Training for an trail running event, ultra-marathon, the even for the Ultra Trail Australia? We got together with our trail running friends to talk about the kinds of things you might want to keep in mind in the lead up to your race.
No matter how many races you’ve done, each and every race has its own unique conditions based on your specific preparation and the weather on the day. Never take your nutrition and hydration for granted. Make sure you try all the things you plan on eating and drinking on the day in advance. While it’s important you have a plan for how often you’ll eat and drink, be prepared to adapt on the day based on how your body is feeling - especially if the weather is warmer than you’re used to. If you tend to be a little sensitive to different types of food and hydration, try not to be overly reliant on aid stations. No one wants to carry more than they need, but if there’s something specific you want to eat or drink on the day, take it with you or leave it in a drop bag or with your support crew.
Race day isn’t a very good time to to be trying new food and drink, and it’s not the ideal time to be trying your mandatory gear either. So if you’ll be needing thermals or other new clothes, get them now. We know some of this gear may not be needed, but you don’t want to be wearing something on race day that you’ve never run in before. As it happens, our thermal layers are super soft and comfortable straight out of the pack, but it’s always nice to get used to things in advance so you’re not dealing with any nasty surprises on the day.
OK, so who doesn’t love new shoes, right? And an race is as good an excuse as any to buy a new pair. If you plan on running in your Huaraches a la Tarahumaras, you’re probably not going to benefit from running them in. For the rest of us, it’s nice to put a few miles on them before we go the distance. Well loved shoes won’t deliver the same level of comfort and support they did when they were new. But throw them on straight out of the box then run for 10+ hours, (perhaps closer to 15 or even 20 for some of us!) and you might wish you’d softened them up, let the lacing settle, and just generally broken them in a little before race day. The sweet spot is somewhere between ‘thrashed' and 'brand spanking new’ - but probably closer to new!
No one likes mandatory gear checks along the way, but they'll be much easier if you pack in a way where you’ve got easy access to anything they may ask to see along the way. General packing wisdom suggests heavier items should be centred in your pack to create a comfortable centre of gravity. Some of you will have fairly compact packs anyway, so other than considering the weight distribution, it’s worth packing with access to random check items, and not just what you think you’ll need in mind. (HINT: Most people will never use their compass and be tempted to stash it in the most out of the way place possible, but if it gets checked, you’ll want to access it as fast as possible so don’t bury it too deep!).
You know all those annoying signs people hold up at races? Like the ones that say “you’re almost there” when you know damn well you’re not? Or that old chestnut “remember, you paid to do this”? Well, they’re right, you did. At some point you thought running this far was a good idea. No, it won’t be easy, not even for the elites who will probably be sitting down having a cold one while you’re still hard at it. But in amongst the sore legs, the aching lungs, and various other aches and pains, try and remember to enjoy yourself. Take in the views. Smile at the volunteers and supporters. And pat yourself on the back for being out there doing what very few would ever even contemplate let alone attempt.
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