Friday, October 14, 2011

Packing your bags for race day? A handy pre-race checklist

It's amazing all the stuff you need to pack to travel to a race; particularly when you're traveling far from home. Last spring, I traveled from Halifax to Toronto to run in the Toronto Marathon, and it was amazing how much room my running gear and equipment took up in my luggage.

Here's a quick checklist of things you will want to pack so you're ready to go on race day (I like to split it up into three bags):

The essentials bag:
- running shoes
- running socks
- Garmin (if you run with one) or sports watch (and charger if you're away for more than a day)
- gels or sports beans
- drink mix (if you use it)
- water belt and water bottles
- running top (you may want to pack two or three options (ex: tank, t-shirt and long-sleeved shirt), just in case the weather's unpredictable)
- extra running shirt for layering if the weather starts out cool (many races now collect discarded t-shirts along the race course and donate them to charity, which is a great way to get rid of that funky-coloured shirt you never wear)
- running jacket, if the weather looks like it's going to be cool
- running bottom (you may want to pack both shorts and 3/4 pants in case the weather's looking uncertain)
- gloves (again, if the weather looks like it's going to start out cool)
- hat or headband
- MP3 player and armband (and charger)
- BodyGlide
- Ibuprofen or Advil (I like to tuck one into my pocket for midway through a marathon)

The pre-race bag:
- sweater or jacket for before the run
- bagel and apple juice or other pre-long run breakfast food (if you're staying at a hotel)
- gloves (if it looks like it might be cool)
- Ibuprofen or Advil (this is not medical advice, but I like to take one before a race so that it kicks in partway through the run...But remember - never try something new for the first time at a race! If you've never done this, don't do it on the day of a race)
- safety pins (in case the race organizers don't provide them for your bib)
- race bib (if you picked it up before the race)
- camera (if you have folks who'll be watching you on the sidelines)

The post-race bag:
- change of clothes, including a hooded sweater or jacket
- emergency blanket (in case the race organizers don't provide them to everyone)
- banana, chocolate milk and/or any other post-race foods you found work (I also like salty chips)
- Gatorade or other sports drink that will absorb easily
- Epsom salts (if you're staying at a hotel or friend's house - that post-race bath, after the ice bath - will feel like heaven!)
- comfy shoes or slippers
- Band-Aids

Have I missed anything? What's on your race packing list?


Six songs to get you pumped on race day!

I must admit - I'm a dancer at heart. So when I hear a good tune, it usually gets me pumped. Which can be a good thing, when you're running a race. However, sometimes, if I'm in training mode, it can also mean that I get burned out before the halfway mark because I heard a good song and it got me excited and then all of a sudden my legs are pumping, my heart racing, I feel like I can fly...Till my legs give out on me and I realize darnit, I've done it again - let the music take over.

So there's a fine balance to choosing songs that will help you maintain your pace and not kick it too fast too soon on race day, but give you just the right boost at the right time when you need it.

Here's my list of songs that are always on my playlist, and that I just love to run to:

The "standing at the starting line" song: Black Eyed Peas, "I gotta feelin"
Every time I hear this song before a race or even before a tempo run, I just think to myself: "I gotta feelin' that this run's gonna be a good run...It's got the right tempo to let you start out slow enough out the starting gates but get your legs moving and the adrenaline pumping.

The "easy does it" song: Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind" (aka New York)
I love the piano and the beats in this tune. It's got just the right groove to keep me going at a steady pace, and for some reason I find whenever it comes on my iPod, I just feel inspired and the running feels light and easy. And yes, I do find myself singing along to it (apologies to those around me!). Good for partway through the run when you just want to maintain a steady pace.

The "I'm happy I'm running" song: Flogging Molly, "If I ever leave this world alive"
Whenever I hear this song, it reminds me of my brother, who made a playlist for me for my wedding last year. It's a great song for remembering that I'm alive, and thanking all of the friends and family who've supported me on my journey to race day. It's also got more of an upbeat tempo, so it's a good one for kickin' it.

The "extra push at around km 37" song: "Eye of the Tiger"
I know, it sounds cheesy, but believe me, it works. This is the "I'm invincible!" song. This one is good for that stage in the race where the pack has spread out, you might even be running alone (especially if you race in the Maritimes, where our numbers are a bit smaller). When this song comes on and it gives me that extra little boost I need to keep going (I recall listening to this song somewhere around km 37 of my first marathon, for instance).

The "kickin' it" song: "Sweet assed child o' mine" (DJ Donna Summer Remix)
This song...well, it just has that right mix of some cool dance beats, great tempo, and a nice guitar solo right in the middle. Maybe it's just me, but hearing it just makes me want to run, fast.

