If you’re reading this article, odds are you’re preparing for an ultra, thinking of an ultra, or getting ready to actually go start your ultra! Regardless of where you are in the planning phase, its never to early or late to understand the do’s and don’ts of ultra running. The amount of training that goes into this is no small task. Let us guide you on your final week before the race to reduce your nerves and allow you to focus on what really matters… Enjoying the race and executing your strategy!
As you enter race week, the goal is to ensure you are providing your body with ample rest and recovery. Regardless of your best intentions, the night before the race is always the hardest to sleep. To make up for this, ensure you maximize rest earlier in the week. The amount of sleep during race week is far more important than the amount of sleep on race night. Plan ahead and get rest!
While sleep is important, we don’t want to disrupt your normal circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is responsible for your bodies natural tendency to sleep, wake up, brain waves and other physiological responses during certain portions of the day. If you are putting a priority on sleep and sleeping in until 9AM, but you usually wake up at 6AM, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. Do your best to stay on your normal routine, and add rest in chunks when possible.
When packing, go with your equipment and nutrition you have been using in training. Be sure to write out a checklist of all the things you will need to ensure you don’t leave anything behind! It also helps to lay out nutrition and clothing needed at different aid stations so your crew will have everything organized and ready for your arrival
It’s easy to overpack. You’ve been training for this race for a long time and don’t want to forget something. We will make this easy for you! If you haven’t used something in training, don’t try something new on race day! Pack what you know works and make things as simple as possible. Having a bunch of extra items will only confuse you and your crew during the later stages of the race. You will be functioning on limited sleep and extra distractions just make for a chaotic experience. Test all of your equipment in training, and then pack what you know works!
Your training prior to race day should allow you to recover, but also stay fresh. The best tactic is to train on course for short segments so you can become familiar with the terrain and build confidence. Aim to familiarize yourself with the course without over stressing yourself
There are two things we want to avoid during race week. First, we want to avoid testing our fitness. Pushing yourself this week will only takeaway from your race day abilities. Second, we want to avoid not training at all. By not training, we allow our body to become stale and lethargic. If you’re wondering what the right amount to train is, we would suggest getting your COROS fatigue in the 20-39 range which would be a fantastic taper.
Part of race day success is planning for best case scenario, likely scenario, and worst case scenario. Anything can happen on course, so its best to have an A, B, and C plan! This plan should include knowing the route, knowing the terrain, and having set effort levels that you do not exceed. Within an ultra, it’s recommended you spend nearly all of your time in your Aerobic Endurance zone or below. The longer you spend above this zone, the higher chances you’ll need to drastically slow down later.
It would be a mistake to go into your race with a “lets see what happens” mentality. Many athletes without a plan go out far too fast and end up going slower than they thought, or having to DNF somewhere on course. Be sure to know the terrain and effort level ceilings so you can be prepared and make adjustments as needed. Identify what your heart rate zones are, and have these numbers firmly asserted in your mind.
GPS Watch Setup
When setting up your watch for success, you should download the route and input checkpoints (Aid-stations). You should also have your data fields set for what you need to guide you throughout the race. Your watch should serve as a tool and only provide you with the most important information to help you fulfill your race strategy.
Now is not the time to try out new data fields or metrics. While GPS watches have a ton of features, we only want to focus on those most important to us. If you have been training by heart rate all year, there is no reason to even have pace on your watch. Similar to our packing notes, continue with what has worked throughout training. Don’t try anything new on race day. It will only create more confusion and distract you from your intended goals.
Ultra races are intense! Regardless of starting at a slow pace (advised), things begin to move quickly. With the nature of these races lasting for prolonged times, problems tend to compound and wreak havoc later on. Our suggestion to all readers is that they plan in advance, make a checklist, plan for multiple scenarios, and utilize your GPS Watch as a tool to help you accomplish your goals. The simpler we can keep our focus, the better it will work as you become tired and sleep deprived. Remember to keep it simple and enjoy the process as you start your race and explore perfection!