Updated: Sep 26, 2019
In the past I've never worried too much about what I do in the run up to a race. I don't have any lucky socks, rituals or superstitions. In general, my approach is that the less you worry the better you do. Despite that, I've been fine-tuning some race prep routines that have worked for me so far this year. They're simple, and most importantly, it isn't the end of the world if I can't follow them!
1. Don't research the course too much.
This one is probably a little controversial, but in general I don't spend much time looking at the route or profile before a race. I'll know the rough distance and elevation in the week before, but as the final distance and climb rarely matches up there's no point in agonising over data.
More specific details, such as where aid stations and and the course profile, I'll look up the day before. This is info you need to know - roughly at least - but not something you need to revise over and over again. The less I know, the less I think, and the better I run!
2. Visualise the pain.
Racing in the mountains is beautiful, exhilarating and fun. It also HURTS. A lot.
I make sure I'm prepared for this my remembering a particularly painful race and visualising how I'm going to feel on race day. If you know the hurt is coming it won't be a shock and you can manage your response appropriately.
You can't gain fitness in the week before a race, so if it is an important race I taper hard. In the three weeks before the World Champs I averaged 50km/week. In the week before the race I ran a measly 18km. On race day I felt fresh and ready to push hard.
This isn't practical for every race though. I'd lose fitness quickly and spend my whole time recovering or tapering if I treated every race this way. For less important races I try to ensure that my weekly mileage is the same as a normal training week - though this will all be easy miles with my race being the only hard effort.
4. But don't stop altogether..
I've learnt the hard way that not moving at all in the days before a race makes me seize up. It can be hard to get done when you're travelling a lot but I always try to do a flat 5-7 km run the day before a race. It's good to get the legs moving and the imaginary niggles out the way before you get tot eh start line.
Generally, I eat whenever and whatever I want. I'm the runner whose eating a huge slice of chocolate cake and ice cream the night before her race. Recently, however, I've developed a slight routine for making sure that I'm ready to race.
After struggling with cramp I make sure I drink an electrolyte drink the evening before (my current favourite is TORQ Energy Drink Powder).
Breakfast is always a porridge pot and a banana. Whilst not being the most environmentally friendly way of eating porridge it means I can travel with it easily, and wherever I am I can almost always find hot water to add to it.