Author: Luke Jay, @adrenalinproject
Are you are getting ready for a race that’s longer than average? Maybe a 50 miler, an Ironman or a century bike race? You’re nuts! Welcome to the club. Early in my ultra-ventures I got some wise advice from some seasoned veterans as well as discovering some other kooky tricks to improve. Here are some “ultra-hacks” as you train for a long running race. Toss these simple things into your normal training to help your body and mind be more adaptable and prepared. Some of these tricks can also help you if you’re a cyclist, triathlete or in any other sport where you’re pushing your body to its limits for long periods of time.
1. MIX UP THE TIME OF DAY
Do you normally run early in the morning? I have found it super beneficial to mix up the time of day I train leading into an ultra. Do morning runs, do some midday runs, evening, and night runs. Even run once in the morning and again that night. Do some night runs with your headlamp (you will also look super BA). The more prepared your body is at running a different times, there will be less shock to your system whether it’s noon or sunset and you’re still effing running.
2. MIX UP YOUR STOMACH
Do you have a food ritual you follow before most of your runs? Occasionally toss it out and run on a super empty stomach. For a slightly more entertaining option eat a bunch of food and then go run. In an ultra you will be running and moving for 12-30 hrs...so guess what? You’re going to feel empty, and sometimes totally stuffed. Get used to running with an uncomfortable belly. I would suggest doing these on your basic 1-2hr runs…ideally you wouldn’t totally screw up your long runs by eating a giant burrito or donut (but go for it if you want). No need to do these all the time, but a handful of these full/empty runs will help your body adapt, and your head to know you can keep moving with a less than ideal state of stomach.
3. GET WET
Before your next run soak your shoes. Get used to running with damp feet, dirty feet, wet feet, and muddy feet. On one of my favorite 2hr run loops there is a creek about halfway. I will often trudge through the water so I finish my last half with wet or muddy feet. Occasionally grab your hose as you head out the door and soak your shoes. This will also assure your neighbors you are as crazy as they think you are. Again this is as much for your mind as your feet.
4. VASELINE IS YOUR BUDDY
Start your race and long runs with Vaseline in all right places. Don’t wait for the chafe to start. I start every race with Vaseline all over my toes and a clean pair of socks. I also start with a bit of Vaseline in a few other areas I may or may not mention…you know your spots! Treat these babies with care. Have your crew remind you to LUBE (it’s easy to forget during a race) and even carry a small 2oz tube in your vest or shorts the whole time.
5. EAT REAL FOOD
In my opinion using real food during racing and training is key. The new Skratch bars are great. Clean ingredients, not too sweet, and easy to carry on long runs. Avoid products with dyes and weird chemicals/additives. During long races I find myself reaching for stuff like watermelon, cantaloupe, and soup broth at aid stations. I also keep a bag of skratch chews or a skratch bar handy for easy quality calories on the run. Make sure you are drinking skratch drink mix throughout the entire race (when thirsty) to keep your sodium intake sufficient.
6. VISUALIZE THE SH*T HITTING THE FAN
Staying positive is key and mindset can often be overlooked. That is why I recommend visualizing what can and might go wrong and what you will do well before you start. How will I handle a gnarly blister, what if I puke, what if I miss my crew, poop my pants, or take a wrong turn? If you have a plan for some logical ways to deal with the “what if’s” then you’ll be ready if it happens, and if it doesn’t then you will have a little celebration party in your head. This will also take away stress during the race, cause you got a plan.
Stay committed, ENJOY the process and embrace the challenge. Not everyone gets the opportunity to do these crazy things. You’re in good company!