Holly Stables, who as Holly Rush competed for England at the Commonwealth Games and Britain at the European Championships in the marathon and finished ninth in the UTMB and finished 21st at the UTMB, knows a thing or two about getting it right on race day. Here are the ASICS Coast Ultra Xtreme ambassador's tips on how to make sure your hard training isn't scuppered by last-minute mistakes.
The final week in the build-up to an event like the ASICS Coast Ultra Xtreme is a crucial time. All those tough weeks of training need to count, so look after yourself and your body. Here are my top tips.
1 The Taper: My biggest tip is don’t taper too much or too early. Too many rest days can leave you feeling sluggish on race day. Your body loves routine, so reduce the overall volume the week before but keep the intensity. I like to do a short cut down session on the Tuesday and then some strides towards the end of the week. This just keeps your legs used to a little pace and feeling faster.
2 Sleep and Rest: You always need to respect this key element as a runner if you want to improve. Try to get a few early nights in race week and definitely protect that immune system in the final weeks, as late nights and picking up a cold will ruin your performance.
3 Nutrition: It’s all actually really simple – just eat normally and gradually reduce the volume and intensity of your training – this is a natural carb load. You don’t need to stuff yourself with food all week – this will only make you feel uncomfortable and sluggish on race day. Eat your normal pre-race or pre-long run breakfast. Don’t suddenly change what has worked so well for you in training.
Recovering faster than your competition can give you an edge and just makes racing each day so much more enjoyable. After a day’s stage is completed, our bodies can be a little fragile. Cracks in our shell take the form of tissue damage, dehydration, and glycogen depletion. Your daily task is to try to speed this recovery. To make the most of this, some advice to consider is:
1 Fuelling window: When race efforts occur less than 24 hours apart, putting back in the tank what you’ve used becomes priority number one. There are two post-run timing windows – a quick and a slower timeframe. I know sometimes after a hard run or race you don’t often feel like eating but you must get something in ASAP. A 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is best (eg, chocolate milk or a sports mix drink). Then later on make sure you get a proper meal of protein and carbs.
2 Foot care: Be vigilant about foot care. Small rubs and blisters can seem trivial during a single day’s run, but they can inevitably snowball into race-ending complications two or three days into a multi-stage event if you don’t keep on top of them. Dry, clean feet are happy feet.
3 Self Massage: Self-massage increases blood flow and releases tight and sore muscles. Include a tennis ball, golf ball, massage stick and/or short foam roller in your race gear if you can and use these items to manipulate the feet, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back between stages. Light stretching after each day will also help, but don’t overdo it, especially if you are not use to a stretching routine. I also like to finish each day with a ‘legs up the wall’ pose to help my legs recover. Prop your feet up on a wall or something similar whilst your back is flat and spread your arms to a comfortable position and stay for as long as this feels good. Elevating the legs helps reduce swelling in the lower limbs.
4 Sleep: Once you have fuelled, checked your feet, massaged and stretched, then it’s time to get some shut-eye. Create a routine, bring a book, earplugs and even your favourite pillow to help with comfort.
Hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your multi-day experience. See you out there and have fun.
Holly Stables is an ambassador for the ASICS Coast Ultra Xtreme, a five-day multi-stage race in Cornwall.