"I’m looking at my team mate Cody running ahead of me, hoping I won’t let him down. I’ve thrown us into a final sprint for another stage win, and with 2km left to go I’m worried my wheels would fall off.
We eventually did win the stage and the overall ranking but had it not been for my partner Cody, and for the team result, I would never have found the mental strength to dig so deep."
Three days earlier, we arrived to Riano, Spain to take part in the Riano Trail Run. A 3 day stage race, where participants race in teams of two. Both team members cover the whole distance, going through aid stations and finish line together. Racing in team is a completely different experience than running solo and here are a few points you need to know if you consider participating in such an adventure.
The strongest team on paper doesn’t automatically win
The two runners might have different skillsets, and will have to be smart about it. At the Riano Trail Run (RTR), the courses are not only technical but deliver each day a lot of vertical meters to climb and descend. So, should one of the team mates be a strong uphill runner and the other one strong downhill runner, they will be challenged by having to wait for one another quite a lot. So, if you want to be competitive, try to race with a team mate who’s got the same skills set as yours. If you’re here for the experience and the beauty of the course, time won’t be an issue and you’ll just have to be prepared to support each other for a little longer.
Get comfortable with the terrain
Right from day 1, you’ll learn the true meaning of what “Riano technical” is all about! With ridges, 39° climbs, 45° descents, and bushwalking that will leave your legs looking like you’ve been adventure racing in Corsica for 3 days is some of the awesomeness you’ll experience on the first stage. Cody and I are familiar with high mountains and technical terrain; this is essentially what we live for. Being gifted with such challenges was a blessing, but it might be seen differently if you’re not into it. If you want to be competitive, we’d recommend you practice and train on similar terrain before you sign up. If you want to come and take advantage of the world class course marking, aid stations and volunteers on the course to make it your technical-terrain-baptism, we’d simply recommend you to be in shape and open to moving slower than you usually would. The cut offs are long enough to allow you to finish each stage on time.
Know the rules of recovery
With back to back to back intense efforts; it is critical that you allow your body to recover the best it can after each stage. The 30 minute window after you finish your stage is your best shot at restocking on calories and proteins that your body will need to rebuild the broken fiber in your legs. We are no doctors so we can only recommend what worked for us and by no means is a guaranteed result, but the race offers you to leave the bag we were given at the bib pickup from the starting line to the finish line. Beside a set of warm clothes and a beanie, this definitely is the opportunity to pack up your favorite recovery drink, and a towel.
If the towel didn’t ring a bell yet, it’s to dry you up after you’d have soaked your legs in a creek nearby. The cooling down process is as important as the food intakes you’ll have shortly after you have finished the stage. It’s not always easy to talk yourself into doing it, but we guarantee you’ll feel better afterwards. Extra tip: bring a thermos you’ll fill with hot tea in the morning and store it in your bag. It will still be warm when you arrive and will do wonders to keep you warm after the soaking. Last but not least: PCPO. Pee Clear Pee Often is the name of the game for recovery. You’ll have to hydrate until you need to go to the bathroom and you’re peeing clear. A sign that you’ll have gotten rid of most of the toxins developed while running.
Embrace the fun
Stage races have this added bonus of keeping the whole field together in the afternoons and at night. This is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people, share advice and stories, and create new friendships. Sadly for Cody and I, it was harder due to the language barrier but we got to hang out with a married couple of South African friends each day and it was a real treat. Whether you’re doing it to be competitive or enjoy each stage while taking photos and embracing the stunning views, be grateful. You are able to move over mountains and despite eventual lows, you’ll be in for a true life experience, and bring home long lasting shared memories!