Running Your First Stage Race by Colleen O'Brien (Lily Trotters Ambassador Flock)

Running Your First Stage Race by Colleen O'Brien (Lily Trotters Ambassador Flock)
Running Your First Stage Race
This past year, I ran my first in-person stage race. Actually, I ran 2. The first one was a two-day, 77km stage race in the mountains of Rossland, British Columbia. The race, put on by PACE Trail Runs, was equally challenging and stunning. I stumbled (a lot), learned (a lot) and vowed to take what I learned to use towards my main goal of the season: The Golden Ultra in Golden, BC, put on by TransRockies Running. Here’s some of what I learned: In training for a stage race, it’s important to practice back to back long runs and get comfortable spending a lot of time on your feet. Back to back long runs will help you get ready for racing multiple days in a row and give you confidence going into the event. Feeling trained and ready will give you confidence that are able to race multiple days in a row.
It’s also important to train your tummy. I changed my running nutrition to include a bit more protein and solid foods, so I had less breakdown and more recovery throughout the event. I also ate more regularly than I would in a single day event (every 30 min. compared to every 45 min.), to create less of a calorie deficit at the end of the day. Once I was done each stage, I had a recovery smoothie right away, then found real food quickly. It’s important to start eating soon after finishing, to get calories into your body. Less important is the type of calories - if
you’re craving salty potato chips instead of a healthy meal, go for it. On one day, I was completely fried by heat and I could only get in liquid calories and very very plain food. So, that’s what I did. At some point, calories are calories. But, try and get in some healthy calories too.
Post-race is all about recovery. As soon as you finish your day, find some cold water to sit in for 10 min. Your legs will hurt, and it may be the hardest part of your day, but it will help you recover. For the rest of the afternoon / evening, stay off of your feet as much as possible, do some light stretching and pack your bag for the next day (don’t leave it until the morning). Rest is the name of the game between stages.
Finally, start each stage, no matter how you feel. You might feel terrible (I did!), but get yourself to the start line, and give yourself at least to the first aid station to settle. It’s likely that your legs will loosen up and you will settle into running again by the time you get there. If you get there, and you feel terrible, at least you know you’ve given it your best and you won’t be left wondering what if you had tried. Lastly, take advantage of any body work offered at the race -
massage, physio, osteopath, etc. They will help keep your body tuned up pre/post stages and can save a race in some cases (they did for me!).
The biggest take away is to have fun! Stage racing offered me a whole new experience and way to challenge myself. I am so grateful for the experience I had and already have plans for a 5 day stage race in 2023. Happy running!

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