OK so you’re into the big heavy training weeks before the UTA,  it’s starting to get real so how do you keep the mind monkey at bay?

#1 Believe in yourself and trust in the process

This is the key – if you don’t believe in yourself, who else will? Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith, when I heard about the NorthFace100 (as it was before Ultra-Trail) I thought the athletes that ran these events were mystical super heros. Now I’ve done 3 myself and I realise any runner (who wants to) can do it. . I was nervous before each but I never doubted I would finish as I simply would not allow that negative thought, I knew there would be some tough times but I channelled Churchills ‘ Never, never, never, never give up’  (mantra?) to myself over and over again.  I’m sure most people training now are following a plan or a training regime, trust in it.  Trust in You. If you have done the work, it will pay dividends.

The vital point is don’t get caught up in everyone else’s worries, meltdowns, anxiety, injuries concerns etc. Give yourself some headspace. It’s easy to get caught up in all the pre-race angst. Focus on You. I use visualisation a lot for my events, I literally visualise myself in the race, having a great time, feeling strong, feeling great. I do this in the weeks leading up to the event for a few minutes a day. Visualise having the best day out on the course and smiling crossing the finish line.

#2  Know the course and break it down in short sections

If you are able to get out onto the course as much as possible, include 1 night run as well. If you can’t get out onto the course, read the descriptions, blogs, posts and start visualising the sections. There is so much information out there from past participants at all levels for you to gain a good understanding of the terrain/elevation/condition/track details.
Break the race down into short sections, the aid stations make this easy to figure out. Focus on that particular section at that time. Stay in the moment, concentrate on the nutrition you need for that section, take in the scenery! As you get closer to the next checkpoint go through exactly what you will do to prepare for the next stage.

 

#3 Control the things you can

  1. Training – follow your plan, stick to it, don’t sweat it if you miss a session, life happens, move on the next one and don’t try and cram it in – you’ll over train, just focus on the plan.
  2. Recovery – proper recovery now is crucial in the heavy training weeks. It’s just as important as the training itself, it’s part of the process. Get enough sleep, eat well, do your muscle rolling, get massages, get enough rest.
  3. Kit – practice running with the kit you intend to use for the race,do that now. Check your clothing fits well, if it chaffs, change it. Test your pack, pack all the mandatory kit in, work out how to get things in and out easily and fast. Practice a night run, test out your head torch, it’s completely different (fantastic) running at night.
  4. Nutrition – really important, this can and does ruin people’s races.  Work out how much fuel you need. You simply can not ingest as much energy as you are expending so it’s a balance of enough to sustain you without over-filling your stomach and causing nasty stomach and gut issues. Manage the correct intake of electrolytes for yourself and the conditions.  There are a multitude of nutritional types – solid food, gels, liquid foods, and everything in between. Work out what works for you. Have a few options. Later in the race your stomach may not be able to tolerate the same energy sources so have 2 or 3 options at each aid station. It’s essential to practice your nutrition in your long runs beforehand, that’s one more thing you’ve ticked off.
  5. Weather – you can’t control the weather but you can control your response to the conditions in terms of the right gear to wear. If it’s going to be a cold morning, wear warmer gear, when you drop down into the Jamison Valley it noticeable drops in temperature. If it’s raining heavily don’t wait until you’re soaked to get your waterproof on. Protect yourself from the sun if it’s a warm day. If you feel the cold more generally then change into warmer gear for the evening/night running.
  6. Checklists – these are great to calm yourself mentally and literally see that you are ready. Make a checklist for kit, checklists for nutrition,  check lists for each checkpoint. The checkpoint lists are really valuable to give to your support crew so they can check off with you that you’re ready for the next stage, as you get more tired in the latter stages this is important.

#4 Have a Plan B in case Plan A goes a bit off track

Don’t panic if something happens that you weren’t expecting. Assess the situation, accept it for what it is, get calm and then make a plan for how to deal with this. For example, a stomach upset. Allow your body some time to recover, reduce intensity of your pace, allow stomach to settle, don’t consume any food for at least 30-45mins, just sip water. If for example you go through a low energy period, check when you last had some nutrition etc. Just work though logically what the issue is and take action to fix it. If that action isn’t working then try a new tactic, keep trying until something works and it will. Most of it all stay calm, take action and you will resolve the situation.

 

#5 Enjoy it!

You’ve worked so hard, put in so many hours, it’s easy sometimes to forget this is actually something we are doing for fun.  the day/night does go quickly so make the most of it – smile, say hello to fellow runners, say thank you to the volunteers, be kind to your support crew, they are there for a long time! Don’t be an arse if things don’t go to plan – go through your Plan B/C strategies. The Blue Mountains is an incredibly beautiful special place, appreciate where you are and what you are doing.  There will be some tough times but they do pass – you’ll be up those stairs and across that finish line before you know it – don’t forget to smile!

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