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Tips for a night race

wine-dine-logoI’m running the Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon this Saturday, November 7 with two of my buddies. I am so excited, and a little nervous….

I’ve run three night races, my first was the Walt Disney World Tower of Terror Half Marathon in 2012, my second was the McAdenville Christmastown 5K, which was AMAZING (look for a post on this race on Nov. 23) and the Glow Run 5K with my kids. The 5K races aren’t a problem at night because hydration, nutrition and rest don’t play as big of a role. However, when you race a half marathon at night…you must prepare in advance. Here are my top five tips:

  1. Hydrate

You will want to drink plenty of fluids not only on race day (even though that’s important as well) but on the days leading up to the event. The Wine and Dine Half Marathon is on Saturday, but I started my hydration plan on Thursday.

Since a night race gives you all day to prepare, you will want to make sure you drink plenty of fluid throughout the day and make sure your urine is pale yellow or clear. In regards to choosing sports drinks or water, the most important thing is not to try anything new. Personally, I prefer to drink water on normal days to stay hydrated, but on race day I drink Powerade Zero. I need to replenish electrolytes when I run because I’m a salty sweater. My stomach doesn’t tolerate full sugar Gatorade or other products. The only sports drink I can stomach is PowerAde Zero, so I buy a lot and bring it with me. On race day take the weather into account for your hydration. If it’s hot or humid you will need to adjust accordingly. While over hydration isn’t common (less than 1 percent of marathoners suffer from this) it is possible. So, listen to your thirst and don’t over do it.

  1. Plan your meals

I did not do well with my meals during my first night race. I meant to eat dinner, but through a series of unplanned events, ended up having to grab what was on hand in the concierge room and I had a brownie and a Red Bull prior to the run. NOT a good formula on a hot, humid night just prior to running 13.1 miles.

I suggest eating lightly throughout the day. Aim to have your lunch about 4-6 hours prior to the race. Choose something that you’re familiar with eating, but that doesn’t have strong flavors. Then eat your typical pre-race breakfast about 90 minutes to two hours before the run. I always have a Quest Cookie Dough Protein Bar and coffee prior to my morning runs, so I’m going to give this a shot on Saturday. I am not sure what to do about lunch since I’m traveling, but I’m staying at Caribbean Beach, which has a great food court. I may have hummus and pretzels for a balance of protein and carbs.

  1. Wear a Garmin

Running in the dark is completely different than running in the day. For me, my heart rate seems higher at night and I perceive the effort to feel more difficult. I also have difficulty with perception of objects at night (could be my terrible night vision). All of these factors contribute to pacing getting out of whack at night. I recommend wearing a Garmin so you can monitor your heart rate and pace. If you feel like the effort is easy, hesitate to race ahead of your pace until you’ve reached the halfway mark because you may run out of steam. Keep your pace steady and monitor your heart rate for exertion. Check out my review on the Garmin for more info on using this tool.

  1. Take it easy the day of the event

When I’m in Disney I have a tendency to go…go…go! It’s difficult to take it easy when you want to hit up Toy Story Midway Mania and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. However, I recommend that you book extra days AFTER your run and take your run day easy. If you are walking around the parks all day you may run out of steam by the evening race. Take it easy by relaxing by the pool, exploring your resort and dining in one of the wonderful Walt Disney World restaurants. I even plan to TRY to take a nap this year. Let’s see how that works…

  1. Don’t overdo it during the run

Another mistake I made during the Tower of Terror run was that I was so worried about my time and finishing the race that I was sick and felt terrible after the race. Instead of enjoying the after party I had to go back to the hotel room and prevent myself from throwing up all night. I’m hoping to relax and take it easy during the Wine and Dine Half Marathon so I can enjoy the Finish Line Party! For the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Finish Line party, there will be food from over 30 international marketplaces. There will also be music and plenty of entertainment. Disney hands out a runDisney nutrition box at the finish line and while the contents vary, most years it includes hummus or cheese, crackers, a Cliff Bar, water and sweet treat. Disney also sent all participants a $15 gift card, which we can use to spend at the party (or on anything), so I plan to take it easy this year so I can enjoy the after party! Run, Karla, Run wrote a race report on the Disney Wine and Dine race from 2013 and gave some great tips on the overall course and after party.

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