Posts Tagged by race

Summer Racin’

For (what felt like) a long time, I couldn’t plan or even think about races because I felt so awful. Under that fog of never-ending fatigue, I was pretty sure that I’d never feel normal again…which made it tough to set goals or take on any sort of training.

But things are changing. Running is slowly getting better and I’m feeling a bit more energetic. And just like that, the drive to race is coming back strong.

Plus, I have to admit that I have some major race envy right now. Hearing about people training for and competing in fun summer races (especially now that relay season is back in full swing) has given me a deep ache that I haven’t felt in quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be pregnant and I know I’m so fortunate to be able to experience this but…my heart longs for a starting line and some good old-fashioned runner’s high.

IMG 7184Post-race glow. It’s been so long!

I say all this knowing full well that racing while pregnant is going to be very very different. Probably even more so than I realize. And I know that it’s going to be difficult to tame that inner competitor. It’s one thing for me to take it easy on a run around the neighborhood after work…another thing altogether when I’m on the starting line feeling that adrenaline rush. Now obviously I’m not going to be physically capable of pushing my body to the same levels I did pre-pregnancy, and I’d never want to do anything to put Baby at risk, BUT doesn’t mean that I won’t want to…deep down. I’m fully expecting to feel some sort of internal struggle while I’m out there (though I’m preparing myself not to act on it!).

So I need some advice:

1.) Pregnant runners — how did you calm that competitive beast during a race? Again, I have no delusions that I’ll get out there and my speed will magically come back. I know my new limitations and really, I just want to have a goal to work toward and be a part of the racing environment again. I’m more wondering about how you came to terms with your new limitations and simply enjoyed racing for fun.

2.) How did you assure your nervous husband that everything will be okay? Evan is (understandably) a little hesitant about the whole racing thing. I don’t blame him — he knows how much I (normally) like to push, and although he trusts me, I know it must be hard to “sit on the sidelines” as I grow this baby. I’m so close to the baby all the time, it can be easy to forget what it must be like for him — in a position where he has essentially no control over something so important. I respect his feelings and he fully supports me, but I think he needs some reassurance from people who have been there before.

All that said, I currently have my eyes on a few summer races. They’re all short, local, and relatively inexpensive. Nothing that will take weeks of training or a complicated plan to prepare for. But, hopefully they’ll be fun ways to stay motivated to run during the summer (I need all the help I can get these days!) AND help me scratch that race itch. I feel like I’m going to be pregnant forever. It’ll be nice to have some mini-goals to work toward along the way.

With the exception of the Grafton race and the Cigna 5K (which I’ll be doing with work), I’m going to hold off on actually signing up for a little while. Obviously I need to respect all the effort my body is putting into growing a human right now, and so I won’t actually participate if I’m not feeling up to it.

Bill Powers Memorial Firecracker 4-miler on July 4th

I love the sound of this race because it’s so Brattleboro — local/organic foods, compostable cups, reusable water bottles — just the epitome of this quirky, crunchy little Vermont town. Plus it’s on the 4th, and I haven’t actually done a race on the 4th of July in a very long time.

Grafton Ponds Bear Hill 5K/10K on July 6th

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Yeah, I know…two races in one week might be a bit ambitious. But this is the inaugural event in my old town — the town that brought me to VT. I’ve got to go back to support it!

Stowe 8-miler on July 14th

I know it’ll be hilly and tough, but the race looks so fun! Plus there’s ice cream (and Smuttynose, though I’ll have to miss out) at the finish. How can I say no to that?

Cigna/Elliot Corporate 5K Road Race on August 8th

This is an evening race…in August. It’s going to be hot. And I’m still going to be pregnant. But work is putting together a team and I really want to be a part of it.

Just as a closing note…despite all my babble above, I am really excited about racing with Baby. Running and racing while pregnant are things I always hoped I’d be able to do. I love the thought of sharing this passion with our growing baby and the bond that that creates. I accept that right now my primary “training plan” is focused on growing a healthy human child, not running and racing. But I do hope to be able to continue doing so for as long as he/she will let me.

Let the summer of short/EASY racing begin!

Closed Door. Open Window.

