Have you ever been midway through a race and had to pinch yourself at just how easy it feels, how everything is falling into place exactly as you had imagined it? How about the moments in a race when you decide to stop holding back and just let your legs run fast and free for hour after hour?
Chances are this is not just a lucky day or a fluke, because there is no such thing as luck in ultra marathon races, “the smarter/harder you train the luckier you get!”
So how can you maximise your chances of having a perfect race?
Step 1: Define your goals
Go on, write down a time that even you are scared of admitting to yourself. There is no point achieving a goal you already know you should have been able to do last year if this and that went right. All you’re doing there is making up for last year’s mistakes, it’s a false goal and will leave you one year behind where you should be. There is no such thing as A, B and C goals. One time, one goal, don’t hold back.
You may want to run a PB, get to a certain point before nightfall, finish in front of someone who beat you last year, run under a certain time like sub 14 or sub 20 at The North Face 100 or Sub 30 at The Great North Walk. Whatever it is, write it down pin it to your whiteboard, the side of your bedside table next to your alarm clock, write it on a yellow post it note and stick it to your desk at work. Make sure you are constantly focused on it, make sure every action is designed to get you closer to achieving the benchmark you have set. When you’re next out on a training run and you decide to walk the next hill, challenge yourself to run it, what’s the worst that can happen? There are always choices in life, if in doubt ask yourself, how is this going to allow me to achieve my goals?
Step 2: Train like you mean it
We have a saying here which is “train like a mother”. If you’ve ever seen some of the top guys and girls train you will know that it’s not enough just to tick the kilometres off and turn up on race day and “see what happens”. Once you have your goal in mind you need to set about working out how to achieve it. Analyse what you’re good at but more importantly be honest enough to admit what you’re not good at. Do you get dropped on the uphills, do people fly past you on the downhills, do you struggle to run after climbing a big set of stairs, do you avoid technical trails because your pace slows down too much?
In order to achieve the perfect race you need to work your weaknesses whilst still maintaining your strengths. If you struggle running uphill, train to run uphills, there is no other way to get better at it. Same with the downhills, practice practice practice, it’s the only way.
Step 3: The “X” Factor
How is this year going to be different to last year? What is going to change to give you the breakthrough performance that will set you up for even bigger races and more inspiring goals for the years ahead. You only need to have one breakthrough performance, after that you will know what you’re truly capable of and you will build on it.
My biggest breakthroughs have come when I have made major calculated changes to my running training. It’s risky yes, but if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.
Don’t be afraid to run with a faster group, try a different nutrition strategy, add in double days to your program and have 2 days off a week. Mix it up and watch your running improve.
Without doubt my biggest breakthroughs have come about through the addition of training at altitude. Before reading on you should know Sydney Altitude Training sponsor me but this was not the case initially. Rest assured, my comments here are based on measured physical and performance results and it would be remiss of me to not include them. I have been training at Sydney Altitude Training centre for the past 12 months and this has been a great addition to my training programme. I have used the centre to improve my peak performances, complete recovery sessions and even for injury rehabilitation (fractured ribs 4 weeks out from Western States).
The guys at the centre act not only as altitude coaches and guides but as mentors across all aspects of your training including a most often overlooked aspect of being mentally prepared. I have seen gains across all aspects of my running in the range of 7 to 10%. Might not sound like much, but if you’re out there for 10, 20 or 30 hours and beyond then 10% is a big improvement, it might mean the difference between finishing and not finishing.
The guys at Sydney Altitude Training have an offer of a free baseline assessment to all Ultra168 readers which is valued at $85. All you have to do is click the link and ensure you enter “perfect race” in the business contact field and one of the guys will contact you to discuss your personal training goals and how Altitude Training can be of benefit to you.
Andrew Vize is a member of the Salomon Australia running team. His other sponsors include Sydney Altitude Training, Footpoint Shoe Clinic and Hammer Nutrition Australia.
10 thoughts on “The Perfect Race”
Definitely advice i’d incorporate in planning for a ‘ perfect race ‘. When it’s coming from a bloke who performs these pretty consistently… You gotta give it a go!
Thanks Matt. Keep an eye out tomorrow for the Alpine race report. Got your pics. Cheers AV and well done on the win. Class act.
Love the Post-it tip! My colleagues will be puzzled by the “19:59:59” notes all over my desk 🙂
Even better Daniel, print out the course profile and write your splits in. Then when you’re asked you can talk about it. Live it and breathe it. Good luck.
Love the site guys especially the review of the new Salomon S-Lab 12.
Can anyone help me to pick one up in the next week or two?
I finished 2nd in last year’s Northface relay and want to go one better. A big ask when we’re up against stiff competition. I’m already handicapped by an ageing partner burdened with rug rats and a temperamental wife. But I’ve got no such concerns except for my antiquated Northface pack (suitcase) which needs to be replaced.
Any help will be greatly appreciated.
Oh and I’ve got Mount Sol coming up too. I ran Kedumba Pass yesterday at 530am so I’m keen to make this a big running year if not a big sleeping in year.
Nice work Jason. These packs seem to be in a lot of demand and supply seems to be low.Give Tom at Footpoint a call first up.
Great article. “Train like a mother” says it all.
Re the SLAB-12, I took matters into my own hands, ordered from Runners Warehouse on line (USA Comapny), got it delivered to my uncle in Boston in 2 days, and received in OZ in 8 days. Its the long way around, and not the bargain of the century, but any advantage to help me finish NF100 is worth anything to me at present.
Another tip, order the medium/large. Im small build and its still a bit on the snug side for my liking.
Another great article… the insights and advice on how to put together training and racing for ultras from the series of articles is some of the best advice I have seen from any source in endurance sports. I think the articles of note include:
Train Like A Mother
Pick Up The Pieces
The Four F’s
and now The Perfect Race.
Keep the up the great work.
Thanks for your kind comments Jason – and good like with tackling your first big ultra too. Was reading your blog last night and looks like you’re well on your way towards having a very successful race. We’re glad you found teh articles useful and hope others will too. The goal for us is to help people train and run better so that overall, Australia becomes more recognised on the world scene. Cheers.