“Do not try anything new on race day.” Essential race day wisdom. Those who choose to ignore this advice are destined to be plagued with blisters or upset stomach or some other malady that will derail their peak performance. The race may start according to plan, but throughout, trouble will unfold.
Practicing your race day plan during training is the key to avoiding this insidious pitfall. Sounds easy enough right? Maybe for a road marathon it is, however for an ultra, that takes place over many many hours and in often remote locations, it is a lot harder than it sounds.
Except for the lucky few, most of us have day jobs, families, and other responsibilities around which we shape our training. It is difficult to get fully stocked aid stations every 5-10 miles with a smattering of everything that could taste amazing. It is difficult to have drop bags with a change of shoes and socks waiting at key locations. It is difficult to coordinate a pacer to greet you midway and take your mind off your woes.
In my world, with an ultrarunning husband, two kids that cannot yet stay alone for more than an hour, and friends who have their own running goals and families and jobs, it is incredibly difficult to orchestrate a scenario to test all my race day strategies. A dress rehearsal is not typically an option for the average ultra runner.
Enter ITERATION. A cyclical tool I recently learned in an online writing class that also works well for running.
Iteration is the repetition of a process in order to generate desirable outcomes. Using iteration gives structure to trial and error so that what works and what doesn’t is easy to decipher. This knowledge helps me formulate the strategy for race day, the capstone of my training journey.
While iteration can feel like turning back time to high school science and the scientific method, it is far simpler than that. This process does not require statistics knowledge or intensive data crunching. You do not have to be a data geek (though I do tend to be) for this to work for you.
Creating more structure when learning what works for you will give you better answers sooner. It might seem tedious but you will be grateful on race day when you know to avoid jelly beans at mile 40 or to be sure to drink apple juice every 10 miles. Over time, you can fine tune your strategies and adjust them as you grow as a runner.
The journey continues…….