By Jason Koop
CTS Coaching Director
Author of “Training Essentials for Ultrarunning”
I had the pleasure of sharing the stage at the Western States Endurance Run with Dr. John Diana and Dr. Tracy Hoeg, and I wanted to share the video with all of you. Talking about training right before the start of an ultramarathon is always a bit of strange situation. After all, the athletes in attendance have already done their training and the last thing I want to do is make them doubt their preparation. Even if I might have structured someone’s training entirely differently, that’s irrelevant 24-48 hours before a race. Rest and confidence are the two most important things an athlete needs in those final 24-48 hours. The fitness you have is the fitness you have, whether it’s less or more or exactly what you were hoping for. I hope you’ll watch the video but to give you an idea of what is in it, here are the three main points I talked about:
Fundamental Challenge facing ultrarunners: Recognizing All That Is Trainable.
There are a ton of variable you can’t control during an ultramarathon, but there are a lot you can prepare for. Gastric distress is the leading cause of DNF in ultraendurance sports. But the gut is trainable! Spend time training your gut to handle an increased volume of fluid, or a greater number of carbohydrates per hour, etc. Many of the other reasons athletes cite for dropping out or underperforming are also trainable aspects of ultrarunning. That’s not to say training will enable you to sidestep all potential problems, but it is important for athletes to recognize areas that are trainable and work to optimize them.
Pre-race tip: REST
Last week I talked about tapering for ultrarunning and how some runners get very antsy and irritable while trying to rest before a race. The most important time to be cognizant of rest – particularly mental rest – is in the final 48 hours before your race. You have to believe you’re going to succeed. When you arrive at a race site there should be nothing left to worry about. The training is done. The packing is done. The crew plans are in place. Just rest, have fun, soak up the incredible atmosphere with your friends in the ultrarunning community.
Pre-race tip: Get cool, be cool, stay cool.
This was particularly important for Western States this year, with a cold morning start and temperatures around 100 degrees later in the day. But even if you’re doing a race elsewhere in the summer, getting cool, being cool, and staying cool are huge priorities in the heat. You don’t have a temperature gauge to tell you when your body is in trouble, and by the time you realize you’re in trouble it can be too late. The best way to deal with heat is to stay ahead of it. Don’t wait until you’re really hot to start working on getting cool; start before you heat up! There are a whole lot of ways to accomplish this, and some are mentioned in the video, but the big point is to fight against heat like it’s your biggest opponent – because it is.