Race Day tips

OzSquad’s UTA50 Top 10 Taper and Race-day Tips

(Try saying that after 4 hours on the trails)

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Two weeks to go! Will someone please tell me who stole the first half of the year?

You should all now be in that sweet spot of taper time – relieved that the long training hours are over and not yet grouchy. Enjoy it, the grouchiness that comes with tapering is in the post! 😉

The next couple of weeks are as important as the last 4-5 months of training. Please don’t stuff it up now by doing something stupid! You can read more about what you should be doing during taper time here (a blog written for a previous OzSquad road marathon, however the principles are the same) but firstly, please just understand one thing…

Any runs that you do between now and race day are purely to keep yourself sane because you feel like you should be doing something. Runs in the next fortnight will not make you stronger, fitter, faster or more race ready. The hard work is done, and if you haven’t done it – it’s way too bloody late!

Don’t try to fit in your longest run, don’t do a killer stair, hill or strength session, don’t do anything new, don’t run on despite niggles, tightness or extreme tiredness. At this stage, don’t be scared to cut a run short, get the bus and go home to stretch and roll instead. All things which segue nicely into top tip #1…

1. If in doubt – rest!

You want your legs to be 100% fresh on race day. Not 80%, 90%, but totally fresh. We all underestimate how long it takes for the body to fully recover from long training runs. Please be kind to yourselves and refer back to that bold orange paragraph above!

2. You don’t need to carb load by eating pasta three times a day

If you are training less, you will in effect be carb loading anyway and too many carbs will just leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. Eat well, add a bit of sweet potato into your salad at lunch for the few days prior, have a banana as an afternoon snack, but don’t go overboard. Eat what you would normally eat before your training runs the night before and morning of the race.

3. Drink me!

Make sure you are properly hydrated – this does not mean just necking gallons of water the night before. Make it a rule for the week beforehand that you have a glass of water every single time the thought occurs to you. How many times have you sat at your desk and thought ‘I’m thirsty’ to then be distracted by the phone, email or Facebook and it be another hour before you get up and go to the tap.

4. Counting sheep?

Don’t panic if you don’t sleep a wink the night before the race. Sleep the night before that and in the lead up is more important – Adrenalin will win over no sleep the night before the race at the start line, I promise.

5. Ignore taper paranoia…

No, you are not getting sick.

6. Pack your kit like your Mum would

Stuffing all the gear in your pack slap dash will be annoying at km 43 when you really need that Vaseline that is buried at the bottom. Something digging in your back or flapping around your face will get pretty tedious after 6 hours. Tip your bladders upside down and suck the air out to stop the water sloshing around your ears. Use zip lock bags to compress, separate and keep items dry. Get all OCD about your kit!

7. Have a mental strategy

Running is 80% mental right – and you’ve got that other 20% totally covered with all the training you have been doing. Do whatever it takes to beat those little voices in your head – For example, I will not be running 50km (no way, that’s crazy, who would do that?), but I will be running four little races between the checkpoints of 14km, 14.4km, 12.8km and 8.8 km– yeah, I’m just running those races back to back. Break the run down into manageable chunks and tick them off.

8. Don’t get too checkpoint comfortable

Don’t rush through the checkpoints, but spend as long as you need at them. As an indicative time only, last year’s results show that the guys finishing the UTA50 in around 8 hours, spent an average of 8 minutes at the main 28km checkpoint. Do what you need to do and then get the hell out of there – they are nice places to be and leaving is really hard but you need to rip the band-aid off and just go.

9. Should I stay or should I go?

If you are starting the race with someone, scenario plan now over what happens if they are faster, slower, injured or sick. You don’t want to be having those conversations for the first time in the bush. If you are worried about being alone or without conversation for great swaths of time, chances are you won’t be – the crowds don’t thin out too much on the 50 course and trail runners are a friendly, chatty, slightly mental bunch.

10. You gotta roll with it…

There is no doubt about it – there will be tough times out on the course. You wouldn’t be doing it if it were easy, so roll with the tough times and know that they will pass. How many times have you been out running and found yourself right in the depths of the hurt locker – and then 20 minutes later you are bounding along unable to remember when it stopped hurting. Don’t let the mind win, embrace the shitty moments and keep on running. You’ve got this!

I’m excited. Excited that OzSquadders are heading to the start line, excited that seemingly every other trail runner on the Northern Beaches is taking part in or supporting the event. Excited to see the Pace guys bringing the Queen Vic check point alive. And alright, I’m excited to not have to eat another gel for a while!

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