Tag Archives: taper

Hard Core 100: Race Week Doubts

What goes through your head in the week before a big race? Doubts are normal. Here I share my strategies for overcoming race week doubts.

 

Only a couple days out from my first 100 mile race. I’m nervous.

Despite having raced many different ultra distance races, this will be my furthest. Usually before a big race I get doubts. This time they are bigger than usual.

A big influence on that is I never did hit the bigger runs and mileage I was hoping to in training. The rest of life threw extra at me. Over the last three months I had a lot of choices to make.

Those choices included cutting the planned training down to something more achievable. I don’t regret those decisions. Many aspects of my world are better for it. In terms of running, it means I never got to run those sessions that would give me the confidence I was looking for.

Does this mean I’m not ready?

No it doesn’t.

 

 

3 Steps to overcoming race week doubts

  1. Let the thoughts happen
  2. Plan the race
  3. Meditate

 

1. Let the thoughts happen

 

Having doubts and negative thoughts before a big event is normal. It takes a lot of energy to fight. Forcefully trying to stop those thoughts leads to spending more time focussing on those doubts. It seems to lead to more doubts.

 

Take the mindset you will have those thoughts. Accept them when they happen, but don’t dwell on them. Move on.

 

 

2. Plan the race

 

Plan for the worst.

Plan for the best.

Plan for the in between.

 

I put some serious thought into what steps to take to handle different race situations as I can think of. These include what to do if my pace is slower than expected, if I run faster than expected, have gut issues, drop my nutrition, it rains and even if I hit my splits exactly.

 

Lots of this thought happens when running or driving. I will support it by writing it down. I’ll ask myself the question of “What if…” and will answer out load to myself.

 

The above takes care of the slow thinking. It covers the time and energy consuming analysis that is difficult to do in a race. Doing this before the race makes it easier to use fast thinking to make solid tactical decision during the race. It always gives confidence I have things together.

 

3. Meditate

 

Racing 100 miles is dependant on your mind. It is no doubt a massive physical endeavour, but it is your mind that will usually break first.

 

The mind is very trainable. Just like your body.

 

There are many different ways to meditate and train mindfulness. I take 15-20 minutes that is a combination of breathing exercises followed by stillness. Practiced often this carries over well into settling my mind during running.

 

 

 

What do you do to over come your race week doubts?

 

 

Wings For Life World Run Training: Taper

There were 5 peak runs I wanted to hit before I began my taper for the Wings For Life World Run.

 

The first of the peak runs went well. The other 4 not quite so well.

 

Information and insight is what those runs gave me. How does it all stack up against my goal?

Make the Wings For Life World Run at Melbourne an ultra marathon.

 

Check out the goals and plan:

 

 

Numbers

 

It is a matter of making the mathematics fit. Write it out on paper. Cement the numbers in the brain. Back it up with the Garmin. Add in some effort. Simple.

 

A relaxed warm up and it’s time to really run. Five repeats of 5000m with 1000m in between. Running right on or just above predicted marathon race pace. It should be doable as 25km is a lot less than 42.195km. Even with the slightly easier 1000m it is still only takes the distance up to 29km.

 

Through the first repeat. There was a smoothness that made me happy. It was nice to get the numbers all matching. Coasting through the 1000m brought up to the second 5000m sooner than I realised. The alert buzzed on my wrist and the pace was dialled back up.

 

Second time around the numbers still matched up. One difference. My legs hurt a little. This was unexpected, but nothing to worry about.

 

Keeping the times nice and neat I completed the 3rd 5000m repeat. My mind was good. I was enjoying the run. My energy levels were high. The intensity felt about right. My legs on the other hand didn’t feel right. They were taking a beating. Something a bit short of taking a hammer to them.

 

Now the 4th repeat wasn’t so pleasant. Each step shot pain through my legs. It should feel better than this. I was able to hold onto my pace. Those numbers still looked good. Harder to achieve this time. So I relaxed as much as I could during the 1000m recovery run.

 

My legs still hurt.

 

“Last one.. fast one.. last one.. fast one..”

 

Pushing the mantra through my head. It wasn’t enough to override my body. The muscles in legs began cramping only a short way into the last repeat. My quads kept locking up. My lower legs refused to coordinate. Energy levels were still high. My heart and lungs weren’t screaming for relief. Motivation strong.

 

It wasn’t enough.

 

My legs just wouldn’t do what I demanded of them.

 

Running was reduced to an awkward shuffle. That wasn’t going to benefit me anymore so I called an end to the session. On the slow trip home was time to reflect.

 

What’s good?

 

Distance

 

With a bank of 30km to 40km runs behind me the distance is obtainable. This is reinforced with consistently running over 80km per week, with a string of over 100km for 4 weeks in a row. The base is there.

