Not Over at the Finish Line: Being Ready for the Days After your Goal Race or Virtual Event
For those of you that have been committed and diligent at following the RunSport Virtual Clinic this year, and if you have spent the last 14 weeks learning, training and setting small daily goals for yourself, I encourage you to think about and plan for the days after you have completed the last training session: what does the rest of your spring and summer look like? We have no idea where the finish line of the pandemic is, but we do know that having small goals to focus on, and regular exercise is helping us stay healthy.
The clinic training has allowed you to plan for training in your life. Over several months, you have committed to a training schedule that has taken you closer to your own individual goals, whether it was consistency, health, greater fitness or simply learning. From taking care of your body with stretching and good meals, to planning the training in your weekly life, you created a forward momentum that has become a constant part of your life.
What I’d like you to be aware of, is that without even knowing it sometimes, athletes have a huge emotional - as well as physical - investment in their goals. The larger the perceived event, the larger the investment and when the event is all over, there is sometimes a feeling of letdown as all that energy dissipates into your last big effort. Without the goal pulling you forward, there is an emotional void and a sense of letdown or post race blues after the adrenaline wears off. This is totally normal behaviour and being prepared for the week after your goal race is as essential part of season planning.
I encourage you to take a week off from structured training sessions. You don’t have to stop moving altogether, but you might want to give yourself a break from structure and performance goals that are inherent in the plan you have been following. This is a mental break as much a chance to rest your body. In this break, you can walk, run, hike, bike, swim, do yoga or strength. Just be gentle and enjoy the break from a structured schedule.
If you do want to take a whole week or two off from training, I strongly advise that you have a re start date and plan – this is really important for people who have trouble motivating themselves to train or to start training. These are people who drag their feet getting out the door, but once they are out there, just love it and are really happy at the end of the session. Know yourself and plan for YOU!
Here are 10 more tips for creating your ‘what’s next’:
Racing is a game for most of us, and it is also a commitment. By the time you arrive at the starting line, you have signed up, you have prepared, you have increased your skill level, and all that’s left to do is to enjoy the scenery, the people and the brilliant feeling of completing what you set out to do. There is something elevated about racing, and you can practice your race day skills easily during a Virtual Event. You won’t have the energy of all those people around you, but if you are using tracking technology and have signed up for a Virtual Event, it’s easy to feel connected through post event sharing.
A great event experience starts the day before, with an intention to rest your legs and fuel your body. The day before the event , try to conserve energy and eat three good meals that are carbohydrate rich in order to top up glycogen in the muscles. Avoid anything that is unusual: this includes novel sport activities or eating food that you would normally never eat. Stick to what you know works for you.
A seamless and stress free morning paves the way for an enjoyable event so before you go to bed the night before, organize for your day, so things run smoothly and you aren’t looking for lost items at the last minute. Plan your breakfast timing and items and most importantly, your morning mindset. The last thing you should tell yourself at night is this:
Tomorrow morning I get to wake up and do the TC 10K Virtual event!
Note how this language is markedly different from “I have to get up and do 10k tomorrow.” (inner groan.)
In the morning, you will be ready. You know what to wear, what to eat and where to go. Your mindset will be one of excitement and anticipation about the great opportunity to train and work on being efficient, smooth, and emotionally strong and positive.
A 10Km distance gives you plenty of time to experience the joy of walking and running well, which includes—if you are pushing yourself—embracing discomfort and staying mentally strong through any rough patches where doubt and negativity like to creep in. Anticipate the fatigue and have some tools on hand to re-focus. Task oriented self-talk is always good at this point. Focus on your arms, your feet, your breath, being relaxed…’can do’ action items that you control.
Great training and racing always focuses on what you can do, not what you ‘hope’ to do. Here is a step by step breakdown of what to expect over the course of a 10k distance. If you are doing a 5k distance, the same steps apply, however the race is easily chunked into three sections: a start, a middle and an end. Your first km is similar to the 1-3k mark in the 10k, the middle is like the 7km, and the end is the end no matter what distance you are doing!
NOTE: Very fit and experienced athletes will be able to absorb the fast start of a 10k as their legs will be strong but for beginners I would advise to pace very conservatively over the first five kilometres of the course so as not to go out too fast with excitement. This will ensure leaving energy for the second half.
Start: It’s easy to get excited with the nature of an event – and in a live race, participants, spectators and atmosphere add inspiration to the morning. Your task is to stay energized and calm. The first kilometer is the place for experienced or more competitive athletes to get out to a fast start, or their goal pace, and for the novice to find space and a comfortable pace of work and breathing.
