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.