If you’ve been training for over a year without an opportunity to test yourself, what happens when race day rolls around? Minus a few changes, much of the race day routine remains the same and there’s plenty of reasons to start feeling amped about the big day ahead. Here’s how to maximize the fun and get the most out of your racing experience in 2021 and beyond.
Stay confident, because it really wasn’t that long ago. Despite a lack of official races, you’ve completed challenging workouts, gone on long adventure runs or maybe even tossed your hat into the fastest known time (FKT) ring. All of these are very similar to racing and have prepared you for the big day. Remember what you practiced: smart pacing from the start and a solid nutrition and hydration plan to keep your energy level consistent. Ultimately, there will be a low point (or two), but you have the tools (and experience) to bring yourself out of the valleys and conquer the task at hand.
Focus on what you can control. It happens in nearly every race: something goes wrong. When stuff goes bad, remind yourself to stay composed. Mountain, trail and ultrarunning are all about problem solving. Make sure to take some deep breaths and stay calm; most issues won’t wreck your day and are an opportunity to take a less than ideal situation and flip it on its head. Hold your head high, move forward with gumption and keep chipping away.
Try to schedule a race simulation before your targeted ‘A’ race. Talk with your coach about adding in a sub-ultra trail race, time trial or FKT to go through the motions of race morning. Allow yourself to make a couple mistakes, learn a few things and bust off the rust. Lower pressure situations are the best place to practice new things you’ve implemented since your last race in 2019. That way, when the ‘A’ race is finally here, you can lean on a more recent experience and approach the day with a deeper confidence in your plan and abilities.
No doubt, races definitely feel a little different this year. There’s not much pre- or post-race hanging around with other participants. You might start in a wave a few minutes after the first group, and you’ll likely wear a mask at aid stations. However, the vibes are just as good (if not better), the terrain is exhilarating, you’re guaranteed to suffer and you’ll most definitely have fun. Enjoy your first race back and don’t forget, there’s always another one around the corner if it doesn’t completely go your way.