A Multi-Day race or a long-distance ultra is a huge undertaking. For many, it’s a 12-month project (or longer) that slowly but surely can consume every available day, hour, minute and second.
I get it, a long-distance race over multiple days in an unfamiliar terrain can leave more questions than answers. However, don’t panic, it’s not that complicated – read HERE.
As your key adventure looms, it’s time to focus the mind, body, and equipment so that you can plan for and anticipate all that may go wrong and right while undertaking this key target.
Quite simply, the old saying, ‘Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail’ does and can ring true.
So, what can be done?
Luck can have a place in any success; however, it should never be relied on. In multi-day events, particularly self-sufficient ones, the need to fine tune everything is a key element.
All of the above have very important roles to play in success.
- Get the training wrong, you may not have the fitness or an injury that will result in you not achieving the finish line.
- Get the kit wrong, be it too heavy, not durable or inappropriate may impact on your ability to achieve your goal.
- Many say the mind is a key and an integral part of any success. Often, the body can be willing, but the mind can be weak, get the mind focused and prepared.
You need to be prepared for whatever your multi-day adventure will throw at you.
In the final phase of training, 6-8 weeks before your adventure starts, is a great time to start working on the final phases and plans that will help ensure success.
THE PREPARE PHASE
If we assume that tapering will take 2 to 3-weeks, this key ‘Prepare Phase’ should be in weeks 4, 5, 6 and 7 before D-Day.
First and foremost, understand the challenge that you are undertaking. You may feel that you already have a grasp on this, but there is no harm sitting down and going through all they key aspects. Terrain, weather, mandatory kit, distance, and conditions. Look at the October 2021 edition of Marathon des Sables, the race started with a series of protocols to manage Coronavirus. Ultimately, Coronavirus was not a consideration, it was extreme heat, sickness and stomach problems.
Walk, WALK, WALK! – Walking will (for most) be an absolute essential skill to complete any multi-day adventure. You may think you will run most of the distance… But experience confirms that walking is a key to success. Walking, and walking with purpose is a skill. Practice. Consider poles, they may enhance your walking experience, if so, practice and use them.
Without doubt you will have long days, and some will go in to the night and through the night. Take time and plan and include a session like this in the ‘Prepare Phase!’ Understand here that this is an opportunity to test kit, not only yourself. Is your head torch bright enough, how do temperatures vary, how does my appetite and requirement for fluid change etc. By doing this in training, you do it in a safe environment. If it all goes badly, you can always make a call and get picked up or get a taxi. You can’t do that in your race or event. Darkness and nighttime can play tricks.
Back-to-back runs may well have featured in your training but running/ walking tired is a skill. However, be careful how you plan this in training. You want adapt body and mind, not break them.
Perform training with rationed water and race/ event food. You need to learn what works and what doesn’t work. It’s all very well going for a long run and then getting home and eating chocolate and drinking Coca Cola – can you do that in your event? Mentally this can be a real tough challenge – be prepared.
Your pack will be with you for the duration of your event. It must be as light as possible and also sturdy enough to last the challenge without breaking. Be minimalist on equipment and purchase the lightest equipment possible. Remember though, lightweight can often mean less durable, less warm, less functional and so on… Better to break or damage equipment in training so that you can make changes ready for the important challenge ahead. Modify and adapt.
Be specific. Snow, mountains, altitude, heat, or cold. Understand the demands that will be placed on you in your challenge and plan for a specific phase (typically in the 2-3 weeks before the event) to help acclimate. This could be a heat chamber, it could be arriving early before an event and adjusting to high altitude, it could be some specific cold, ice or snow training.
Plan an ‘event simulation’ that will require you to run for a specific distance, be self-sufficient overnight, sleep in a similar scenario/ situation to your event and then get up and run the next day. This can be a key element in understanding what does and does not work. Is your sleeping mat comfortable? Is the sleeping bag warm? Did your food taste good? How easy was it to cook? How about snacks, did they work? How was the pack weight and distribution of contents?
Train with your pack and add weight, however, be careful NOT to do too much training with too much weight. This can result in injury. In addition, learn how to pack your bag so that it sits comfortably with minimal bounce. Understand where to put snacks so that you can access them on the go.
Feet and shoes. Please do not ask. ‘What shoe shall I use for ‘X’ Event?’ Runners are individuals and what works for one does not work for others. Gait, foot shape, foot width, foot length, toe length, run conditions and so on all impact. Read THIS article on how to find the correct run shoe.
Food glorious food. Calories are essential for an event, so is what they weigh. Understand food and its nutritional values and make sound educated choices that balance fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Also understand that taste changes. Sweet may be ok early on but typically savory is better as time passes. Is beef jerky better than nuts? What food rehydrates quickly or with cold/ warm water? Should I take bars? What about protein drinks? So many questions… They need answering!
You only have to do three things at most multi-day events:
All three impact on each other, so, make sure you have all of them dialed.
Finally, remember, we are all individual. What works for one person, will not work for another. It is your responsibility to take ownership of yourself, the challenge you are undertaking and the challenges it will bring. Ultimately, that is why you signed up, no?
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