Written by Neil Bryant 

I have run a few races that I class as really long. These being single stage races, over 200 miles such as the Tor des Geants or the Spine. The main difference between these races and say a 100 miler, is that most people won't need to sleep during a 100, whereas the opposite is true for the 200+ miler. Other than the sleep, it is simply more time on your feet and generally higher fatigue rates. Oh, and let's not forget that isincredibly intimidating to stand on the start line of a 250-mile race. A 250-mile drive on a motorway is bad enough!

Tor4

So, how do you get through such a huge race? How do you train? What are the main difficulties you will face? 

Mental strength and Self-belief

This,for me is the biggest strength you need for the longer races. The longer the race, the more of a mental strength is needed to tackle it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not dismissing the physical side of things, just trying to highlight the importance of a strong mental approach to these races.

How can this sort of strength be encouraged to grow? Well, you could work your way through races, getting slightly longer and/or harder over time. It works. The more you do, the more your comfort level grows. When you started running you may have been intimidated by a marathon, but now you are not as you have run a few 50 milers. 

You could also do some challenges of your own, such as catching a train 50 miles away and running home or doing a two day run and bivvying overnight or running all through the night and anything else that your imagination can dream up. These sorts of personal challenges are great for confidence but are also incredibly fulfilling. They also teach you how you operate when heavily fatigued.

We are all different though. Some people can jump into a big challenge, whereas others prefer a longer, methodical build up. Experience is the key that will help everyone better understand the task ahead. For example, it wasn't till my third very long race where I felt that I had really optimised my sleep pattern.

Physical strength

I won't go into any specifics about exactly what you should be doing each day, more about what is actually needed to comfortably finish. 

If you do, or have ever done some serious marathon training, then that would be adequate for a 100 miler, and if you are 100 mile fit, then you are 250 mile fit. It also is dependent on your mental outlook. Many people feel that you need to do mega mileage to prepare for a super long race, but I disagree. Yes, if you wanted to get a top 20 result, then some heavier mileage could well help, but heavy mileage is risky for injuries, and many of us just don't have the time in our lives to be out for a few hours a day.

This is where a few big days, or even back to back days can really help build the self-belief that you and your body can actually pull it off. See if you can book a training camp (or holiday to your partner) so you can get some bigger days in. Just a long weekend somewhere is all that's needed, but it can really help your mental and physical preparation.

Remember to train for what you are realistically going to be doing in the race. Running slowly, and plenty of walking! Practising a fast and efficient walk can help your overall speed a great deal, and many people will neglect this area in their preparation.

If it is a mountain race then practice walking uphill, and in equal measure, running downhill. Practice descending as smoothly as possible.The downhills are where a great deal of micro damage will occur in your muscles and if this can be minimised then it should be.

Finally, I would strongly advise poles, no matter how much you are against them. They can really be very useful, the more tired you get. Crossing rivers, stability in slippery conditions, uphill rhythm, and ideal if you get a minor injury that you can still run with but need the extra 'legs'. You must practice with them before the event as poorly used poles can be fairly useless.

Have a plan

Do you plan to the nth degree for every race, or are you super chilled and not even look at the route before race day? I would suggest that whichever camp you fall in, to have some planning. Due to the length of these races and the confusing, drunken levels of fatigue that you may well experience, some simple rules can really help out and save time. 

Some things to consider:

  • Clothing – Think about all the weather you could experience over the week (which can be the full range!) Is that super light waterproof jacket going to be any use if it snows and you are struggling to keep warm? Maybe have spare shoes in your drop bag? If it gets really cold which is massively heightened when really tired, do you have enough layers? Do you have protection from the sun (hat, arms and neck)?

  • Pace - Decide how you would like to pace it. You will be walking a lot, but when and how much? I walked almost all the uphills in the Tor, Onlyrunning the gentlest of slopes. You have to always consider the whole race. Try not to get caught out in racing others in the first 100 miles or even more!

  • Drop bags – If you get the opportunity to use one, then use it! it can be a lifesaver during a longer event. A few changes of clothes, A few pairs of shoes, some food treats, and any other little luxury that you couldn't carry but may give a big boost.

  • Check point discipline - I like to have discipline with being as slick as possible at the check points, as it is so easy to sit, staring vacantly at the wall, in the warmth while the time just flies by. Before I arrive, I will mentally go through everything and work out the order to do it all in. Eating, drinking, picking up food supplies, changing clothes, filling up water bottles etc. It is all so simple, but so important too. It is so easy to forget one thing. 

