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My Biggest Race Day Mistakes: A Collection of Oops!

My Race Day Mistakes: A Collection of Oops!

Well, it’s official. A $91.25 Disney gift card came in the mail yesterday, so my withdraw from the 2017 WDW Goofy Challenge due to a foot injury is now complete. Sigh. I’m still bummed, but hey. It is what it is, Right? Right.

So now I will be cheering for everyone at home … with perhaps a little bit of pouting. Until then, for those of you who will be running the WDW Marathon for the first time, I’m sharing some of my biggest marathon race day mistakes in hopes you will learn will learn … and avoid potential disaster, from my screw ups!

My Race Day Mistakes: A Collection of Oops

1.) Not eating enough before the race.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned I’m the kind of runner who needs lots of fuel. Like, a LOT, which first became very clear at the 2015 WDW Full Marathon.

Before leaving our resort, I grabbed a Nature Valley Granola Bar for breakfast, seeing as how I was too nervous/anxious/excited to make oatmeal or toast a bagel. Mistake.

Big mistake.

See, here’s something you must keep in mind for a runDisney race, especially the marathon. Most races start at 5:30am, meaning runners wake at around 3:00am, (or for me, 2:15.) The corrals also have staggered starts with roughly five minutes between each one. If you’re in a middle corral like I was, your send-off might be closer to 6:00am, so for this race, I had already been up for 3.5 hours before starting to run.

So that granola bar? I didn’t cut it.

By mile 17, I was hungry, despite having a Gu gel every thirty minutes. I tried eating a second granola bar, but it was too late, my well had already run dry and it was too late to fill it. I was grateful to see volunteers handing out miniature Hershey chocolates at Hollywood Studios … but my Mr. Goodbar almost had me Mr. Chunking two minutes after eating it. Then at mile 25 … it happened.

I hit the wall.

I felt so drained and depleted that I had no choice but to ask Ginny, my running partner, if we could slow down. (By the way? Saying that killed me.) Thank God for Ginny, though. She kindly denied my fatigue and told me to keep moving, encouraging me to finish strong.

Fast forward to 2016’s WDW marathon, when I was a smarter, wiser Laura. (Well, somewhat.) For breakfast, I had oatmeal and a bagel with peanut butter, then a granola bar about an hour before the race as well as Sports Beans thirty minutes prior. Since I’ve learned throughout my training that my body needs another light meal at the fifteen to seventeen mile mark, I had also had a friend meet me near Mile 17 with a another peanut butter bagel and Gatorade G2. (I’m still grateful!)

This time, I finished the race with no crashed walls or slow-down requests. We even had enough energy to do some dancing afterwards … which, by the way, is fantastic for getting rid of lactic acid in your legs!

Now … that half of a Jell-O shot I did near Mile 25? Yeah. Another mistake.

My Race Day Mistakes: A Collection of Oops!

2.) Packing too much in my race belt.

I must admit: I carry lots of stuff. Those teeny-tiny wristlets? Oh, please. My idea of the perfect purse is a tote.

Because of this pack rat mentality, I used to pack too much in my race belt for races. Like, way too much. We’re talking antibacterial wipes, Body Glide, Chapstick AND lipstick, tons of tissues, plastic baggies for phone protection in case it rains, and more, all of which doesn’t sound like much but once a belt is loaded up with other essentials, it is. This bit me in the rear during the 2015 WDW Marathon, when it started to spritz at ESPN Wide World of Sports and I dug into my iFitness camera case for a baggy to cover my phone while on the run.

Instead, everything fell out, scattering in different directions with Ginny and me scrambling after them before someone tripped.

Let’s just say this caused me to have an anxiety-fueled mini meltdown.

But thankfully, nobody tripped and Ginny did an amazing job putting me back together. And ever since then, I have learned that less really is more when it comes to packing a race belt. Now, I pack only what I will need for marathons: Gu gels, tissues, one PlowOn gum, and a small battery charger with an 8″ cord.

And, of course, lipstick.

3.) Setting an unrealistic PR goal

After registering for the 2015 Baltimore Marathon, I made a very specific, unwavering time goal:

To finish in 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Come race day, was I conditioned enough to pull that off? Well, yes, kind of, but only if I really pushed it, kept my pee breaks to a minimum, and stuck with my pace group like Gu.

Anyone sense where I’m going here?

