enough protein from food alone but aim to meet your needs from food first, supplements second.  Some good sources of protein are lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, soy, dairy, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and beans.

Strength Training Recs

Well, the goal is 2-3 times per week.  I have to admit that I have a hard time with that.  There are just so many things I’d rather do besides strength training, particularly because I’d rather be outside than at a gym.  However, I also recently read in Matt Fitzgerald’s book “Racing Weight” that runners should do strength training 2-3 times per week, so now that 2 people have said it I’m going to try….to do 2 times/week.  According to Fitzgerald, body weight exercises are okay, so the second time won’t even be at the gym. It will be post run body weight stuff such as lunges, push-ups and core work.  Hey, it’s still an improvement from where I’m at.

So there it is, my plan to fight the aging process. Obviously it’s more complicated than this, but it’s a start. Wish me luck!

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Exercise and Eating Disorders

 It’s not always easy being an eating disorder professional and an athlete.  As I started thinking about writing a blog about my half marathon training (coming soon!) I had the thought that it’s a bummer I have to keep that part of myself somewhat hidden at work. The patients I work with are very sick and compulsive exercise is a common struggle for them, so personal exercise talk is pretty taboo, and understandably so.  When my patients ask what I do on the weekends I tend to play things down.  I say I went for a short hike when in reality I climbed a 14er.  A training run becomes a walk in the park.  A bike ride up Vail Pass a casual cruiser ride.  It’s not that I like lying, it’s pretty awkward actually, but it doesn’t seem appropriate to delve into my athletic adventures.  Exercise and eating disorders is a complicated subject.  While I fully believe my exercise is healthy, I understand how it would be difficult for patients to understand. But I do it because I love it, not because I am trying to change my body or because I feel like I have to.  I live for the adventure. I fuel myself properly before, during, and after my activities. Heck, the sports nutrition is sometimes the most fun part for me!  And I don’t stress too much if I miss a workout or if it doesn’t go as planned.

 
Why is exercise such a tricky topic with eating disorders?  I think it’s because it’s a healthy thing taken too far.  Sure exercise has health benefits, and it can be a great stress relief, but when it’s compulsive it can actually be detrimental to your physical and mental health.  And when it gets to that point it’s hard to cut back, so sometimes total abstinence is the way to recovery.  There is actually research about running and eating disorders that basically says it’s nearly impossible to recover from an eating disorder if you refuse to stop logging miles.  This all seems quite contrary to what we hear in the media about how most Americans don’t get enough exercise and this lack of activity is causing health problems.  I always have to reality check my eating disorder patients-are you more likely to suffer health problems from lack of exercise or the eating disorder?  I guarantee it’s the eating disorder.
So how do you know if your exercise is a problem?  Ask these questions:
– Is my day ruined if I don’t get in a workout?
– Am I working out because I feel guilty about food I’ve eaten?
– Am I eating enough to fuel my workouts?
– Am I avoiding spending time with friends and family in order to exercise?
– Is my workout routine interfering with my work, school, or other obligations?
A “yes” (or 4) doesn’t mean you have an eating disorder but it might be an indicator that you should further evaluate your exercise habits.  Remember, exercise should be enjoyable! If you’re forcing yourself to run on the treadmill but you hate it, not only are you creating an unhealthy attitude around exercise, but you’re probably not going to stick with it long enough to reap any health benefits.  Remember- balance and moderation are key.  Exercise is great if you are doing it for the right reasons and properly fueling yourself, but it’s also okay to cancel a workout in order to grab dinner with a friend, or because you are tired, sick, or injured. Be kind to your body.

Below is a link to a blog I was quoted in awhile ago about one woman’s recovery from an eating disorder and the role exercise played.  She has some good insight and is doing well with her recovery, but keep in mind this was just one woman’s journey.

http://blisstree.com/look/eating-disorder-recovery-exercise-personal-trainer-227/

Lessons Learned from my Half Marathon Training

I knew when I signed up for a half marathon in January that training during the winter in Denver would be difficult. Cold weather, possible snow, darker days…I didn’t even factor in the holidays. Whoopsy! Perhaps the hardest lesson for me to learn was that training in the morning before work is super beneficial this time of year (and probably year round, I wouldn’t really know). Getting up early is painful for me, even when it’s not dark and cold outside, but I found that evening workouts are much more prone to cancellations- work happy hours, having to stay late at work, holiday engagements, feeling too tired/hungry/unmotivated at the end of the day all tend to get in the way. Plus, I tended to feel better at work on days that I got up early to work out. Another thing I learned is that if you dress appropriately you can run in some pretty cold temps. So no more excuses for cancelling runs when it gets nippy outside (but be realistic, running in sub zero temps is not recommended).

