Trials and tribulations of the KSR trail running team.
Taper-time, carbo-loading, pre-race nutrition…
The list of technical vocabulary describing the generally simple sport of running can be quite overwhelming. Especially when you are just trying to have some fun out on the trails!
In the end it should all be about the experience; the enjoyment of being out in nature; may it be with friends or by yourself!!!
However, a lot of you will surely face your limits in some way or another during the Kokoda Challenge and you will have to conquer your weaker selves. You shouldn’t expect it to be a struggle though, but rather an adventure.
So to make this adventure even more enjoyable and a lasting positive memory, which it will be without a doubt, you might want to listen to this little bit of advice. Maybe, together with some decent training, it will make the difference for you between a survived ordeal and a satisfying ultra-run. And let’s be honest here. When facing a 96km trail run incl. roughly 5000m of vertical gain every single one of us needs all the help he or she can get. 😉 Pros and amateurs alike!!!
Over the following paragraphs I will provide some advice on the three topics mentioned in the beginning, separated into ‘beginner’ and ‘expert’.
‘Beginner’: all of you who do not have a time-goal and are just taking part for the experience and to finish
‘Expert’: all of you who wish to finish in a certain time and who want to push themselves to the individual limit
For you guys taper-time means doing absolutely nothing over the last couple of days before the Kokoda Challenge!
We are talking pretty much standing still here. Give your body the break it needs before the big day. If you’re fortunate enough to have a couple of days off of work, enjoy the time by relaxing as much as you can. This does not imply you should be staying at home though. Just try to avoid too much walking in the last 2 or 3 days prior to the run (no more than 30 minutes at a time; so no hikes or long strolls).
Sleep will be an important factor for you to be ready to perform. Make sure you get at least 8 hours per night over the last couple of days. But don’t worry too much about the night before the actual run. Don’t let yourself freak out because you only got 4 hours of rest. None of us are able to properly sleep then. Too much Excitement!!! 😉
Also, it is ok and even helpful to be nervous just before the start. Being nervous and thrilled to a certain degree will help your body to get ready to endure the pain you’ll put it through. Embrace the adrenalin you feel and use it to your advantage by letting it flow naturally.
Pro runners often have their most intense training during the 4th week before their A-race. After that tapering starts. The real taper for such a long run usually covers about the last 3 weeks before the race. During this time you decrease mileage in training but you may increase intensity if you like! Something you might want to focus on is proper speed-hiking. You’ll naturally cover less kilometers but it can be done at high intensity and also prepares you in a race-specific way. There surely will be lots of sections on the course, which you will be hiking!
As a rule of thumb you can decrease mileage to 75% (week 3 before race), 55% (week 2 before race) and roughly 35% (week 1 before race). So if you run 90km in your big week, do about 30 in the last 7 days leading up the event and have a massage to loosen your legs up.
Two days before the race you should have your last little session (30 minutes easy jogging) and have a rest the day before the race! The biggest mistake a runner can do is to try to make up for lost training during taper. It won’t benefit you AT ALL!!!
If you do the taper right you might feel quite sluggish over the last couple of days before the race. That is ok. Your body is adjusting to the shortage of activity it is used to. You’ll be ready on race day!
Just like for the beginners sleep is a very important factor. Rest well and also give your brain a break. Try to have as little disturbance as possible. It will help you to stay alert during the run.
To top up your energy levels for the effort your body is about to do focus on carbohydrate-rich food over the last day before the race. It will help. By doing so you will be able to draw from the reserves in your body for a longer time before having to refuel entirely through the food provided at the aid-stations.
Carbohydrate-rich food includes: brown rice/pasta/bread/porridge
If you want to carbo-load the hard way, this is what you have to do!
Start by cutting carbohydrates out of your diet about 8 days prior to race day. Food that you should focus on during that time includes tons of veggies, protein-rich chicken & fish and some fruits. Be careful with this approach though because your body will find it very hard to adjust to the lack of provided energy-sources combined with ongoing training.
After carbo-depriving your body for 5-6 days switch around and just focus on carbs for the last 2-3 days before the race. By doing so you are able to store up to 15% more energy than you would without the deprivation period.
Make sure though to not stuff yourself. It is normal to gain some weight during that time since the extra load of carbs will bind water. But you shouldn’t put on anything over 2-3kg.
If you do it right you will feel an energy rush, which you’ve probably never felt before. Though it might be scary to cut carbs out for such a long time, the loading will more than make up for it and you’ll be ready to crush the rest of the field! 😉
One of the keys to a good run is the pre-race nutrition. Naturally most of you will know that beans and bacon might not be the food of choice. But what to eat then? 😉
Well, focus on a light breakfast with easily digestible food so it won’t affect you during the run.
A good example would be: some oatmeal with 1 banana OR 2-3 slices of toast with honey. A coffee will also help you with a visit to the toilet. 😉
Also make sure to drink plenty. There’s nothing worse and dangerous than to start a race dehydrated.
Every runners breakfast seems to be different but one thing that you should try to focus on is to actually be somewhat hungry in the morning. There’s nothing worse than having the biggest load of pasta the night before and cramming in some oatmeal in the morning on a full stomach. In the race this will do you no good.
Instead have your last bigger meal around 4-5pm. This will give you enough time to digest and you’ll be ready for brekkie. The ideal time for breakfast will be about 3-2 ½ hours before the start. Drinks can and should be consumed to up to about 1 hour before the start and to top the energy levels up even more have 1 energy gel about 20 minutes before take-of.
Hydration is key. Proper hydration for an ultra starts up to 2 weeks before the actual start. So make sure to drink plenty over those last 10-14 days. It is important though to also not drink too much. If you have to go to the toilet every 20-30 minutes you are overdoing it, washing out all the important vitamins and minerals. Every body needs different amounts of fluids. If you have to go to the toilet about every 2 hours you’re fine. That’s the equivalent of roughly 3-5 liters per day.
Now after all this expert talk make sure to not stress out about it too much. Maybe some of the advice will stick and if it does it might give you the extra edge. If it doesn’t, you can still do it!
See you at the start line!
Moe, Kokoda Spirit Racing Team