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Tips to prepare for your trail running races

Few tips to help you prepare for your trail running races properly.

To take you through the whole run-up to THE day, we've composed a list of tips that will help you prepare for your trail running races.

1. Go for a goal that attracts you

Sign up for a trail race that gets you excited. There's no such thing as a "little race", only more humble organizations with greater or lesser means. The experience itself is always rewarding; the adventure, the uniqueness; the memory, unforgettable.

2. Plan your running training properly

There's no miraculous secret to preparing a training goal: You can get assistance from a coach or try and put your trail training program on your own. Broadly speaking, you need to take into account all the various factors that make up your race: the distance, the type of terrain (muddy, dry, wet, etc.), the race profile (positive and negative elevation, rolling terrain, etc.), your estimated race time, and also, as far as possible, the temperature you can expect on the great day. It's also a good idea to make the most of your training period to fine-tune your race technique, particularly on the uphills and downhills, with or without your trail poles. Lastly, your training program should cover four major areas: Basic endurance (long distance running), specific intensity (particularly through interval training and threshold workouts), as well as trail-oriented muscle strengthening (via General Physical Preparation).

3. Test your equipment 

All the equipment that you take with you during a run must be tested during training to minimize any discomfort as much as possible.

The equipment you choose must reflect your race strategy! If the objective is to finish the race while enjoying yourself as much as possible, don't hesitate to take as much as you need to make yourself comfortable. If you are aiming for performance, the equipment you take must be as light as possible and restricted to the minimum required essentials in order to optimize your race without endangering yourself.

If you have the good fortune of having a support team at the supply stations, you can make the most of it by lightening your load during the race or, on the contrary, collecting some equipment (poles, spare bag, warm clothing before heading for a summit, etc.) on the way.

4. Find out the profile of the route and the timing of the difficulties 

When running on roads, it is relatively easy to work out the running pace you need to achieve the time you want. When trail running, managing your pace is totally different, because the speed of progress depends on the terrain. It is therefore essential to avoid the error of starting too quickly, especially if the more challenging sections are at the end of the route.

You must find out the profile of the route and the timing of the difficulties that you will come across. Naturally, the ideal solution is to recognize the route before you discover it on the day of the race. If this isn't possible, you must at least study the profile of the route that is generally provided on the race organizer's website. You can even put it on your arm, so you don't forget it. This will help you to anticipate any difficulties during the run itself. A GPS watch can also help you to manage your effort levels by giving you information about the elevations and distance covered.

The knowledge of the route profile will also make it easier to tailor your strategy according to your strengths and weaknesses: walking during uphill sections to avoid expending energy and accelerating in the downhill sections, or vice versa depending on whether you are better at ascending or descending…

5. Nutrition and hydration: keys to success

Given that trail running generally involves a long or very long effort, you should think about your nutrition and hydration during this period of effort. This is a relatively personal matter. What's more, it is essential to try out the different products that you are likely to consume during your training sessions so that you understand how your body will assimilate them.

In addition to the length of the race, you also need to take into account other factors such as the weather conditions (rain, wind, cold), altitude, effort levels… which will consume energy!

Never miss out on a supply station in the hope of gaining a little time as you may pay for the consequences at the end of the race. Inadequate nutrition during a race is often the reason why some people abandon the race!

Trail running race equipment

6. Follow this check-list of essential items to prepare on the eve of a trail race day

When you're asked "how do you prepare before a trail race?”, you'll probably answer with details about your running program, and not necessarily think of the pre-race organization. Here's our check-list of essential items to prepare on the eve of race day:

▢ Your trail clothes (adapted according to the weather report) - Bra, short-sleeved T-shirt, long-sleeved T-shirt, wind jacket, waterproof jacket, shorts, skort, or running leggings, socks, compression socks, trail running shoes, buff for your neck AND ears, cap, gloves, etc.

▢ Your trail running accessories (adapted according to the race profile) - Trail bag, trail poles, head torch, a pair of gaiters, etc. And of course, all the compulsory kit and the gear recommended by the race organization, such as a survival blanket, a whistle and even a mobile phone.

▢ Your supplies- Flexible flasks and/or water pouch to carry your drinks, gels and energy bars, compotes, dried fruit, etc. It's all up to you and your personal tastes!

▢ A small packet of hankies - Ok, so this is the shame box but you still have to check it if you want to save yourself hassle at the wrong moment.

▢ A massage cream/oil - A massage oil to relax (before and after the race) your hamstrings and other bulging muscles everybody's jealous of. And a cream to protect friction-sensitive areas.

▢ Safety pins - Bring enough to cover the needs of those who, unavoidably, forget them (for once, it's not you)!

▢ Find out what the weather forecast is - Well, obviously; how are you going to prepare the right gear if you don't know the weather forecast?

▢ Change of clothes and shower kit - So that you can be all fresh and clean to enjoy the finish line moments with your mates.

▢ Your motivation - But that goes without saying!

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