  • Route knowledge – it is an advantage to at least have a basic understanding of the course. Many runners will have been studying it for months and will know exactly what is around every corner. This all comes down to your personality. Do you like to know exactly what is happening or do you like things a little more casual. I fall a little more on the side of casual and would spend a minute studying the next section at each checkpoint before leaving. Knowing there is a climb that could take 3 hrs beforehand is much better than climbing for 3 hrs and not having a clue when the torture will end!

  • Knowledge database - There is a reason that when many hard races are born, they have a higher DNF rate than now, and that is because over time, the experience and knowledge that is gained over the years, trickles down to the new runners, and confidence grows, and the success rates grow.Many of us (all?) have a love hate relationship with the internet and in particular social media, but it does have its advantages. Joining the right groups and connecting with previous runners is one great way of picking up some valuable information. Also, just visit this site, and read others race reports which are a goldmine for nuggets of information that could help you finish, plus they can really get you very excited and motivated about the challenge ahead.

Sleep

Now this is where it can all go so badly wrong if you don't get it right. Believe me, I know! If you hallucinate then you should have slept earlier!

My simple rule is to sleep if youfeel tired and not push on to the next checkpoint. You see, when you get into such a poor, tired state, there is nothing positive about it. You move a lot slower, you feel colder and most dangerously, your judgement is clouded at the best. It suddenly becomes very difficult to look after yourself, especially when you are in the mountains in hostile conditions. Keeping yourself warm, dry, fed and watered suddenly become huge tasks and simple decision making goes to pot. Basically, if you get just a little more sleep, you will move faster, and be able to look after yourself much better. Don't wait till you are about to drop. Don't get caught up running with others as we all have different sleep demands at different times. Some people just power nap for 20 mins, but this is not enough for me I have learnt. 1.5hrs or 2hrs a day works well for me. But remember that you need to experiment to find your own optimum amount.

Coaching

If the preparation is all a bit too overwhelming, then maybe consider coaching. A good coach with relevant experience, will be able to help you structure your training, choose equipment and will be able to answer all your questions that will make things seem more manageable. Drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested.

Do it!

These are just my simple observations about what works and what doesn't over the longer single stage ultras where sleep becomes essential. But you must remember that you need to get out there and try things out. I just want to take some of the fear away from these 200 plus mile events so that more of you try them. They are hard, mentally and physically, but the reward from finishing one of these monsters is huge. With the right mindset, and as long as the body still works, most people could finish one, so why not enter one? What could possibly go wrong!

Written by Chris Ellyatt for the URC

I’m sure that we have all seen a thousand articles on how important rest is to any athlete’s schedule. Indeed, it has often been described as the ‘low-hanging fruit of recovery’. To the ultrarunner, however, the idea of an extended rest period can be about as appealing as a post-100 foam rolling session. With that in mind, I would like to share an anecdote of my recent experiences and how they illustrate the importance of strategic rest periods.

So it’s now the end of September, and I have just come off the back of my best season so far as a runner. At 24 years old I am still very new to the running scene, even more so to ultras. With a concentrated effort I have managed to drop my 10k time by 3 minutes in one year, and completed my first 100k and 100 mile events in a single season.

Even with my supposed fountain of youth, these kind of gains in a single season are simply unsustainable for the majority of athletes. Undeniably, all one needs to do is take a look at the history of the Tour de France to see the lengths athletes have previously gone to in order to maintain season-long efforts.

As I write this piece, I am lying in bed with a serious case of man-flu. It is well-known that extended high-level training will almost certainly impair the immune system, and even being a 20-something year old offers only limited protection against it.

If you are running throughout the year with a particular race or set of races in mind, I highly advocate a reasonably lengthy rest period after the race season is over. Whilst I imagine one could run and stay fit the entire year round if done properly, the ravages of racing hard demand time for the body to fully recover.

I had noticed that after my 100k in June, aches had suddenly become twinges, and early morning sessions became immeasurably harder to get up and do. In fact, I think that one of the easiest signs to spot of over-exertion is how long you want to sleep for. An increased desire for sleep is the natural response to repair and growth of our bodies – just look at children. This anabolic activity is the only time our muscles, nervous system and immune systems can truly recuperate and potentially improve. You don’t get stronger during exercise – you get stronger during sleep.

article1

1st place at the T60 Night Race and the start of recovery problems

I could see all these little signs increasing through the summer. Yet, of course, having already committed to my first 100 mile race, I moved towards the North Downs Way 100 in August with absolutely no intentions of a DNS. Aches, tweaks and general fatigue were easy to dismiss as I compartmentalised my thought process. I am sure this is easy for many ultrarunners to relate to.

I completed the race and achieved my goal of sub 24hrs – just. Unfortunately my body was clearly not ready for the stresses I had imposed on it, and I spent the next 3 days in hospital recovering from rhabdomyolysis (severe muscle breakdown). I genuinely think that had I used ibroprufen during the race, it would have been the last straw for my kidneys in this situation.

article2

Not looking so great after the NDW100. This is when you have to listen to your body.

