Race And Adventure Prep 101: Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!!
When it comes to preparing for your big day, long-runs and epic workouts aren’t the only things athletes need to pay attention to. Race and adventure day preparation consists of not just the nitty-gritty daily workouts, tough long runs and interval sessions prescribed by your coach but also in the process of becoming a student of your adventure while also mentally preparing for the rigors, challenges, and uncertainty of the event itself. Preparation is essential for reaching your potential. Here are our tips to get ready for any event.
Physical Preparation: Completing your training as best as possible.
Mental Preparation: Visualization techniques, practicing responding to challenging situations. (Read our blog post on that here)
Race/Adventure Review: Student-like study of the course. (Read about that here)
No journey is perfect, and we always want to prioritize progress over perfection. Here’s where a lot of athletes get stuck:
Struggling with the consistency necessary for their goals (aka skipping a lot of workouts and daily runs, overemphasizing big adventures instead of small steps).
Not taking ownership of the event by studying the course and working through the preparation on their own.
Lack of mental preparation and visualization of challenging moments before the event itself.
To help you avoid these pitfalls leading up to your next race or big adventure, we’ve highlighted some of the specific aspects and preparatory processes necessary for you to not just eek out your big goal, but to crush it and maximize your potential!
Work with a Coach
Start by hiring a coach to help you create a long-term outlook for your training and design an individualized plan for you based on your unique athletic history, available time, life stresses and goal(s). Everyone, from seasoned professionals to couch to 5kers can benefit from the expertise, time and attention that a coach brings to your training. The value of daily feedback, accountability, a space to articulate how you feel with regard to life and workout stresses, as well as a road map that you can see, visualize and complete each day leading up to your big goal will help you stay consistent and make the small improvements that add up to your big goal.
Because of the serious and unavoidable impact and pounding the musculoskeletal system takes from running, neurological and physical adaptations from training have to take place slowly over a long period of time or else run the risk of over-stressing the system. This means many, many, strategically planned training sessions full of easy running which minimizes the risk of injury and a sprinkling in of higher intensities to help iron out issues with form, increase economy and fitness. These two things together, when done slowly and consistently over time, help to build economy of motion (running economy) and resilience to the impact forces our sport demands.
To make consistency work for you, prioritize showing up everyday over months and years and not over stressing the system with infrequent big runs and adventures. Consistency is the foundation of progress and improvement. It might not be glamorous, it may not be a cool summit selfie every day, but getting that work done and stacking those bricks always gives way to the biggest returns while keeping the body healthy so you can spend more time doing what you love and less time nursing injuries.
There is no magic answer about how to pace for an event. Our most successful athletes use the following:
Start your race SLOW, even slower than your normal easy effort. The reasoning here is that races are rarely won in the first hour or two. It’s hard to start an ultra too slow! Give your body a chance to warm-up. The race really starts at the halfway mark. Don’t get caught up in what other runners are doing at the get-go, and check your ego at the startline!
Walk early and often! It’s tough to come back from hitting Lactate Threshold in a long ultra. A sure way to avoid this is by walking your climbs toward the beginning of a race or adventure and gradually speeding up your ascents as the day progresses and you start to feel more comfortable. A good rule of thumb is run hills you can see the top of and walk those you can’t.
Don’t forget CONVERSATIONAL EFFORT! If you can chat with your fellow runners, you’re almost definitely going at an easy effort. You know, that effort that feels smooth, efficient and easy to maintain? That’s what we’re looking for, especially in the early stages of a long effort.
For races less than 2-3 hours, we don’t expect athletes to start at a conversational effort, but many of the above principles still hold true. Intensity should be gradually increased over the course of the event with events ideally executed having fastest miles toward the end.
Leading up to an event, scroll through your Strava or training log. Look at the days, months and maybe even years of hard work and training you’ve accumulated. You’ve logged workouts, long runs, and SO MANY easy runs. On moments when it’s hard to believe in yourself, believe in that work.
Reflect on the hard days too. When it was snowing but you ran anyway. When you were tired but you put in your 40 minutes. When it was smoky, so you did a long run on the treadmill. Think about all the days that you got up earlier than most people would dream of, and logged a long run. Think of every bonk, blister and bad day you’ve had. Remember that you made it through, and you’ll make it through again.
Trust your training. Training is like a sandcastle, no one day (or grain of sand) is particularly important but the accumulation of those moments is nothing short of magic. If you can believe in yourself enough to train for days, months, and even years – you can believe in yourself for a race! Commit to the version of you that doesn’t back down from a workout, or a rest day. We’ve seen it in you, and we believe in you.
The most important step for race-day readiness is believing in yourself.