Five-Thirty: Tips on Running Night Races

Night Races - few and far between you think. As you may well know, it's T minus nine sleeps until Rock n' Roll Las Vegas where Hubby and I are doing the half-marathon. With a 5:30pm start (yah baby! Strip at Night!) Seems to be a big dilemma even for know-it-all mother runners. Having done a few night races, been training at night or late afternoons when I can/must, I can offer up these leg & energy saving tips. These are all totally based on my experiences and are not proven to be fool-proof.

The Day Before

  • Likely you'll be flying in or had a later flight in on Friday. This means standing in custom lines, security lines, and dealing with a pressurized cabin. Compression gear is your friend. I've specifically kept a pair of designer maternity jeans with the waistband re-installed to conceal my compression gear. They're a little baggy on the legs but my butt still looks good. I realize I might be on a plane full of runners but do we really need to look like them at all times?
  • Don't neglect your fluids - sure you're going on a holiday to Vegas but do you need that second or third drink on the plane - switch to water with a dabble of orange juice. Why OJ? It'll help it get into your system. If you can manage to get your electrolytes through onto the plane - those are even better! And don't expect those airplane cups to fill you up - grab the biggest bottle of H20 you can when you're past security and down it.
  • I'd also recommend keeping your race waiver with you at all times. Heck, I'd recommend packing your running outfit in carry-one, especially if you're flying with Air Canada (what was I thinking?!)
  • Just off the plane - wash your hands! This is no time to be picking up germs.
  • Hotel - Take 15. No really, lie down. You've done a lot of moving already today, walking, standing. Now you've got a giant expo to snake your way through. Now's the time to remove your compression gear.
  • Expo - Get in, get out. Unless of course you're stopping to see Dimity and Sarah from Another Mother Runner. They're talking at 5pm by the way.
  • Food - Right. You have got to eat. Sensibly. Resist the temptation to grab gummy or salty snacks for the airplane. If at all possible, make a dinner reservation. Eat as light and clean as possible. Restaurant food is jacked up with more calories than you'd use at home and secret ingredients to make it mouth-watering delicious. Salads with grilled chicken and the dressing on the side. Carb-loading? Ask for some bread on the side, dip it in oil & vinegar if you're so inclined. This isn't the time to try something new either. Can you sneak your compression gear under that outfit by the way?
  • Stretch. Don't forget to pack your travel roller to get out all those kinks from the comfortable airplane seats.
  • Ice Bath - Huh?! Yep, I said it. Even a cool tub is better than no tub. DO NOT go for a hot tub. You need all that gunk and tired out of your legs and heat is going to make them even more sluggish. So take advantage of that ice machine and take a fifteen minute plunge before bed.
  • Sex - you can or you can't, I'm not giving any advice here, you are though in the city of sin and your kids are no where to be seen or heard.

Day Of

  • Sleep in, but not too late. Over-sleeping will make you groggy - you're better off with a nap. In fact, I highly encourage napping and waking up around 2:30 or 3pm. This should give you enough time to eat a light meal (your choice - salad, mimic breakfast), get dressed and ready, and head to the start.
  • Routine can trick your brain. Lay your clothes out before you nap. Get up and shower, brush your teeth, read the news. What's your pre-race routine for an am run - why not do it now?
  • Eat lightly and clean (just like yesterday). If you can pack your own healthy snacks (nuts, dried fruit) or get your hand on fresh fruit and veg - do it! Carb loading should be finished by lunch the day before so there's no need to indulge at the breakfast buffet. Think easily digestible foods - no one wants to use a porta-potty if they can help it.
  • Caffeine. Go light in the morning so you can have a productive nap. Then, have one cup with your your pre-race meal. Yummy.
  • Water. Drink, drink, drink, stop. Don't forget to add some electrolytes - but not too many. Too much can cause stomach upset. Dilute them two or three times the recommended concentration. Having minerals in your water even in smaller concentrations helps get the water into your cells better.
  • Don't be a bum. Sure, you want to lounge a bit but don't stay indoors watching chick flicks (crying will sap your energy). Sit in the shade by the pool. You know how you feel after a day in the sun - wiped. Don't do that. Read something challenging, do a crossword or sudoko, play cards. Keeping your brain active will keep you alert. Move a bit from time to time but don't be a super-nerd and insist on taking the stairs to your 21st floor room.
  • Sex - see above.

So, my plans? We are fortunate to have a kitchenette in our hotel suite so we are planning to pack our breakfasts (oatmeal), and some snacks if possible. There is a cafe/coffe-shop type resto in our hotel complex that looks to provide some sensible food like sandwiches and salads. I am going to pack the bulk of my electrolytes in my checked luggage but try to get a few tabs of nuun through on my carry-on. If I have to toss two that's better than the whole tube. We are going to a show the night before the race but got early tickets and hope to be in bed at a normal time. The day of the race we are going to walk to the start/finish to get a sense of it all and make concrete meet-up plans. Then maybe some time doing intelligent things by the pool. Then a nap, a good long nap. Wake-up, eat, run.

A final words on night-races. Races run at night aren't serious, especially ones hosted in Vegas. You're going to be surrounded by Elvis, Soon-to-be newlyweds, Elvis, showgirls, Elvis, first-timers, Elvis. Love it, drink it in, run, then PARTY.

AND... Don't call home right after the race to brag about how fun it was and check on the kids. Leave that for Monday, or Tuesday, or when you get home.

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