Race day execution and other thoughts.
Before the start. Race week can be a nervous and exciting time and it's important to remember that it's normal to feel a wide range of emotions during this week. Nerves are great! Nerves are a byproduct of being invested in the process and the outcome. The great thing about nerves is they disappear when the gun goes off and you suddenly remember it's just you putting one foot in front of the other, doing the thing you love to do with occasional intervals of clapping, spectators mispronouncing your name and an endless amount of pink ribbon and arrows leading the way. Nothing new on race day is a great phrase that gets a lot of air time for good reason. Race eve and race morning should look almost identical to how you would prepare for a weekend long run. Avoid over complicating things, you're 'just' going for a run. Managing your start. Unless you're contending for the top spots, the start line of a trail run or ultra marathon is essentially full of a gigantic bunch of runners who all plan to run easy pace for as long as possible in the hope of arriving at the finish in as little time as possible. Starting the day with a sound grasp on the complete vs compete relationship is a great way to set up your race and allows you time to find your rhythm and stick to your processes. It's easy to race those around you in the first 20km of a 100km run, it's much harder to physically and psychologically engage with racing when you're 80km through and you're praying the Blue Mountains panther emerges from the valley and calls time on your day. Fight the desire to run someone else's race from the start line and remind yourself that you have a long day ahead of you. If you do get out too hot, you have a long day ahead of you and enough time ahead of you to correct your mistake. Don't be a slave to the clock. Time goals can be a nice way of framing the outcome of your day but they can also be a surefire way to forget about the processes responsible for that outcome in the meantime. I imagine hell to be a place where you're running an ultra marathon daily in a group of people, where one person is constantly telling the group to slow down, another is telling the group they aren't going fast enough and a third is reciting 400m splits for the entire 100km while also doing the math on how much elevation is left in the race to the sloshing chorus of hydration packs. Your training and execution of processes on race day dictates your finishing time, not the other way around.
What are the processes? Let's start with a list of things you can control on race day: 1. Your pacing 2. Your fueling 3. Your equipment 4. Your attitude Now to the list of things you have no control on over race day: 1. Everything else The top four are all things you have been practicing regularly in training, and outside of the panther from the second paragraph, are all things you have control over on race day. You don't control the weather, the runners around you or how awful the music is at checkpoint 5. If things go pear shaped, always come back to your processes that you have been repeating week in week out for the last how ever many months. Remind yourself that training for an event and arriving to the start line healthy and stoked to run is something to be celebrated and often a lot harder than running a single long run in the mountains. Expectations versus reality. Possibly one of the lesser told truths of these niche activities is that the journey from "I feel amazing" to "my legs feel like packets of Deb potato" isn't always linear. Sometimes we feel good early, sometimes we feel better late. Don't be devastated if your legs hurt a lot earlier than you had planned. Everybody's legs hurt and today is the day to normalise that pain, accept that what you're experiencing is absolutely the byproduct of choosing to be here and moving on with the knowledge that your legs will probably hurt whether you run or walk. Tip of the day: running usually takes less time.
Look around. This isn't your job, unless you're engaged in some strange employment contract that stipulates you have to be here racing you should remember to enjoy the day. There's a 95% chance your race day memories will be reduced to maybe one or two minutes by the following week so remember to immerse yourself in the moment. Be friendly to your crew and ensure they are prepared for the day. Crewing is a selfless activity that can also be a huge amount of fun. More on crewing here: https://www.thedistancecollective.com/post/ultra-trail-australia-crewing
This is fun. And it's fun to have fun!