Ultra distance running events like The North Face 100km and 50km are not for everybody. The dedicated few who take on the challenge commit to months of early mornings, late nights, blood, sweat and tears to get ready for race day. However, all that hard work can come undone on the day if you don’t take care of yourself and plan effectively.
Here are my top Ultra Marathon race day tips for events like the TNF 100km/50km:
1. Relax!Come race week all the hard work has been done, so rest up, fuel up and enjoy a few days of quiet before the big dance on the weekend. There is no point trying to cram in last minute hard sessions, any running you do should be easy.
2. Fuel up!
The day before the event and morning of make sure you get enough carbohydrate to help replace and load the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver ready to race. If you struggle to eat carbohydrates then a good carbohydrate & protein drink (I like Endura Optimizer) can be a good option.
3. Start out easy
Races like The North Face 100 and 50km have a bad reputation for fast starts and big blow ups. It’s hard to resist the excitement and control the adrenalin, but if you go too hard at the start you’ll use up too much energy, hit the wall sooner and struggle to run consistently towards the end of the race.
4. Eat early and often
With finishing times ranging from 10 to 24+ hours, it’s important to start your nutrition plan and fuelling routine early. To ensure you maintain a consistent energy level no matter how long you are out there, set an interval timer on your watch to remind you to take your nutrition (be it gels, bars or hydration drinks) on a regular basis. That way you won’t forget even when you’re tired or working hard! Personally I take an energy gel or electrolyte/rehydration formula every 20 minutes - it’s no secret I’m a big fan of the Endura range, which are conveniently the on-course nutrition of the TNF100.
5. Beware of the checkpoint!
Checkpoints are an oasis in the desert that is the race. You will be dreaming about them and waiting constantly for the next to arrive. However, don’t hang around in them - get in grab what you need and get out. Lingering in checkpoints not only wastes time, but can also cause you to second guess your drive to continue. A good strategy is to grab your supplies in hand and walk out of the checkpoint as you put them in your pack and organise your gear, this way you are still moving forward on the course and wasting as little time as possible.
6. Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must!
It’s going to be hard, if it wasn’t you probably wouldn’t be doing it, so expect that there is going to be some very tough times. Everyone, elites and amateurs alike, will have low patches during the race, however you need to back yourself, trust your training and keep moving forward. You can lower the intensity a little, but keep on moving and you’ll find it will get much better again before the beautiful finish at Scenic World.