Race week is like a pre-dinner cocktail …

It’s powerful, often rushed and overwhelming to the senses. But when done right, it will set the mood and prepare you for the main event.

In this case, the Thunder Rock 100.

Right now — just over 24 hours from the start — I’m in full on cocktail hour mode. Throw’em back and hope for the best.

But that’s only half the story, because like any good dinner guest, I’ve been getting ready for this dinner for a long time.

100 Mile Preparations (Beyond the Training)

Thunder Rock is my A race of the season. I’ve been training for this weekend for months, and using other races and longer runs to build strength and endurance.

But like any good training, you cut back and taper the week or two before the race. That’s when final preparations come in, and where I believe my nerves and overthinking — of everything, not just races — actually help me out.

How you prepare during the final days can make or break the race itself. If you show up unorganized and under prepared for a race as long as 100 miles, you’ll feel frantic and stressed out before the race even begins.

Show up on race day having thought through the details, with gear and logistics in order, and you can focus solely on the miles ahead.

Over the past few years I’ve adopted a few tricks for guaranteeing I’m as prepared as possible come race day. Tricks I’m utilizing this week, which I’m happy to share with you below.

4 Last Minute Preparations for a Better Race

1. Create Crew Sheets

I first learned about the Crew Sheet idea from Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete, and will never go back.

Crew sheets are simply charts or notes for each aid station (that has crew access) outlining everything you want your crew to know about that stop.

Everything from:

  • When you think you’ll arrive
  • What food or gear they should have ready
  • What questions to ask you ahead of the next aid station
  • If you need to be reminded of an upcoming portion of the course, like a big climb or descent
  • Where to meet you next

With that sheet, they can gather your gear, prepare any food, and get you in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible.

It helps prevent frustrations from having something handy, and means you won’t forget a headlamp, shoe change, or anything else you know you’ll need.

2. Pack Early

Before you roll your eyes at this one, trust me. You do not want to forget something important on race day.

**cough, lube, cough, cough**

The easiest way I’ve found to deal with the race week stress and nerves is to start preparing early. Confirm your gear list 5 days out, and start gathering everything together over the next several days. By 24 hours before your race, I like to have everything possible packed and ready to go.

Then I double check the list and my gear, and sleep at ease that night.

3. Talk with Your Pacers and Crew

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on how to be a master pacer. The number one rule was to talk with your runner ahead of time.

But really that one goes back on the runner, not the pacer.

It’s up to you to make sure the pacers know what to expect and where to be, and it’s up to you to make sure your crew is organized and prepared to help:

  • Send out an email on race week with any details they may need, and
  • When possible, meet with them ahead of the race to go over expectations and logistics.

The more you can talk with your crew ahead of time the better off you’ll both be.

Of course you always have the option to go without a crew or pacer. If that’s you, awesome and good luck.

Pro-tip: Treat your crew with the respect they deserve. Prep extra food and meals for them ahead of time, and do whatever you can to make their experience as easy as possible. You owe them that much!

4. Walk (Mentally) Through the Entire Race

One of my favorite things to do before a race is pull out the course map and a trail map, and trace over the route on the trail map.

Simply converting the course onto a new map allows me to mentally walk through the entire race and get a better handle on the course. I can see where the major climbs fit into the race, and how the aid stations are placed.

You don’t have to copy over the course to achieve the same result. Walk through the course map, paying attention to all the details and trying to envision how you’ll feel during each section. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Where will I be when it gets dark? Light?
  • Which sections look the toughest?
  • What are the aid stations with crew access, and when can I expect to be alone?
  • At what point are you getting close to the finish?

This is a great way to battle race week jitters, and prepare mentally for what’s to come.

Take Control of Race Week

Just like some of us have been known to let pre-dinner cocktails get out of control, race week nerves and excitement can leave you stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed.

By taking control of race week, you’re showing up to the starting line prepared for the adventure to come. And you’ll be better off for it.


Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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