You’ve picked the race. The analysis and evaluation of that race’s specific conditions is done. Now, it’s time to get to work and train.
The most common mistake new racers make is to ignore every other step in this process, except training. That’s the easy part, right? Just go out and put in miles, get into shape, and get to the venue on race day… Not exactly. It's more than that.
Remember your evaluation of the races specific demands? Training will be more than just getting into shape to be able to run that half marathon. It will be the process of getting ready to run that half marathon in the exact conditions you’ll encounter. That means simulation.
Simulating your race conditions, fatigue, pacing and nutrition is all a vital part of training. If you’re serious about racing, there is no replacement for a coach helping you understand what types of workouts you need to do in order to be ready for a course. Think about it, 5 year olds who play soccer in a fenced grass field have a coach. You want to push your (adult and somewhat fragile) body to its physical limitations on unfamiliar terrain. Having a coach is often times the smartest decision to make in the run-in to a race to help you simulate what you will experience.
If you’ve got specific workouts that you need for your race (maybe they’re lots of hill repeats at full speed, tempo runs on flat ground, or long and grueling intervals) then it’s time to do those workouts as if it is during the race. Bring along the same nutrition you’ll need for race day and begin acclimating your body to it. Do your workouts on the same surfaces that you will be racing on, in the same gear you will use. Training is as much about developing proper fitness, as it is simulating what to expect.
You should simulate exactly how you will be racing, but simply dial back the intensity at the duration you will race, to avoid injury and fatigue before race day. By doing so, you will eliminate all surprises, and prepare yourself mentally for the race. Nothing should be new on race day. Not your shoes, tires, gels, watch; nothing.
Train your body, and train your mind to react without thinking to any and every situation that could arise through many simulations. The next step is to visualize.
How do you simulate your racing during training? Let me know in the comments below.