Monday, 29 June 2015

Game Plan for Sinister 7

Weather you are a relay runner or soloist getting ready for Sinister 7 you want to dial things back and focus on relaxation and rest and aim to keep your race planning as simple as possible. 

Mental Game
If you can focus on the positive and turn any set backs into positives you will be so far ahead come race day you cannot imagine. Focus on the positive completion of your leg or race and use every set back along the way as a reminder of how hard you have worked and nothing stands in your way.

Once your run begins take each moment as it comes and stay in the moment not focusing on the outcome and your event will be enjoyable the entire way. Once you focus on the outcome that is when things become overwhelming.

There will be moments of weakness and fatigue but if you slow the pace and focus on working through, the period will pass and you will rebound in time. The disappointment of stepping off the trail is far harder at the end of the day than working through a rough patch and waiting for your energy to return.

In terms of training, the big thing is to arrive at the start line well rested, relaxed ready to run. Continue to complete easy runs each day and make all your plans early in the week in terms of what you are going to wear and what you are going to use for nutrition and having everything set out ready to go.

Race Basics
If you listen to your body and remove expectations you will have a wonderful day on the trail following these basic rules of ultra running.

Pre-Race Hydration
There is no need to over do pre-race hydration simply drink your normal levels of water, otherwise you will feel bloated and lethargic for the start of the race.

You will need 150ml of your preferred sports drink every 15 minutes or 600ml per hour. Your sports drink will provide electrolytes and a portion of your needed carbohydrates or too simplify things take two regular swigs of sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes. 

As a guide you will need roughly 15 grams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes or 60 grams per hour, so in addition to the carbohydrates you receive from your sports drink you will need to supplement this with gels, bars or real food or too simplify things take two regular sized bites of sports bar, real food or 1/4 of gel every 15 to 20 minutes.

Aid Stations
The Sinister 7 course has six staging areas (TAs) and several aid stations (CPs). Whenever you come to an aid station, feel free to help yourself to the available supplies. Note that at TAs the food is primarily meant for Solo runners but they do not stop anyone from eating. Also note that aid station food is meant to be a supplement and you should not rely on it for your primary sustenance. If you want something specific, make sure to bring it. 

The following gear is a minimum requirement. You are running in the mountains and this is for your safety. You may elect to carry additional gear, like bear spray, at your discretion.
  • Headlamp w/ new batteries (must be carried after 8:00pm)
  • Full water bottle or hydration pack
  • Wind/water resistant jacket
  • Toque or warm hat
  • Whistle
  • Space blanket
  • Timing Chip (assigned at registration)
  • Race number (assigned at registration)

You need to carry a hand held or hydration pack plus your mandatory gear as listed above as part of the race rules so over and above that you need to decide how much nutrition you wish to carry and how much you would like to use the aid stations to supplement your requirements. I would suggest using a hydration pack that holds two litres of fluids and is large enough to carry your mandatory gear regardless of being a soloist or relay runner and then supplement at the aid stations as needed.

The take home message is not so much what you use as fuel but how you consume that fuel and if you can take small sips, small bites and start early you will stay well stocked and energy levels will remain even throughout your event.  

I would suggest as a relay runner focus on using sports drink and gels which provide the fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates you need and as a solo runner focus on using sports drink and solid food which will provide the fluids, electrolytes, carbohydrates, protein and the fat you will need to handle the longer effort.

Slice the food you decide to use into small portion sizes and wrap for easy access while out on the trail. Only take enough portions for the leg you are on and keep the other portions in a cooler and you can restock in each transition zone. 

Any food will do really just so long it is a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat with a little salt and cut up into small portion sizes. Pizza would also be a great option.

With the amount of aid stations available to refill your water bottles or hydration bladders you can reduce the amount of water you carry whereby reducing the weight you carry. For example if it is 10km between aid stations and you plan on taking one hour to reach that aid station you would really only need to carry 600ml's of water before you can refill your bottle.

If you have a special sports drink, you can keep extra sports drink in a small baggie and use to refill your water bottle at each of the aid stations.

