Hello MHRRC, was reading through the Runner's World forums, and came across an interesting repost of a Running Time's article from 2007, and as it's something I've often been curious about, thought I'd share and see how/if anyone applies it to their pre-race routine.
Shake it Out
Early Rising = Better Racing
By Jim Gerweck
As featured in the April 2007 issue of Running Times Magazine
If you find waking up at 7:45 a.m. for an 8 a.m. race a painful struggle, perhaps you should read no further. But if you want to improve your performance by following the lead of many elite runners, you may want to set your alarm not just a few minutes, but several hours before the scheduled start.
For years, many elites have been doing "shakeout runs," short, easy jogs performed well before race time in order to get the body’s systems up to speed before stepping to the line. "It takes several hours to get your body temperature up and increase the flexibility and function of your muscles," says Keith Hanson, who with his brother Kevin coaches the successful Hansons Brooks Distance Project. To accomplish that, the Hansons runners are out on the roads several hours before the scheduled start.
While they’re out doing their pre-dawn shakeout, they’ll doubtless bump into most of the other elites who are competing in the same race. Deena Kastor is among the dedicated early risers. "It’s not the most pleasant thing to do, but it’s definitely helpful," she says. She notes that it’s usually hard to sleep well the night before a big race anyway, so getting up isn’t really that much of a struggle. Kevin Hanson adds, "Two nights before is when you need a good night’s sleep, so a few hours less the night before isn’t that critical."
Waking well before the start also has the benefit of allowing plenty of time for whatever pre-race routine you’ve determined is beneficial. "Finding and performing a routine is a big factor in racing well," says Keith Hanson. "So being able to do that without feeling rushed is important." Your shakeout run routine doesn’t need to be complex, just consistent. Here are a few of the pre-dawn secrets the top runners on the circuit have found work for them:
Timing: Three hours before the race’s start seems to be the accepted optimal time for most elites. "We actually try to time it so we finish our shakeout three hours before," says Kevin Hanson. "For an 8 o’clock race, we’ll meet at quarter of five, then start running at 10 of." He adds that the Japanese religiously do their shakeouts a full five hours before the start.
Duration and Intensity: The good part is that your still-sleepy brain and body won’t have to struggle to perform anything strenuous. "It doesn’t have to be more than a very slow jog, interspersed with some stretching, and maybe a few easy strides at the end — just enough to get you up and going," says Kastor. The Hansons runners jog easily for just 10 minutes. "For a marathon, we’ll reduce that to maybe only five minutes," says Keith Hanson.
Fueling: Another major reason for getting up three hours before a race is to have enough time to eat and digest a pre-race meal. "The continental breakfasts that most hotels put out is perfect," says Kevin Hanson, describing the ideal race day menu. "A bagel and banana, maybe coffee or a sports drink is just what you want." Getting your digestive system working early can also help avoid those long pre-race portajohn lines. "I’ll do my run and have a PowerBar, and within an hour I’ll go to the bathroom," says marathoner Josh Cox. "You definitely want to get rid of yesterday’s carbo-loading meal before you leave the hotel."
Filling (and Killing) Time: Even with a leisurely breakfast and bathroom break, you’ll still have nearly two hours before the start of the race. One thing you definitely must not do is go back to bed and catch a quick nap. "That would defeat the whole purpose of doing the shakeout," says Kastor. Keith Hanson says their athletes basically chill out in their rooms until it’s time to leave for the start. "Read the paper, stretch a little, watch TV — basically just stay relaxed and try not to expend too much energy."
After that, it’s just a matter of figuring out the time it will take to get to the starting area, whether it’s a brief walk or longer car ride, how long it will take to check in, and when you’ll want to start your major pre-race warmup. Do the math, and allow yourself extra time for each of these so you won’t feel rushed and stressed. But if you decide to be like an elite athlete and do a shakeout run before your race, oversleeping is one less thing you’ll have to worry about. And, it can make the race itself that much better. Examine the benefits of shakeout runs, and sleep on it — just not too late. (end of article)
------- The idea makes a ton of sense to me. 10 minutes to wake the muscular systems up, while you're waking your mental system up, followed by food and normal pre-race activity. Does anyone do this already? Do you find it helps you out personally? I think I will give this a go next time I have an early morning race.
Also, I would like to say "Hi!" to all my fellow MHRRC members. I'm AJ Guckian, and I've met some of you through the meetings at the track, and some at the Twilight Track series. I asked Deborah if she would mind if I posted to the "blog" and she's given me access! I'll try and not bore anyone, but will post mostly on things going through my mind concerning running, and how I'm working on becoming an actual distance runner, after years of just "going through the motions".