Yeah. Mistake.

I had started off strong and actually stayed ahead of my pace group but once I stopped for a bathroom break, they passed me. Hence my first round of catching up. Which I did. Then I lost them again. Which meant I had to catch up once more. Then at the 22 mile mark … my dang bladder. So I lost them. AGAIN.

This caused me to do some major butt-hauling over the Howard Street Bridge and down Eutaw Street. Finally, at Camden Yards with less than a half mile to go, I caught them and finished with my awesome pace guys. (For the full story, go here.)

Now. That would make for quite an inspiration story until I share how afterwards, my legs locked up from the sudden cold and uneven exertions. I could barely walk. Breathing was difficult. I was too sore and cold to stretch, sit, stand, or do anything other than stagger forward.

Talk about scary.

I had never been in so much pain after a race. Thank God for Bob, though. He didn’t know which of my bags to bring from the car, so he brought both, one of which was full of extra clothes. I layered up in absolutely everything while he waited in line for my King Crab medal. (Have I mentioned yet how much I love him?) But when I rejoined him and asked what my official time was from his text notification, he got this awful look on his face.

“You’re not going to like this, Laura.”

Oh, no.

“04:30:02.”

What???? After all that butt kicking and nearly passing out afterwards, I missed my mark by two seconds?

I’ve since let that go. But my point is … be sure you set a REALISTIC time goal, one that is challenging but won’t put your body at risk.

5.) Forgetting to Body Glide

Before running the 2015 WDW Marathon, I never had the need to use any kind of chafing aide, so I skipped putting some underneath my sports bra strap or Lululemon skirt … the one I was running in for the very first time.

Again. Know where I’m going here?

Yeah. Ouch.

And since I got rather chatty in my first three mistakes, I’ll just leave you with ALWAYS BODY GLIDE.

6.) Leaving my Throwaways on too long

Florida might be know as the Sunshine State, but things weren’t sunny or warm on the morning of the 2015 WDW Half Marathon. So I had on fleece pants and a zip-up jacket, both of which I had intended to toss to be later collected for charity. At race start, however, I will still too chilly to take them off.

Big mistake.

By mile one, I was warm and the extra layers were making me sweat. So I ditched them and continued on … only to have the wind hit my sweat, making me even colder than before.

Oh my gosh. I felt horrible and EVERYTHING WAS WRONG, (for my full mental breakdown, go here and here.) So I did something that I’ve yet to regret. I took someone else’s jacket from the ground and put that bad boy on.

Long story short? Always chuck your Mylar blanket and extra layers before race start. Yes, you’ll be chilly, but you’ll allow yourself to comfortably warm up while running.

7.) I dressed wrong for the weather.

Clearly, I have serious issues knowing how to dress. So I will keep this one short and advise anyone else who struggles with outfit choices this: During your training, keep a log of what you wore for certain weather conditions, (temperature, humidity, etc.,) and whether or not you were comfortable. This will help you when it comes to race day decisions.

To be honest though … I don’t think I’ll ever get this one right.

Good luck, my friend.

8.) I arrived late

Those who know me might be rather shocked with this one, since I’m notorious for wanting to be early for runDisney races. But on the morning of the 2014 Baltimore Half Marathon, we left way too late, causing us to get stuck in some serious traffic and me to seriously stress out.

(Granted. Dealing with a urinary tract infection had something to do with me messing up our departure time, but still.)

Same thing happened at the 2014 Frederick Half Marathon. I left too late, got stuck in HIDEOUS traffic, and arrived without much time to park, walk in, or hit the loo for an attempt at #2. (Not that I’ve ever able to go before a race. But I’m always hopeful.)

So yeah. Leave early because you never know what kind of traffic awaits!

9.) Switched shoe style before a race

While this is not a specific race day mistake, I feel that this warning is necessary seeing as how it *could* have been the cause of my injury.

See, despite the fact that I should have known better, I purchased Asics Gels instead of Asics Kayano before the Disneyland Half since the running store owner said I’m no longer pronating much. Plus, the shoe felt awesome! Now granted, the Gels are still a stabilizing shoe, but don’t offer the same about of correction as the Kayanos. Considering I didn’t have any moment of trauma, that switch could have caused my partial plantar plate tear.

Or maybe it didn’t. Who knows.

Still, it’s smart to wear what you’ve trained in at a race!