To come up with a list of top training tips I consulted with the best runner I know (who just so happens to be my sister), Kim Dobson (see: Pikes Peak Ascent Female record holder http://www.pikespeakmarathon.org/results.htm) to get her advice on how to have a successful half. The tips mostly apply for other distances as well. Here are our recommendations.

Training Tips:

• Make or use an appropriate training plan to guide your training. Even if you are pretty knowledgeable about what your training should look like it will help you stay on track if you have it pre-planned and written down. If you are a novice a 12 week training program should be sufficient to get you to the finish line, assuming some base cardiovascular fitness.

• In that training schedule include a weekly long run and a tempo run. Remember to build slowly towards the long run depending on what your base fitness is. If you are a newbie, your “long run” might be 5 miles. Tempo runs should be pleasantly challenging, typically just shy of race pace. Use tempo runs to visualize yourself in your upcoming race, fighting through the pain and fatigue.

• Reduce your weekly mileage every 3-4 weeks for one week to allow your body to recover and adapt from training. Think of these as “easy weeks” not off weeks.

• If something hurts while you run, take a day or two off. You might be able to do some low impact cross training like the elliptical or even yoga and core work instead. Listen to your body. Runners tend to have a hard time resting, but think of it this way-it’s either a little rest now or a lot of rest later when you really injure yourself.

• Run a 10K in the middle of your training block for motivation and to see where your running fitness is at. It will also help you adjust to race atmosphere.

• Be a part of your local running community- attend run clubs, run with friends, use social media (Facebook, Strava), read running magazines etc. This will help you stay motivated and make it fun!

• Practice your nutrition strategies during training runs. Experiment with different products until you find the ones that work best for you. For a half marathon distance you will likely need some sort of carbohydrate supplement during your race.

• Invest in the proper recovery tools-I’m talking foam rollers (I recommend Trigger Point), ice packs etc. Make sure to stretch after all runs.

• Taper. Your longest training run should be about 2 weeks before the actual race. You can focus somewhat on shorter, faster runs during this time but the actual week before the race should be pretty low mileage and intensity.

• Consider carb loading. This one could be a blog topic in of itself! Half marathons are kind of on the border of necessitating carb loading, depending on how long you think the race will take you. It could be helpful to focus on a higher carb intake for the 2-3 days before the race. Don’t rely on a giant pasta dinner the night before, it will likely just give you a stomach ache and wont’ really help your performance. Stick with carbs that are familiar to your body.

Race Day Tips:

• Arrive at the race with plenty of time to get ready-warm up, stretch, use the restroom, and get to the start line. (We recommend one hour before the start).

• Also make sure to get up early enough to get in a proper breakfast and digest it. This means you may have to get up pretty early; typically you need about 2 hours pre-race to digest the meal. Some athletes will even get up, eat, then go back to sleep for a bit. Make sure it’s a familiar breakfast; this isn’t the time to try that new breakfast burrito you heard about! It should contain mostly carbohydrate with some protein/fat. My go to is whole wheat toast with peanut butter and honey.

• If it is cool outside, wear warm clothes and stay warm until as close to the race as possible. Be careful not to overdress for the actual race though as over-heating can slow you down. Consider gloves. Cold hands are no fun, and they can also serve as a place to stash your energy gels.

• Wear familiar socks and shoes (ones that you have completed long training runs in).

• Think of the first mile as a warm up and ease into the race. It’s better to start conservative and speed up as you go then to start out too fast and have to slow down…or stop.

• Break the race into thirds or fourths (so 3 or 4 mile increments for a half marathon). At the end of a section, have a general idea of what time you should be at and give yourself a pep talk. Try to push a little harder at the start of a new section.

• Use water stations as “breaks”. This doesn’t mean you stop, it means you slow down just a bit to give your body a brief rest and to properly hydrate. Speed up as you leave the water station.

• Race by feel rather than by the watch. It’s okay to look at your watch a few times during the race, but don’t look at it each mile or half mile, and don’t let the numbers psych you out, especially if you’re racing faster than you thought (that’s good!)

• Focus on passing people the second half of the race. Pick a person ahead of you and slowly work to catch up and pass them.

• Expect that the race is going to hurt, and be ready to stay mentally tough when your body tells you to slow down. One of Kim’s favorite running quotes, by Dr. Stan Beecham (via Greg McMillan in a Running Times magazine), is “You ain’t gonna get out of the race pain-free so you gotta pick the pain — the pain of the race or the pain of regret.” Our bodies are capable of so much more than we know, if we are willing to push ourselves.

• If you find yourself struggling utilize the power of positive thinking. Get a mantra in your head such as “I feel fast, my legs feel strong”. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated to help.

• Don’t underestimate the importance of post-race recovery nutrition. This too could be it’s own blog topic (and maybe it will!) Basically you need mostly carbs with some protein as well; ideally within 30 minutes of finishing your race.