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Bracing for Winter Racing

Published on Feb. 04, 2020

The big Betsie Bay Frozen 5K race is quickly approaching… are you ready?

We teamed up with Rob Slate, a devoted runner and physical therapist at Munson Healthcare Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital, who also happened to win the Betsie Bay Frozen 5K in 2017 and placed as Runner Up in 2019. To say that Slate loves this unique race that winds around the scenic Betsie Bay is an understatement. Both as a runner and a physical therapist who helps people recover from injuries so they can get back to the hobbies they love, Slate wants every participant to enjoy this frozen 5K as much as he does. Here are his top tips for beating the ice. 

Prepping with just a few weeks to go...

Get outside. With sleet-filled roads and freezing temperatures, you may have spent the majority, if not all, of your time training indoors. If that’s the case, it’s time to take your runs outside to acclimate your body to colder temperatures so it knows exactly what to do on race day. 

Three to four days before race day, dial down your time and intensity. According to Slate, continue to build your mileage up until about three to four days before the race. Then it’s time to prepare your body for race day by decreasing your mileage and/or pace. It may seem a little counterintuitive to tone your activity down, but you’re ultimately storing up your energy. “Just as you’ve been increasing your mileage in anticipation of racing, it’s now equally important to back off on mileage and intensity to rest up a few days before,” shares Slate.

Don’t get too creative with your diet on race day. Slate recommends avoiding any temptation to change your eating routine the morning of the race. For example, if you normally eat oatmeal for breakfast, it’s not the best time to switch to omelets and toast. “Eat what works best for you,” Slate advises. “But do try to get some healthy calories in your body that morning, giving yourself a two-hour window to digest your breakfast before you run.”

How to Stay Warm Enough

Keep in mind that limited parking and varying start and finish points mean that most people will park at the finish line and bus to the start line, explains Slate. Translation: you will likely be waiting in line for a bus before you begin the race. Depending on the temperatures, that could mean a pretty bitter start. Burr! Here’s what to do:

Check the real-time weather. It’s Michigan, so “guestimating” what the weather will be, even the night before the race, isn’t the best approach. Instead, check the forecast when you wake up on race day and dress accordingly. Keep skin protection and not just temperature in mind, consider the probability of frostbite, Slate warns.

Layers, please! When in doubt, wear extra layers, including clothes you can peel off quickly at the start line and either leave with a loved one or pick back up post-race. If the latter is the case, consider wearing something you don’t mind losing—so you might not want to choose your favorite college jacket on the way out the door.

Think beyond clothes. Instead of your usual warm-up, move around and stretch for a bit longer than you usually would to prime your muscles and increase your body temperature. 

Common Frozen 5K Mistakes

You’re too stationary. Many people have a tendency to stand around too much before the race begins, and that can only mean one thing: you’ll get cold and quickly. Jog lightly and stay moving. 

You focus on the clock too much. It’s a Frozen 5k. “Toss off your watch and have some FUN with your effort,” Slate says.

Prep your step. The conditions for this race are usually pretty slippery. Don’t forget some kind of pull-on foot traction, such as YakTraks or studded shoes of choice. 

Don’t stop moving beyond the finish line. Higher-than-normal muscle soreness is common with this race, particularly due to the big downward slope you’ll encounter close to the start line. “Try some light stretching and jogging before heading over to Stormcloud Brewing,” Slate recommends. 

Questions? Being proactive about your body before any race is always encouraged. Don’t be afraid to consult a physical therapist who can provide advice that speaks to your specific concerns. Our rehab teams are here for you, at a location close to home.

Munson Healthcare Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital is a longtime proud sponsor of the Betsie Bay Frozen 5k. We want to wish every participant a safe and amazing experience!