RTP Patagonia – A few final thoughts/My top tips for ‘racing’ a multi-stage race

It’s been nearly a week since I crossed the finish line in Patagonia, so before I have to stop milking it and move on, here’s one final blog post on some post-race thoughts and multi-stage racing tips from me.

I’d previously written a blog post about the kit I was going to be using so I won’t repeat my kit choices, safe to say, every single piece of kit I took, more than delivered across a mix of very testing conditions ranging from hot sunny days into the mid 30s, to freezing rain, snow and strong winds. There’s absolutely nothing I’d change at this moment in time for future self-supported multi-day races.

Similarly, I’d tweaked my nutrition over my previous races, and apart from the day when I’d consciously not taken in enough calories, I felt I was running strongly every day, and had got my calorie intake and mix of nutrition just right. They key things for me are variety and items that have the highest calorie/lowest weight ratio.

I’d gone into the race with the target of finishing top 3, and I’d thrown myself into training for it post-CCC. Compared to my previous multi-day races, this time I did more runs with the full pack, and alongside this, probably the biggest difference was my coach Ian Sharman introducing fartlek and progression full pack runs. This meant I went into the race feeling the strongest I’ve ever gone into a multi-day race, which is a good job as the pace was pretty relentless at times and it was a ‘race’ from the very start!

The hardest part of the race for me was the mental side of ‘racing’ every day. I literally couldn’t rest on my laurels for a second on any day, as I knew Magda, Claire and some other strong female runners were never far behind, and ready to ‘pounce’. Back at camp, I’d hear of runners further back in the field stopping to take a photo of an armadillo they’d seen mid-race or stopping at the mid-way checkpoint on the Long Stage to have a cup of hot chocolate RTP had put on for a treat….I literally couldn’t stop for a wee! However, this isn’t meant to come across as ‘poor little me having to run hard everyday’. I’d trained hard because I wanted to race hard, and I had an amazing week of running, against some strong female competition, and I was absolutely delighted with my performance and race. But the mental side of racing hard every day, is much harder than the physical side of racing hard every day for me.

A few final tips from me for anyone going into a multi-day race with the objective of ‘competing’ as opposed to ‘completing’:

  1. Ditch all your luxuries and home comforts. As long as you’ve got the mandatory kit, a good quality sleeping mat and sleeping bag and enough calories, that’s all you need to race well. I appreciate people are doing this for different reasons and some are there to complete, and if so, then by all means bring all the home comforts you want (and laugh at those of us surviving on the bare minimum!). But if you want to compete, then get your pack as light as possible, and believe me it’s possible to survive adequately comfortably on the bare minimum.
  2. Go for the lightest option wherever you can. Some runners couldn’t believe I’d got my starting rucksack weight down to 6.9kg as there were several extra mandatory kit items this time. But it’s possible to shave grams off on every item if you shop around/improvise, which all adds up to bringing your total rucksack weight down.
  3. Get a routine and stick to it. Planning, organisation and sticking to a routine are key if you want to race well. I knew where every piece of my kit was both in camp and in my rucksack out on the course if I needed something at short notice. And I knew exactly what I needed to do pre- and post-race to make sure I was running at my best and making the most of my recovery and rest time. And don’t ever under-estimate the power of sleep, hence my lights off ‘rule’ at 7pm every night!
  4. Multi-purpose! Where you can, take items that have a multi-use – my Mountain Fuel Energy drinks also double-upped as my electrolytes meaning I needed to take less electrolyte tablets; similarly my Mountain Fuel Recovery shakes combined recovery with some of the calories out of my mandatory calorie allowance. If you really don’t mind going a bit feral, there are other ways to multi-use items – don’t judge me but using a baby wipe to ‘wash’ after a day’s racing and then reusing it as ‘toilet paper’ is perfectly acceptable, right?!

There’s no special secrets to what I did. I simply trained hard, I prepared hard, I raced hard….and I came away with some of the best running I’ve done and a result that I’m over the moon with.

Logistically, this race must have been RTP’s biggest challenge to date (the larger field, the changeable weather conditions, the umpteen landowners permissions they had to obtain for us to run through) but as always, Mary, Sam, Riitta and Zeana, took it all in their stride, giving me my favourite of all my four RTP races. Behind the amazing core RTP team, there are a wonderful band of volunteers (headed up by the fantastic Tony) and doctors, and a local team on the ground who never seem to stop working. We have the easy job of running through this amazing landscape every day, they are the ones who do the really hard work and have much longer and harder days than us. As I said in my speech at the awards ceremony, ‘thank you for doing what you do, so I can do what I love to do’.

Thank you to Ian Sharman for the super coaching, which resulted in some of the strongest running I’ve ever had in any race.

I’m fortunate to receive the support of Likeys for kit and equipment and Mountain Fuel for nutrition and I’m super  proud to be Brand Ambassadors for them.

And I also have Dawn and Alexandra at Body Rehab to thank for keeping my legs in tip-top shape, despite the unorthodox running I made them do in the weeks leading up to the race lugging 7kg of chickpeas around on my back!

And finally, I wouldn’t be able to do half of the stuff I do without the support of Tom. I was so sorry for him that his race didn’t end up as he’d hoped and trained for, but he handled his injury with such grace and dignity, he’s a better person than I could ever hope to be!

And for me….a bit of down-time and then I try and get some speed and flat running back in these chickpea running legs, ahead of my next big races, Seville marathon in February and Crawley 24 hours in April.

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