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Friday, February 22, 2013
Tips for a great race day

By Summer Sanders

Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summer Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.

I've learned a lot about running from my friends as well as the experts.

I'm happy to share my tricks to help other runners like you! Here are some things that help me the most on race day:

• Aquaphor or Vaseline: I cover my feet in it on race morning. I make a layer 2 to 3 centimeters thick, especially on my heels. Once I put my socks on, I don't even feel it. I also apply some wherever I think chaffing could occur -- under my arms, on my thighs or anyplace that rubs!

• Biofreeze: You can get it in different types of applications -- I use the portable pouch. I rub it on my groin, hamstrings, and thighs during my race, and it brings those areas back to life. The worst part of the race for me is miles 19 to 23, so the cooling menthol effect is just what I need.

• Making a plan with my family: I can't concentrate on my race if I'm thinking about finding my kids and husband. I've learned not to put my name on my bib, so I know that when I hear my name, it's my supporters. I get bummed, and so does my family, if we miss one another on the course. We plan an exact spot, including which side of the street, so we are sure to see one another.

• Bring something calming: Especially for big-city races, you'll have a lot of time to kill at the start, so bring a magazine, your iPod, or a letter from your family that wishes you luck. Have something with you that will put you in the zone and calm your fears when you (inevitably) get nervous. You can leave it behind or pack it up when you check your bag before the start.

Set multiple alarms the night before your race, so you can try to get some sleep without worrying about oversleeping. Plan to get up early enough to walk around, do your business and double-check everything to make sure you have what you need. I also think it's crucial to stay near your own bathroom as long as possible, so you don't spend all morning waiting in lines.

You know yourself, so trust your instincts; just because a friend gets to the start five minutes before the gun, doesn't mean that works for you. Finally, check the weather right before you leave, so that you have the right clothes to keep you warm and something to sit on, like a simple garbage bag, if you'll need it.

One of my favorite things is to start my watch and then run my own race, without checking my watch again. I've run with pace groups for marathons; they're helpful if you have a time goal. I always felt I had to catch up with the group after fluid stations (remember, I walk through them), so decide in advance whether they're for you.

I like to check the runners and the action on the sidelines as I run. I've also been known to buddy up with a perfect stranger who was running at a similar pace. You can find someone ahead of you who is running at your speed or a little faster, and stay with 'em.

There are many things you can plan ahead of time, and then you need to simply go with the flow on race day. Don't drive yourself crazy, and always remember that this is something you choose to do because it makes you happy!

Summer knows that many runners take race day very seriously. No matter your goal, it should also be something you look forward to and enjoy, despite the logistics and inevitably, the pain. There is a very good reason why runners go through this again and again -- it's uplifting, it's inspiring, and it's worth it each and every time. Carpe diem, and savor the moment!