Taking on your first stage race can be a daunting undertaking but trail runner Bennie Roux has 10 tips to make your first stage race a little easier.
1. Running Gear and safety kit
As with any sport, the right gear is of paramount importance. Make sure you have the right gear for the race you are about to tackle. Check the race website for a list of the compulsory
gear and make sure that your safety gear is in order. When the weather turns bad or the terrain becomes tough, having the right gear in your bag could save you from race disaster.
2. Running Shoes
You don’t have to spend thousands of rands of the best running shoes but make sure it fits snug in the heel and bridge but make sure there is a little of room to wiggle your toes. Also remember your feet swell during long runs so shop for a shoe that will be comfortable to wear.
The best way to deal with nutrition is to experiment. Try various products and various brands, and try these during your training or during smaller races that you use for training. Make mental notes when taking gels/bars or energy drinks, this will help guide you in future races. For my races I only take water for the first two hours of the race. Then I start to take-in small amounts of carbs. I have also gained a lot of confidence in caffeine as part of my race-nutrition. A key part of your nutrition plan for the race should be to replace electrolytes (Salts and Magnesium’s)
This may sound obvious but train for your race. Try to simulate the exact race you are doing, it is not always possible when looking at the distances of stage races but at least try to do 80% of the race distance. Day 2 , 3 and 4 of any stage race is done on tired legs. You have to train on tired legs. This is one of the most important training tips I give to fellow trail runners.
5. Rest and recovery
You should always try to get to the race with fresh legs. After every stage, try to do the following: Drink a protein recovery shake, eat proper food, re-hydrate your body with water. Get a massage if available. You should also get your legs or your body in a cold pool or dam. Let’s also not forget the a midday nap. It works wonders to restore your strength on a stage race.
6. Start Easy
Never go out to fast on a stage race, especially on day 1. Let the other guys race each other, and when they are done and tired, you can use your consistent pace to pass them.
7. Love the hills
Nobody loves to run up hills, and this is why the hills don’t love you back. It is as much about the physical as what it is about the mental aspect of getting over that hill. Focus on a point in the distance and aim for it. You’ll get to the top in no time and be ready to take on the next one.
Don’t be afraid to walk. When times get tough on the trail, rather walk than take a break. Many top runners employ this tactic, even on world-class races like the Comrades Marathon. This year’s ladies champ Caroline Worstman took a couple of walking breaks on Polly Shorts, the toughest hill on Comrades route. I found that you reserve more energy by walking those tough hills than trying to burn yourself out. The reward is only on the downhill that follow when you’re able to run fast while the rest of the guys are still trying to catch their breath.
9. Mountain Safety
Never jump off ledges or big rocks when you can’t get back up again. I once got stuck on a very small ledge and had to wait 4 hours for mountain rescue to help me back to safe grounds. Be aware of your surroundings.
This is the reason why you entered, we sometimes forget to enjoy the trails and the beautiful scenery. Running and especially trail running’s first prize is to finish the race with a big smile on your face.