What you do in the hours prior to even starting you race, can make or break it. And I’m not talking about training here, but nutrition. I was reminded of this during a pre-race discussion with two amazing ultrarunners- both of whom had visited the ER after races (as I have). They said that it was not what they did during the race, but what they failed to do the day before that lead to that ending. Hydration and nutrition are so very important in race preparations, and fortunately, this weekend, I got it right.
The week leading up to the Aravaipa Running Sinister 9k race for me was filled with two PT appointments where I was dry needled, massaged, and electrocuted. Well, mild electricity. And, I knew that despite being cleared to race, I was far from 100%. I also knew that if I didn’t pull on the reins during my race, I might be done for the entire summer.
All of this started a week before the Mesquite Canyon 30k. I’m usually pretty good about listening to my body, but a last minute pre-race push after that little gluten incident (we won’t mention that again), lead to a dumb decision to run 4 days back to back. A hamstring and adductor strain would be my punishment for not being smart about my training. A month later, I was still hurting. And so, I decided to see a Physical Therapist in the week before Sinister.
In the days leading up to this race, I really just wanted to be able to run it and have fun. Sinister was my first ever night race and it has been a favorite ever since. Held in the San Tan Mountains, this was also my farthest “local” race, but it is well worth the drive.
I did a good job of hydrating well in the days before the race was to start. My pre-race hydration and nutrition begins on Thursday for a Saturday night race and I tried to eat healthy and keep a water bottle with me at all times. But, I think the true secret to Saturday night’s showing for me was the chia seed pudding lunch I had hours earlier. A simple recipe, one part chia seeds to two parts coconut milk. Place this in a mason jar, shake it up, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. When you are ready, you can add honey, protein powder, cacao nibs, anything really.
This pre-race meal gave me a ton of energy last night and will be my new go-to fueling on race day now that the summer night series has begun. I will run most of my races at 8pm in the dark, until November. But, as a night out, I love it- and these are my favorite events of the year.
So finally, I’ll get to the race. After a brief jog out on the course to warm up (I did promise my PT I would do this), I lined up with the 200+ other runners on a nice, mild evening in the mid 70s with a slight breeze. With a group this large, I knew I would want to try to go out a bit fast to avoid any traffic jams. But, I also knew that I would need to watch my leg and not make things worse.
And for the first time ever in a race, I didn’t look at my watch once during the entire event. I raced based on how I was feeling; Keep it in 5th gear, don’t go into overdrive. Pull on those reins, don’t blow the whole summer race series tonight. And whatever you do, do not walk, especially on that big final hill. Walking it would have been more efficient at this point, but I knew that my hamstring would not approve. And despite the ever-nagging pain, and that it was pretty angry at me by the end, I was running again, and most importantly, I was having fun.
And so finally, 9km later, as I approached the finish line, I could finally see my time on the big screen. And I realized that I had just finished a race without damaging my leg more, while having a great time, and still while finishing within 5 seconds of last year’s time.
The Sinister 9k was over. 205 people raced, I went up against 129 women, and I finished in 12th place, just 5 seconds slower than last year in 57:18.
***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on a great race; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; Honey Stinger, for keeping me fueled; Acel Compression, for keeping my legs, feet and calves healthy; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun while I train. And to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support and sounding board for all of my crazy running adventures.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”