10 TIPS TO PREPARE FOR YOUR TRAIL RUNNING RACES
This time, it’s for sure: The races are on again! And since this long-awaited moment is here at last, we have a few tips to help you prepare for your trail running races properly.
1. GO FOR A GOAL THAT ATTRACTS YOU (RATHER THAN A FASHIONABLE GOAL)
Now, we’re not asking you to cross this event right out, but only to lay it to the side for now. In fact, have you ever wondered what attracts you so much about this trail running race that you’ve yet to take part in? Why this particular one and not another? We don’t want to make you confess something that’s not true, but if your reason for participating in this race is simply that you think “everybody does it, it’s a necessary step”, then you probably don’t have the right kind of motivation. Sign up for a trail race that gets you excited, whose setting attracts you; so that the mere thought of it makes your hairs stand up on end and you get shivers down your spine. You know, there’s no such thing as a “little race”, only more humble organisations with greater or lesser means. The experience itself is always rewarding; the adventure, the uniqueness; the memory, unforgettable.
2. SET YOUR PRIORITIES AND AVOID SCATTERING YOUR EFFORTS IN YOUR RUNNING PROGRAMME
Yes, we know it better than anybody: Choosing between trail races can be a terrible dilemma. One that tears you apart. We wouldn’t wish that on anybody. Nevertheless, there’s no way around it, you have to choose, even when there’s a dire lack of races! And indeed, to choose is to give preference to quality time in your sport rather than to racking up kilometres (speaking of which, check out our article “5 tips to stop obsessing about kilometres in trail running“); choosing means savouring every moment of the race and not asking yourself what shape you’ll be in next week, next race, or what shape you would have been in if you hadn’t done a trail two days ago; choosing means giving yourself a chance to enjoy an unforgettable race and have no regrets about the way it unfolded.
So, while it’s true that choosing is no easy task, just like a delicious-looking menu, better to save your appetite for a few dishes rather than order the entire menu, and thus make sure you can appreciate every mouthful. There, now we’ve gone and done it, we’ve got your mouth watering!
3. PLAN YOUR RUNNING TRAINING PROPERLY
4. TEST YOUR EQUIPMENT AND YOUR FOOD SUPPLIES DURING TRAINING SESSIONS: THE BASICS OF PROPER PREPARATION FOR TRAIL RUNNING
Tell us (be honest, now), how many times have you heard that little nugget of advice? For sure as many times as you’ve been advised to revise before a history-geography exam, right? And how many times have you actually applied that advice (again, be honest)? Not very many. OK, it’s got to be said, none of it is particularly glamorous; so it’s up to us to convince you to drop this nasty habit! But before we get into it, and since we’ve been so honest with one another, we also have a confession to make: despite the fact we’re adopting the wise tones here, we ourselves have also slipped up in the most embarrassing ways… And… How shall we put it? We’ve regretted it every time!
Over time, we learned that training is a bit like a dress rehearsal during which the musician (in other words, us) gets himself in tune and tunes his instruments. What are the instruments in our case? Our clothes, trail running shoes, trail bag, poles, and other accessories, along with our supplies (drinks, gels, and energy bars).
And believe me, we do know how important it is to get to the starting line crisp and ready, proudly showing off our new trail accessories; But when you let your vanity take the lead, you’re also running the risk of suffering discomfort; your new shorts might give you a rash, your new shoes might give you blisters, or your stomach might rebel against the cereal bar you’ve never tried before, graciously offered when you’re handed your bib (pineapple-ham flavour, what can you expect?).
For a bit of a laugh, check out our article Those 10 bad habits that stick to trail runners’ shoes.
5. GET YOUR MEDICAL CHECKS DONE... WITHOUT WAITING UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE!
Come on, you might as well admit it: Just as you like to give your car a good spring-clean before going off on holiday, you like to get your body spick and span before the start of a running race, don’t you? While it is important to do this in order to avoid injury, it’s not a good idea do it on the eve of the race. So make sure you visit the osteopath or the physio at least a week before your event (as well as all during your preparation). It makes perfect sense: just as you’d test a brand new piece of kit at least once on a training session before taking it to a race, your brand new body must also be tested at least once in training before an important date. Another reason is that these health visits tend to tire us out, normally for one or two days, so it’s not advisable to go through them the day before a race. It’s also a good idea to visit a podiatrist, for instance to treat (without actually completely eradicating) your hyperkeratosis (thickening of the skin on the soles of your feet that protects them), cut your toenails (not too short, since they also protect your feet), or even get a treatment to prepare your feet for the exertion.
