Running Race Jitters

One of my favorite scenes: "Nervous?" "A little." "First time?" "No, I've been nervous lots of times."

Gotta 'fess up: I'm nervous about the Rock 'N' Roll Las Vegas half-marathon, which is now less than two weeks away. My nerves shouldn't be jangled--I've lost count of how many half-marathons I've run. Last spring, when I ran three 13.1-mile races in the span of eight weeks, I was feeling as confident as my older daughter when she's bossing her younger sibs around. But  now that I haven't stepped up to a starting line since May 21, I've got a case of stage fright. I know I can cover the distance--my training has been going really well (probably because I've been following one of two half-marathon training plans from our upcoming Train Like a Mother!)--but there are a lot of variables that have my brain in a tangle. Such as:

I'm no night owl.

-The race starts at 5:30 p.m. As in, at night. (Thus the race's nickname, "Strip at Night.") A creature of habit, I only run in the morning. I haven't run in the late afternoon or evening since my 1st-graders were wearing size 9-12 month clothes. Sure, the late start means I can sleep in, but then what am I going to do for the day? Not much of a gambler, I don't want to cruise the casinos. Lounging by the pool might be an option if it's warm enough, but I worry about the sun sapping my energy. I guess Dim and I could hang in our hotel room watching re-runs of "Friends" and "The Golden Girls" as we are wont to do on road trips but, again, I worry my energy level will start an unstoppable downward spiral. I'm an up-and-at-'em kinda gal but by day's end, I'm ready to get horizontal, not bust a move on a race course. And, don't even get me started fretting about what I'll eat that day or, ahem, how my bowels will react with a late start.

-The race has 44,000 entrants. FORTY-FOUR THOUSAND racers. And that's not including the 6,000 doing  the marathon that starts 90 minutes earlier. That is a heck of a lot of people, and I'm not much for crowds. My palms get damp and my breathing a little shallow simply visualizing the mass of humanity making their way to the corral or pounding down the closed-to-cars Strip.

-My last race was a painful experience thanks to my plantar fasciitis. The pain was only about a 2.5 on a 1-to-10 scale while I was running, but the moment I slowed to a walk after crossing the finish, it shot up to 9+ agony. My foot is symptom-free 99% of the time, but a fear of the pain returning bings around my brain. If I end up hobbled at the finish in Vegas, that pretty much crushes my ability to run Boston next spring.

That covers the biggie reasons why I'm biting my nails these days when I think about Stripping at Night. What sets off your pre-race jitters?

21 responses to “Running Race Jitters

  1. I too am a morning runner – and my first half this year was at night at 7.30pm. It was quite good because it meant I could have a slow start in the morning, plan my meals during the day and have a nap. I had a bagel as afternoon tea a few hours before the run and I also stopped drinking water 2 hours before the run although I had drunk heaps over the last 36 hours. I had a shot of espresso with about an hour to go and everything was fine. I didn’t feel tired (sleepy) during the run, however I did find it really hard to wind down after.

    It sounds like it will be so much fun !

  2. SBS! Here’s my thoughts on how you (and the rest of us doing stripatnight) can have a great race day/night (from past night race experiences):

    1. You and Dim are going to be on your feet lots at the expo so I’d suggest an ice bath on Saturday night because your legs will be fatigued. Yes, I know that could mean two ice baths in one weekend.
    2. Compression gear on and off on Sunday. Off by at least 90 min prior to the race. It’ll help your legs recover from the days before.
    3. Eat as clean as possible – and I’m sure there will lots of porta potties on course for stops. Try to finish your carb loading by Saturday night and eat lightly throughout the day on Sunday. Oatmeal for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, fruits, veggies, and nuts for snacks.
    4. Don’t sleep in, but nap in the afternoon. When you wake up from your nap (ideally 3pm), pretend it’s morning, eat a pre-race meal (light like chicken salad and maybe some bread), wash your face, brush your teeth. Also, a cup of joe is fantastic to kick you into high gear. Don’t drink too much water or you’ll be lined up at you-know-where.
    5. Leave to be on time and not early, less standing around.
    6. Lounge around but don’t be too much of a bum – fresh air and sunlight will keep you alert. Also, do some intelligent things throughout the day – crossword, sudoku. Don’t spend too much time catching up on celebrity gossip.

    My plans are to hang by the pool but not soak up the rays. Stroll to the start/finish to take it all in, get my bearings, and make some better plans to meet up with the husband post-race.

    And, in the end you’re going to be laughing your butt off at all the Elvis’, show girls, and soon-to-be newlyweds, lined up to run. Plus the rest of us BAMR’s will be rocking it in our fashionista outfits.

    1. Kourtney, I L-O-V-E all your advice, especially the part about taking a nap, getting up by 3 p.m., then just acting like it’s a morning run! That’s positively BRILLIANT!

      And, yes, you hit another concern of mine: It *is* tough to be at expo whole day beforehand.

      But, hey, I’ll be meeting gals like YOU so it’s going to be a blast. Please make sure you tell me you are “Kourtney with K” so my overstimulated brain kicks in when we meet in LV!

    2. Great advice! Did you guys ever get one of those rubber air cushion mats to stand on at race expos?

      As for the actual race – someone I know got boxed in for 4 MILES at the NY Marathon a few weeks ago. Big races can create this, even though you are one of the zippier ones (he finished in 4:28). I like the “okay to go slower” advice, too.

      I always get jitters. Always. But I agree with another poster, they are usually gone by the first mile or so.