 

Fuel mix

 

Worried I was burning too much glycogen at the start of peak training. Coming off a good 10km and Half Marathon meant I was comfortable with the speed. I wondered if I’d gone too far in working on that pace. As the peak runs unfolded it was clear the fat versus carbohydrate mix wasn’t my limiter. Energy levels even as my legs fell apart were high. I wasn’t getting those feelings of glycogen depletion. No big suck out of energy. Adding in some carbohydrate loading and fuelling on race day should see this covered.

 

Sense Of Pace

 

It’s funny how no matter how fit I am in any other endeavour, if I don’t feel fit in running, then I just don’t feel fit. Right now I feel run fit. Having worked back a lot of my running fitness from 10 years past. When I am truly run fit I become so much more in tune to my body. I become so much more sensitive to form and pace.

 

Adding to being more sensitive I put in a lot of work at understanding what different paces feel like. This is one of the main aspects I work on during the peak runs. Over the last couple of runs I found I could easily pick my pace to the second. Even allowing for fatigue, gradient and wind.

 

What I’m Worried About

 

One thing only.

 

The ability of my legs to hold the pace for long enough.

 

In the peak runs the limiter has been muscle fatigue. Not just soreness. Pain I can deal with. It is the ability of the muscles to keep working. Similar to cramping. Basically it comes back to conditioning of the muscles themselves.

 

A lot has gone well in training over the last few months. There are still some aspects I have been missing. I’ve deliberating kept away from hard down hill running. Still having to tape my ankle half the high ankle sprain last May means I am wary of what will aggravate it. The reduced down hill training has reduced my fatigue resistance to the impact of running fast over a long time.

 

The Taper

 

The hard work is all done. No more big runs until race day. This puts me into a race taper.

 

I’m really hoping the taper can work some magic. I will need every benefit I can get out of the taper. Maybe it allow for some adaptions in my muscles so I can hold onto the right pace for long enough. It is a big ask.

 

I will need every bit of the 2% improvement a good taper can give. Plus something extra.

 

Race Plan

 

My race plan is built on hope. The numbers from my key runs tell me I’m not quite where I need to be. Science suggests another month would get me there. There is also an art to training and racing. I’m going to lean heavily on the art side.

 

There’s not point in conservative. I’m still going to try and run beyond the 42.195km at the Wings For Life World Run. I may crash and burn before I reach my goal. If that happens I will know it wasn’t through lack of effort.

 

On the other hand. It just might work.

 

 

Taper Doubts: Surviving The Week Before Your Race

Most runners struggle during their taper.

It seems strange. Leading into a race you ease off on the training. You are no longer trying to push the boundaries of what your body can handle. More sleep. A little down time. Time to chill. Should feel great. Yet, most runners have trouble handling this.

Instead of relaxation we have too much time to think about the race. We doubt if we are ready. Not enough long runs. Should have done more intervals. What if I’m just not good enough?

Instead of feeling good our body signals problems. We become hyper aware of everything. Every little ache stands out. Is it a race limiting injury? Every muscle feels heavy. We lose our snap. All the speed has been sucked out.

Not just the first timer, but as an experienced runner we wonder if this is normal.

It is normal!

Running Race Taper

How to handle a race taper better

The Body

The body will feel flat. You’ve been training hard for some time. Pushing the body puts it on the edge. It has been in survival mode. Now you are giving it the opportunity to recover and rebuild into a stronger and faster you. This is a significant process. It takes the body a lot of resources.

What to do:
Give the body what it needs. Good food and appropriate rest. Racing and training hard put you in the fight or flight mode (sympathetic). Rebuilding puts you in the rest and digest mode (parasympathetic). Everything feels slowed down when here. Let the body stay in this state. You only need to feel good on race day. Trust the body, it is surprisingly good at getting this right.

The Mind

Train the mind. There will always be doubts leading into a big event. It’s okay. Not only should we accept this, but we can use it to our advantage. Set aside some time (that time you used to be running).

Write a list of your doubts and negative thoughts. Put it on paper. Then split the lists into 2 categories.

 

  1. Things you can’t control: training completed or not done – can’t change it now. Weather. Terrain. Other competitors. Now you’ve identified this, it is easier to push it aside and focus on part
  2. Things you can control: race kit, race plan, contingency plans, nutrition. This is where you can focus your efforts. Make a plan for a good race, and not so good race. What will you do if things go wrong. If you’ve considered situations ahead of time it will be easier on the day to just do it.

Meditate. This isn’t the time to learn completely new techniques. If you have a practice already then put some more time into it. If you don’t meditate find some time to sit still and breath slowly or follow a simple guided meditation. Personally I use Insight Timer whenever I feel like using a guided mediation rather than my own practice.

After 20 years of racing I still have to remind myself it is normal to feel bad, crazy good or just crazy during the taper. I’ve come to enjoy the process and see it as part of training and racing. Getting those feelings many dread indicate you are on track for race day.

 

Comment below and share how you handle your taper.