Last time we all “chatted,” I was on my way to NYC to run the ING New York City Marathon. A marathon that never ended up happening. The race was called off around 5:30 on Friday evening — less than 48 hours before it was scheduled to start.  But you all know this already.

What you may NOT know, however, is that I still ran a marathon last weekend. Just not one that I had trained or prepared for.  And honestly? It was amazing.

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A weekend that started off with so much negativity and guilt became something encouraging and inspirational. It made me fall back in love with running — and the running community — all over again.

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But let’s back up a little bit, shall we?

It seems crazy to me that it was only a week ago when Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast and tore up the Mid-Atlantic. When the disaster first struck, I didn’t think it would be possible for NYCM to go on. But as the week progressed, Mayor Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg insisted that the city could pull it off. Not only that, but they felt it would be the unifying, celebratory event that the city needed. AND it would be the symbolic start of a campaign to raise money for recovery efforts. They dubbed it the Race to Recover, pledged $2.6 million dollars along with their sponsors, and encouraged every runner to make a donation of $26.20 to the cause.

Obviously the race did not turn into the positive symbol of a resilient New York that the leaders were hoping for. Instead it became a source of anger and division. I wrote my post about traveling down to NYC on Thursday morning; published it Thursday evening. I’m sure you could sense the general lack of excitement about NYC…which had only continued to decrease in the time after I had written the post. Whether you agree with it or not, I had decided to head into the city, despite growing less excited about the race by the minute.

What I didn’t really know was that while I was traveling, the outcry against the marathon was reaching new heights. A petition to call off the marathon that had less than 1,000 signatures on Thursday suddenly gained over 30,000 supporters. The cover of the New York Post showed the generators that were to be used for the marathon sitting idly in the park — which caused an even greater controversy. I didn’t know all of this, but I did know that running the race didn’t feel right. I told Evan that I had a really bad feeling about the marathon and almost broke down at a rest stop along the way. I was wracked with guilt. And I certainly didn’t want me running a marathon to be seen as a frivolous “parade” that caused more pain, despair, and division in a city that was already torn apart.

I was boarding the train when I got the text from Ali: “it’s canceled” was all she said. I thought it had to be a joke…a stupid rumor. They couldn’t cancel the race on Friday night, when so many runners had already gotten into the city. The train was pulling up and I had no time to think. So we boarded. And I searched the internet for answers.

When the news was confirmed, I didn’t know how to feel. Shock was the first emotion that overtook me and then, as the numbness faded…relief. I firmly believe that canceling the marathon was the right decision. No race should be run under those circumstances. Not with the area still struggling to recover from the damage, and certainly not with that level of protest against it. I was glad I no longer had to make the decision whether to run or not. It had been made for me.

But of course, that didn’t erase the frustration. The race should’ve been canceled early in the week — not on Friday night. (Side note: NYRR didn’t send out an official email informing participants of the decision until Saturday morning…less than 24 hours before NYCM was supposed to start). And it did nothing to ease the guilt. It seemed the second the cancellation was announced, some very vocal individuals were taking to social media saying “GOOD! Now use your able bodies to volunteer! Donate all the money you would’ve spent at the expo for hurricane relief!” As if Sunday morning was the only time people could volunteer or donate. As if one day was all the city and surrounding areas needed to get back on their feet…

Volunteering time, donating resources and money are wonderful things. Some amazing things happened in NYC over the weekend and it was so inspiring to hear stories of runners who ran anyway, helping the relief efforts with volunteer or donation runs.

But everyone copes with tragedies in different ways. While I believe in the importance of giving back, I do not feel as though anyone should be guilted into it. Or vilified for wanting to run a marathon they’ve trained for.

{This is not to say that people didn’t have a right to be angry that NYCM was still going on…just that I don’t think that anger should’ve been taken out on the runners.}

Runners run. That’s what we do. It’s who we are. And so on Saturday morning, when Ali woke up with an alternative plan, I was on the same page. No, I wasn’t devastated that NYCM had been canceled. Compared to what people have lost this week, a failed marathon is nothing. But this was the second failed marathon I had trained for this year. A race that I had dedicated to my father, who is currently recovering from one knee surgery and is scheduled to go to the Cleveland Clinic at the end of this week to talk about another. The man who helped instill the passion for running in me. Who taught me that running is not just a sport — it’s a way of life.

