Tuesday, 10 May 2016

6 things not to do before running an ultra

Inspired by running coach, Justin Bateman's rather sensible 6 things to do in the week before an ultra-marathon, I thought I'd have a crack at the 6 things not to do before an ultra-marathon.

1. Report in to begin your training regime

Reporting for training duty
It's ill-advised to begin your training programme shortly before you run an ultra. In fact, it's ill-advised you start any long distance race without considered and proper training. Why? Well for example, the training for one of my longest runs, The Ridgeway Challenge, 2014, started a month before the event. And as you'd expect, it nearly sucked and was much harder than had I put in the proper training. I wouldn't recommend it.

Take-away: It's best to build up to an event

2. Dress to impress

Gucci shoes will cause your heels
and toes to explode
Whilst those cool new shoes that totally match your outfit, and clearly set you apart from those oh-so-last-season runners on the start line, the new un-bedded shoes will in fact make you quite uncomfortable and cause skin to burst into spontaneous flame. Again, I've done this. You are advised not to.

Take-away: Wear what's comfortable and familiar

3. Forget helpful info from your recce run

The skin-shredding shoes from point number 2 were purchased because I found when running around where I live, shortly before an event, I was slipping and sliding on saturated wet mud and feared that would be the same case along the route in the ultra. If I had spent another 20 seconds thinking about it, I probably would have remembered that when I recce'd the route, not but a few weeks before, I would have recalled that there wasn't much mud on the well drained course and I would have been fine in my regular and most comfortable shoes.

Take-away: Think about the ground conditions where the race is held

4. Have a massive breakfast

I ran a marathon a few years back, and being new to the sport and not being fully aware of pre-race nutrition (I'm still none-the-wiser), I had a fry-up. Who wouldn't? Anyway, I felt great all the way to the start line and from then on it was an uncomfortable race to the finish, medal and a toilet. Big breakfasts don't help on a long run and neither do greasy ones. So don't do either or worse, combine them. Again, like I did.

Take-away: Poop weighs a lot and makes running uncomfortable

5. Dress to impress even more

Yes yes, OK, I clearly have issues with self-image, but this one is just as important. Dressing in the right gear is obviously a sensible thing, but do make sure you agree with yourself that 'sensible' is something that a) you've used before and b) are comfortable in come rain or shine. I didn't, and adorned in my shiny (and snug) new shorts I managed to chafe my derrière over the course of 50 miles. So much so that I couldn't sit properly for a few weeks. Please stop laughing at me. Unless you enjoy frequently applying cold cream to your buttocks or enjoy awkwardly perching on a train seat with the use of only the one 'good buttock', then I wouldn't repeat what I did.

Take-away: Always have a good supply of Aloe Vera at home or
preferably wear comfortable and familiar clothing

6. Pack for luxury

Running an ultra is a difficult experience, so there's no need to make it any harder than it needs to be. That's why I pack 12 rolls of Andrew Triple Velvet (in Peach) and a hot towel. Because I'm worth it. Well no, I'm not that silly, but I do remember packing no less than 5 separate water-proofed collections of wet wipes for one race. In the end I used none, but I still carried the weight, and the weight of all the other critical just-in-case items, the whole way.

Take-away: Pack for what you think you will
need and then halve it

Common sense

I couldn't agree with you more, dear reader. All of the above take-away points are obviously common sense. But it's our irrational human fears or over excitement that can so easily fog our logic, which then of course mires our ability to make sensible decisions in the weeks leading up to a big event. It happens to me even before I book the event. I could be a lost cause.

So I'll leave you with a final key take-away which may help, and it's one I've learnt the hard way, that you should remember what works on your good runs and try and emulate the conditions, the kit and the preparation for your next event. Don't let fear, excitement or what-if concerns influence you to make decisions that ultimately could hinder your event or worse, your health.