You’ve trained diligently for your event and now all you have to do is get a good night’s sleep, wake up early enough in the morning and head to the starting line. But, do you have everything you need? Many participants, from first-timers to veterans, take last-minute preparations for granted.
To be prepared, make a checklist. Use it to pack a bag full of everything you may need before, during and after your event. If you participate frequently, set aside a permanent event bag and keep a supply of most of what you’ll need already packed away.
SHOES: Pack two pairs. Many pack racing shoes and training shoes. Even if you race in your training shoes, pack a second pair so you’ll have dry footwear after the race.
INSERTS: Put orthotics, insoles, heel pads or other devices you normally use in the shoes you will be wearing for the event.
SOCKS: Two pairs. One for the event (inspect for seams or anything that may cause a blister) and another so you can have a dry pair to wear afterwards.
JOG-BRA: Some may not wear a jog bra but if you do be sure you pack it. Lack of proper support for the girls is not fun!
OUTFIT: Gone are the days when you grabbed the nearest T-shirt and headed out the door. Now, not only do you get to decide whether to wear shorts or tights, but you get to color-coordinate your outfits. Pack all the possibilities in case it suddenly gets colder, hotter or rainy.
BIB NUMBER: If you have a bib number in advance, pin it on whatever you’re most likely to wear. (It’s best to pick up your number before race day, if possible, to avoid last-minute stress.)
CHIP TIMING: Many events no longer have bib numbers but use chip timing. You many receive a chip at packet pick-up which goes on your shoe and records your time electronically. In this case, you will also be provided with a mini lock-tie or something to attach the chip to your shoe.
WARM-UPS AND POSTRACE CLOTHING: Pack the warm-ups you will wear before and after the race. This may mean a rain-resistant outfit for a wet day. Pack an extra T-shirt, sweatshirt, socks, etc., so you’ll have a dry set of clothing after you finish. It’ll make the post-event socializing and trip home much more comfortable.
HOT/COLD WEATHER ITEMS: Sunscreen and a hat are always good ideas and sunglasses if it’s going to be sunny will be helpful. In cold weather, you’ll need to pack gloves, a hat and perhaps a long-sleeved thermal shirt. In extremely wet or windy conditions, you may choose to wear a light windbreaker or a vest as well.
FIRST-AID/NECESSITIES: Consider packing extra toilet paper. Port-a-potties are usually well stocked but bring it just in case they run out. Pack “Glide” or a similar product for your feet, inner thighs or other sensitive areas to prevent blisters and chafing if this tends to occur during training. Bring a towel to dry off with whether it’s from sweat or rain.
DRINK/FOOD: Pack water to drink, prior to the start and for the drive home. Bring additional snacks for after the race. Some events have plenty but bring your own just in case. A good mix of protein and carbohydrates will help you recover quicker and feel better later on in the day.
WEATHER: Check the weather the night before and first thing in the morning to be aware of any last minute changes and modify your outfit as needed.
LOGISTICS: A few days prior to the event, go to the event website. Review directions to get there, location of the registration/packet pick-up area, parking area, starting line, race course map (including turns and hills) and FAQ if available. Print driving directions and place in your bag if it’s an unfamiliar place. Plan to arrive at the event site about an hour before the start, especially if you’re not sure where you’re going or where you’re parking. Quickly locate port-a-potties, packet pick-up, starting line area, etc. Get the lay of the land so you’re prepared and ready to go when the gun goes off… or the cowbells ring!
WATCH: Place your watch next to your bag and put it on first thing race morning so you remember it.
STRATEGY: The night before the event, review in your mind, your strategy for starting out easy and relaxed. There will be lots of people, noises, smells, excitement and adrenaline. Imagine a good blend of fun nervousness and butterflies mixed with some calm and confidence that your preparation and determination to finish the race will get you through it, finishing strong!
Remember that your effort will feel easy at first because of the adrenaline. It’s race day magic! Start out wisely. Imagine keeping your effort nice and controlled in the beginning so that you stay comfortable throughout the entire distance and don’t over-do it. Going out too fast is one of the most common mistakes that beginners and veterans make. It leads to disappointment, a less than favorable performance and… it’s not as fun!
HUMOR and GRATITUDE: Last but not least, take along a sense of humor. Stuff happens that’s out of your control and you don’t want it to ruin the day. Many details are required to put on events and race directors do their best to provide a fun, safe experience for participants. Still, things go awry and can be frustrating, especially if it’s a new race director or a new event. Take it with a grain of salt, do your best and be thankful for the opportunity to be on your feet and contribute positively to a community. Cheers!