Marathon Training: Week 23

Energy flows where attention goes

The confident countdown:

Here are some tips, in chronological order, as we cruise the last couple of days to the start line.


To continue our cake analogy, the “icing on the cake”, which will give you considerable extra speed on the day, is freshness, plus the excitement and buzz of race day. You’ve done the work, the best thing you can do now is to find the “racer’s zone” in your attitude. It’s a kind of assertiveness. Just the right balance between the useful nervous motivation I talked about last week, and the relaxed confidence of knowing you’ve done the best preparation you can with what you had going on in your life.


Thursday - Hydrate & Sleep

You might like to drink a little more on Thursday and Friday. Not lots, just enough so that your pee is clear in colour (note that taking multivitamins will darken your pee so don’t be alarmed). If you’re peeing more than once every couple of hours you are over hydrating.


The “night before the night before” is the most important night for getting good sleep. Race eve night is sometimes disturbed sleep due to nerves and early morning start, but research shows that this does not adversely affect race performance if there is good sleep in the night’s before this. So get to bed early on Thursday.


Friday - Layering, Blister prevention, Preparation

Check the weather forecast and make decisions on any warm-up gear. It looks like there may be a chance of rain on Race day.


Layering with thin layers is better than one thicker garment so you can strip back as needed. Warm beanies and gloves are good light weight options too. I use a simple, thin hotel style shower cap over my beanie if it’s really cold, it’s light, and easily disposable in my pocket or at a drink station. (Be ready for the laughs too!)


It’s better to be slightly over-dressed than chilly during the race. In rainy weather cotton is definitely out, use thermals that wick and still keep you warm if damp, eg merino, or polyester blends. Top your layering with a really thin, shower-proof, paper-weight jacket. This jacket will keep the wind-chill factor at bay if there’s any rain. If you get too hot you can take the jacket off and tuck it in the back of your pants waist elastic. You could even label it well with your name and phone number and toss it to a spectator on the course or hide it behind a shrub on course to retrieve later.


If it’s raining, to avoid blisters, socks should definitely be thermal wicking (eg merino), and rub water repellent on your toes and heels, (eg GurneyGoo). GurneyGoo is also perfect for preventing chaffing in the rain, on crotch, armpits and nipples.


For confidence and a good relaxed sleep, lay all of your race kit out before you go to bed on race eve. I also have a paper and pen beside the bed in case I think of something in the night.


Saturday - Race Day!

On the morning of the race, don’t eat or drink anything new that you’ve not tested in training.


Ideally breakfast is something close to your usual, but low in fibre (you don’t want a loo stop during the race!), or something that you’ve tested in training (eg “UpandGo” etc).


Breakfast should be at least 2 hours before start. I typically lay my breakfast on the bedside table as I go to sleep the night before, set my alarm for 3 hours before race start, so I can eat without getting up, and then roll over for a few more winks. Remember to set your alarm again though!!


Hydrate moderately, with a glass or two of water, sipping in the couple of hours before race start. You could take a small disposable bottle to deposit in the recycling, or leave in the pocket of your warm-up jacket.


If you’re driving to the start, parking is available, but make sure you get there early enough to beat the road closures. 7 am should do it.


I recommend a 10-15 minute warm-up, 30 minutes before the start. (jog 5 mins and 2x Pick-ups as in the schedule). Then put on warm gear (possibly a raincoat and rain pants) to wear as close up to race start as you can. Allowing 15 or 20 minutes between your warm-up and race start allows your glycogen (energy) to resupply, otherwise, it’s like adding another 15 minutes effort to your race!


Race organizers have provided you a numbered bag for your warm-up gear if you don’t have a supporter. You can use this gear at the race finish too!


Remember to have a pee just before the start.


Race Start

With all of the excitement you’ll be tempted to start fast and energetically, washed along by the others, but you’re better to warm into it with a relaxed and easy start.


Aim for the second half of your race to be faster than the first half and it’s here that you’ll be over-taking the tired, fast starters. You’ll recognize the half-way mark as the start of the half marathon on Speargrass Flat road.


Use gravity of the down-hills to coast at speed, striding out with longer strides.


Have a rule, no walking, and on the uphills, chop down a gear to smaller steps.


Alter your stride lengths a little throughout the race to give your muscles some variation. Constantly remind yourself to hold your form and technique, run tall, chest out to inhale fully, slight lean forward, put glide in your stride.


Drink little, but often. At the start of the race we generally don’t feel like drinking or eating, but research shows that dehydration in the second half of endurance races like the marathon will detrimentally affect your performance… the bind is, that by the time you’re thirsty, it’s too late, no matter how much you drink in the rest of the race, you won’t recover unless you stop. So the trick is to drink a little bit at every drink station. No need to stop, just grab the cup as you run by using your finger in the top like a parrot’s beak. You might spill a little, but that’s ok.


Remember my favourite race-day quote: “Energy flows where attention goes”. So make sure you’re focusing on powerful, positive goal-achievement, and your biochemistry and biomechanics will support this. (Negative, problem-style focus such as focusing on the pain will invoke different internal responses and poor results).


As you see the last km mark approach, gradually squeeze out every last joule of energy. Have no regrets, leave everything out there on the trail! Run even more with the technique of your role model runners, enjoyment clearly obvious on your face for the photographers.


Post race

Celebrate, and congratulate yourself, and remember to thank those who supported you over the months.


My research shows very clearly, to avoid the “PIT” (Post-goal Inaction Tumble) it’s useful to reset your next big goal within the next 3 days. What next achievement would “spin your tyres’, light up your smile and put a sparkle in your eyes?


Let me know what you achieved with your race, and if you’d like some coaching for your next goal email me: steve@stevegurney.co.nz


Week Twenty three non-training schedule:

Thursday 20th Nov

You don’t need to do any training today.

But some athletes feel calmer if they do something, so either rest today, or go for a 20 – 30 minute walk, or 2 “pick-ups” as below.

Ideally at 8 am, the same as race start time. (or earlier is OK if you need to be at work)

  • Warm-up jog; 10 minutes

  • Pick-ups” x 2 as follows;

  • 15 seconds or 100m sprint, top speed. Flat or slight incline uphill. Feel the “ease of running” with glide and power in your technique.

  • 3 mins easy jog or walk, recovery; could be back to the start again. Important to have a long 3 mins recovery to get heart rate down.

  • Warm-down walk; 10 minutes

“Pick-ups” are simply reminding your cardio-vascular system (heart / lungs) what it’s like near maximum, but then immediately backing right off to walk/jog. Lots of recovery is important.


Friday 21st Nov

Rest day, or go for a 15 minute walk.


Saturday 22nd Nov

Race Day YIPPEE!

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