Tips for the Trail – How to Pace to Achieve Your Best Race Performance — XTERRA – 11-8-2013

Rachel C

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published on XTERRA November 8, 2013.

Training for XTERRA trail running races is a wonderful ongoing lifestyle adventure. As athletes delve into their running journeys, it is inevitable that their bodies become strong and lean out from their training and smart nutrition and hydration choices. Like art in motion, they evolve into fast healthy versions of their amazing selves.  Then add in the fresh nature inspired scenery and enjoyment of fantastic company. It is no wonder runners tend to be such happy joyous humans.

Rachel CRace days create the opportunity to shine, while running fast and strong amongst fellow runners to help each other to bring out their best. “Live More?”  Yes that’s what we do! On the big event days, nerves can run high as we wonder if all we did to prepare was enough.

If training was smart and to the best of your ability, you consumed food and liquids you know work for your body, and are caught up on sleep, chances are excellent you will have a great day! The key is to trust that your body is ready to carry out what you love at its best.

Despite perfect training and preparation, sometimes races don’t go as wished. One mistake many runners make is pacing incorrectly.  Pacing your race is an art all of its own.  Below please find some tips to ensure you are rewarded from your efforts to prepare for your XTERRA trail race with happy running success:

  • Get a great warm-up. If you attempt to run a race cold, you instantly risk a tough race or injury.  A proper warm-up will tune your mind into your body and set a great precedence for your day.  Begin warming up about an hour before gun time.  My perfect race warm-up is slowly jogging for 10-15 minutes. The last couple of minutes I increase my pace until I finish at just a bit faster than race pace. While I am running I notice any aches or tight spots in my body. I then carefully do some dynamic stretches to relieve the tightness and balance muscles. This can take 5-10 minutes. I then run another 5 minutes slow. Finally I do a set of easy/hards, beginning with 20 seconds hard, 20 easy. Then work up in 10 second increments with 60 seconds being the max.  I then jog easy, top off any hydration needs I have and still have time to shed extra clothing, use the restroom, and chat with fellow runners.
  • Start out slower than you think you need to.  Unless you know you are vying for a top overall spot in your race, it is unwise to sprint off the start line in an effort to keep up with race leaders. If you overdo it and end up out of breath and walking, the remainder of the race will be very long and frustrating. Instead, think of running with negative energy splits. Every mile, increase your effort progressively, so at the race end you can fly to the finish line.
  • Know the course. First of all, so you don’t get lost! It also helps from a strategic perspective.  If the course includes 3,000 feet of climbing, but the elevation tops out at 1,000 feet as the World Championship course does at Kualoa Ranch, it is obvious that there will be at least a few big climbs. Know where and how long and steep they are so you can back off your pace (maintain effort) going up, in order to allow strength and speed when the going gets easier. I like to think of it like changing gears on a bicycle. An easier spin going up long hills will help your energy reserves so you can push a bigger gear during flats and down hills, especially if you know there are still more hills coming! Knowing the course will help you have a game plan and calm nerves, as you know what to expect.
  • Back off before you have to. During your race, it is highly likely you will have a tired moment or two. Make certain your energy and hydration reserves are in check first. If you are still feeling tired, back off until you feel better. Chances are, spending 10-30 seconds running slow or even walking will help your heart rate and other physiological systems get back on track, leading to a smooth race pace very quickly. If you push so hard, your body forces you to stop, it will be very difficult to get going again.

Implementing these tips into your trail run races will allow you to run your best race. Enjoy the process, listen to your body, and your XTERRA trail run races will be fantastic experiences inspiring you to “Live More” in all aspects of life.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, including the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run, and placed ninth overall in the women’s field at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor, and is a certified running form and endurance coach. She can be reached atrcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her onwww.twitter.com/newageathlete.