Paul falmouth 97Dear Dad – love the shorts

Our plans came together in about 0.2 seconds. We emailed the race director of the Manchester City Marathon who responded almost immediately to let us know we could register at the expo. We called Ali’s parents, who just so happened to live about 30 minutes from the start of the race and were happy to take us in. We (easily) talked Emily into booking a flight to Manchester. And then Evan and I packed up our bags and headed out of the city…less than 24 hours after we arrived.

We knew nothing about the course other than the fact that it was described as “hilly” and “challenging.” We had all woken up Saturday morning dehydrated from drinking too much wine the night before. We spent the entire day before a marathon in the car. We didn’t have a spectating plan, or a parking plan, or pace plans.

But you know what? It was perfect.

MCM_mile18_1Mile 18 of a windy, hilly course and still smiling

We ran with many other displaced NYCMers — some wearing their shirts. People were out cheering and supporting each other. Family and friends were there supporting us. And one of us ran a huge PR…a time that I don’t even think she really believed she was capable of until she saw it on the clock.

MCM finish_group shot

In the end, it was exactly the weekend the three of us needed.

I realized that New York and the surrounding areas have a long way to go in terms of recovery. People are still without power, water, heat…homes. My heart breaks for them. I can’t even begin to imagine what they are going through. I know that I’m lucky to even have the choice to run something that seems so frivolous as a race. And so I’m doing what I can to help alleviate some of the immediate needs.

But I also know that running is an inherently positive thing. And I can’t even being to express how much my heart loved runners on Sunday. For us, it’s about more than one race. It’s a testament to the human spirit. The desire to become better. To unite together for one purpose and inspire each other to keep going. It’s about a community.

And I love our running community. I love how runners coped with the news of the marathon cancellation — whether going out and signing up for another marathon in the coming weeks or running in Central Park anyway. We know that there is more to life than one marathon. But we are also determined to never (ever) stop running. Life just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Race recap to come! But I will leave you with this: I discovered on Sunday that I am nothing if not consistent. Three marathons, three 3:18s on the clock. The course, my training, the race conditions were different for each one. And yet I still somehow run the same time.

Which means that it’s time to get my act together, get serious about training and go for broke. I’m so excited that I came back from injury with sub-optimal training and essentially tied my PR on a much harder course.

But that 3:18 needs to go.

Which means that spring marathon plans are already in the works…

The Art of Racing in the Rain

…not to be confused with this book, by Garth Stein -

art of racing in the rain cover.jpg

Which, much to my dismay when I picked it up a few years ago, is not actually about running. Though I did learn a lot about driving race cars. And I’m admittedly a sucker for any story that’s about a dog, written from a dog’s point of view, or just has a lot of dogs in it.

Anyway, I digress…

Today I want to talk about running in the rain. Or, more specifically, racing in it. Signing up for races means making a commitment to run in any type of weather – cold, heat, snow, sunshine, and rain. In my running-paradise, every race would be 50 degrees and sunny. But this is real life, and sometimes that means you have to run in pretty inclement weather.

Like Sunday’s Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon, where it didn’t just rain…it poured. Was I excited about running in these conditions? Heck no. Running through pouring rain and driving headwinds just adds to the misery of racing for an hour and a half. But it doesn’t have to be the worst experience in the world. With just a little bit of planning, it might not be quite as miserable as you expect.

Racing in the Rain

Signs of a runner who has been slogging racing for over an hour through torrential downpour…

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While I can’t promise you’ll have tons of fun the next time you have to race through a downpour, I do have a few tips to hopefully make it a little more bearable.

1.) Stay as dry as you can for as long as you can.

You have no choice but to get wet once the gun goes off, but why make yourself even more miserable by standing around and getting soaked before the race begins? Especially if it’s cold. Seek shelter before the start and try to go into the corral at the last minute. If you have to stand outside, get yourself a trash bag and make yourself a fancy schmancy trash bag rain coat. They’re all the rage these days.

Prov RnR_FL & LB.JPGPhoto from Frayed Laces

2.) Wear a hat.

This might be obvious, but having a brimmed hat is the best way to keep the water out of your face as you’re running. Because let’s be honest – do you really want rain in your eyes when you’re trying to figure out where to turn on the course or avoid those ankle-deep puddles?

