Tips from the top - IRONBULL Ultra Trail race tips
As I prepare for the Marji Gesick 100 trail race, I thought of many tips that may be helpful to other racers, especially since many of the IRONBULL Ultra Trail racers are competing in their first trail and/or ultra.
First, you cannot control everything on race day. Have multiple goals – a time goal, place goal, and a “feeling” goal. You cannot control the weather, so that time goal may not be in the cards if it’s down pouring and muddy. You cannot control the competition so an age group award may be out of reach. A “feeling” goal may be racing alongside a close friend or simply the excitement on the course as you experience a trail for the first or the hundredth time in a completely new way. For me, my best moments have been in races that running was so effortless that I felt like I was floating.
Along those lines, be prepared for everything. My biggest racing regret is being blindsided and fading in my last Leadville 100 after my quads became just as trashed as the prior year at the halfway point from the steep descents. I had never conceived this possibility because I emphasized downhill running during training. In hindsight, the outcome should have been no surprise since none of my training was in the Rockies. The mental blow even outweighed the physical blow. Some situations to be prepared for:
What if my stomach acts up?
What if my crew isn’t there for me? (A possibility if you’re having an awesome race and ahead of your time goal!)
Under what circumstances will I change clothes / shoes?
How do I adjust my goal pace for course / weather conditions?
In a long race, especially for new racers, you will likely go out too fast. It’s so hard to hold back with the excitement in the air and adrenaline pumping. In fact, I lectured myself on the topic with this in the front of my mind in one of my last races. I felt like I was almost in last place 1.5 hours into the race, going so slow I didn’t feel like I was racing, and guess what – I was still faster than my goal pace. If only I could have gone that speed later in the race!
Developing a pace chart will not only force you to think about how fast you should be running, but it will also help you plan hydration / fuel and give your crew / supporters time estimates at specified locations to cheer you on. Keep you pace chart handy during the race (recommend laminating so doesn’t disintegrate) and distribute the pace chart to your crew / supporters as a reference.
If possible, preview the course. At least examine course and elevation maps so you know where to expect technical sections, hills, and even confusing turns / congested areas (such as Home Base in the IRONBULL Ultra Trail). Nothing is worse than realizing what you thought was the “big hill” isn’t.
During your taper in the final week or two leading up to the event, put your energy into preparations. At this point, you will do more harm than good cramming in final workouts. Instead visualize the course, possible obstacles, and how you will approach them.
You can do the race with or without a crew. I did my first Leadville 100 without a crew, and because aid stations were well stocked (as we plan to do for the IRONBULL Ultra Trail) and I had thought hard about what I’d need in the race, I had everything I needed throughout the course. In the IRONBULL Ultra Trail 50k, you will also have the opportunity for a drop bag. If you have a crew / supporters give them your fuel / hydration plan and communicate how best to cheer (or motivate) you. Encouragement may work well for many, but there are times I need tough love; hearing “You’re the best! “may be the last thing I want to hear when I don’t feel that way.
Don’t forget to reflect about your journey to the finish line – the obstacles you overcame, moments that you wouldn’t have experienced had you not been training, and the people you met along the way. Remember, no matter what happens on race day, no one can ever take away what you have accomplished just to toe the start line.
I’d love to hear about your journey to the start line, please share them below.