"Hello Gary I have been running for fitness for around 18 months now and have recently started entering off-road running events. I am finding it takes me up to 1/2 hour of running before I get to a state of feeling comfortable (ie. get over the wall), once there I can run well. Is there a way of training my body to shorten the time it takes me to get comfortable? Im 43 and weigh 82kg (6 ft) My training runs are around 11km, I do 2-3 per week, the events I have run in have been 10km and I did a 21km run on sunday, (N-Duro Rotorua). I find I feel the same no matter what the distance, I just feel sort of exhausted to start with, it may well be a psyc thing as I can push through but it does seem to last 4-5km In the 10 days leading up to the last event I did a 30-40km bike ride, 2 x 1hr off-road runs with lots of hill work and a couple of 11km road runs. I did not exercise in the 2 days prior to the event. There is nothing special to my diet. Probably a fairly typical diet. I have 1/2 Cup oatmeal for breakfast, chicken rolls or similar for lunch and a fairly typical dinners with some meat, mostly lots of veges: Potato, peas, carrots etc. I snack on peanuts & raisins usually. I generally eat larger portions before a race. and drink a lot of fluids the day before too." "A"
Gary Moller comments:
There are a few possible things at work here. All I can do is list each and you will have to experiment with each to see what works:
Age at work
Sadly, as we get older, it takes longer for the motor to wind up to top revs as compared to a youngster. Once you are under way, there may be little difference between you and the younger ones in the field as far as cruising pace is concerned. The solution (In part) is to not get too carried away with the hype of the start and consign yourself towards the back of the pack when the gun goes, then steadily wind up to your steady state trot.
Most of these races start with an uphill or on terrain like sand
If you are slow to wind up you must be extra conservative if the race starts on sand or with an uphill. Let Granny go first and pass her later - if you can.
A good measure is to use a heart rate monitor. Work out in training what your steady state heart rate is for these kinds of runs and do not exceed this at the start and when climbing hills.
Don't drink too much water before a race
Yep, I have said it many times and I will say it again: Do not drink too much before a race. Drink only as much water as you need to pee regularly. If you overdo it you will get a soggy body that feels achy and heavy. You might feel tired and you might even have a headache. Do not get sucked in by all the propaganda by those who want to make heaps of money out of you by misleading you that you must drink sports drinks by the gallon. Read my other articles about this matter.
Go easy on the carbohydrates
While lots of carbs will boost your muscle glycogen stores over the days leading up to the race; there is a downside: Your muscles get swollen and heavy due and you may consequently find that you are slow to wind into a race. I have personally given away the carbohydrate loading and prefer to train well and to have a diet that is low in refined carbohydrates all the time. Please read my articles and e-books about running, marathon, cycling and so and so on there are dozens and dozens on this website.
Are you addicted to caffeine?
If you are a habitual mainliner of caffeine, this might come back to bite you on race day. You may find you are tired and achy when you line up for the race. Please read my articles on caffeine and dry out if you determine that you are a caffeine addict.
Do not over train during the last 10 days
From what you have described, you might be overdoing the training in the lead up immediately before the race. Anything exhausting or intense that is done during the last 7-10 days of a major event may take the edge off your performance on race day. Read my articles about Lydiard and periodisation.
Where's the speed work?
If there is one thing that is most often missing in a distance runner's training programme, it is speed work. How can one run fast, if there is no speed work in training? The best way to get your speed work in is to enter a 5km race series like the ones organised by Scottish Harriers of Wellington. See you there! Running 5km races as part of your distance running preparation gets you used to working hard - very, very hard - without wasting you so much that you can not train properly afterwards. Do this regularly as part of your training and you will find the slower pace of race day a breeze.
Train at the time you expect to race
Your circadian cycle adjusts according to the demands placed on it. So, if you eat breakfast at 7am every day then your body will produce a burst of digestive juices at that time after a short while. You will find that other bodily finctions, like going to the toilet also fall into a predictable cycle. The same happens with your physical activity. If your race starts at 8am, then it hardly makes sense to do your training in the afternoon, does it? You will only feel tired and probably feel like dashing off into the bushes. Some of your daily training should be ideally at the time that you will be racing.
Are you healthy?
There are few, if any men and women older than 40 who have not built up various nutritional deficiencies. If you do punishing sport, then a deficiency in nutrients like magnesium is pretty much guaranteed. Sure you get your nutrients from a great diet. All I can say is "Yeah right!" All the evidence is to the contrary. A magnesium deficiency, for example, will result in muscle weakness, cramps, erratic blood pressure and a weak heart.
While you could go ahead and supplement with what you are most likely to be lacking, the better action is to first complete a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis or other nutrient testing and these will eliminate most of the guesswork