Miwok is over now and Western States is now upon me, so I thought it would be an excellent time to examine goal race preparation from a tactical and psychological perspective, which is a pertinent topic for all racers. With 2.5 weeks left until race day, I am pretty much as prepared as I’m going to be to execute what should be an excellent race.
One major confidence boost was the 45 miles I ran on the course on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, which included descending and climbing out of the canyons highlighting the major challenges of the race. My climbing was much, much better as compared to Miwok with a lot more pickup to my uphill paces. I feel much better about my sub-19 hour race goal, although I realize that success at the 100 mile distance still requires consistent execution and pushing through all the way to the end. That said, confidence runs often provide a psychological boost that one can maintain a particular effort level over the life of the run. In my case, it’s just one really long day.
One’s psychology going into a goal race can hinge on these little assurances that the body can handle the various unknowns. These unknowns come with them a certain stress that an issue which starts out as a pebble will eventually become a boulder. Alleviating this undue stress means coming into a goal race prepared. Whether it’s the food you eat or the gels you take or how fast to approach each individual segment, that preparation should be precise in detail and structure, yet flexible in execution. Life is full of surprises, so why should a race be any different? When a race presents 1000 different scenarios for how it will play out, it’s best to expect Scenario No. 1001.
Things develop so slowly in a 100 mile race that they often resemble the slow cooking a master chef employs to get the right taste. The focus always has to be on the process with the foresight to know that a good process will give you the best opportunity for good results. While the training is the major part of that process, allowing your race day plan to evolve at the race itself takes a major amount of patience and resolve. You develop your race day plan based upon the feedback you’ve received in training, and yet your body may present something different on race day itself.
I, myself, have 3 different pacing plans based on 3 different outcomes. While my race will probably end up resembling all 3 at some point, different sections of the course will yield various surprises based on how I feel and how much I’m willing to push. This is not to advocate that everyone’s best race means being conservative; rather, it’s a recognition that even with months and years of training and racing, what one is given on race day can still be a pleasant surprise or rude awakening. Those who are best at managing the necessary adjustments required are those who will psychologically be best able to weather the storms.
And if I don’t weather the storms? Well, a little divine intervention couldn’t hurt either.