Preparing for a big race is all about establishing a routine and the final one percenters.
The Australian national championships are always the pinnacle of the Australian season – it is an opportunity to test yourself against some of the best athletes in the country.
Coming into this year’s championships I had come off the back of a good winter training block and had already won some races on the Australian domestic circuit. A few weeks out I knew the bulk of the work had been done and it was just about tweaking my training load to give myself the best shot. Nerves are a part of any big championship or race, a way I try to manage my nerves is through establishing a good pre-race routine. As the race was in Sydney, I made sure I planned my travel, nutrition, warm up and recovery to ensure I was able to stick with the same routines I have at home.
1500m running can be one of the most tactical running events. It will either be a fast sprint from the gun or a tactical affair- a slow first few laps, winding up with a fast finish. The best runners can do both, my coach and I worked hard to put together a program that tried to cover all bases. Every track session would start with a tempo of either 10-15 minutes with a specific session to follow. To mimic a tactical race with a faster finish, one of my favourite sessions to do was;
- 4 sets of 800m at 3km pace with 60 seconds rest followed by 400m at 800m pace.
A session which I would do to prepare myself to run fast would be;
- 3x800m at race pace or quicker with 5 minutes rest in between.
Every race is different but during the season I try and train through races and taper for the important ones. As nationals is at the end of the season, my coach and I usually modify my training load a few weeks out to ensure I have more recovery days. The volume usually decreases slightly, and the intensity increases as I try to sharpen up. A typical week with a race on a Saturday would look like:
Monday: 45 minutes easy, strides + light gym session.
Tuesday: 15 min warm up, 10-minute tempo, 5-6x 400m at race pace, strides, 15-minute warm down.
Wednesday: 45 minutes easy.
Thursday: 10-minute warm up, 6-8x200m, 10-minute warm down.
Friday: Pre-race jog and strides.
Saturday AM: Shakeout.
A warm-up is a key component to any race distance, my typical pre-race warm-up always includes a fast 200m at least 20-30 minutes before the race starts. This is important as it primes my VO2 system and means I can pump oxygen around my body more efficiently during the race. The rest of my warm-up includes;
15-minute steady run
Drills and dynamic stretching
A few strides.
Nutrition is important as it helps fuel my runs and ensures I recover well from sessions. Before races, I usually like to eat similar foods that I know agree with me. A typical pre-race dinner would be wholemeal tomato pasta with chicken and steamed vegetables. Food aside I usually try and drink a lot of water in the days leading up to the race which can be anywhere between 2-4l per day to make sure I am well hydrated. Something I value a lot as part of my pre-race routine is one and a half beetroot shots two and a half hours before the race and then a caffeine gel 15-20 minutes before. Often my races are in the evening and the caffeine really helps give me a boost.
Sleep is when the body does most of its recovering which is important both in training and in competition. I always try and get at least 8 hours of sleep a night and sometimes more in the few weeks leading up to a race. During competition, I will try and have a nap every afternoon.
The Nationals this year was a heat and a final. The heat was on a Thursday evening and the final was on Sunday. The night before my race I always have an ice bath, usually a contrast between hot and cold, this is something I will also do in between races to try and help my legs recover.
Preparing for a race of any kind is the difference between a good or bad performance, by considering all of the above you are giving yourself the best chance to feel race ready.