Race Essentials

Last weekend I ran a half-marathon (my fourth this year!) sponsored by my workplace.

The fact that it was a local event meant I didn’t need to do any significant travel, and at one point the course was less than a mile from our house. I briefly contemplated detouring right back home, since the humidity topped 90% at race time, but instead I kept plodding.

Even without travel, there’s still some prep work to do before a race. (I’ll post separately about packing for a destination race. I’ve got it down).

When racing there are two ways to go: minimalist or maximalist. I’d suggest the former.

Many times I see runners in elaborate costumes at races, but I’m not one of them. I need my energy focused on running, not adjusting a rainbow clown wig (an accessory I have noticed many, many times).

I also usually won’t debut any new clothing items, lest I discover unfortunate scratchy areas mid-race. Ditto new shoes.

What I bring with me:

  • GPS watch, on wrist
  • iPhone
  • Armband for phone, secured on upper arm
  • Sport earphones (currently these)
  • Lip balm, zipped in pocket of shirt or shorts
  • One nutrition gel (half-marathon or longer distance; I usually bring Gu since that’s what I’m used to from training), also in pocket

And finally, the most important item: a $20 bill folded into a tiny plastic zip-lock bag.

One like this:

small bag

Sometimes the pins that you’re supposed to use to secure your number to your shirt come in bags like these, which you will discover upon picking up the race materials ahead of time. That’s a huge score, as these small bags are perfect for holding a folded bill. I’ll also occasionally get them with new jewelry or extra buttons, and I always hoard them for just this purpose.

The plactic bag keeps the $20 dry, and in my experience, it’s critical to have a small amount of cash if, say, you’re suddenly craving donuts on the way home or you need an emergency cab ride back to your home or hotel. That $20 is a life saver.

For me, that’s usually all I bring to a race. If I have to drive, I’ll securely tie a car key to my shoe.

If you are more of a maximalist, other items that are not necessary but may be nice to bring:

  • Clean, dry shirt for after the race
  • Compression socks or sleeves
  • Flip flops
  • Small towel to dry off, or even a beach towel to place on a car seat for the ride home
  • Extra water or your favorite sports drink
  • Post-race snack
  • Brush or comb to fix hair, particularly if you are vain about post-race selfies
  • Band Aids
  • Face wipes, baby wipes or both
  • Hand sanitizer

Many races allow you to check a bag ahead of time, and all of the above can easily be stashed. I usually don’t bother since bag drops can be pretty crowded but occasionally I will take advantage of this service. Just don’t put anything of major value in the bag! Keep your car key tied to your shoe, or you still may need that $20 to get home after all.





New Sights

Several friends and Ever Patient Spouse all ran distance races last weekend, and many set PRs or competed for the first time.

Me? I was running around with the kids, attending two graduation parties, tackling Mt. Saint Laundry, and getting up five times during the night to appease our barky, semi-continent toy poodle. 

Doing much of nothing proved exhausting.

The low point was being awake from 2 to 5 A.M. on Sunday, when I failed to return to sleep after the third trip outside with the dog.

When overnight cable TV turned out to be unwatchable, I had a chance to catch up on people I know. Living vicariously through my friends’ social media posts was really inspiring. My good friend L finished her first half-marathon with an impressive time of 1:51. I was so proud of her!

It also prompted me to think about what’s next on my list. After a flurry of races in the first few months of the year, I found myself without a new goal in sight.

At roughly 4:37 AM, I signed up for a half-marathon in August.

At roughly 4:38 AM, I signed up for a marathon in October.

How am I feeling about this in the light of day? Pretty psyched.

This time I plan to use a marathon training plan developed by legendary runner Hal Higdon.

There are a variety of plans available, and I’m going to follow Novice 2. The plans are free, but there’s also an app available for $9.99, which I decided to buy. After entering my goal marathon date, it generated an 18 week training schedule.


Now it’s just time to get moving!




Too Exhausted

Have you ever been too exhausted to sleep?

That may sound impossible, but trust me, it’s not.

Yesterday I ran another half-marathon, my third this year. However, unlike the two cushy races I did in warmer climes, this one was in Minnesota. In March. During one of the worst winters ever.

As I exited my car near the starting line, I felt like crawling right back inside. The temperature was about 20 degrees with steady winds. The course was rolling and more hilly than I anticipated. It was also a faster group of athletes than I am used to; I saw the eventual winner fly past me on the out-and-back course before I even made it to the turnaround.

Like everyone else there, I struggled against the wind but kept going because the alternative – walking – would prolong the misery of being outside, cold and wet.

When I finished, I hightailed it back to my car and to a hot shower.

I ran around doing different things for the rest of the day and evening, but when it came time to actually go to sleep, I couldn’t. Argh.

This used to happen to me often in residency. I’d work and work and work, and even though I was physically exhausted, when it was time to rest I couldn’t turn my brain off and sleep.

So it looks like today is going to be the kind of day that coffee was made for! At least I don’t have to run outside. I’ll give myself a pass on that one.