With Australia’s biggest trail race just around the corner, now is the time to brush up on the finer details of race day planning and strategy. Not only will it help you to perform at your best, but it’ll make the event all the more enjoyable, for you and your support crew.
The last thing you want to do is feel rushed in the days leading up to the race. The less stress in your life, the better! So make sure you pack all your gear, test everything works as it should, charge your headlamps, grab some extra food/electrolytes and try your race day kit on. Yes, there’s an event expo where you can grab last minute supplies or replace stuff, but you may not find exactly what you need and you also don’t want to be spending your final hours ahead of the race rushing around in search of some gloves or a new pair of socks.
Re-familiarise Yourself With The Course
With all the recent course changes and the ever-evolving weather, the routes are far from what they were when you signed up. Spend a few hours going through the website and updating your phone or watch with the latest maps. Look at them in detail and try to remember the key differences to what you see now, and what was there originally. Also, get to know the different course markers so you know what to look out for while on the run.
Visualise The Day
Spend some time doing a bit of stretching or even get a massage. While this is happening, mentally rehearse how you want the day to pan out. See yourself standing on the start line amongst the crowd, and then moving through the different sections of the course. Visualise what you expect it to be like when you arrive at aid statins or see your support crew. This process helps to reduce nervousness on the day and can also help to identify areas that you might need to address. It sounds strange, but sometimes when you mentally place yourself into an environment or experience, you discover little things you may not have considered prior.
Brief Your Team
A large part of the UTA experience is sharing it with friends and family. As much as running can be a solo affair, when it comes to ultra races, there’s generally some level of team support behind you. Ahead of race day spend some time going through all the event details with your crew. From start times and where to park, to looking at maps of checkpoints and letting them know exactly what you’ll need when you see them. Take photos of your check point bags and label them clearly. Explain to your team that you might need a pep talk along the way and that you may also be not quite as chirpy as normal. Most importantly, get them to take loads of photos!
Expect The Unexpected
As much as you can plan everything in detail, there’s sure to be things that will go wrong or be different to what you had in mind. Minor course changes, weird weather, even losing gear or forgetting to grab enough gels. Don’t let these things get to you. Whenever something goes awry, focus on what you can control and adjust. Don’t panic. Take the time to make calculated decisions and always be open minded and willing to adjust your plans as things evolve.
Arrive Early – For Everything
To avoid queues, not getting a decent parking spot and simply being in a rush, make sure you 1) Arrive in the Blue Mountains a day or so in advance of the race and go to check in as early as you can 2) Plan to have dinner way earlier than normal, as things move slowly in the hills and it can also be difficult getting reservations. 3) Have breakfast 2 to 3 hours prior to the start time of your race. That not only leaves time for it to be digested, but means you’ll have ample time to get organised. 4) Get to the start area no less than 30 minutes ahead of kick off.
This bit of advice sounds strange to some, but it will make sense on race day. Essentially, no matter what the weather, the early hours when the races start are generally going to be quite cool. But within 15 minutes of the starters gun going off, things will heat up quickly. Every year I see loads of people a few kilometers into the race, sweating heavily while wearing their waterproof jacket or another warm top. They stop, get reorganised and then back into things. The problem with this is not only does it waste time, it can also make you even colder when the shirt under your warm top ends up soaking with sweat. My advice is to start the race feeling cold. It’s only going to be a brief few minutes of discomfort but pays dividends soon after you’re underway.
Don’t Change Your Diet
The final bit of advice I have for runners is in the lead up to race day, stick to your normal diet. People often think they need more carbohydrates or less protein or other things that are different to their normal diet. In reality, the best thing you can do is stick to the food consumption you’ve had during training. It’s what your body is use to and will reduce the risk of getting an upset stomach. That said, it’s wise to avoid spicy food and too much dairy.