The "don't mess with me, I'm running" song: Beastie Boys, "Sabotage"
I just have to hear the opening beats of this song, and I just go...And I'm seriously "Don't mess with me!" The beat is great, the yelling into the microphone is great, and it's just a great song for giving you the extra kick in the rear to sprint it to the finish at the end of a long run.

Of course there are so many others I could list, but that's a little sample of the tunes I like to run to. What do you have on your playlist that you couldn't run without?


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Inspirational quotes for race day

Running a race this fall? Here are a few of my favourite running quotes, courtesy of my running friend Wendy, who sent them to me in advance of my first marathon last year.

Whether you're running a 5, 10, half or full, your first race or your fifth, take some quiet time to read through these quotes before race day. You'll find they really help when you need some inspiration to draw on during your run.

"When people ask me why I run, I tell them, there's not really a reason, it's just the adrenalin when you start, and the feeling when you cross that finish line, and know that you are a winner no matter what place you got." ~Courtney Parsons

"Good things come slow - especially in distance running." ~ Bill Dellinger, Oregon coach

"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired...You've always got to make the mind take over and
keep going." ~ George S. Patton, U.S. Army General and 1912 Olympian

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”~ Confucius

“I have met my hero, and he is me.” ~ George Sheehan

“I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.” ~ Mike Fanelli, running club coach

“The body does not want you to do this.  As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong.  You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy...It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.” ~  Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon Champ

“For me, like so many others, running is the answer. Out on the road it is just you, the pavement, and your will.” ~ John Bingham

"I believe in the runner's high, and I believe that those who are passionate about running are the ones who experience it to the fullest degree possible. To me, the runner's high is a sensational reaction to a great run! It's an exhilarating feeling of satisfaction and achievement. It's like being on top of the world, and truthfully... there's nothing else quite like it!" ~ Sasha Azevedo

"Everything you need is already inside." ~ Bill Bowerman

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." ~ Steve Prefontaine

"The only way to define your limits is to go beyond them." ~Anonymous

"It is good to have an end to journey toward: but it is the journey that matters in the end." ~ Ursula K. LeGuin

"Get going. Get up and walk if you have to, but finish the damned race." ~ Ron Hill to Jerome Drayton during the 1970 Boston Marathon

"Ask yourself: 'Can I give more?' The answer is usually: 'Yes.'" ~ Paul Tergat

"When you don't think you can do something, sometimes things just fall together really well on race day and you totally surprise yourself. So it's worth it to put yourself out there and take some chances." ~ Lisa Koll,
U.S. distance runner and four time NCAA Division One Champion

"Concentrate on small segments of your race at a time. For example, rather than obsessing about the distance that remains, simply complete the next mile in good form...try another, then another, until the race is done." ~ Jerry Lynch

And my personal favourite:

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.” ~   Chinese Proverb

What's your favourite quote that gets you through a long run or a race?


Sunday, October 9, 2011

More inspiration for race day: giving thanks for your support network

Last summer, I was part of a marathon clinic group at the Running Room in Halifax. What I love about running clinics is that you get to meet so many different people and draw on each other's experiences and backgrounds to inspire each other. And by the end of the clinic, you usually get to know each other really well.

So last fall, after most of the group had run their races, we got together at a local restaurant to share some of each other's experiences and race stories. I had yet to run my race - Legs for Literacy in Moncton - but I showed up to hear how the others had fared (many of them had run the PEI Marathon) and learn from their experiences.

We took turns going around the table, each individual sharing their stories. Most of the women in my pace group had had a fantastic race, and accomplished, or even bested, their race time of four hours. Wendy had even qualified for Boston. And while I sat there fascinated by all their stories, my stomach was also tied up in knots, because I still had yet to run my race.

And then there was Greg's story, which I still carry with me to this day. He shared how he had made a point of thinking of all the people who had helped and inspired him through the several weeks and months of training, all of whom had played a part in helping to get him to the start line on the day of the race -- from his wife and family, to friends, colleagues and even members of the pace group he ran with.

He had then scribbled those names onto slips of paper, and put them in his pocket on race day. Then, when he reached a certain kilometre marker, he had started pulling them out, one at a time, thinking of the person and sending out a silent message of thanks to that individual. And then he left the slips of paper on the ground and kept running.

I love that story - it's such a good reminder of the roles that our friends and family and other support networks play in getting us to the start (and finish) lines on race day. And while I don't necessarily scribble people's names on slips of paper (there's just so much jammed into my water belt and pockets on race day, I don't think I could fit anything else in), I do make a point now of remembering of all of the people without whom I wouldn't have made it to the race course - from my husband (aka, "coach"), to my parents, my running group and friends. When my legs get tired and the kilometres seem endless, I send out a silent little message of thanks to them. And somehow, thinking of all the people who believe in me helps make my legs feel lighter and my determination stronger.

