"'Come to the edge,' he said. They said, 'But we're afraid.' 'Come to the edge,' he said. They came. He pushed them, and they flew." --Guillaume Apollinaire The most important rule in racing is: DON’T do something new on race day. You will be wise to heed that advice. Don’t try a new drink, a new breakfast option, a new pair of shoes or socks, etc. Drink, eat and wear your tried and tested gear.
The ‘quality’ of your race may in the end not depend on how fit you are, but rather on how organised you are. There’s nothing worse than arriving at a race without your race number, your shoes, or (like I’ve done in the past) your BREAKFAST. It helps if you can figure it out before the event how you can have a successful race. As you gain more experience, you’ll get better at this part of your racing. Allocate 2-3 long runs leading into your event where you will mimic race day, including what you’ll eat and drink, wear and gear you are going to carry with you.
Use a checklist (see below) to ensure you remember everything. Get a box and put all your race gear in it, together with your checklist. Some things can stay in the box until your next race – that way you are not running around looking for whistles or compression bandages the night before a trail race. It’s worth checking the list carefully months in advance of your event, especially if you order gear online. More often than not, items are out of stock, or there may be delays in shipping. Give yourself ample time to gather all the gear you need without stressing in the weeks leading up to your event. Gear List
· Pre-race food and fluids · Anti chafe cream · Shoes · Socks · Shorts/Tights · Singlet · Crop top · Race Number · Safety pins · Race Chip · Hat or Visor · Sun glasses · Buff or handkerchief · Watch / GPS / HR Monitor · Checkpoint gear · Hydration pack or race belt · Sunscreen · Course Map · Race Instructions · Splits · Short sleeved shirt · Long sleeved shirt · Gloves · Toilet paper · Lip balm · Change of clothes · Felt tip or ballpoint pen · Band-Aids · Athletic tape · Deodorant · Towel · Money · Post-race food and fluid · Mobile phone · Battery pack to charge mobile phone
Gear List – Trail Running
· All of the above
· Compression bandages
Apart from sorting out your gear in preparation for your race, there are some other things you need to pay attention too.
Gastrointestinal (GI) issues
Problems with the gut seem to be highly individual and perhaps genetically determined but it may also be related to the intake of highly concentrated carbohydrate solutions as well as the intake of fibre, fat and protein. Hyponatraemia (abnormally low concentrations of sodium ions in the circulating blood) has occasionally been reported, especially among slower competitors with very high intakes of water or low sodium drinks.
GI symptoms include:
· loss of appetite, reflux, nausea & vomiting, cramping, bloating and diarrhoea.
· a high fibre, fat or protein intake in the 24 hours before race
· caffeine consumed close to the start of exercise
· large quantities of rich flavoured foods/fluids
· low fibre, fat and protein in the 24 hours before the race
· avoid juice and excess fruit leading into event
· check with your GP if you have ongoing problems.
Nerves can increase risk of GI distress on race day. DON’T try anything new on race day! NERVES can be improved with training – imitate what you are going to do on race day to reduce the stress associated with it.
You can improve your GI tolerance with training – practise what you will eat on race day during your long run days. Liquid meals may also assist with GI tolerance.
The journal article ‘Limitations to fluid replacement during exercise’ (Maughan RJ and Leiper JB., 1999) states that the absorption of water and nutrients occurs in the upper part of the small intestine, and replacement may be limited by the rate at which fluid is emptied from the stomach or absorbed in the intestine. Gastric emptying of liquids is influenced primarily by the volume of fluid in the stomach and by its energy density. Increasing the volume will speed emptying, but increasing the nutrient content will slow emptying. Water transport is maximised by the presence in the intestine of glucose and sodium.
Increased volume of fluid leads to increased absorption: You can ‘prime’ your digestive system prior to the race to encourage better absorption during the race. Have water prior to the start of the race, but guard against over-hydrating prior to race day. This only leads to the body trying to correct the water balance, leading to dehydration.
Know what you have to do at the start. If you get distracted, you may forget to follow your own race plan. For example, you may want to drink some water, warm up, go to the toilet or hand in your bag to collect at the finish line. This last one could cause some angst if you did not check, prior to race day, where the bag drop location is.
Most people are nervous before their race. As long as you are aware of this, you can deal with it. You’ll probably want to go to the toilet before the race – trust me, the queue will be LOOONGGGGG. Spend your time walking around, looking for other loos, as there’s often a couple hidden somewhere, so you can get in quicker. Have some toilet paper handy too.
Establishing a routine of pre-race activities which become ‘automatic’ can help keep you calm.
Keep it simple. Make sure you have trialed and tested all your gear during your long runs. Check out what other people are using before you go off and buy expensive gear you may end up not needing.
Unfortunately, you must follow the race rules for the particular ultra you are participating in and have the correct kit as per their instructions.
Apart from the list already provided, you may also need a torch. One you can hold in your hand is much more comfortable compared to a head torch as the best way to show up shadows on your path is to shine your torch from waist height, not from head height.
Carry and use hand sanitiser or wet ones to keep things hygienic. And if you are going to be out there for a while, a toothbrush and hand towel will come in handy – if you can place it in a drop box at a checkpoint along the course.
As your feet are likely to swell during the ultra, try wearing shoes a ½ size larger than your regular pair.
If you find something you like – a good pair of shorts, lovely socks or some good lubricant, buy more than one, you never know when something is going to be discontinued.
Hydration packs and bottle belts are useful to carry water. Avoid hand-held bottles – you need your hands free. Using bottles may be a better option as it is easier to tell how much you have been drinking.
Don’t get too fancy with your supplements. You can run an ultra on just regular food. So, don’t get sucked into buying expensive bars and gels. Use on race day what you used on your training runs.