Easing pre-race anxieties

I’m running and hiking hills. I’m trying to acclimatize to the heat. Most of all I am driving myself crazy with my training and pre-race anxieties.

I’m running and hiking hills. I’m trying to acclimatize to the heat.

Most of all I am driving myself crazy with my training and pre-race anxieties.

My “A” race is on Sept. 10 when I challenge the Lost Soul 50K race over the rolling coulees in Lethbridge.

I’m petrified.

So I did what every runner (with a newspaper column) does – call a race organizer for a pep talk.

Dean Johnson is a member of the four-person race director team for Lost Soul Ultramarathon. The popular fall ultramarathon is now in its 17th year. Johnson has been volunteering with the race since 2012. He is also a running coach. (Find him at www.rundeanrun.ca)

The race began with only a handful of runners tackling a 100-mile race and has grown to include 50K and 100K.

Johnson said this year the race sold out within three days. It took two months last year. Generally they “overbook” the race to 400 participants with attrition in mind. Roughly 75 runners usually drop out due to injury or other circumstances.

About 50 per cent of the racers have never touched the course. The most popular distance is the 100K with 170 racers followed by the 50K with 150 runners. The 100-miler has 66 participants.

The Lethbridge trail community and race volunteers have helped boost the race’s popularity over the years, said Johnson. They don’t have to worry about trail maintenance because a group of 100 volunteers handle the upkeep without question.

The aid stations are manned by seasoned trail runners so you know you will be taken care of, said Johnson.

In 2014, I finished the 50K race with a bout of heat exhaustion thrown in for a good time.

But I am determined not to let the heat (or my poor preparation) get the better of me in 2016.

“For the last four years it has been hot,” said Johnson. “That takes it toll. Now it’s at the end of summer and most people have the opportunity to train in heat. We recommend people go outside midday and practise working. You can go for a run. Then go for a hike or do your yard work to get acclimatized to the heat.”

Most people are 80 per cent there in seven days, said Johnson.

“As good as you are going to get, that is as good as you are going to get,” he said. “Some people handle the heat. Some people do not handle the heat very well.”

The race organizers have a contingency plan in case of inclement weather.

The course is very runable, which doesn’t always equate to a good race, said Johnson.

Many 100K or 100-milers have blown up on the first lap of 50K.

“People get really worn out because the course allows it,” said Johnson. “You just have to run the race smart.”

In fact, he quoted British ultra runner Ian Sharman, “If you’re not running up the hills at the end of the race, do not run up the hills at the start of the race.”

“It just makes sense,” said Johnson. “Why would you be running up the hills early in the race. Yes, people are excited and they can forget their hydration and nutrition plan. You need to be able to rein it in.”

Organizers are cracking down on runners who do not carry enough water on the course.

“We are plucking people out of the coulees who ran out of water,” said Johnson. “This is not acceptable.”

Runners will have to carry at least one litre of water.

In these final 10 weeks of training, Johnson said it is important to focus on hill hiking and efficient downhill running. It is also important to figure out your hydration and nutrition plan for the race.

“Most people come into it with a running background,” said Johnson. “That will get you part way through. But if you want to have a great day, people do not realize how much hiking is involved. We have about 16 hills per lap … it can be mentally taxing for some people.”

Great advice.

I actually feel better about my training after speaking with Johnson.

*******

Find Running with Rhyno on Facebook and @CrystalRhyno on Twitter. Send your column ideas, photos and stories to crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com.

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