If you’re one of those people who enjoys running, you know that training and completing a marathon or road race brings a great sense of satisfaction. But the coronavirus pandemic cancelled many of this season’s races. Now, virtual races are becoming a popular alternative.
Virtual races are a great way to boost cardiovascular health. Training can help you stay motivated, but they require different planning and preparation, particularly when it comes to hydration and nutrition.
Races during normal years include hydration and nutrition aid stations at regular intervals along the route. With virtual races, it is up to you.
Follow these tips for an effective virtual race day:
Practice race fueling plan in advance. Don’t try something new on race day. Practice your nutrition and hydration plan while you’re training, especially with a run similar to your race intensity effort.
During your training period, experiment with different gels, bars and other whole foods, water, sports drinks and electrolyte beverages to see what your body tolerates best. Note that your body digests nutrition differently on an easy run versus a harder effort. Simulate your race in terms of exertion and distance as close as possible to leave nothing to chance on race day. Practice simple things, such as opening your gels while running. Or consider ripping your gels or other food items in advance so you can open them easily while running.
Your event might be virtual, but you can still reach for your personal best by keeping your body hydrated and ensuring you have enough energy to finish.
Plan ahead. As you train for a virtual race, consider how your route and your hydration and fuel factor in. Unlike in a physical race, you will need to carry your own supplies. This can be achieved several ways, including using a running vest or belt to carry drinks and gels. You also can coordinate your race route to pass your house. A looped course starting at your house allows for multiple passes for a nutrition and hydration station set up in the driveway.
Or involve family and friends. They can wait for you at predetermined locations along your route to hand off nutrition and hydration.
Don’t skip fueling. Whether a race is in person or virtual, it’s critical not to skip fueling. Your body needs energy to keep going, especially if you’re a new runner. Long-time marathoners typically run for a shorter time and use less fuel; the opposite is true for most novice racers.
Take in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour if you run for longer than one hour. Begin carbohydrate intake shortly after the start of your race and continue to consume at 15- to 20-minute intervals for the rest of your run.
Staying hydrated is also important. If you lose just 2 percent of your body weight through dehydration, you can severely impair performance and add extra time to your race. Plan to consume one cup of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during your race. If you run for longer than an hour, incorporate an electrolyte drink. You can choose the brand and flavor, but make a choice that provides a balance of carbohydrates, sodium and potassium to replace losses.