By doing this you can reduce the amount of fluids you carry and focus on carrying the amount of gels, bars or pre packaged real food that you will need maintaining your 15 grams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes.

Shoe Choice
Your shoe choice will depend solely on the weather, if it is wet you will need a trail shoe with some bite, it can get slippery. If it is dry and hard packed you will want a fairly non-aggressive tread patterned trail shoe.

If you feel you are overheating and are starting to feel the effects of your effort your body is giving you cues that your pace is too fast based on terrain, heat and other factors, your best course of action is too slow the pace, drink based on thirst and with time you will start to feel better and will be able to slowly increase your pace again.

A Few Extras
Here are a few things that can make the race easier;
  • Use sports slick or body glide in areas of friction.
  • Have a small tub in transition with face clothes to wipe away sweat and dirt.
  • Have a cooler of ice in transition to use in water bottles, cooling towels and face clothes.
  • Have spare singlet, short sleeve, long sleeve so you can adjust based on temperatures.
  • Have spare shoes with tread options so you can adjust based on weather and trail conditions.
  • Lastly all those other items already outlined in the S7 racer package.

Good luck at Sinister 7 and if you have any questions stop by the shop or send me an email and we can guide you in the right direction.

Strategies to Improve Performance in Hot Conditions

With Sinister 7 and CDR just around the corner we expect hot and/or humid conditions and in such conditions, body temperature becomes a factor limiting performance.  

Strategies that reduce resting body temperature or enhance dissipation of heat can therefore enhance performance. Heat acclimatization and fluid ingestion are well-established methods for improving physical performance in the heat. Acclimatization lowers resting body temperature and provides adaptations that aid heat loss. Fluid ingestion can reduce the loss of plasma volume that would otherwise reduce blood flow to the skin and thereby compromise dissipation of heat. You should continue to use these methods for competitions, but in addition you could consider the use of pre-cooling and cooling between legs when running solo.

Application of ice via an ice jacket/vest has become the usual approach to pre-cooling before an event.  Ice jackets/vests are convenient and produce large reductions in skin temperature but can be expensive. Immersion in cool water via a tub however has a greater effect on reducing core temperature but not as convenient.

Practical Pre-cooling and Cooling between Legs Ideas

By lowering your initial core temperature before event and reducing your elevated core temperature between legs can extend the time before your core temperature increases and limits your ability to run a set pace.

Before event
  • Cold water bath for 8-20 minutes before heading to start
  • Reduction in skin temperature your major goal
During event in transition
  • Ice-packed damp towels around your neck and core for 4-8 minutes in transition while refuelling
  • Reduction in skin temperature your major goal
To summarize, the current body of evidence suggests that pre-cooling can increase performance capacity in hot temperatures. I should point out, as a note of caution, that cooling the body by too great a degree will not only hamper performance but also pose a health risk. 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Hitting the Wall

Ever wonder why you hit the wall around mile 18 or 19 in the marathon. I suspected many factors are at play here. Below, I've laid out the three main factors that I feel cause runners to hit the wall, during a marathon.
1) Going Out Too Fast
Nothing can save a runner who goes out too fast during a marathon. A safe recommendation is to aim for 5-15 seconds slower per mile than goal pace for the first 10-13 miles, and ramp it up from there. 
2) Not Training at Goal Pace
If you have a goal pace in mind, you must spend time running near goal pace during training. The golden rule of coach Renato Canova is to gradually extend the distance you run at race pace, during training. This means starting out with a few miles at goal marathon pace, but gradually extended that until 3 weeks before the race you may run 25 to 30km at 90 to 100% of goal pace.
Developing specific endurance is very important, this is the ability to resist fatigue at goal pace. Doing simulation workouts between 90% to 100% of goal pace can help with this!
3) Inadequate Fueling
It has been my experience that many people under-fuel during a marathon. Going without a specific fueling strategy for a race may leave your tank dry at the end. A recent study found that a fairly specific strategy of 15 grams of carbohydrates every 15 minutes with 150ml of water was a superior strategy to going into the event without a plan for getting in calories.
Practice fueling during your long workouts before race day. Be mindful of what works and what does not!