      And good luck with the poop drill. I’ve switched my runs to afternoon here lately and I’m all messed up. Maybe the nap + coffee mentioned by Kourtney will fix that part 🙂

      Can’t wait to hear all about it! You will be great!

  3. SBS- this post surprised me- it humainzed you- you always seem so “on your A game”- a little intimidating (although I’ve never met you in person- only through this Blog). You will mentally be challenged, but I think your physical ability will carry you through this race.

    I use to have issues with needing to pee right as the gun goes off, but I’ve gotten over that by a. going right before the race and b. realizing that most courses are set up with port o potties along the route.

    1. Thank you, Natalie. Most of my “on my A game” attitude is bravado. Dim knows me so well and she always encourages me to be more honest and human. Glad I took her advice…and you saw the softer-side-of-SBS.

      I like everyone’s advice to people watch. I’ll be fine once I’m in the element. Sometimes being a hermit-crab writer, the idea of crowds freak me out more than the people do in person.

      Goodness, now I sound like a shut-in! Yikes.

  4. I get them even on a run I know I can do. It was helfpul on my recent marathon as it set my tummy in motion so that I visited the hotel bathro0m a few times and got it all out before the race started.

  5. I have never run a night or evening race. There have been a few here that I have completely scoffed at b/c I LIKE SLEEP!

    I would be really worried about my energy as well as my bowels. I think my fear of not pooping before a run would be my biggest issues. I hate the feeling of prairie doggin’ while trying to maintain a certain pace and focus. Once your butt starts talking to you there isn’t much that can keep you focused on the race! ;o)

  6. Good luck SBS!! Rock the Strip! I don’t really get jitters until the day before a race and then right before the start. They strike when I am standing in the corral trying to bounce up and down to keep myself moving 🙂 Whenever I start a race, I get this rush of anxiety. Will I be able to finish, will I get the time I want, etc. It always seems to be gone by the half mile point.

  7. I’m nervous about the evening start time too. I run most of my miles before 5:30 am during the week and before 9 am on the weekends. I think expectations are what make me nervous…or the fear of not living up to my own expectations. I’m excited about the weekend though! I get to not only see my best friend but actually run her first half with her…and my husband and I will be renewing our vows Vegas-style Saturday night since our 10 year anniversary is right around the corner and we honeymooned in Vegas.

  8. Turn your nerves into excitement! You should be excited to do this. With a race this big, and all the variables you mentioned, give yourself permission to go 1-2 min per mile slower than you normally would. (I’ve tried this trick, and it almost always ends up with a better overall time- both in actual clock time and in being a lot more FUN) Enjoy! : )

  9. First of all, I’d be disappointed if you guys stayed in the room all day… I wanted to do this race (and then could have met you finally!) but couldn’t because of the weekend it’s on. I”m right in Reno for goodness sake!! So I’m living vicariously. If all else fails, go to Paris and get some goodies for later, the trip home, etc… and if all else fails, Vegas is the PERFECT place to walk around and people watch!!! As far as being nervous. Hmmm… I remember my first half. The energy, the excitement. I stood at the start and thought “This is why people train”. Training isn’t always fun for me. It’s a means to an end. The race is like the cupcake at the end of all that training. So I feel the adrenaline of everyone there, not nerves. Feed off everyone else!! After all, this is what you’ve been working so hard for!

  10. Hey SBS! I’ve been at the Vegas event for the last 3 years. We opted not to go this year because of what you are saying – especially the running at night part. Oh, and because I would only travel that far to run a full and I’m too slow to run that one (4:30 cut off time). Now I wish I was going… boo hoo! There’s lots to see in Vegas. I’m not sure if you’ve been before. But I have fun just wandering around and seeing the sights. And don’t forget the outlet malls! My fave is the Premium Outlets, north of the strip. If it wasn’t sold out already, I think I’d be booking a flight now. So jealous!

  11. You are going to do awesome! This seems like a perfect race to just enjoy the atmosphere. Running my first half marathon this past Sunday (which was also my second race EVER) really set off my prerace jitters. Heck, I even get nervous before my hubby runs in a race! I hear worrying is one of those things that goes along with being a mom though.

  12. being in a race. I’m always nervous. Nervous I’ll get lost. Nervous I’ll have to stop for 10 minutes to poop. LOL Nervous I’ll have a DNF. Nervous I’ll snot rocket/farmer blow on someone. Nervous I won’t have enough energy.

  13. My first half was yesterday and I was SOOOO nervous leading up to it! It was terrible – but I could not pinpoint exactly what was making me nervous. I had an upset stomach for 2 days prior to the race and the day of the race. At first I chalked it up to being nervous, but now I’m not sure. While standing at the start line I told myself, “this is like any other Saturday (when I do my long runs) – enjoy it, enjoy it, enjoy it…” Easier said that done. Oh well, now that I have that one under my belt I’m thinking the jitters will not get me so bad the next time!

  14. If you are worried about your PF, my advise, after my last DNF race, would be to go easy and just enjoy the crowds, the Strip, and the race without going all out. With 44,000 people, there will be great people watching! Have fun and enjoy! I’m sure you will do well!!

  15. You will be great! The worry in your head is worse than the reality. What gets me jittery is the fact that I am still new with only two races under my belt, there is so much more to learn. But no matter how many books you read and how much you worry, you just need to get out there and do it!

  16. you will do great! I love running in the evening and once you get out there among the crowd you will feel all of their energy too. Don’t hang out in your room all day..that will make u super sleeping and blah..head down to some of the casinos and do some people watching. Don’t walk too much but head out of that room to get ready for the race 🙂 Good luck!

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