Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

©2017 by UpRiver Running

Is it time for new shoes?

August 29, 2019

by Nick whitbread

All your hard fought training runs, all those days in the gym, all those early mornings, all those salads when you wanted fries. These are the building blocks of a great race day (and a great life). How do we take this preparation into our race and make it work for us? It’s time for a race plan 🙂

No matter how trained you are, how ready you are or how well rested you are, without some sort of a plan of how you will run on race day, it can all be for nothing as far as running to your full potential. “Fail to plan, plan to Fail” (Thanks Anto). Your full potential might be going for the win or it might be finishing, either can be derailed without a clear idea of what you want to accomplish and how you plan to do it. 

We all run races, plan and think about them differently. I personally for particular races like to have a very detailed plan of exactly how I plan to run with exact paces and times as well as having a detailed fueling plan. Creating this plan for a long race allows me to relax and know exactly what I have to do to achieve my desired outcome and what I have to do when I arrive at each aid station. Thankfully, we’re all different or the world would be a boring place. I was signed up to pace a friend in her second 50 Miler a few years ago and I went to her house to build a race plan with her (not because she asked me to 🙂). When I asked what she used for fuel? Her reply was “a little of this and a little of that, sometimes this, although sometimes that doesn’t work”. My blood pressure began to rise. I asked if she knew how many calories were in each of these fuels/foods? A wry smile and a shoulder shrug was her reply (for my own sanity I built a plan so that I could feel better about it, I don’t remember if we actually used it?) My friend likes to run the whole race by feel and work it out as she goes and that’s ok, it’s a type of plan too. She knew what she would start with fuel wise and then she would adapt. She knew what pace she roughly needed to maintain and she would start with that and see how it went.

 

It’s not that you necessarily need an intricately detailed plan, tabulated, typed out, colour coded, pre folded and laminated. For me that’s what works. For you it might be something different. The important part is mentally thinking the race through ahead of time so that you at least loosely know how you will manage your fueling, electrolytes and your pace. 

How will you start? 

Will you go out easy and finish strong?

Will you go all in from the start and hope you can hold on?

Will you build in walking breaks to save your legs for later in the race?

Will you walk the hills?

How many calories do you need to consume to finish this race?

What fuel will you use and when?

What will you do to manage your electrolytes?

There are many questions to ask and many ways to answer them. Asking yourself these questions ahead of time and having an answer for them can really help you to have a solid race day and race to your potential. Having said all this, very seldom will the race unfold according to your plan and that’s when you adapt. Having a solid race plan gives you a greater ability to adapt. You know exactly where you’re at when things go awry and you are better prepared to deal with them. 

A smart person once said “have a plan, hold onto it loosely.” This is great advice for many situations in life, including racing. You build a plan so you know you have everything you will need to be successful. Once the race starts it’s a matter of doing your best to stick to that plan. Things may not go according to plan. You having thought about the race ahead of time means you’ve thought through possible outcomes and now you can better make decisions on the fly. Sticking to “your” plan is very important. No sense making a good plan if you’re not going to stick to it. We have all done it though, I’m sure. You get a little excited at the start, you’re feeling good and you go out too fast only to pay for it later in the race, or you try to chase your friend in a climb, knowing full well that it’s his strength, not yours. Race “your” plan. 

This may seem counter intuitive after what we’ve discussed but also don’t be afraid to let go of your plan. Sometimes you make a good plan and on race day you just can’t maintain it. Maybe you planned to be running a certain pace and on the day it just feels too fast. This is where knowing your body is very useful. Maybe you can slow your pace at the start and further into the race you may start to feel better. You can now pick it up and having conserved energy in the first part of the race you are still able to achieve your desired goal. If the plan is not serving you, don’t be afraid to modify it, your goals or let go of it all together and just run. 

Building a race plan or just thinking through your race ahead of time is an incredibly beneficial practice. It ensures you have everything you need to achieve your desired outcome and have a great race. If you are able to race this plan just how you imagined it, then even better. If something goes wrong, adapt your plan. If it’s not your day don’t let your plan hold you ransom. It’s your race and above all, you want to enjoy it.