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FALKIRK 8HR ULTRA
The Active Root Team took part in the Falkirk 8hr Ultra on Sunday. The concept was simple: run as many of the 3.8mile laps between 8am and 4pm, thus accumulating as much distance as possible. The race can be run as an individual (if you dare), or like we did, as part of a four man team where each team member does one lap before handing over to the next.
After 8hrs of running we had run just over 70miles with each team member running between 4-5 laps. The day had been notable for constant rain and an ever increasing deluge of mud that got EVERYWHERE. But we had a lot of fun and were happy with how we performed at our 2nd ultra relay. Here's what we learnt.
Eat. Eat again.
And then Eat some more. This is easier said than done. Each lap was run between 22-28minutes which meant that you had on average an hour and fifteen minutes in between each lap. For most people this is entering into the ‘unsafe zone’ for eating and running hard, but with the added difficulty of the race being 8hrs long meaning that at some point you had to eat something more than a snack.
We got into a panicked routine of trying to eat as soon as we got back, with a variety of delights consumed from cold porridge, regular pasta, snack bars, Gel Mix, energy balls & fruit pastels. At times it was a case of having to force something down, but we thought it was going to be better to be safe than sorrilly running out of energy after a few laps. No one made a mid-lap pit stop either so I don’t think we overdid it.
Much like eating, drinking can also be overlooked but it’s vital that you keep yourself hydrated, even when it’s pouring down. Even worse than running out of fuel and bonking is getting muscle cramp which will stop you dead in your tracks rather than just slowing you down.
Fortunately we had an endless supply of Hot Active Root which made drinking easy, but we also made sure to keep a standard bottle close by. An easy check on hydration levels is how often you’re visiting the portaloos – you should be going regularly!
Coffee is an interesting one. As a diuretic you certainly don’t want to be living off it and of course there’s always the problem of the low that follows the energised high. In this instance, it’s hard to prescribe gospel as everyone has a range of relationships with coffee. We chose to have an espresso after lap 2, so just before half way (this happened to be my fastest lap?!)
We learnt this the hard way the Nocturnal Ultra, where we made the error of racing our first laps. Safe to say our successive laps weren’t quite as competitive.
Pacing during this sort of event is really difficult to work out as there’s very few times when you would do what is essentially an eight hour interval session. But a steady, conservative effort is definitely the way forward. If you’ve ever run a marathon, the feeling is very similar. The early miles tick by at a breeze and it’s frustrating to hold back. Fatigue can suddenly hit though and once this happens it’s very difficult to continue that previously easy pace going. So keep it relaxed and try to finish each lap thinking ‘I could have run that quicker’ – you can always blast the last one!
Spare clothes and shoes.
This was especially important on Sunday as it was very wet and very muddy. We got into a merciless rhythm of: running; changing into clean clothes for about 45mins; changing back into running gear; run again. Although constantly changing in and out of clothes was a pain it meant we didn’t get cold and the continual revolution helped keep us moving and focused. New socks were also absolutely glorious! We’d also recommend a spare pair of shoes for running in. Firstly because it’s a nice change for your feet and secondly because the course continued to deteriorate which meant trail shoes could no longer cope and the big gun fell shoes had to be swapped in.
Our biggest bit of advice would be GIVE IT A GO. We’ve run two ultra-relays now and they are tiring, hard work and at some points mentally really tough. But the camaraderie is superb. Everyone is feeling the same increasing sense of dread going into the next lap but it’s great to get cheered on by your team mates. It’s also incredibly social in-between laps and the racing element can be enthralling as each team works out how each of their runners compares against the oppositions'. We’ll maybe see you at an Ultra Relay soon!!