Throughout the year we spend lots of time running, training for this or that. We get caught up with the slog of training, and sometimes the race seems to creep up on us! Some of you might not “race” a race. You may prefer to just be part of it, join in and have a go. Some of us want to ‘race it’, or give it everything we have got.
It is important to know that the race preparation comes well before the race itself. Of course this starts with your training, and your body adapting to the kind of race you are going to encounter. If this is a long mountain trail, then your training should reflect this with lots of mountain running. If this is not possible, then hills need to become your friend and so do long runs.
Your race might be in the heat in the middle of summer, or typically, if the last few years the race conditions have meant that it was hot, it pays to pay attention to this and train with this in mind. Perhaps swapping your early morning run sessions for some middle of the day in the heat sessions would be a good idea to help your body adapt to that kind of environment.
Here are some training ideas specific to racing environments:
Track running – train on a track where possible for at least a few sessions a week. It could be grass or synthetic, but you are best trying out the type of track you will be racing on. If you have access to others to run with, train pack running so that you get a feel of tucking in tightly behind others racing at speed. Train for how you will surge and how you will pace yourself around a track without blowing up.
trail running – find a trail! Preferably one to suit the race. Single track? Find single track, mixed? find a mixed trail. Incorporate how you will run on race day, so if you are hiking the hills, hike them and if your trail has stairs, find a trail that has some to train on.
Road race – This is the only one that I would be hesitant about. I would predominately do most of your training if possible on a softer surface like trail or grass, but I would incorporate some of your runs on the road to test out how the impact feels for example with the shoes that you will be wearing. I would limit this though, as you increase the risk of injury the harder the surface is that you are running. If your race is flat, perhaps train on a flat grass oval, or area or even a flatter fire trail. You could use one of your long runs as a race and race an event that is shorter to your goal race, but similar to practice your race strategies.
To prepare yourself for a race you need to know what gear you are going to need. If it is a long trail run that you need to self support with, you will need to wear a pack. My suggestion is in training you do at least one session a week (preferably your long run) wearing your pack to practice. If your race calls for the pack to be full of mandatory gear, practice with all of your mandatory gear, and your fuel and hydration that you would carry on race day. The last thing you want in a race is to feel weighed down. Give yourself the best opportunity to adapt to wearing your pack running. Over time you will improve and get stronger while wearing it. This also helps you to practice taking your fuel etc on the run and what you will/will not do come race day, which makes for a smoother race.
Train in the shoes that you will race in. I tend to rotate my shoes, but at least a few weeks out do your longest run in the shoes that you will race in. Make sure that they are not old and they also shouldn’t be too new that you haven’t worn them! Mid-race blisters = no fun! If you wear them for your long run the few weeks leading up to your race, you will well and truly know if they are good to run the event in or not.
Given your event, you may need to take on extra nutrition to keep your performance high throughout your race. During training is the perfect time to not only practice WHAT fuel you are going to have but WHEN you are going to have it, and what effect it has on you. This gives you time to perfect it before race day, and work with what gives you the best energy and less side effects in your race to enable top performance.
As you have with gear, shoes, and fuelling, your clothing also needs to be something that you have trained in before and feel comfortable racing in. Nothing worse than shorts that want to fall down mid race, or a singlet that is chaffing you. Pick your race outfit, train with it and be comfortable on race day.
As said about the road running tip, sometimes getting prepared to race is best by racing! Find a similar event that is shorter than your goal race with adequate recovery time and practice your race plan! You could even go easy in the first half and race the second half so that you can practice what you want to put in place on race day.
Practice holding back and pushing hard.
In all race plans there is a time to hold back (generally at the start), and when to push hard and hold on. Practice this in your sessions, perhaps in a race paced run, or even a race itself, to know what you can do, practice the discomfort, and give yourself confidence to pull it off on race day.
Obviously as race day draws near pay particular attention to your fuelling and hydration needs, along with making sure you get adequate rest. Being able to train effectively for the race that you are working towards while using these tips should ensure a smoother race experience.
Number one rule: have fun.