One of the most difficult elements when training for a race is to know if your approach is working. Have you been running too fast? Too slow? Covering enough miles? Check on your progress and answer all of those questions by running a test race. If you miss this step, chances are you’ll be caught unprepared on the big day. To help you plan, we caught up with Under Armour running coach Stephen Haas for his best tips.
You’re not going to taper for the test race; you’ll keep on training right up until it. This will challenge you but also provide solid feedback on where you stand for meeting your goal race time. Without that context, you could show up to the race with a goal time that’s either unrealistic or too low.
The key is picking a distance that isn’t as long as your goal race. So if you’re training for a marathon, find a half marathon about midway through your training cycle. If a half marathon is the goal, look for a 10K. Training for a 5K? Then maybe the “All Out Mile” is right for you.
“Depending on the event, I like to have my athletes run a shorter race at a faster pace than goal-race pace,” says Haas. “It gives them a chance to get used to those race-day feelings and establish some routines to take into the big day.” Here’s how to execute on a test-race day.
Test More Than Your Pace
A test race is a good dress rehearsal for every element of racing. That means pulling on the shoes you intend to use on race day to see if they deliver the comfort and fit you need for going long and hard. Put on the race kit you plan to wear, testing everything from your sports bra to your shorts, and even your socks (there’s nothing worse than getting a blister mid-race!).
Also use a test race to try your nutrition strategy, from before the race on through to the finish. “This is a great way to learn how much you can eat, what you can eat and drink, and how you perform under race conditions with that strategy,” says Haas.
Make Notes and Adjust
After you’ve finished your test race—and while it’s still fresh in your memory—write down how the day went for you. If you don’t, it’s easy to forget key details that could end up having a big impact on your race. For instance, did you have an upset stomach, potentially from the wrong combination of food and hydration? Did you experience any hot spots from your clothing that might require some anti-chafing glide? How did race pace feel, and should you adjust it up or down?
Crucial to answering that last question is to capture as much data as possible during your test race. Lace up a pair of the brand’s microchip-equipped shoes and sync them with MapMyRun so that when you get home you can analyze your splits and see where you need to change things up. Continue forward using the technology to guide you during runs and after.
“Testing your race pace is key,” says Haas. “If you got to the finish line and still felt great, maybe you can adjust your training a bit for a faster goal. If you ran out of gas in the last few miles, maybe focus a bit more on your endurance before your goal race.”
Take Confidence from the Day
Even if things didn’t go exactly as planned on your test race, you gained from the experience. Racing takes practice to perfect, and this is the best kind of practice. Use your newfound knowledge about where you are in your training—and where you need to go—to implement change for the better. One of the biggest benefits of a test day is the opportunity to shake out your nerves. After this experience, lining up on goal-race day won’t feel so intimidating. Take confidence in the fact that you now have the tools you need to smooth out any potential race-day wrinkles.
Don’t forget: your test race was on untapered legs. When you get to your final goal race, your legs will be well rested and ready to go. If you just executed on those tired legs, know that you’re setting up for a killer race day. Grab your calendar, find the right test race, then get ready to go.
Under Armour, Inc., headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, is a leading inventor, marketer and distributor of branded athletic performance apparel, footwear and accessories. Designed to empower human performance, Under Armour’s innovative products and experiences are engineered to make athletes better. For further information, please visit http://about.underarmour.com.