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Signed up to your first Ultra this year and wondering how to train for the extra distance? Active Root Ambassador and 100k Champion Robert Turner gives us his top tips on how to plan for and then race your first ultra. Best of luck!
- Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for the race. Many training plans are 12-16 weeks in length and focus on building mileage towards your goal. When training for an ultra you are generally going a lot further than what you can comfortably run. You therefore need to make sure that you have given yourself enough time in your training plan so that you don't have to make big jumps in distance between your long weekend runs. You should also practice what you're going to be eating/drinking/wearing/using during the event.
- Training should be specific in terms of terrain and duration/distance of event. No one is ever not nervous on the starting line of an ultra, but you should be confident that you can cover the distance and are happy to spend a long time on your feet!
- Recce runs are good if you are able to get out on the course, if not then find similar terrain that you will expect in the race. Make sure you're ready for any challenges that might occur during the race by training for them. Every race is different and the last thing you want 30miles into one is an unexpected hill! Other people's blog posts can also be very informative you you can't recce the whole route.
- Make sure you have run with any kit that you might need during the race. This is really important. There's nothing worse than having to stop and re-adjust your new hydration pack in the first mile because it's already rubbing!
- In terms of training, more miles is not always the answer but instead look at your long run durations for that 'time on feet' adaptation. If the race has a lot of ascent, get some hills into you training plan.
- Does the race allow support runners or crews, if so make sure they know exactly what is exepcted of them. Discuss your race plan in terms of time and speed through checkpoints to ensure they will be there to meet you.
- Race nutrition, practice on your long training runs with whatever race nutrition you expect to use, making sure there are no adverse effects. If there is, change it! And make sure you're happy with where you're carrying it. You don't want to have to perform a houdini trick to get to your jelly babies!
- Don't miss any mandatory kit as kit checks are likely and each item is listed for your safety.
- Stick to your pacing, don't get carried away with an early fast pace. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing, they haven't done the same training as you and if you see them sprint off in the first mile, it's likely that you'll see them again.
- Stick to your hydration/nutrition plan, but be prepared to alter it mid race if needed.
- Tough spots always happen, they will pass, but if they don't, look at nutrition and hydration status. Maybe your energy levels need topping up with some Active Root?
- Never be afraid to stop and pull out from a race if there is a chance of long term injury. It's very hard to have perspective during a race, particularly if it's one you've been training hard for. But sometimes it's better to be cautious if you're in pain and live to fight another day. There's always another race.
- Make sure you have all the kit you will need for the duration of the race.
- Running through the night? Ensure you have back up batteries for the headlamp. Additional warm clothes etc, just incase the weather turns bad, which it's likely to do in Scotland!
- Enjoy it, this is why we do it.