Prepa­ra­tion is ev­ery­thing

First-time re­lay teams need to ed­u­cate them­selves on the men­tal chal­lenges that lie ahead, says per­sonal trainer Laura Dor­gan

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Relay Ready - Week 6 -

AS the re­lay race for the Cork City Marathon fast ap­proaches, teams will have in­vested in build­ing up their pace, tech­nique and learn­ing to work to­gether in train­ing for the phys­i­cal chal­lenge ahead.

Re­lay teams run­ning for the first time are of­ten eager and mo­ti­vated but can be ill­pre­pared for the men­tal chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with en­durance-sap­ping races.

Pre-race men­tal prepa­ra­tion as a group the days be­fore hand can help re­lay teams cope with var­i­ous race sit­u­a­tions, in par­tic­u­lar, the dreaded ‘wall’.

‘The wall’ is a term used by run­ners to de­scribe a point in the race where their body can­not cope with the pres­sure it’s un­der.

Glu­cose is the body’s prin­ci­pal en­ergy source which is bro­ken down from car­bo­hy­drates. It can be used im­me­di­ately as fuel or can be sent to the liver and mus­cles to be stored as glyco­gen.

Dur­ing ex­er­cise, mus­cle glyco­gen is con­verted back into glu­cose, which mus­cle fi­bres use as fuel, how­ever, when glyco­gen stores are de­pleted the body is re­quired to utilise fat for en­ergy sup­ply. This us­age of fat for en­ergy is a slower en­ergy sup­ply process than glyco­gen con­ver­sion and the re­sult­ing drop in avail­able glyco­gen can fre­quently re­sult in “hy­po­gly­caemia” or, ‘the wall’.

Hit­ting the wall can be a dif­fi­cult and a very un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence re­sult­ing in a range of is­sues in­clud­ing mo­tor con­trol dis­tur­bance (de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in phys­i­cal co-or­di­na­tion), de­hy­dra­tion, nau­sea, mus­cle spasms, dizzi­ness and feel­ings of phys­i­cal weak­ness. In­ter­est­ingly, male run­ners can be more than five times as likely to ex­pe­ri­ence burnout as women — this is at­trib­uted to women be­ing more dis­ci­plined in their ap­proach to pac­ing.

There are strate­gies run­ners can adopt if they hit the wall. Cramp­ing might be ad­dressed with sup­ple­men­ta­tion like en­ergy gels as well as a re­duc­tion in phys­i­cal out­put to al­low the body to briefly recharge. Men­tal stress might be ad­dressed by a form of pos­i­tive self-talk or men­tal re­fram­ing. Al­though it’s dif­fi­cult to know in ad­vance how you will re­act, men­tally pre­par­ing your­self will go a long way in help­ing you over­come se­ri­ous chal­lenges.

Pre-race strat­egy

Know the race course lay­out (el­e­va­tion changes, aid sta­tions, toi­lets), try and walk it weeks in ad­vance.

En­sure that glyco­gen stores in the mus­cles are re­plete by eat suf­fi­ciently lead­ing up to the race.

Plan for the tim­ing and type of nu­tri­ent in­take, prac­tise con­sum­ing these foods in your train­ing runs so you know they will suit you on race day.

Plan to re­main hy­drated to fa­cil­i­tate op­ti­mum mus­cle and ner­vous sys­tem func­tion.

Plan and stick to your run­ning pace. Early take-off com­pleted at faster than planned race pace and fu­elled by race day en­thu­si­asm can lead to sig­nif­i­cant and sharp drops in en­ergy lev­els at the end.

Lis­ten to how your body is re­spond­ing/per­form­ing. Fo­cus on matters im­por­tant to the marathon, keep­ing your pace, an­tic­i­pa­tion of hills while rou­tinely check­ing-in to en­sure thirst has not crept up, cramp­ing is not be­gin­ning and so on.

Use im­agery to as­sist in cop­ing with emo­tional stress or prac­tice vi­su­al­i­sa­tion in the days lead­ing up to the event.

Find fo­cus points dur­ing the race or tail cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als.

Pre-race prepa­ra­tion

Hav­ing the cor­rect at­tire is vi­tal. It’s not the time to start chang­ing your run­ners, keep to what you know and what works for you. This way, on the day ev­ery­thing has been tried and tested and you’re fully equipped to face the race. Leave a bag in the car, locker or with a sup­porter of your team with items you’ll need be­fore and af­ter the race. Con­sider pack­ing the fol­low­ing:

Change of cloth­ing if nec­es­sary for af­ter the race De­odor­ant Baby wipes (to clean your­self off af­ter you run) Sun­screen A sec­ond pair of shoes Socks Towel Phone charger for the car Foam roller or stick Dur­ing the race you may need the fol­low­ing:

GPS Watch/heart rate mon­i­tor / MP3 player

Sun­glasses Hair ties and bobby pins Wa­ter / hy­dra­tion belt Snacks/fuel / en­ergy gels Hat (with vi­sor) All of the above are not es­sen­tial but worth con­sid­er­ing be­fore you hit the road on Sun­day.

Warm up

Walk gently for three to five min­utes, ease your body out of sit­ting mode and into work­out mode. The mo­tion of walk­ing takes the mus­cles, ten­dons and joints through a range of mo­tion that’s sim­i­lar to what it will go through in run­ning. This will en­hance the blood flow to all the mus­cles you’ll need for run­ning, send­ing your brain the mes­sage that it’s time to go.

Dy­namic stretch­ing is the best way to stretch ma­jor mus­cle groups dur­ing your warm up. Be­fore go­ing straight into hold­ing a static stretch on the spot, dy­namic stretch­ing in­creases per­for­mance by ap­ply­ing the move­ments that will be used through­out your race, pre­vent­ing in­jury.

Fuel your body

On race day, make sure you stick to what you’re used to, whether its por­ridge, eggs or a ba­nana suits your body type be­fore you start train­ing, keep it that way.

Be­fore your race, you’ll want to have some­thing that will give you a boost of en­ergy with­out leav­ing you with an upset stom­ach on the road. Fa­mil­iar foods that are easy on your sys­tem, low in fat and fi­bre, and high in carbs will boost your en­ergy with­out up­set­ting your stom­ach.


Stay­ing hy­drated be­fore the race and on the day it­self is crit­i­cal for your per­for­mance. You don’t want to have to take in ex­cess flu­ids on the day of the race, so it is im­por­tant to main­tain your hy­dra­tion lev­els be­fore­hand.

You will need to con­sume the right amount of flu­ids while avoid­ing al­co­hol and be­ing sure not to over-hy­drate your­self.

Be proud of your­self

En­joy all the hard work you’ve put in by tak­ing in the crowds sup­port who came out to cheer you on, take it all in, that’s where you’ll feel so proud of your­self for tak­ing part. Run­ning past a cheer­ing group of friends and fam­ily can be a great mo­rale boost.

The very best of luck to all those tak­ing part in the Ir­ish Ex­am­iner Cork City Marathon.

Pic­ture: Cathal Noo­nan

READY, STEADY GO: There is a range of strate­gies run­ners can adopt if they hit the dreaded ‘wall’.

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