What to expect when you're expecting...a half marathon!

Hi everyone! It's been a while, but I'm fresh off starting a new job and am looking forward to my first half marathon of 2018, coming up in three weeks: the Indy Mini Marathon in Indianapolis, IN.

I've only done one race in my home state of Indiana before this race (the Rudolph Run in Shelbyville, 2016) so I'm excited to run a race in my home state. I'll be bringing Stephen and Ollie with me, and my parents are already so excited (/sarcasm) to wake up at 5 am that Saturday to drive to the race with me. 

As I was beginning to prepare for this race, I followed the Mini on facebook and instagram, and joined the Indy Mini First Timers group on Facebook. In that group, I have seen a lot of questions from first timers about half marathons in general, not just this race specifically. That inspired me to write this post to hopefully give some decent advice and share some wisdom I've learned about tackling the half marathon distance! Bear in mind, I'm not a professional; I'm just a girl who loves to run and has made many mistakes along the way, leading me to the advice I'm about to give.

1. Don't sweat the weather

Pun intended. :) But seriously, don't stress about the weather. I know it's tempting to start looking on Monday of race week and check every hour, but just don't. You'll work yourself up for nothing, as that forecast will change a dozen times between Monday and race day. Additionally, as harsh as this sounds, you can't control the weather. What you can do, is as your packing for race day before you leave (if you're traveling for a race) check the weather and pack prepared for anything. If you aren't traveling before, resist the urge to check until 48 hours before, then start to make sure your race day gear is clean and ready for race day!

For cold races, I use this graphic:



That gives you an idea for where to start. If it's cool before start but will be warmer than 55 during the race, I do the following: I go to goodwill or walmart and snag a pair of sweatpants, and I dig out one of my many junk long sleeved shirts. I wear them to a race, and toss them over the gates as I start the race. Most races donate these tossed items to local shelters!

For 55 degrees and up, I will wear capri leggings or shorts and a t-shirt or tank with arm sleeves. Zensah makes a great pair that can be found here!

For warm weather, dress in light colored, sweat-wicking items and avoid anything extra if you can help it. I always urge people to set aside any insecurities on race day for the sake of being comfortable and safe! No one is judging you on race day but yourself--so be comfortable and stay cool!

2. Do not try new nutrition on race day!

I know it's tempting to try a fun new gel you found at the expo on race day, but do. Not. Do. It! The worst thing that can happen on race day is the telltale gurgle of an upset stomach as you're finally hitting your stride. Stick to the gels and gus that you're used to (sing that line to the tune of Waterfalls by TLC because that's what I was thinking when I wrote it). I'm not saying it's too late to pick a new gel or gu--it isn't! But make sure you train with them for your next couple of middle distance runs. 

My favorite race day nutrition is as follows, bearing in mind I prefer fasted cardio:

  • The week leading up to race day, I up my carbs a bit (lots of pasta!) and start drinking close to 100 oz of water a day, rather than my usual 64 oz a day. I don't like to pound water on race day so this ensures I'm hydrated. This is important!! My old high school band director used to remind us: If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated! Drink water ahead of time!
  • For breakfast, I drink a Red Bull and eat something VERY light, like a Stroopwaffle from Rip Van Waffles (linked on my Amazon favorites list HERE). If I'm really worked up, I skip these and go straight for a gel.
  • My gels of choice are Science in Sport GO Gels. I like the orange and lemon lime flavors of the Energy Gels, and my favorite of the caffeinated is either the Citrus or the Berry! The great thing about SIS Gels, is even though there's more of them to eat, they're very thin and can be taken without water! You can find more info on how they work here, and if you'd like to snag some for yourself, they're linked on my Amazon list HERE.
  • During the race, I take another gel as I feel I need it (usually around mile 8 for me). I also stop at every single water stop and at least take a sip of water or Gatorade. I don't like to chug water before the race because it gives me that "water belly" feeling, so I focus on hydrating during the race, with a little bit before.
  • After the race, I take a banana or two (I've never been to a race that DIDN'T have bananas after) and a water, PLUS a gatorade. I'm not usually hungry until an hour or two after a race, so those tide me over until I can sit down for a meal!

3. Do not try new GEAR on race day!

It's tempting to, like nutrition, try new gear you got at the expo on race day. With the exception of something like a headband, do not try new gear on race day. If you're superstitious, do not wear your race shirt on race day, or until you're done with the race, really. 

That last one is a little silly, but the new gear part is important! Run in what you trained in to avoid blisters, chafing, or other unpleastantness on race day. 

4. Be prepared + narrow down what you need on race day

Make sure if you've been chafing or battling blisters, that you are prepared to have those tackled by race day. I recommend Chamois Butter in STICK form. It looks like deodorant and goes on mess-free, and is great to prevent chafing anywhere you need it. I always put it on the junction of my armpit where my shirt sometimes rubs. You can also use deodorant for this! (Chamois Butter is linked on my Amazon list here!)

If you're getting blisters on your feet, it might be time to consider new socks! I use Balegas (and am an Ambassador, that's how much I love them!) because they are specifically meant to prevent Blisters. You can snag a pair on the Balega website, at your local running store, or HERE.

In my race belt (or if it's chilly and I have pockets) I keep a small ziplock baggie, my mini Chamois stick, my SIS gel, a chapstick, a single bandaid, and my phone. I run with my phone and earbuds, so I can contact my loved ones to meet up after a race. I do not check a gear bag, as it takes too long. I use an old Nike Race belt--like so old they don't sell my version anymore. But I've heard great things about FlipBelts. If I'm running in tights, I use ones with pockets and can fit everything in the back waistband zipper pocket and my phone in my leg pocket. I carry the minimum. If you have friends coming, you can always give them a small backpack to carry and offer them a drink in thanks! ;)

5. Look into race day incidentals ahead of time

Do you know what time your corral closes? Where it stages? Which corral you're even in? These are important things to know BEFORE arriving on race day! Most races post a map with the staging areas clearly marked. That said, sh*t still happens and sometimes races are unorganized (go look at my Hot Chocolate 15k posts from 2016 and 2017 if you need proof of THAT. They're in my Race Recaps section.) so in those cases, your best bet is to BE EARLY!

If you're driving to the race, FIND PARKING BEFORE RACE WEEK! Make sure you know where you're going and the price! For the Indy Mini, make sure you know where to park and you buy parking early through ParkWiz! Instructions are on the Indy Mini website. If you're like me, you noticed that your chosen garage is likely on a closed street. If you message the Mini on their official Facebook page, they will tell you exact directions to get to the garage of your choice! 

If you're staying at a hotel and using public transit for your race, make sure you have mapped it through Google Maps ahead of time! Check how long things will take, what it will cost, if there are service interruptions or changes planned, and if roads will be closed to walkers or buses.

6. Trust your training and HAVE FUN!

Okay it's funny for me to say that because rarely do I train before a half, but trust in yourself, the training you have done, and have fun on race day! 

If you have any questions about anything, Let me know! Comment below and I'll get back to you :) You can also follow me on Instagram HERE and you can subscribe BELOW!

What is your race day advice?