1-3K Mark: people should be thinking ‘light’ and ‘quick and relaxed’, working on feeling relaxed by using the arms well and breathing deeply. Because it is early in the distance, you want to be at pace but have it feel as effortless as possible. Focus on landmarks ahead and getting to them well. Novice racers will want to make sure they are practicing their own pace. Any hills? Use gravity and try to carry momentum down and up hills focussing on finding quick rhythm over the crest and onto flats.
3-4K Mark: You are into the heart of the race distance now, and should be really into a strong rhythm that takes focus to maintain. Your thoughts are on the moment, allow distractions to come and go without giving them too much energy. Be present and enjoy this effort!
5-7K Mark: This is where the race typically starts to feel hard and people should expect discomfort to rise and have prepared some strong positive thoughts here. Strong process cues about being relaxed and good positive self-talk should be practiced now.
7K Mark: There is 3 km to go at this point in the race and you can now start counting down the minutes left until you cross the finish line. Knowing that you have 15 or 18 or 30 minutes left to run or walk is positive information! Start giving yourself positive cues: Fly! Glide! As you start your push for the finish, having some landmarks for 2k to go and 1k to go is a good thing here. If you have pre run the course, find markers for these spots.
8K Mark: You should be drawing on all your resources to finish as strongly as possible. You can remind yourself to relax, to focus on good form, recall all the dedication and training you have done to get here, tell yourself to be tough. There is only 2 km to go!
9K Mark: How you handle yourself in these last few minutes is what you will be most proud of. It is often the effort of the last two kilometres that makes your race: how deep into the well can your source your inner and outer strength? Celebrate your efforts and soak it all up!
If you are prepared, the magic will happen.
Getting ready for the TC10K Virtual event or other events this spring? Here is your eat, sleep, start, pace, and complete event day low down for success, and practice for future in person events!
While a Virtual event is very different from an in person race, with all stimuli that live races deliver, you can take it as seriously as you wish. Virtual Events also give us a lot of opportunity to practice an excellent race day scenario. If you want to test out some race day skills for the future events in your life, here’s your guide to racing, whatever that looks like for you.
The day before the race, eat well. Eat normal, healthy, wholesome meals, the same as you always would. Do not over eat or under eat. A common favourite pre race meal is pasta with grilled chicken and some veggie. Basic. Potatoes, rice and some protein are also good, as is a tuna sandwich. There is no magic food, just simple and good food that you know works for you.
The morning of your event, get up and have your pre event meal at least 2 hours before the event. Don’t drink more coffee than you are used to and don’t drink a massive volume of water. This just makes for inconvenient bathroom stops.
Try to practice your pre race meal at least once before race day, before a morning training session. A favourite pre race meal is a toasted bagel with peanut butter and honey, and a coffee. If you are a smoothie person, throw one on. If you find something that works, don’t veer from this.
If you are going to be on course for more than 90 minutes, you may want to consider a gel or small bar of approximately 100 calories at 45-60 minutes but this is something you want to practice in training as well.
Stay hydrated the day before the event, but it’s not necessary to over hydrate or pre hydrate or take any special hydration formula. Do what normally make you feel good for training and in your daily life. Avoiding too much alcohol or caffeine is a good idea however, as both can interfere with a good sleep and hydration.
If you are going to drink on course, take small sips from your personal flask.
Well before bedtime, the night before, put out your clothing, pin your number (if you want to use it!), and have your favourite lucky socks and underwear ready to go. Plan when you will leave the house and where you will park if you are taking your car. Virtual events allow you to run from your house, but you can also drive somewhere for this.
Go to bed at a normal time and get your normal amount of sleep, but don’t sweat it if your sleep is short or not too great. You’ll still have plenty of energy for race morning. If you are a bit keyed up, then do something to calm yourself. Read, have a cup of herbal tea, or lie in bed and listen to a calming sleep meditation. Or simply lie in bed and relax and breathe. Imagine yourself on race morning, being calm, excited, ready and confident. Tell yourself that all is OK, and then rest.
When you wake up, switch that pre race brain on, the one you prepared the night before. Everything is planned and ready to go so there is no second guessing or thinking about that logistical stuff.
Eat your breakfast and drink your tea/coffee in the peace of your own space and feel happy that it’s finally race morning because it’s going to be a great day!
Pre Plan your warm up. You may want to do an abbreviated version of what you do on clinic night or a light walk or jog about 30 min before the race. Light, slow and easy, just to warm up the body temperature. Do some arm circles and light stretching and simply stay calm and in the moment? Be amazed at yourself for being there, at this super cool event!