6. TAPERING (EVEN THOUGH YOUR LEGS ARE ITCHING FOR A RUN!)
If you feel like you’re about to give in to temptation, remember what you’ve been working towards, call to mind your priorities, and know that you’ll only arrive all swollen up on race day!
7. PREPARE YOUR GEAR ON THE EVE OF THE RACE (AND DON'T FORGET YOUR SAFETY PINS)
When you’re asked how do you prepare before a trail race? ”, you’ll probably answer with details about your running programme, and not necessarily think of the pre-race organisation. But of course, as your granny told you over and over again (while she was doing fifteen things at once and you were watching her wide-eyed in wonder): “Organisation is key! ”. A key you’ve probably misplaced up till now… But that’s all in the past! So here’s our check-list of essential items to prepare on the eve of race day:
▢ Your trail clothes (adapted according to the weather report) – Bra, short-sleeved T-shirt, long-sleeved T-shirt, wind jacket, waterproof jacket, shorts, skort, or running leggings, socks, compression socks, trail running shoes, buff for your neck AND ears, cap, gloves, etc.
▢ Your trail running accessories (adapted according to the race profile) – Trail bag, trail poles, head torch, a pair of gaiters, a pair of snow crampons, etc. And of course, all the compulsory kit and the gear recommended by the race organisation, such as a survival blanket, a whistle and even a mobile phone (to carry in a small plastic bag).
▢ Your supplies– Flexible flasks and/or water pouch to carry your drinks, gels and energy bars, compotes, dried fruit, etc. It’s all up to you and your personal tastes!
▢ A small packet of hankies – Ok, so this is the shame box but you still have to check it if you want to save yourself hassle at the wrong moment.
▢ A massage cream/oil – A massage oil to relax (before and after the race) your hamstrings and other bulging muscles everybody’s jealous of. And a cream to protect friction-sensitive areas.
▢ Safety pins – Bring enough to cover the needs of those who, unavoidably, forget them (for once, it’s not you)!
▢ Find out what the weather forecast is – Well, obviously; how are you going to prepare the right gear if you don’t know the weather forecast?
▢ Change of clothes and shower kit – So that you can be all fresh and clean to enjoy the finish line moments with your mates.
▢ Your motivation – But that goes without saying!
8. GET A PROPER NIGHT'S SLEEP THE NIGHT BEFORE THE EVE OF RACE DAY (AND SLEEP AS WELL AS YOU CAN ON THE EVE OF RACE DAY!)
Don’t worry, the nights that really count are the ones preceding the eve of race day, luckily enough. Because on the eve of race day, to top off the near-impossibility of getting to sleep, you’re also very likely to fall prey to some fearful hallucinations: What the hell is your boss doing dressed up as a princess at the supply area on kilometre twelve? You’ll have to ask him that on Monday morning.
9. HAVE A PROPER BREAKFAST BEFORE YOUR RACE
Whatever your tastes, sweet, salty or (why not?) spicy, everything’s allowed for your pre-race meal. Yes, everything. Everything except for new experiences. Just as all your gear must be carefully tested before race use, your breakfast, lunch, or dinner (depending on the race starting time) has to be familiar for your stomach. To take it one step further, you could try this very meal before a trail running training session, to make sure you won’t get any nasty surprises once you’re on your way.
So don’t be surprised if you see trail runners devouring a plate of cheesy pasta or slurping down a bowl of onion soup at four o’clock in the morning. In the world of trail running, everything is normal except what’s not.
10. “NOTHING TO DO BUT...”
“Nothing to do but…” is pretty much THE sentence you’ll hear ringing around you on the starting line. Don’t be fooled, this sentence is not one simply uttered by those who don’t know what to say, or who don’t want to reveal what shape they’re in; though it might sound meaningless to you at first, this is no trivial sentence: it means a great deal.
Yes, “Nothing to do but…” is a sentence proper to sportsmen and women who’ve pulled out all the stops in their preparation and left nothing to chance. “Nothing to do but…” is the mantra of runners who know they’ve done their very best to get to race day in good shape. “Nothing to do but…” is more than a mere sentence or mantra: It should become your goal. Indeed, what regrets could you possibly have before the start of a race when you know you’ve set out your workday, your training sessions, and your personal life as well as possible? What regrets can you have when you know you’re seriously prepared? What regrets can you have when you’ve put all your heart and passion into the task? None. “Nothing to do but…” means putting the outcome in the hands of fate, while making sure you’ve done all you can to stack things in your favour.
So, there’s “nothing to do but…” cross your fingers and do what you came here to do!