Race Week Rituals and Superstitions

May 4, 2016

Race week, you sneaky little devil. I don’t know about you, but it’s impossible to avoid the ritualization and superstition that comes with the final few days leading up to a race, the overwhelming need to replicate this week exactly as it was before a good race. Case in point: this morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and found myself wondering if I was in a bad mood the week before I ran my last PR. I concluded that this was a definite possibility and have, more optimistically, moved on with my day. (I don’t want to be in too good a mood in case it’s the bitchiness that makes me run fast. Someone please explain this rationale to my husband.)

Some rituals make sense, like trying to get more sleep and making sure I stay hydrated, and others fall into a more frivolous category, like wearing my lucky necklace. Nonetheless, I have my expanding list of race week necessities.

  1. Under no circumstances try a new to me food this week, even if it is temptingly dipped in chocolate or I am faced with a dare that I must humbly concede. Also avoid super spicy, adventurous food. If I know said food will make me sweat, better to save it for next week.
  2. No curry! Once upon a time I ate a spicy curry the night before a race…a trail race. Enough said. Just to be safe, I avoid it completely during race week. Even if I probably could handle it a few days out, it feels like a legitimate protest.
  3. Pour my wine with a heavy hand…or a light hand, whichever one is more conservative. This is my smarmy way of saying I keep alcohol to a minimum on race week. Not that I usually party it up, but I have been known to have the occasional glass of wine with dinner and I am a regular participant in the Wine Wednesday phenomenon. I am mostly writing this so we can all collectively mourn the fact that tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo and I’ll be skipping the margaritas in the name of racing. Lest you question my dedication to this whole running thing, I think this really says it all.
  4. Crescendo the carbs. As I get closer to race day I’ll start to swap out some of my normal foods for more carb-heavy foods, so in the final days before my race I’ll have rice or a potato with my meals instead of, say, salad. Embrace the starches!
  5. Embrace the food daydreams and embrace multiple trips to the grocery store. There is something special about what you put in your mouth after you’ve given a race your all, and I start to dream of this meal well before race day. I usually crave something meaty, salty, not lacking in fat content. Past winners have been burgers with mountains of guacamole, sweet potato fries (love the crunchy outside and the squishy inside), Italian sausage, beef stir-fry. I suppose if you were going to objectively analyze this list you could say something like “Hey Sarah, it sounds like your body wants iron after you race.” Good call, you.
  6. Wear all lucky accessories. These include, but are not limited to, my lucky necklace, my lucky pajama pants (don’t worry, only at home), and my favorite running shirt, which has been relegated to casual wear instead of workout gear to extend its lifespan.
  7. Run all runs on my favorite and trusted training route. You can file this under “paranoid” but I feel like trying a new route around my neighborhood this week would be bad luck. There’s one stretch that I’ve always successfully done my speed work on, so that’s the stretch I stick to, even if it means doubling, or tripling, back.
  8. CHECK THE COURSE ELEVATION MAP. I used to naively think that all races in cities with rivers would be flat. I mean, I’ll be running a long the river, right? When you’re no longer doubled over with laughter, you can continue reading. My first tragic experience was in Nashville. I had never been there before I raced, and had no idea what I was in for. Now that I’m older and wiser, I do my homework. It’s saved me from blowing up many times.
  9. If traveling, check out hotel amenities. By this I really just mean I check to see whether or not I’ll have a fridge for all my pre-race night and race morning food necessities. Otherwise, I’m that person checking in with a cooler!
  10. Make sure all lucky race gear can be found and start to assemble into a central location. Green hat, I’m looking at you.

So far I’ve kept the crazy mostly at bay, but I’m still 68 hours away from race time. The real superstition won’t kick in until tomorrow, at which point I will refuse to do any extra movement and am fully prepared to kick my husband out of bed if he’s twitching and thwarting my attempt at an early bedtime. Man, race week sounds fun for him. Pre-planned bad mood and possible bedroom eviction. Love you!

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