So if you're looking for inspiration as you prepare for your big fall race, take out a piece of paper and scribble down the names of all of the people who helped you get there. You'll be amazed at just how long that list is, and how strong your support network is.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Five inspirational movies about running

Preparing for your big fall race and looking for inspiration? Here are five movies about running that will get you all pumped up:

St. Ralph
A Canadian movie about a ninth-grader who trains for the 1954 Boston Marathon in order to wake his mom from a coma. I personally haven't read it, but Nancy Holland recommended it and the plot looks good. Next race, I'm renting this!

Run Fatboy Run
Features Simon Pegg (of Shaun of the Dead fame). Pegg plays Dennis Doyle, a lazy layabout down on his luck. He decides to train for (and run) the London Marathon in order to win back the love of his life and mother of his child. My favourite part: where Dennis faces the virtual runner's wall, then crashes through it. Whenever I think I can't go on, I remember him crawling to the finish with a broken ankle.

Ok technically this isn't a running movie, and everyone knows this rags to riches story of Rocky Balboa, a club fighter from Philadelphia who trains for the world heavyweight championship. If you've watched the movie, you'll know there are also plenty of scenes with Rocky training to the tunes of "Eye of the Tiger" (one of my favourite running tunes), running up and down stairs, and racing his trainer on the beach.

Chariots of Fire
Truth be told, I've never watched made it past the scenes where Harold Abrahams completes the Trinity Great Court Run. It's a story about two athletes of different faiths who train to run in the 1924 Olympics. Considering it won 4 Academy Awards in 1981, including Best Picture, I think I'll add it to my list of movies to watch before a race.

Forrest Gump
"Run, Forrest, run!" Need I say more? Let's just say the pure joy Forrest Gump shows when he's running is something I long to hold on to throughout a race or a training run.

Those are my five. What running movies do you recommend?


Monday, October 3, 2011

The power of inspiration: together, we can do so much!

This weekend, I participated in the CIBC Run for the Cure in Halifax. It's the fourth or fifth year I've run, and each year I always run for three people: my mom, who beat breast cancer about 12 years ago; her best friend, Lynn, who struggled with breast cancer for years before it spread to her organs and then sadly passed away, leaving behind two young children; all of us - because I'm not sure what the statistics are these days, but I know it's something like one in three women will have breast cancer in their lifetime. I also know that all of us - each and every one of us - knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. None of us is immune to this disease.

But yesterday, when I woke up, it was grey and raining, as yet another hurricane - this one Ophelia - passed by our small city. I was still recovering from a pretty tough canoe trip into the interior with my dad, and I thought, "heck, I'll show my support in some other way." I had tentatively made plans with another friend to meet her there, but as she ended up being busy, that gave me the out I was looking for.

Until I scrolled through the Facebook posts on my page, and I saw this one from my running bud Nivose:

"Dont feel like doing the Run for the Cure this morning in this weather! Then again, no one ever feels like getting breast cancer... So I'll be there!"

Well that was all the inspiration I needed to kick my lazy butt out of bed, pull on my pink running top and gather the rest of my gear, and head out the door to The Commons, where it brought tears to my eyes to see the literally thousands of men and women of all ages who had braved the rain to come out in support of this cause.

Their pink feather boas and other pink apparel might have been getting drenched in the rain, but none of the people there were complaining about it. Everyone around me had smiles on their faces, was dancing to the music at the start line, and happy to be there.

As the start time approached, we counted down from 10, and then headed out. I told myself I'd just do an easy run, but of course when you're in those situations with thousands of people around you, the adrenaline gets pumping and you can't help but try and race yourself a little bit.

I'm not going to lie: after three weeks of not running (due to the lead-up and after my canoe trip), that 5k on an empty stomach was a little tough. I ran without my Garmin (or my music), so I have no idea what my time was, but that's not this was about. As I crested the hill next to the Halifax Clock Tower, I definitely slowed and my legs were feeling it, but I told myself - "this is for you, mom, Lynn, and all of us..." and I kept going, eventually making it back to the muddy field at the finish, where hundreds of other runners, walkers and on-lookers were gathered and cheering people to the finish.

Walking away from the field, I was so thankful to Nivose for her inspirational post - it meant the difference between me showing up and being part of a great cause on a rainy day, or me laying at home in bed and not contributing.

In the days and weeks to come, as we lead up to the Toronto Marathon, in which I will  not be running but at least a dozen of my friends and colleagues will be, I'll be sharing stories and thoughts of inspiration to help pump up my fellow runners before their big days. Because yesterday was a testimony to the power of inspiration, and the impact that one positive thought or comment can make on other people.

I'd love to hear your inspirational stories too, so please share them here!

Happy Monday, everyone,