In the last blog post I was writing about the height of your training period, now with 2 weeks to go, things need to change.
This is a complicated and confusing period for runners, there is lots of mixed messages and cross advice. We often hear a lot about “tapering” the training (reducing)… So we rest.
We also hear about pasta and carbo loading… So we eat.
We are told to “look after yourself and be/stay healthy” … So stretch and avoid people and things we feel might make us ill.
But very often this results in not feeling as good on race day as you have in normal training weeks and sessions.
Another confusing situation is, you might feel you haven’t done enough. So you end up “panic training”, start a healthy detox and turbo focus the last week as you realise it is almost race day.
The truth is, it is all about moderation and understand where you are now.
If you have done 80% of the training you wanted/planned to do since deciding to run Stockholm Trail, then you are in the best realistic shape you can be two weeks out from the race. You can not realistically expect much more than that.
If you have not done much training or not stuck to your training plan, then the race goal will probably need to change.
If your goal was to do under a certain time or a position goal? This was your “A goal” and it can be changed. Your “B goal” can be similar but calculate how far away from where you hoped to be and change your A goal accordingly (you might run the A goal anyway but that’s a happy bonus).
Your goal now can be to enjoy the race! I have been to races knowing I wasn’t in shape to achieve my A goal, so I decided my B goal is to enjoy the experience as much as possible!! I set the new goal, “to smile, wave and thank all the helpers on the course. I would really relax all the up hills to make sure I wasn’t too tired to enjoy it and the next part of the race. And I must finish the race with a smile as I crossed the finish line.” (I achieved this goal on a few races and I had a lot of fun!)
Think on these things so you can assess where you are now. You can then look ahead to Stockholm Trail and what you want to achieve at the race (the “goal”).
Now you can look ahead more clearly. If your new goal has been changed, do you need to change anything to achieve it?
If you goal is the same, there is probably a reason you feel confident you can achieve it? You have probably been training well and staying healthy for months, so do you need to change much in your normal week at all?
Assessing and setting what the goal is should help you feel more relaxed and less confused about how to behave and prepare for the coming weeks.
Here are my bullet point tips for runner in the days/weeks before the race:
- New goal. Where are you now? Do you need a change in goal?
- “Taper”? If you have been training a lot and it makes you feel tired, then you need to reduce your training. But how much? Unfortunately, that is something that comes through experience of getting it wrong and learning and changing. The good news is you have had training sessions that have gone well, and you felt great. You also have sessions where you felt knackered and tired. So have a think back to what you did in the days before each and what you think works best for you. We are not all the same. You will hear others say “don’t do anything the days before”, but I know myself that if I do that I will feel sluggish on race day. The 3-5 days before the race I do a lot less than training, then 2-3 days before I train pretty much normal to keep the muscle working and blood pumping. It works for me and others, but maybe not for everyone.
A rough rule of thumb for tapering the last week… Train 70% of your average week from the last month.
- Sleep. We do need sleep to function well, so try get your normal amount.
- Food. There is really no need to “carbo load” with lots of pasta! This is one of those times where, studies have shown that there is a benefit and the community has taken it to an extreme. In the last week if you are tapering, you are training less and using less energy so your normal food portions will be enough.
Also big changes your diet now may not be the best thing, a good friend of mine went to the World championships and when he got there the rest of the team ate a lot “healthier” and vegetarian meals. During the race my friend had to stop for an unpredictable toilet break… Afterwards he said “Bloody quinoa … I ate pizza and spaghetti bolognese all the time I trained and felt good, now I try to be an athlete I get the sh**s!”
- Water. Similar to eating, this doesn’t need to change much in the days before. Make sure you are normally hydrated. If it is very hot on the day don’t glug down liter after liter of water, have some more water than normal and some sort of electrolyte. Feel if you are thirsty and drink to thirst rather than over thinking it. Studies have shown more people have problems on race day from drinking to much water than not drinking enough.
- Stretching. Have you been stretching every day or week? If not, no need to start a strict stretching program now! If you like to stretch and think it is good for you then do it, if not don’t worry about it.
- New! The dreaded “new” thing… all coaches see a result from one of their athletes and wonder “what happened there, why did it go so badly?” then the athlete tells the coach “I wore my new shoes/shorts/singlet” or “I tried a new gel” ect. On race day nothing should be new! If your old shoes are falling apart, get some new ones now and start training in your new shoes to see if they feel ok and will work for the race. If you plan to eat on the race use what you know you can eat on the run or test it on a few run this weeks.
- Skill vs Fitness. At this point you are unlikely to get fitter and improve fitness. However, you can still improve skills that will save you minuets in the race. What skills will you need, and can you work on them? Running on trails, uphill, down hill, looking up while running on uneven ground ect.
- Final preparations. If you haven’t already what can you learn about the course, terrain, start times, travel?
Can you make back up plans for possible problems before the race? (A nod to my wife who has snapped three shoelaces in the minuets before races and has to come to me because I carry a spare shoe lace in my bag!)
Can you make a mental back up plan for different situations during the race? If it is going better than expected or worse than expected, how do you want to react?
Do you have safety pins for race bib number?
What will you wear to warm up in?
What is the weather forecast? Does that change anything?
- Stress. Avoid getting worked up about anything to do with the race or preparations. If something is worrying you find an answer or make a decision, once you have done this you can relax again. If you are a natural “worrier”, it’s fine, you just need to do a little extra preparation. Try writing the issue down and then the answer, this will help you process and move on.