10.) I didn’t take it all in

You might have figured out already that I have some anxiety issues. Which hey, is life, and I continue to learn how to cope, but there have been races where my nonstop worries have kept me from truly enjoying the experience and taking everything in.

Worries about my PR goals, whether or not I’m conditioned enough, the weather, the unfamiliar course, if my phone battery would die, and of course … the deep fear of pooping my drawers have prevented me from enjoying races to their fullest. (The never trust a fart theory alone nearly gave me a heart attack at Mile 16 of the 2015 WDW Marathon when I was certain that I had … well, perhaps we should move on.)

So TRY to relax at your next race. Breath. Look around. Take it all in.

Because when you think about it, seriously, what are the odds you’ll poop your pants?

Honorable Mention Mistakes

Since I am a buffet of mistakes and this post is already long enough as it is, I’m going to briefly mention some more of my errors from past races:

  1. I didn’t think to make a solid game plan with my husband, Bob over where to meet at the 2014 Baltimore Half Marathon … where it was very crowded, windy, noisy, and with bad cell service.
  2. I started off to fast, allowing myself to get carried away by the cheering crowd and my competitive nature. (Which race did I do this? Well, just about every one.)
  3. I did not thoroughly test my running costume beforehand. Duh.
  4. Because I wanted to track the elevation at the 2015 Baltimore Marathon, I ran my RunKeeper app, which quickly drained my battery.
  5. I forgot to pack my phone charger at the 2016 Wine & Dine Half Marathon … which might not sound like a huge mistake, but to someone like me who takes tons of pictures and videos, it was.
  6. I passed a lovely indoor bathroom, thinking that I’d stop to pee at the next one. Nope. One should ALWAYS pee when they can!
  7. I tried a Gu gel for the very first time during the 2013 Princess Half Marathon … with no water. Don’t need to say more.
  8. I didn’t Body Glide. Yes, I’ve already mentioned this before, but it’s worth noting again.
  9. Failing to clip my toenails before the 2016 Disneyland 10k. Ouch.

What COULD have been a mistake!

I feel it’s necessary to point out the few times when a potential mistake could have had awful repercussions!

  1. The time I tried brand-new nutrition during a race, like when I chewed a piece of PlowOn Gum for the first time at the 2015 Baltimore Marathon. However, it ended up being a lifesaver at mile 20 and now I have a nice stockpile for future runs over 20 miles!
  2. It could have been a mistake if I relied on runDisney for my nutrition during the 2015 WDW Half Marathon, seeing as how they had run out of Cliff Gel Shots by the time I made it to Mile 9. This is why I ALWAYS bring my own nutrition!

Wow, if I went back through all my race recaps for the past three years, this list of mistakes could double, so I better stop now.

QOTD: What about you, what are your biggest race day mistakes?

And for those who will be running the 2017 WDW Marathon Weekend, again, good luck, be safe, and I hope you have a blast!

Happy running and have a joyful day!

About the author: Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger, vlogger, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Lindsay Loves Running December 16, 2016, 10:27 pm

    This is so funny because I just wrote a post about almost pooping my pants during the New York City Marathon! Over the years, I’ve definitely made a bunch of these mistakes, too. Why is it that we always seem to have to learn the hard way? I’m so sorry about Goofy, but I really do think you’rd making the right call. Sending you healing thoughts!

    • Laura Bowers December 18, 2016, 10:26 am

      LOL, that was a great post!! The struggle is real and those “how to poop before a race” articles only make me laugh. It’s also amusing how we continually keep making the same mistakes, despite knowing better. But hey, imperfections make better stories! 🙂

  • Marcia December 18, 2016, 11:02 pm

    I’m sorry I’m laughing at your expense but these are hilarious. Mostly because I can relate. I’m guilty as charged on many of these counts. Ugh live and learn. And sometimes it takes a few times for me to learn. I still over dress. Still. I failed to set up a reunion spot at my first Boston. I ended up jumping a barricade and found myself in some park, leaning up against a tree trying to get my sweats on. It was ugly.

    • Laura Bowers January 14, 2017, 4:33 pm

      LOL about the barricade!!! And I’ve always meant to start a log documenting what I wore for certain weather conditions but yeah, that hasn’t worked out. 😉 Maybe I’ll start once I can run again!

      p.s. Sorry for the late response!

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