Adapt your running pace
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 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 reconnoitre 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.
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 all 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!
The equipment that can be used to support your race strategy
Like the nutrition and hydration, 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 hindering 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. Having said this, take care to read the race rules carefully because there will be some restrictions!
A state of mind that is equal to your physical condition!
Even if the physical preparation has gone well and you have the appropriate strategy (pace, nutrition, equipment), the race will not necessarily be easy… You will have to cope with difficulties and dig deep in your own mental resources!
This can be lessened by anticipating everything that could happen during the race as much as possible and finding YOUR OWN solutions in advance! And if the unexpected should occur or the pain should become too intense, a positive thought can also help to overcome a difficult moment during a race.