How is it race week already?! Where is this year going?! In my early days of trail racing, which to be fair wasn’t that long ago, I considered race prep to be the things I did in the morning of a race. I now understand that preparation for a race, particularly one as lengthy and challenging as Hillary, starts long before race day.
Run training is the obvious place to start with race preparation and although I have a decent base fitness, training geared specifically towards this event probably started about three months ago. Being somewhat familiar with the course I knew that my training needed to include plenty of hills as well as some technical training on rooty, uneven ground. For me, Riverhead forest is the perfect training ground. The other thing I have been trying to include more recently is running in the sand. If the race start is anything like it was last year it will be a fast and furious dash across the sand on Piha beach. More recently I have also been changing the time of day I do my long runs so that it is more in line with the time the Hillary starts, as it is a later start than what I am used to.
Race prep is also making sure that you know when and what to eat and drink. Everyone has different tastes and needs so refuelling during a race is definitely a very personal thing. It is so important to use training runs as a method of determining what works for you. There is honestly nothing worse than trying a new gel or bar or crazy food combo on race day and having it disagree with you.
I know it sounds funny and even a little superficial, but working out what to wear is another important part of race prep. I have my favourite pair of tights which I always race in, they have a fast growing hole in them and I am incredibly reluctant to replace them because I know that they are comfortable and don’t irritate me at all when I run. I know some people love to race in their newly acquired race shirts but I would definitely recommend against racing in something you haven’t worn before. Having had my UltrAspire pack for a couple of weeks before racing has been perfect because it means I have been able to try out different ways of packing it so that I know it will be super comfortable come race day.
I am a bit of a coffee fiend, I don’t function particularly well without my morning coffee. However, come race week I always give up coffee on the Monday and through the week so that when I have a coffee on the morning of the race the caffeine works it’s magic as well as it can. Ensuring that I am well hydrated through the whole week is also really important, there is not as much value in putting a last ditch effort into pre-race hydration. Dinner the night before a race is unlikely to be a massive carb load and I always make sure that it’s something familiar so that I don’t end up with an upset stomach come the morning.
I like eating something really familiar on the morning of a race too, usually porridge. Hillary is a later start than a lot of races I have done so I have already been thinking about what and when I will eat before I start. Once I arrive at an event I usually like to pop in my headphones and listen to music, it usually works at getting me excited and amped up about a race. Stepping up to the start line I am always a little nervous asking myself ‘will I make it?’, ‘how fast can I go?’, ‘will I achieve my goals?’ but I try to use those nerves to give me that extra little push off the start line.
Race preparation is unique for everyone, however the one commonality is that it shouldn’t start as you wake up on race day. Depending on the race, preparation can start months out and is not just about making sure you have the miles in your legs but ensuring that you have everything you need to perform as well as you can on race day.