Start slower than you think you should. It will still be too fast. Listen to your effort and sense of work rate. Think Zone 2 effort, patience and consistency. Slow down on the up hills while keeping energy constant.
If you feel you need to walk, this is totally ok, but start using your watch and give yourself 2 min walk breaks for every 10 minutes of running, unless you have a pre set walk/run plan.
Sportsmanship: Be Nice and Have Good Manners
While you are doing a Time Trial, you are still sharing the trail or streets with others, and all the courtesy rules and covid guidelines still apply.
Just BE NICE to yourself and others and smile a lot so others can see how much fun it is to be out there moving.
I think the biggest thing to remember is that while a lot of blood flow is heading to your heart and lungs, your brain is still working. Use you head and stay calm and positive. Give yourself credit for being out there, participating, even under these strange circumstances. Remind yourself often while you are out there, that it is your choice to be in the event, that it is a wonderful gift to be able to do this. No matter what happens out there, you put in a lot of effort and training to get to the start line - be proud of what you've done!
Run For Joy
Whether you are going for a run through your neighbourhood trail, or negotiating rugged single track in one of our wilder places, trail running is distinctly different from running the roads, treadmill or track. Trail running is perhaps one of the most pure ways you can run, the way humans ran before concrete and health clubs. Being in the natural world away from cars and city noise is a stress free way to spend your workout and trail running offers great benefits apart from the soul lifting environment. Running in the trails is a great way to take a break from watching your watch, speed or pace as well. Your pace will vary much more than when you run in the city or on a straight path, naturally following the rhythm of the terrain, including obstacles and elevation. In trails, there may be times when you are walking, or scrambling up rocky bits, or over fallen logs, using your arms as well as your legs. The focus is on good movement, and not on pace. This change of pace as you climb, or scramble, can give you great practice into tuning into your own heartbeat and breathing rate and aiming for a consistent effort. For people attached to their wearable technology, I often prescribe trail running as a means to get in touch with internal effort, rhythm and joy of movement. Other benefits of trail running include:
Long uninterrupted runs. For a long base or endurance run, nothing beats a piece of trail. No traffic lights, no intersections and just long stretches of trail create a continuous aerobic session. Without the distractions of road running, you can really get into a groove in the woods, paying attention to your body, your breath and how efficient you are running.
Softer surfaces are easier on the body. Training as much as you can on softer surfaces lessens the impact of forces caused by running and can help prevent injuries and set up faster recovery for your next workout.
Natural fartlek. Going for a hilly trail run will create variations in heart rate which will be much greater than a flat run. This natural fartlek is a nice mental break from structured intervals, but also builds your threshold and mental strength, not to mention your prowess as an uphill bunny.
Agility and focus on movement. Running in the trails requires focus and concentration especially in single track and over uneven terrain. Paying attention to the way your body moves and works makes you a stronger runner and the added bonus is that successful rock hopping makes you feel younger!
Strengthening the stabilizing muscles. There is more lateral motion involved in trail running, with the body having to use the stabilizer muscles and tendons of the ankles, lower legs and core for balance. When added to your overall training program, this type of running gives you a well rounded functional strength.
Before you head into the wild. Urban trails and parks are a great place to start: these trails are generally more even and well maintained. Start with one or two shorter base runs a week to get used to the feeling of running on uneven ground: like any new activity, a little conservatism at first goes a long way to preventing injury. While some trails are marked with distance so you can keep track of your mileage, doing a timed out and back loop will ensure you don’t end up on an epic two hour adventure run on your first time out. A GPS comes in handy in the woods, as you can keep track of where you are when there are no markers to follow for reference. As you increase the range of your workouts in the trails, a GPS allows you to plan more adventurous runs. Taking a photo of the main trail map with your phone is always helpful as well.
Safety. For your personal safety in the trails, you may want to run with a buddy, a bell (for bears), and be up to date on self-protection. See self protection expert Kris Greffard’s FaceBook posts on West Coast Women’s Safety for lots of great tips:
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009538537195 or at
Do you need trail running shoes? A trail running shoe provides more traction, protection from rocks and roots and waterproofing than a regular runner, all of which reduce fatigue over the course of a long run. If you are going to commit to longer or more extreme trail runs a good trail runner will provide more comfort and function than your regular trainer.
So, go find a park and add trail running to your repertoire of training skills. Watch those stumps and roots and feel your body getting stronger!
Run For Joy!
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Promoting running and physical activity one joyful heartbeat at a time!
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