DSCF5129.JPGI got this hat from Road Runner Sports a year ago – and love it!

3.) Less is more!

There’s no avoiding it – your clothes are going to get soaked. So don’t weigh yourself down even more by wearing big shirts or bulky bottoms. Since most races (that I know of) won’t allow you to run naked, choose light, formfitting clothes. As evidenced by the above photo, loose shorts start sticking and riding up when they’re wet. Not only is this incredibly unattractive, but it also can lead to more chafing. Which brings me to…

4.) Body Glide everywhere…and then do it again.

It quickly became clear after finishing Sunday’s race that I didn’t do as great a job with the Body Glide as I had thought. When running in the rain, you will probably experience chafing in areas you’ve never had to worry about before – avoid that by being as liberal with Body Glide as you can.

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5.) Leave the iPod at home

Unless you can wrap it in a plastic bag and stow it somehow, rain + iPods do not mix. Fortunately, mine seems to be okay now (maybe it just needed to dry out), but I shouldn’t have even brought it to the race to begin with.

DSCF5134.JPG

 

6.) Trade trainers for racing flats.

Within a mile of Sunday’s half marathon, my feet were so weighed down with water that my racing flats weighed about as much as my normal trainers. Even though this was the longest I had raced in them to date, I was so glad not to have even more weight on my feet.

7.) {try to} Have fun with it!

Stomp in puddles. Try to throw your competition off by splashing water at them. See if you can catch rain drops in your mouth. Or make a game out of out-running the rain drops. Yes, I know….after an hour running up hills and slogging through puddles, the fun starts to wear off a little bit. But doing whatever you can to change your attitude from “This sucks. I’m miserable. Get me out of here!” to one that sees the rain as part of the fun can make the race just a little less crappy.

8.) Bring a change of clothes for after the race.

You’ve already spent a long time running in your gross, wet clothes. Do you want to stand around in them too? Being able to towel off and change into dry clothes after you’ve crossed the finish line can make you feel as good as new.

Girls_RnRSorry Lizzy – this was too good not to share!

9.) Just make sure those clothes are stored in a dry place.

Whoever was in charge of the RnR bag check process didn’t really plan for the weather. Bags were just thrown in a pile on the ground without any sort of covering to keep them dry. Because canvas bags are waterproof, right??

I felt bad for all the participants who had checked their bags at the start only to finish and find sopping wet clothes waiting for them. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to avoid this, but if you can stash the bag somewhere dry yourself – do it!

10.) Celebrate! …by going somewhere warm and dry.

Even though the amazing Sugar Ray was performing after the race (did he ever have more than just 2 songs??), we didn’t stick around for too long afterward. Because listening to a concert in the rain after running through the rain isn’t as much fun as one might think.

So the next day we celebrated surviving the race (me as a runner and EC as a world-class spectator) by going somewhere warm and sunny.

Okay…I’ll admit that this doesn’t really have a ton to do with the post. But I needed a #10…and you asked for pictures of my hair cut, so here you go.

LB_haircut

LB_gansett

 

Any other tips to share for surviving a race in the rain? 

 

 

What {Not} to do the Week of a Big Race

A little over one year ago today, I was getting ready for the Shape Up Half Marathon, my first ever Half. That week, I rested, hydrated, and did all the things you’re supposed to do when you have a big race on the horizon. I even wrote a nice long post about how to prepare for a big race to show what a good little runner I was being.

Today, I’m getting ready to take my second shot at that same half marathon. I’d like to tell you that this passing year has left me feeling wiser, faster, and even better prepared for my second time around. But of course, that would be a lie…

You may not have even realized that I’m running a race in two days. Don’t feel bad – I’ve been living in denial. Since my approach to this year’s race is somewhat…umm…different…I figured it was only fair to show you what I’ve been doing this time around. Think of this as a Part II to my What to do the Week of a Big Race Post, the what NOT to do part.

What {Not} to do the Week of a Big Race

1.) {Don’t} Ignore the fact that you even have a race and pretend that as long as you don’t think about it, Sunday will never come

2.) {Don’t} Start trying to work lifting back into your exercise routine because you realize that while your marathon has left you in great cardiovascular shape, you’re feeling pretty weak in every other area.

