Happy hump day!
Well, that was somewhat anticlamactic of me. This is not just any hump day. It’s THE Wednesday before we brave RFRs take to the roads and test our wills – some for the first time, some to return to glory, some as a stop on the training journey to other races coming up this fall.
So, let’s get ready. Game face? Check. Race plan? Yes. Mantras to keep you motivated and clicking off the miles? Got ‘em. Road-tested race outfit picked out, assembled in a corner of your closet or bedroom and ready to roll? Done.
Looking good so far, but now it’s time for my number one tip for race-day prep: getting yourself proactively organized so that you can focus on the most important part of this whole shebang – gettin’ after it and making your running dreams come true.
To run your best (and most stress-free) this weekend, you need to pack a bag. Right now.
A well thought-out and carefully packed raceday bag you take is your best friend. Everything about this bag needs the most careful consideration and planning – from the form and function of the bag, itself, to every item it contains – it’s as valuable to you as you head to the starting line as every mile you’ve put in in training.
Case in point: I’m not new to racing, and have in fact dealt with a myriad of different race-morning-hurry-up-let’s-get-to-the-start logistics. I’ve taken tote bags, gym bags, what my son refers to as “spike bags” (the cute, little drawstring backpacks devoid of pockets) and the like, and I’ve never been entirely satisfied with features or convenience of any.
This year and next, I’m training for some pretty big races (the New York City Marathon this fall, and the Boston marathon next spring, to name two), races I’ve never run, and a few I have. So I decided it was time for a new raceday sherpa, one that has everything I need organizationally and has room to spare, but looks killer-sleek, is absolutely indescructible, and, oh, morphs into a work-to-workout bag for when I’m traveling or have a full day of meetings and coaching sessions.
After waiting months for what I thought might be my dream bag line to launch itself into the fitness consumer world, I pounced on Fitmark™ and begged them to send me a bag whose pictures and description I’d been salivating over, the Formula One backpack in RED-hot, satiny velocity nylon, so that I could put it through my own set of running and racing tests. What could be more appropriate? And I was not disappointed. In fact, this bag is, indeed, my dream training and raceday gear bag.
Here’s why: storage galore – and intelligent storage, at that: a dedicated, soft-lined pocket up top for sunglasses or your phone, a side-zip pocket that’s actually insulated to keep your water bottle cool (how cool is that?) with matching accessory pocket on the opposite side. It’s also got room for an entire change of clothes, and racing flats (or street kicks) on the bottom (score!). It’s even got a separate zip pocket, running the top length of the bag, that perfectly holds my iPad, and get this – it holds up to a 17″ laptop in its long, cushioned back zip pocket. I AM serious. How they did this while designing this pack completely without bulk, making it functional as both a backpack and carry bag, plus, frankly, making it sleek and powerful to behold, is beyond me. It’s an investment purchase, for sure, but well worth it for the quality of the zippers, alone – and that’s just the beginning.
Once you have your preferred ultimate workhorse bag in hand, it’s time to think through everything you need on race morning. I prefer to “prevent the preventable” and not make assumptions about what’s going to be there for me at the race – from food to hydration to clothing, I pack thoroughly but efficiently. Doing so eases my mind 100%, not an easy task on race morning. I pack my bag on – you guessed it – the Wednesday before a weekend race, that way, I can add/remove as the forecast or travel plan changes.
Different races will have different requirements, of course, depending on distance, location and climate, but here’s a basic go-to list that will get you thoroughly ready for this weekend with as little left to chance as possible.
Shoes: either carry your racing shoes in your bag and warm up in another pair of trainers, or bring along a supportive pair to change into post-race.
Water: don’t assume that all the water you’ll need pre-and post-race will be waiting for you at the start/finish line. It’s just good planning. Slip a bottle or two into your bag just in case.
Anti-chafe product: Do I really need to say it? Better safe than sorry. Feet, too – even if you’ve never experienced chafing, a race can definitely become your initiation. Two I like are BodyGlide and Asics Chafe-Free Endurance.
Lip balm: Wind and concentration while working hard are not kind to your lips. Take care of them, too.
Sunscreeen: If temps call for short sleeves or tanks, lather up with a waterproof sports-specific sunscreen. I personally avoid my forehead in shorter races in warmer temps to lessen the chance of it stinging my eyes, but use your best judgement.
Safety pins: Chances are, there will be pins a-flying on the registration tables at the race, but just in case, invest in a pack and always take four with you to your race. Even if you’re covered and have your race bib securely fastened to your top already, you might be the saving grace for someone who’s pinless and stressing over it.
Shades: If the sun is shining, you can count on it bouncing off the pavement and into your eyes. Don’t miss a turn or misjudge the distance between you and another runner because you’re squinting.
Ziploc bag(s): Sweat equity is sweet and a fact of racing – but don’t let it ruin the post-race party. Ziplocs can keep your sweaty stuff contained after you’ve changed into your…
Post-race change of clothes: drier is better. Grab your bag and head to the rest room (or creatively change in your car!) and you’re ready to hang comfortably with fellow runners and bask in your achievement. I always have a shirt, warm-up pants and a jacket (that I usually have on pre-race) in my bag. Socks, too.
Snack: not every race has miles of chocolate chip bagels and bananas handy, and even if they do, sometimes food can disappear fast. You have to be able to refuel, so stash your fave portable post-run snack.
Race packet: your bib (race number), directions to the race and a course map should all be in your bag (note: you may not get your race number until race morning, but other items can be printed off ahead of time).
Camera: get pics of yourself with family and friends. If using your phone, don’t leave it behind! You’re going to want these memories, even if upon crossing the finish line you swear you’ll never do this again! (Trust me, that feeling will last 10 minutes, tops.)
What will you be stashing in your raceday bag for the big day? Whatever your place in this red-faced running world we’ve created, it’s time to get after it, then reward yourself for all your hard work. Race strong, finish even stronger, then celebrate
(FTC: Fitmark™ provided me with the Formula-One Velocity bag for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this review, and as always, all opinions are my own.)
Cindy is a magazine journalist, marathoner and RRCA-certified running coach. She can be found in a carbohydrate haze expounding on all things bread baking at onceuponaloaf.com.