How to Race like Natasha Wodak, by Natasha Wodak (Home to Canada’s running community and iRun magazine)

Natasha Wodak is one of the fastest Canadian 10K finishers ever and after her race in Berlin last month the fastest Canadian marathon runner of all time. How does she do it? And, just as important, how can you? Apparently she has inherited supernatural gifts and Her work ethic and ability to endure pain cannot be duplicated. But there are other things –their preparation, their mantra, their race plan– which can be imitated by mortal runners. After returning home from Europe to their place in BC, we caught up with Wodak and asked her ten racing tips anyone can apply.

10. Visualize your race.

Before she laces up her sneakers, Wodak has mentally struggled through the racetrack. “Imagine different scenarios— You’re halfway there and you’re not feeling well, imagine how that’s going to feel,” she says, and after aligning herself throughout the course and imagining both the good and the bad, she prepares hers answers before. “Positive affirmations that you actually write down are extremely helpfulsays Wodak, whose affirmations are Yes you canand This is my race. She says she doesn’t mind when other runners tell themselves the same thing.

9. Manage your logistics.

How do you get to the race? What will the temperature be in the enclosure? Where do you meet up with your family afterwards? Please tell us sir that you have decided on your shoes before race day. All those decisions, those decisions are stressful, and being in a race is stressful enough: “You don’t want anything getting you out of your zone on race daysays Wodak, adding that the universe is full of surprises, but where the starting line is and what shoes to wear is not one of them. “You don’t want to feel anything stressfulsays Wodak, whose family and friends now know that she sets boundaries on race day: Wodak is good-natured and friendly, but when it’s time for work, she works. “Before race day, let everyone in your circle know what you need.

8. Take care of your watch.

Wodak competes in the Olympics to set Canadian records, and when she’s racing she doesn’t check her watch every mile. In Berlin it was the 5K split times, not the individual kilometer times, that interested her.”You don’t have to know every kilometer exactly and it’s best if you feel the tempo organically‘ she says, adding that racing within five or even ten seconds per split kilometer is fine. “Analyzing every second stresses me out,” she says. “It’s easier and more accurate to check the clock on the timing mats, and these generally appear every 5km.” Don’t get stuck on your watch. Relax.

7. Make yourself comfortable.

“At the start of a city race It’s very easy to go out too fast, and it’s also very dangerous to get stuck behind a large group of people who are slower than yousays Wodak, who adds to her preparation for race day where she wants to line up and who she wants to keep up with. “Without a pacemaker I’d be going out too hard so I’m sticking with someone I trustsays Wodak, adding that by 10km in Berlin she knew it was going to be her day. “I slapped Tony on the heels and said, ‘Are we going too slow?’ And he said, “You’re on the pace,” and that’s how it’s supposed to feel –make yourself comfortable and save your hard work for the end.” In Berlin, Wodak increased her speed at 30 km and maintained her 3:15 per kilometer even at 35 km. “I started passing women, and then it was like, ‘Let’s go!’” Wodak’s speed and strength span generations. But this racial approach will produce universal results.

6. Have your pain checklist.

Wodak knows, as we all must know, that racing will eventually be painful. We push our limits and that hurts. So if that happens how will you react? Wodak has a checklist of six things to do when the pain sets in.

  • Relax your arms
  • Breathe in through your stomach
  • Let your pacemaker help you
  • Accelerate your step
  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Shake out your arms

“Even if these things don’t work for you, you’ve probably covered half a kilometer after trying them all, and that’s a good thing!” says Wodak. The number one thing you want to do on the track is avoid panic. “Stay calm is the trick every racer uses,” she says. “Don’t freak outand if you feel that feeling occurring, you have it actionable tools in your toolbox to badmouth yourself.”

5. Take your fuel.

In Berlin, Wodak took six gels. And at the Olympics, she and Malindi Elmore took their uniforms to the seamstress to sew in pockets for their gels. Gels are serious. You need the energy. “Carry gels with you and practice taking gels on the course as wellshe says, mentioning that now that she’s coaching runners, she’ll be hosting race rehearsals where her athletes fetch water off tables in race sims. “I recommend a gel every 5 km‘ she says, and this is important: practice with your gels and use them.

4. Trust your community.

One of the best things about our sport is the people. Wodak in Berlin could not find any gel. She didn’t panic. She called out her predicament to her pace group and a gel was magically produced. “Collaborate with the people around you‘ she says, and this is for pacing, sharing nutrients, and pumping each other up. After receiving a gel, Wodak shared one of her bottles. At the end of her race, a runner approached her with a hug and began to cry. “Everyone out there doing this together,” she says, “spreads the energy and the good vibes.”

3. Hold nothing back.

There will come a moment when it’s time to let go and go crazy. That’s what the speed work is for, the long runs – there’s time to lean on race day.”If you can run 35 km in a marathon, you can pick up the pacesays Wodak, and this is where she differs from a regular runner, but it’s common knowledge that even in a 10k or half marathon, when you see the finish line or push down at the end, there’s nothing left in the tank. “Be prepared for the pain and have the confidence to know that you can take it‘ she says, ‘trust yourself and see how long you can take the pain. On race day you show what you can do.

2. Celebrate your race.

After Wodak broke Malindi Elmore’s Canadian marathon record in Berlin, she had lunch with her parents and then drank champagne with her athletes. “Even though I was crippled,” she says, laughing. You’ll be tired after your race and let’s assume you won’t be setting any records, but finishing a race while half the country is asleep is an extraordinary achievement and when you’re done, it shouldn’t be like any other day. “It’s a feeling like no other‘ says Wodak. “IThat’s why we do it, so drink it.”

1. Repeat it.

Not immediately. Wodak says she has no idea when she will be racing next and has enjoyed taking two weeks off before returning to training. All of this is important to avoid burnout. But here’s the thing: stick with it. You’ll get better at it the more you do it. And the beauty of our sport is that there is always another race. “It keeps coming back“, says Wodak about her willingness to compete. “I like to wait for it to come back organically, with no pressure – thank goodness there’s always another race.”

“Good luck to everyone racing this weekend,” says Wodak, “and congratulations to everyone who has raced recently. There is nothing better than our running community and I thank everyone for their amazing support.”

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