For most of us, running three races over three days at altitude is not something we are used to! Here are several tips that will help you prepare for your racing, and help you have an amazing time at Trailfest!
Back to back long runs – this is a great technique to help you create the fatigue of a stage race so you get your body used to training on tired legs. An example would be a Saturday run for one hour, followed by a Sunday morning run for 2-3 hours. If you’re not used to high mileage, then keep the duration down to start with, and gradually increase. Make sure to include recovery time post back to back weekends, with at least 2-3 weeks between this kind of training stimulus. It can also be useful to add a long run the day after a fast 5k or 10k race, again setting up the opportunity to run on tired legs.
Specificity – try to do at least some training runs over the type of terrain that you will find at Trailfest. You may not be able to simulate higher altitude, however you can work on heat acclimation using a sauna to good effect. Also a really good opportunity to test out what shoes and gear you plan to use for Trailfest – always remember the golden rule, don’t try something out on one of the race days!
Uphill running – although you may not be able to train at higher elevations, you can give yourself a big helping hand by focusing on uphill running in your training. Aim for several longer runs where you’re running primarily uphill for 2+ hours. This will build physical climbing strength and also build confidence (see below).
Negative split runs – it’s a good rule to include some training runs where you deliberately aim for negative splits, so finishing the second half of a run faster than the first half. This sets you up really well for physical and mental expectations come race days. If you’re relatively new to running, and trail running in particular, aim to start at your typical long run pace, and then pick up pace slightly for the last 2-3 miles of your training run.
Focus on process, not numbers – it’s much more important to arrive at the starts of Trailfest healthy and perhaps a little under-trained, than to set lofty targets in terms of training pace and elevation gain, and get injured and set yourself back in training. The most important factor is to maintain training consistency and to build endurance capacity steadily, while including runs on terrain and environment that mimic as closely as you can the conditions on Trailfest.
Rehearse being on your feet – at a stage race like Trailfest you will spend some time running, and you expect that! What may be unexpected is that you will also spend a lot of the rest of each day on your feet as well. One way to prepare for this is to occasionally spend the rest of the day on your feet after your long training runs. For example a bike ride, walk the dog, spend the afternoon in the garden, etc..This is a great way to learn that you can work through fatigue.
Bodywork – it makes a ton of sense to help your body prepare for this event. Consider getting some bodywork on a regular basis ahead of Trailfest – massage is really beneficial for us as runners – your local therapists may be able to offer a special deal for a several sessions. Get them booked ahead of time and value the investment, it will be worth it!
Ramp up your taper – we haven’t read any science on this, however we have heard reports that a longer than typical taper can also help prepare you physically for Trailfest. It could be worth considering starting to taper three weeks out, reducing duration of your long runs overall by 15-20% per week.
Campsite – if you’re pitching your own tent or using one of the set up tents, it’s worth getting to site early so that you can select a spot that is away from potential noise disturbance.
Sleeping comfort – make sure to bring ear plugs if you’re used to sleeping somewhere quiet! Also make sure to bring a mattress roll or air bed as the ground can be hard, and uncomfortable, especially for a weary running body!
Many runners will get everything planned for the physical side of an event like Trailfest, and rely on their usual mental techniques to get them through. Running close to half marathon distance for three consecutive days is not your typical race! Here are some key tips to help you get through the mental challenges that will inevitably occur.
Confidence, confidence, confidence – Trailfest may be more than seven months away as I write this, however this is a great time to start a confidence journal that will serve you well come race days! One good example that I have seen is the Believe journal from Lauren Fleshman & Roisin McGettigan-Dumas. Why? Addie Bracy, US Mountain Running Champion and Team USA member, explains all: “You will inevitably not have covered race distances on three consecutive days at race pace before you toe the line at Trailfest. You are lining up to do something you have likely never done before. For this reason, the days leading up to the start of Trailfest can be filled with doubts, anxiety, and fears. Crazy, self-sabotaging thoughts creep in, take over, and you start to question if you can really do this. All of this is not rooted in the truth about you as a runner. A confidence journal is a record of those many occasions when you have risen to a challenge, and met, or exceeded it! Your truth takes over the fictional story that you have been telling yourself and instead you get to be filled with confidence, excitement, and belief.
Mental toughness – develop a strategy of challenge, reward & enjoyment. As David Roche, Team USA member and extraordinary coach shares, “Reward behaviors you wish to support, celebrate successes and recognize that you are exceptional because of the grind, not because of the accomplishments that come from the grind. Don’t choose the path of least resistance, be openly proud of yourself, laugh in moments you may be discouraged, use positive self-talk during tough running moments, practice using a neutral-observer approach to pain and discomfort during runs, sign up for races.”
Set yourself up for success – train your mind to focus on positive aspects of your training and ability. This will help you create a positive athletic focus, resulting in enhanced focus, confidence, experience and performance in your exploits at Trailfest. Be gentle with yourself.
Get a helping hand – you will find our positive guided imagery app, activacuity, can be helpful to you in preparation for Trailfest. The app contains a library of audio files that are all designed to create new positive neural pathways that help you think and respond with a positive mindset. Athletes using the app have reported significant changes to their thinking, confidence, and performance experience.
If you have any questions on any of the above, please contact us via this link.