Recently we had a great guest post titled ‘What Determines Our Health?’ by Debra Duxbury. This week’s post will feature information I gleaned from Wendy Fasciano, one of the YMCA’s fabulous personal trainers! Wendy and I sat down to talk about the YMCA’s upcoming annual 5 mile road race, aka the ‘Ring around the Neck’ which takes place this year on Sunday April 22nd. Wendy has run 12 marathons and countless other races ranging from 5ks to a 200 mile team relay. Needless to say she is a very experienced runner and also coaches running groups at the Y. Here are some tips she has for all runners and walkers on race day!
Q. How would someone who has competed in, at most, a 5k road race prepare for the ‘Ring around the Neck’?
A. Wendy started off by saying that “an individual’s training plan for the race will depend on both their current fitness level and also their individual race goals.” For a novice runner or someone who has never raced more than a 5k, the first place she suggested to start is training longer distances. “A first-timer who is just trying to finish may work their way up to a 4 or 5 mile training run.” Running longer distances, Wendy said, will help get your body used to the new mileage and you should monitor how it responds. If you run around a 10 minute mile for example, see how running for 50 minutes feels. She also suggested keeping in mind that your pace will be a bit slower than a 5k, but that’s completely normal especially when you hit the rolling hills on the neck which can be deceptively hard. “Get your hill work done in training” she said emphatically.
Q. How would a veteran “ringer” who has run the race several times before get any faster for this year?
A. “Track work!” Wendy recommends heading to your local track and making speed intervals a regular part of your program if your goal is to get faster. Also, “a more advanced runner looking for a PR will probably do some 5 mile runs (or even longer), hill work, and speed work each week.” The hills hit you hard around mile three so you need to be ready for them!
Q. What are some of the big mistakes you see people make on race day?
A. A big one Wendy mentioned is that people try new things the day of the race instead of sticking with their training routines. Race day is never the time to lace up a new pair of shoes, eat something different beforehand, or try a new sports drink or electrolyte replacement food mid-race. Wendy eats the same thing a few hours before every race because she knows what works for her, but the day of the race is never a good time to experiment. Things can go very wrong! Another nutrition pointer she had was to be aware of what you eat the night before a race too. “Don’t go out and eat a big Mexican dinner,” she laughed.
The second biggest thing she sees is when runners feel the adrenaline rush of race day, they start off too quickly and burn out by the time they get to the hills. It’s ok to let people pass you because if you properly pace yourself you’ll probably end up passing them later on or at least catching up to them. “Run your own race” Wendy suggested, and practice running at different speeds on the track so you have an idea of how fast or slow you’re going on race day. A stopwatch can help too especially if you’ve practiced with it beforehand.
Lastly, be aware of the weather. Even though you may have trained in cold raw weather, April 22nd could be hot, sunny, and almost 90 degrees. It is New England after all! You’ll have to restructure your game plan, she said, so don’t make the mistake of thinking the weather will be the same as it was through your training. Be prepared for anything Mother Nature throws at you!
Q. What can people do to get into the right frame of mind for race day?
A. The first thing Wendy suggested was to make your goals attainable and realistic so you’re not setting yourself up for disappointment. Another tip is to visualize yourself on race day successfully competing and reaching your goal. Lastly, make sure you know the course so you feel more comfortable and there won’t be any surprises. Even if you’ve never run or walked the whole course, driving around it can be very helpful too.
Good luck racers!
How do you prepare for race day? Have you made any race day mistakes in the past?
In good health,
Ryan Healy, BS, NSCA-CSCS