I plan to spend the next few weeks discussing three different strategies targeted to help you ‘move up the pack’. Whether you are a back of the pack runner who simply wants to stay further ahead of time cutoffs, or you are running on the heels of the elites and want to try and find a place on the podium; there are a few simple techniques that will help you get there…and they are likely not currently something you think about. Here’s what we will be looking at: Training, Race Strategy/Pacing, Non-Running Secrets.
Marathon training plans are more easily defined in comparison to training for trail and ultra races because they have a long and tested history that have proven successful for hundreds of thousands of competitors. Plus, those techniques can be used by everyone running the distance, whether at the front or back of the pack, regardless of which course they are running. However, that doesn’t quite hold true for trail races. Each race we do has a different set of physical requirements and therefore following one training methodology for all races just won’t work. What history has marked as the standard concept of “train how you want to race” needs to be challenged. I used to be a big believer in this way of thinking until I decided I really wanted to decrease my race times.
I had to change my perspective on how to train so that I could perform better in races.
- “Train like you wish you could race”. I always have this vision of how I’d like to race – It has me running through the mountains at breakneck speeds, floating over rocks and roots, and carrying nothing but a handheld water bottle and a few gels, slowing down only long enough to refill everything and continue on. While I can’t do all of those things in my training, I can push myself harder than I normally would in a race. When doing nearly every training run I try and maintain a pace faster than if I was racing. If I’m going up a steep hill I try and run it every time, even if I know I would walk it in the race. I’ve spent my life hiking; I don’t need to work on that technique. So I try and run everything, and faster than normal.
- “Find your limit”. At least once a week push yourself to your absolute limit. Not sure what your limits are? It’s easy to find. If you haven’t either thrown up or collapsed to the ground after your workout then you’re not at your training limit. It doesn’t matter what kind of workout it is either, but do it all out, everything you have, until you can’t take another step. Find your limits in your workout and you’ll never hit them in a race.
- “Don’t change everything”. Run faster, push yourself harder and more often, but don’t change everything about the way you train because it still has to translate to racing. Continue to eat like you would in a race. In fact, eat more and take this time to test what your body will and won’t accept. Try new techniques for hydration, but don’t get too drastic. If you know you are going to carry a handheld or wear a vest, train with it so that your body is used to carrying it for the race.
Remember, train so that come race day you can perform at your best with greater efficiency. You can’t do that if you aren’t pushing yourself harder in training. You might have convinced yourself that your training is adequate since you’ve been able to finish the distance, but consider how much faster you could finish and how much better you could feel doing it. It’s worth the effort in those workouts leading up to your taper.