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The Two-Week Countdown to the Austin Marathon

With the many months of difficult training behind you, the final two weeks before the 2016 Austin Marathon should be a breeze. All the hard work is over and hopefully, you’ve done everything you possibly can to prepare for the 26.2-mile test on February 14th.

Even though almost all the hard training should be completed, many marathoners will tell you that the final two weeks before the big race can be an extremely difficult, stressful time. Especially for first-time marathoners.

To ease the anxiety and eliminate as many surprises as possible, use these last two weeks to take care of all the logistics as well as prepare yourself physically and mentally for the ups and downs of the Austin Marathon course.

Here are some tips to get you safely and sanely through the next two weeks:

O Reduce your training volume. Hopefully, you’ve done your last long training run. But you should maintain your speed work although you’ll probably want to gradually reduce the amount you do. This week, you should probably cut weekly mileage by at least 25-30 percent. Next week, reduce it even more. If you feel tired or simply don’t want to run in the next couple of weeks, take a day off. Your body is telling you to back off. Missing a day or two is not a big deal.

O Do two more runs at your marathon goal pace. Keep the runs relatively short (less than 10 miles). Ease into your marathon goal pace and maintain it for the majority of the run. This will help build your confidence as you head toward the marathon. These final two pace runs will also be a final reminder to not go out too fast in the first few miles of the marathon, especially on the long climb on South Congress in the first few miles.

O Recover. Give yourself plenty of recovery time between each of your final runs. If any of the runs in the final two weeks are at all taxing, take an extra day off before the next run.

O Don’t do anything new. That is, don’t experiment with any new workouts, wear different training shoes or try out a new Indian restaurant. Now is not the time to start a new relationship or job or end an old one. Stick with the tried and true.

O Study the course. The Austin Marathon is a tricky course with major ups and downs. (Go to the marathon web site—youraustinmarathon.com for a course map.) If you’re from Austin, most of the roads (and hills) should be familiar to you but they look a lot different when racing. If you haven’t trained on the Austin course, there’s still time to run the course in sections. At least, make sure you run the first eight or nine miles and the final five. If you can’t do that, drive the course.

O Eat healthy and stay hydrated. You don’t have to start carbohydrate-loading two weeks out, but concentrate on eating a healthy, carbohydrate-rich, low-fat diet. Also emphasize staying hydrated at all times with water, sports drinks or fruit juices. Keep a water bottle handy at all times.

O Avoid all potentially hazardous activities. In these final two weeks, don’t do any physical activity that can leave you dinged up, tired or sore. Forget all about soccer, volleyball, touch football, basketball, ultimate frisbee, tennis and even golf. Don’t climb any ladders to clean the gutters and now is not the time to start work on a new patio. Rest as much as possible in your spare time.

O Check the shoes you intend to wear during the race. If you are planning to wear your regular training shoes, make certain they have plenty of cushioning left. If you have worn the trainers for more than 150-175 miles, get a new pair of the exact same model. The shoes may not be dead, but you want as much cushioning and support as possible from your footwear in the final miles of the marathon. A fresh pair is always better than an old pair. If you buy a new pair, test them out on two or three runs. If you are going with an older pair, make certain the shoelaces are in good enough shape so they won’t break on marathon morning. If you’re planning to wear racing flats or lightweight trainers, use them on one or two easy runs and maybe a speed workout or two.

O Wear test everything you intend to wear during the marathon. That includes, shorts and singlets, sports bra, hat and sunglasses, gloves and socks. If you are planning to wear a water belt or fanny pack, also use it on one final run. Check to make sure there is no chafing.

O Do one final run with your energy gels. Attach them to your shorts just like you will in the marathon so they are easily accessible while running. Consume at least one gel to make sure it’s palatable. Don’t use unfamiliar gels.

O Begin to focus mentally on the race. Go over your splits and time goals. Write the splits down so you can internalize them. Rehearse how you expect to feel at various portions of the race, including the hills, and mentally prepare for any unforeseen dangers (tripping, missing water stops, going out too fast, etc.).

O Rest. Try to get plenty of sleep and stay off your feet as much as possible, especially next week. If you’re nursing any minor injury, give it plenty of time to heal. If necessary, get treatment now.

O Reward yourself with a massage. If you haven’t been getting regular massage, now is the time to get a relaxing massage from a reputable massage therapist who works with runners and triathletes. There are plenty of good ones in Austin. Many are very busy this time of year so if you want a massage, make an appointment immediately. Inform the therapist you’re running the marathon so the massage isn’t too deep.

O Begin to check the long range forecast for marathon morning. Sure, it’s been very warm lately (not good for marathoning), but check the forecasts next week so you can prepare yourself for the conditions. Predictions in Austin are fairly reliable as much as seven days out which will give you plenty of time to get ready for any weather we are likely to have.

O Plan a carbohydrate-loading party. Better yet, get your spouse to plan one. Stick with what you’ve eaten before your long runs. If you’re planning to go out for dinner the night before the race, go early. Most of the downtown Italian restaurants fill up early with out-of-town marathoners. Plus, Valentine’s Day (February 14) coincides with the marathon so the restaurants are certain to be jammed on Saturday night.