Running-writing is filled with things to do – tempo runs, long slow runs, intervals and fartlek; train for speed, train for strength, train for endurance; hydrate – but don’t over-hydrate or you’ll get hyponatremia! Take in this many calories based on your body weight – but be careful what you ingest and how much, so it doesn’t upset your stomach. Shorten your stride or increase your cadence, land on the mid-foot or the forefoot or underneath your body; make sure you…
How can anyone keep track of all that in the middle of a jostling crowd or a twisting, turning trail?
Regular training that builds-up a base of experience is a big part of managing all this information. Consciously trying out something in a training run, then next time varying it – or doing the opposite – is the best way to figure out what works for you.
Event day, though, is no time to be trying things out; which is why we need a game plan – a clearly-formulated idea of how you intend to run that particular event. A recent big event reminded this MPR of the need to make that game plan more detailed:
Going in, I had a specific target time in mind, and trained for that pace at that distance. Knowing nutrition would be a big part of making my goal, I planned, tested, and prepared a belt with two bottles of energy gels, slightly-diluted so they’d go down more easily in the brain-dead later miles. I’d carbo-loaded for two days (not overeating; just moderate amounts of food but with a higher percentage of carbs than normal training diet, like the articles said) Race day, and the first half went great: on pace, never feeling depleted, but a couple of miles later came the dreaded ‘bonk.’ Pull out the fuel bottle, take some in – no effect. Grab something to eat at an aid station and it felt marginally better for a little while, then ‘bonk’ again. And because it was late in the race and the ‘bonk’ had already hit, it was a struggle to force anything down – nothing seemed palatable, even though I knew I was in desperate need of calories! Perfect recipe for a disappointing day.
The problem? I’d planned my fuel source, but not when to take it in. Training runs since then have been experiments in fueling early, before it feels necessary. That seems to work, so next event, I’m scheduled to take in a gel (or equal) at the start, and another one every two miles, whether it feels like I need it yet, or not.
Same thing can apply to hydration – if a run has aid stations every two miles, you might schedule yourself to drink a cup of water at one station and electrolyte at the next, alternating the whole way. If the aid stations are farther apart or you know you need more fluid, you might plan to drink two cups at each one. If you’re running a long distance for the first time, you might plan to walk a hundred yards while you drink at each station to give your body a chance to relax back into form. Or do that every two miles by the markers, or…
Just don’t leave it to ‘what feels right at the time.’
Don’t know about anyone else, but my brain simply doesn’t work as well during an event. Adrenalin, distraction, fatigue and excitement can all cloud one’s judgment, so the more we plan it out and give ourselves one or two simple rules for the day, the better odds of having it end the way we’d hoped.
Having a game plan, and making it as specific as you can, will increase your probability of a successful event!
(At least, that’s the plan…).