31 minutes and some change. That’s how long it took me to run my first 5K. The amazing part of the story is that I’ve been running for the past six weeks in preparation and my time has never been that low.
I suppose it might have been the adrenaline as I stepped up to the starting line. It could have been the competition of the other runners around me. It might have been that the race was all down hill. But I have a few theories about my amazing finish. Primarily, it is all about preparation. Along with my training schedule, I implemented several key strategies that, I believe, made all the difference on race day. Allow me to share them with you.
1. “Carb Load” the night before the race. I realize there is speculation about whether this helps but I contend that it is vital to the outcome. Eat carbs. Lots of carbs. Start with the Never-Ending Pasta Bowel at Olive Garden. Start about 2:00 p.m. and when you leave at 8:00 p.m., you will almost be ready to race. Move on to Taco Bell and eat Bean Burritos until you want to puke (which should be after 2 or 3 if you did your job right at Olive Garden). From there, you go to a movie and order a large popcorn with extra butter. If you have the time, watch two movies and refill the tub of popcorn for free. This makes your Carb Loading an extra value experience.
2. Shave. Not just your face. Shave your legs. Shave your chest. Shave your back. Shave your toes. It is a proven fact that the hair causes friction against the wind and will slow you down (almost as much as the 30 lbs of spaggetti you consumed the night before).
3. For Speed, Buy Speed-O. That’s right. Get yourself a Speed-O swim suit and wear it the day of the race. The smaller, the better.
4. Crisco. After you’ve consumed your weight in carbs and shaved off every hair of your body and squeezed into your new racing outfit, you must rub yourself down with an entire can of Crisco. This will increase your speed by helping you to slide through the air like a swimmer slides through the water as he/she swims the English Channel. Sure, you’ll get some looks from the other runners but anything for cutting down your time. The other advantage of the grease is that you will just slide off the other competitors at the starting line when you are all jockeying for position. Caution: Avoid dogs. They seem to like the flavor of Crisco and what can start as an enjoyable running experience can go horribly wrong in woof and a lick and a bite.
5. Money. A little cash slipped to the race organizer never hurts.
6. Know the Course. Some times the race course will double back on itself. If so, you can find a bush or ornamental grass to hide in. Pretend you are barfing your burritos and pasta. As the leaders make their way back past the bush, you simply join the lead pack and “presto” you’ve moved up 85 places. Caution: This technique is fraught with potential dangers and must only be used if you hope to qualify for more extensive runs, like the Boston Marathon. If your race is late in the year, you may find that the leaves on the bushes are starting to drop. Crisco acts like glue. If you have not planned ahead, you may find that you look more like a 5th grade leaf collection than a runner when you pass the finish line.
7. Drink Water. After running 3.1 miles you will become dehydrated. Drink lots of water. It will lubricate your joints (No, the Crisco doesn’t have time to work in that far) and it will keep you in top physical condition. I like my water in the form of ice. Because water is very bland, I like to pour something over it to give it more flavor. My favorite race-day additive to my water/ice is Kahlua. You can choose your own topping. I have tried Bartles & James Cherry Fuzz and Strawberry Dacari but these are too fruity for race day. Caution: Don’t use too much ice. You may have to stop and use the bathroom somewhere along the race route and port-a-pots are not plentiful in a 5K. Some times I just drink the Kahlua straight from the bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag to help keep it cold. This eleminates the need for potty stops and makes the race much more enjoyable.
8. Use Music for Motivation. I use a MP3 player and noise reduction ear phones when I run. I’ve uploaded a song list entitled “Running”. The advantage to this strategy is that I can be moved by some of my favorite songs. I am able to keep a faster pace with songs that push me forward. Some of my favorites include, “We Are The Champions” by Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, and “Bicycle” by Queen. You can choose your own songs, of course. But I would suggest adding “Princes of the Universe” by Queen. It is really a good song.
9. Never Run Alone. Seriously. You might not think it, but a guy on the street, bloated with pasta of every kind, in a Speed-O, covered in Crisco and leaves, drinking from a bottle in a brown paper bag, jamming along with “We Will Rock You” by Queen attracks a lot of attention. It is helpful to have someone to speak on your behalf when you are slurring your words because of the Khalua.
I’m sure I will have more helpful information as I run more races and trust me, I will pass it along as I glean new and interesting tips.