Meb for Mortals (Part 3): Racing

Well hello and welcome to the next installment of my summary of ‘Meb for Mortals.’

This chapter is devoted to how to be your best self physically and mentally on race day. The chapter is broken down into three sections: the warmup, race nutrition and the psychological side of racing.

Warmup

  • Don’t stress out if you don’t sleep well the night before the race (because likely, you won’t). Focus on getting good sleep in the week heading into the race.
  • No matter how close you like to a race, get up at least 2 hours before start time so that you don’t have to rush and are fully awake when it is time to run hard.
  • Have a warmup routine that you know works for you, but don’t get too tied to it in case surprises pop up. You don’t want to go to the start thinking that you can’t race well because your warmup was altered.
  • Meb actually does a 3 mile jog before all races (including marathons!), but recommends us mortals to do somewhere between 15 to 20 minutes of running before shorter races and 10 minutes before a marathon.
  • He says the main exception for the warmup if it is really hot (hello south AL summertime). It doesn’t take much for your muscles to feel warm and loose, so you can cut back on your normal warmup time or distance.
  • After his 3 mile warm up job, he does 10 minutes of stretching and then strides, which are short bursts of speed typically about 100 meters where you accelerate to somewhere around your 5K pace.
  • By doing all of this warmup routine, your body is completely ready to go once the race starts and you aren’t spending the first miles of the race getting warmed up.
  • I love that Meb says that on the start line, he takes time to calm himself and just be thankful to be there. He says that he is in meditation mode before the gun goes off and that he prays and thinks about how fortunate we are to be able-bodied and to have the opportunity to test ourselves in this way.

Race Nutrition

  • Meb recommends learning from others without thinking you need to copy them. Take other people’s advice and see how well it works for you.
  • He says that before shorter races (up to half marathons), running out of fuel isn’t really a risk and so you shouldn’t go overboard with carbohydrates the night before. You should mainly stick to your main diet (which hopefully consists of some sufficient amount of carbs to begin with).
  • Even for a marathon, he says that he doesn’t agree with the idea of “carb-loading” the night before. He writes that one meals isn’t going to be what determines if you run strong, whereas eating too much could lead to stomach issues or pit stops, as well as interfere with your sleep.
  • He actually has a very unique fueling strategy for marathons where he eats very small “snacks” as he wakes up throughout the night the night before the race.
  • He recommends taking in 16 to 20 oz. of a sports/electrolyte drink the morning of the race before starting the warmup.
  • As far as fueling during the race, he basically alternates between two types of fuel. One is a bottle with “sports drink with carbohydrates and electrolytes” and the other is “sports drink mixed with a caffeinated PowerGel.” So … he didn’t really give us his magic formula. I’ve always wondered what they were drinking in their bottles. I would think that he drinks UCAN during the race, since they are one of his main sponsors, but who knows. The gel in the bottle is an interesting idea (kind of sounds like a stomach disaster waiting to happen in my opinion, but might be at least worth a try).
  • He recommends practicing drinking on your long runs, so that it feels normal on race day. He also says to practice with the drink you’ll be using during the marathon. Find out what the race will have on the course (since most of us don’t have the luxury of having our own personalized bottles waiting for us at the aid stations like the elites) and try that out during your long runs. If it doesn’t work for you, you might have to carry your own bottle.
  • He also says, start drinking early in the race, and keep at it throughout. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty because by then it is too late and your performance has already begun to suffer.

Psychological Side of Racing

  • He says, “Once the gun goes off, racing is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.” Just let that sink in for a minute! Once you start the race, how close you get to racing your best (based on your current fitness) is largely based on making good decisions and staying strong mentally.
  • He says one of the most important decisions in a race comes in the first mile. You have to have wisdom and maturity to go out at the right pace and not get sucked into a pace that you can’t sustain due to the adrenaline at the start of the race.
  • Once you are under way at a reasonable pace, the mind games begin. Oh the mind games. He recommends having a plan to beat the mind games. His definition of plan is a full set of goals, ranging from A to Z. You need a wide variety of goals to motivate you to keep fighting to the finish. If you only have one or two goals, and you realize mid-race they aren’t attainable that day, they you are adrift and you have no good response when the voice in your head starts asking, “Why am I doing this?” The idea is to find a way to keep a positive spin on whatever the current situation is to keep yourself motivated to giving it your best on that day.
  • Not every race is going to be a personal best. But every race, good or bad, can be a learning experience. We often learn the most when things don’t go well. After a race (or workout even) that didn’t go well, figure out what went wrong and use that as a way to improve your performance the next time.

Lots of good stuff here! Hopefully we can all learn something to take with us into our next race. What are y’all training for? I am getting ready for NYC!

6 thoughts on “Meb for Mortals (Part 3): Racing

  1. This is good stuff! Thank you for sharing. I’m a casual 5K runner, but I tend to stress out on race day, so I can relate a little to the things you mentioned here. I enjoy reading about your running. 🙂

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  2. Such sage advice; I absolutely love this book, Sam. This is a very appropriate reminder for me, since I have a race this Saturday – ha! It’s a short one (4 miles), but I still think all of this applies. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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  3. Have you used iCan? I keep seeing good things about it. I constantly have to eat during my marathons or anything over 90 min. Gels and electrolyte drinks don’t cut it! High metabolism maybe?
    I’m training for Goosepond 70.3 and then I’ll be doing back to back marathons with my college roomie( first light and blues) although I won’t be racing them. Pretty sure my roomie is trying to kill me. Haha. After that who knows! I’m all over the place. Lol!

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    • Yes, are you talking about UCAN? If so, I highly recommend it! I take that before my long runs or marathons and it stays with you for a while (make sure you take the one with protein and carbs before). You should definitely try it out. You would probably still need to take some other fuel later in the race, but it helps to cut down on the frequency and high sugar overload of taking so many gels. You are one busy girl!

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