3.) {Don’t} Eat copious amounts of Easter candy and any other delicious dessert that seems to be calling your name, everywhere you turn.

Robinseggs

4.) {Don’t} Suddenly plan to move out of your current apartment, and then spend every ounce of spare time you have that week preparing for the big move. (yes, I know, I moved last summer and now I’m moving again. It’s a long story)

5.) {Don’t} Have your boyfriend make you a packing and to-do list for the week, only to leave out one important detail – the actual race.

movetodoSunday: Clean, Pack Bathroom. ….oh, and run 13.1 miles

6.) {Don’t} Start losing sleep over the fact that you have so much to get done before the end of the week….and because you’re staying up late trying to watch all your favorite shows (because when else are you going to have the time to get caught up on last night’s emotional Office??)

7.) {Don’t} Stop eating any and all fresh produce because you’re moving soon and you don’t want to buy new groceries.

8.) {Don’t} Incorporate new foods into your diet because they were sent to you, look delicious, and let’s face it – given the current state of your fridge, it’s either that or condiments for dinner.

lightlifesamplesLightlife was generous enough to send me these samples to try out for the blog. Full review to come.

9.) {Don’t} plan to spend the entire day before the race finishing up the packing, cleaning the apartment, and hauling the first of many loads over to your new place.

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10.) {Don’t} think about the fact that the longest run you’ve done since your marathon (which was a month ago) has been a not so great 10-miler last Friday. And that you’ll need to run more miles in this one race than the total mileage you’ve done in some of the weeks leading up to it. (minor details…)

I can honestly say that this is the least prepared I’ve felt for a race in a very long time. This isn’t something I’m exactly proud of – I signed up for this race and knew it was coming. But there are times in life when, for whatever reason, training takes a backseat. When what used to be one of the most important aspects of your day becomes something you simply don’t have time, energy, or motivation to do.  And I’m trying to make my Type A perfectionist self be okay with that. I have {almost} convinced myself that this race is just going to be for fun. Now I know at this point you’re probably shaking your head thinking: we’ve all heard that line before and look how that turned out, but this time I’m serious. I’m not expecting a great time and I’m not even expecting to feel awesome the entire way. I just want to enjoy running through the streets of my city, and get in one final training run for the Cape Relay next weekend (oh yes, another race I sort of forgot about…). Is this the smartest plan? Maybe not. But I made these decisions and I’m owning it. And I’ll own whatever happens on race day too.

 

How to Psyche Yourself Up Without Psyching Yourself Out

Races are funny things. Signing up is exciting, training is {usually} rewarding, and the race itself fills you with joy after you’re finished (most of the time, anyway). But those weeks leading up to the race? Those can be a killer! In fact, sometimes I think waiting for a race to start can be worse than actually running it. Especially because it’s so easy to let the nerves get the best of us.

I’m sure we’ve all done it (and I know I have!) – we build this one race up in our heads so much that it’s all we can think about. And we put so much pressure on ourselves to do well in that one race that instead of getting excited, we become increasingly more anxious. By the time race day rolls around, we’re so crippled by the anxiety that we fall apart. What should have been a great race turns into a nightmarish day as we crumple under all the pressure.

Instead of psyching yourself up, you’ve just psyched yourself out.

Don’t get me wrong – pre-race jitters are a good thing. It’s important to pump yourself up for a race. If you just look at it as another training run, you’re ultimately just going to run it as though you would do a training run…and then what’s the point of racing? So I think you need to be a little worked up when race day comes around. But the trick is to not overdo it. To build up the excitement without leaving yourself trembling in fear.

So if you want to psyche yourself up without psyching yourself out, here are a few strategies that have worked for me in the weeks leading up to a big race.

National End.jpg

1.) Visualize

You have a goal for this race. And whether it’s to run a certain time or just to finish, chances are that goal is a little scary. After all, we make goals in order to push ourselves….so it wouldn’t be a good goal if it were easy!

Once you have that goal in your head, you can’t just push it away into the dark corners of your mind and then hope everything will come together on race day. You need to visualize it. For my last marathon, my goal was to run a 3:20:59 – which would not only be a PR, but would also be fast enough to allow me to register with the first wave of runners for Boston 2012. Although I thought it might be a long shot, I knew I was going to give it my absolute best try. So in the weeks leading up to the race, I put “3:20:59” on everything – such as the background of my phone, and the wallpaper of my work computer. I even hung up little notes with my goal time around the house. I focused on it during my final runs of training so much that it became my new mantra. Basically, I wanted that time to be etched into my brain.

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Now if I had just stopped at this step, things probably wouldn’t have gone so well. I would’ve gotten so anxious obsessing over my goal race time that I psyched myself out. So once you’ve started visualizing your goal, it’s important to follow up with a few key things.

2.) Have Confidence

It’s easy to let doubt enter into your mind, especially during the taper period when your activity level is low and your anxiety level is at a record high. So during this time, it’s pretty crucial to have confidence – confidence in your training and confidence in yourself. As Aron recently wrote, you need to think about “what you did do“…. and not obsess over what you didn’t. Focus on the training that you’ve done, and how that has not only prepared you for race day, but has made you a stronger runner. Whenever I feel doubt kicking in, I like to tell myself “you are stronger than you think” and repeat it over and over until I believe it.

It also helps to focus on specific times in your training when things went really well. Those confidence-boosting workouts that leave you believing you can do this. For me, one of those was the Black Cat 20-mile race. Before that race, I had absolutely no confidence that I could go out at a relaxed pace for the first few miles of the marathon and still finish strong. I figured I’d slow down at the end no matter how fast I started, so I better start my long races as fast as I comfortably could to give myself a buffer for later. Black Cat showed me the opposite, and it helped me believe in myself on race day.

LB Black Cat

3.) Find Inspiration

No matter how hard you try, chances are you’re not going to spend the final weeks leading up to a big race completely full of confidence the entire time. There will be moments when the crazies get the best of you, and anxiety starts to slip in. During these times, find inspiration somewhere else. Read a book about a runner, be a spectator (or watch races on TV), or watch movies about running or inspiring runners.

A few days before the National Marathon, Becky and I got together to watch Spirit of the Marathon. It’s a documentary about the Chicago marathon that highlights several runners (elites and just regular old joes like you and me) who are running it. The movie is truly a celebration of the marathon and left me incredibly excited to run one (although at the time, I was wishing it were Chicago, but that’s another story….)

spirit of the marathon.jpg

Other great ones to watch are Prefontaine and Without Limits (which is also about Prefontaine) – clearly I have a thing for him.

4.) Make a plan

Making a plan for the race is another great way to ease some of that anxiety and build your confidence. Not only do you need to plan race logistics – how you’re going to get there, what you’re going to wear, if you’ll have people cheering for you and if so, where they’re going to stand, etc – but you also need to have a race strategy. Especially for a longer race. You can’t really just show up and start running. You need to decide how fast you want to go out, if you’re going to attack the hills or take them easy to conserve energy for the rest of the course, if you’re going to use the run/walk method, if you’re racing for a specific place or going for a time, etc etc etc. This plan can be as general or as detailed as works for you. One thing Corey suggests (that I’ve never tried) is writing a race script that includes images you’d see during a race and phrases you will be repeating to yourself throughout. These should be positive and focus on how you want to feel and think (versus how you think you will feel when the pain of running kicks in).

celebrating life shirts

Obviously things aren’t ever going to go exactly according to plan on race day. We can’t control every circumstance, and you never really know what could come up. But going in with a plan will help you feel confident that you’re about to do all you possibly can to reach your goal.

5.) Relax

Finally – and most importantly – you need to relax!! Don’t get all worked up over thoughts of the race. Sure, a little anxiety is a good thing because it boosts your adrenaline and will help your performance. But too much anxiety is crippling. To keep that anxiety under control, find fun, relaxing things that will take your mind off the run and bring you peace.

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Stop checking the weather every 5 minutes, obsessing over your race outfit or sending anxiety-ridden texts to all your friends. Go out and enjoy yourself! Have dinner with a friend, eat ice cream, watch movies, read….whatever helps you chill out. And remind yourself that you are strong, you are confident, and you will to have a great race.

 

These are just a few key things I try to do leading up to race day that will pump me up without leaving me crippled with anxiety. But I know there are lots of other great strategies that people use. What other suggestions do you have?

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