It took around 2-3 weeks before I could ditch the crutches. Although I was in quite severe pain from the scar tissue, it also became quite apparent to me that the huge amounts of opioid painkillers I had been prescribed had become a replacement for running. Luckily I managed to wean these down quite successfully and finally got off them.

What I should have done at this point was take 3-4 weeks off and completely rest my mind and body. But such is the mindset of sportspeople, I was back doing core sessions before I even had my broken foot out of its cast! It is amazing how you can justify these things to yourself once you start imagining all your fitness seeping away from you.

The reality is that your base fitness takes months, perhaps even years to be truly lost. A month or two after a hard race season will be far more beneficial than trying to maintain a training schedule. It is also an opportunity to relax and appreciate the other parts of life which we so often ignore. I often think that we can be somewhat blind to the obsession we have in this sport, and it’s not unfair to say that this can damage relationships with others. Maybe that’s me projecting!

So now, sitting here with a battered immune system and feeling pretty exhausted as we head to winter, I’ve come round the realisation that it’s not an ‘impressive’ feat to keep training regardless. It is simply unbeneficial and tactically poor.

I’m not entirely sure how useful this anecdote is, simply because if I had read it at the start of this season, I would have done exactly the same thing regardless. It takes a true hammering to actually realise that athletes go on about recovery for a reason! But if it helps just one person to reconsider their post-season recovery strategy than I will consider this as useful time spent.

Written by Andy Mouncey for RunUltra

It is just weeks now till the glorious 1300+ will be heading off to Morocco to get their feet nice and hot on the sand for the Marathon Des Sables 2016. Andy Mouncey, coach, speaker and writer on all things running, has some excellent last minute advice for everyone preparing to run.
Minimize The Faff Factor

Your personal organization during race week may be the difference between screaming and crying and happy-smiley. Kit choices should be tried and tested by now all in a variety of conditions and by you in a variety of conditions.

    Can you reach your bottles?
    Which side are your snacks?
    Nothing chafes and rubs, right?
    No irritating little details either?
    If you need to do running repairs on your feet (a) do you know what you’re doing (b) is the kit to hand?

Practise, practise, practise.
What You Do Between Stages

In my opinion and experience, it’s the things you do – or don’t do – between the finish line and the start line of the next stage that makes the biggest difference to how you last the week. Will you maximize your recovery through deliberate choices or just tag along with the rest of the folks in your tent?

Have a post-finish line and a pre-start line routine written down and rehearsed and be ruthless in its application. There’s still time to come up with one. Think of the stage finish line as AFTER you finish your post-stage routine. Sure, you want to socialize at the end of stage – and you can do that after you sort you out: the next stage depends on it.
Stay Off The Forums

Everyone has an opinion – usually just based on their own experience - and social media has these available in abundance. This is the last place you want to be on the eve of your big adventure. If you have even a hint of nerves it can be spectacularly unhelpful to view the helpfully posted pictures of meticulously organized Gucci-kit by buffed and ripped MdS wannabes, or read how much mileage they’ve clocked up.

Now is the time to focus on you and your stuff  because you know what they say: ‘When the flag drops, the bull**** stops.’
Feel The Heat

If you’re coming out of a northern hemisphere winter then April in the desert can be a big shock. Build confidence in your ability to handle the heat by allocating some of your runs: ‘Over-dressed.’

The budget version is to go all Rocky Balboa and head out with lots of layers to a point of being ridiculously overdressed. Build up duration and layers as you would with any progression. Or you can sit on a stationary cycle with the heat turned up. Or if you have time and money to burn you can put a treadmill into your spare room, close the windows, line the inside with plastic sheeting and turn on the free-standing burners. Bet there’s a YouTube for that…

Bikram yoga is also an option.
What If..?

Having a response planned in advance usually makes dealing with a setback much easier. So it is here. One of the most valuable coaching tools I have – and most used with my clients – is the Scenario Plan that does exactly what it says on the tin. It prompts us to come up with possible and probable situations the client may encounter, and it provides a framework to write down and rehearse responses.

So I assume by now you know what you will do if:

    Your flight is delayed
    You struggle to sleep pre-race
    You start way too fast on the first stage and blow up
    You want to kill your tent buddies

If you don’t, there’s still time to plan your responses so that if/when they happen for real you have already chosen how to respond in a way that is consistent with your race goals.

Enjoy – and may the sand always be outside your shoes!
- See more at: http://www.runultra.co.uk/Articles/February-2016/Marathon-Des-Sables-The-Final-Countdown-5-things-t#sthash.8VnA3SpO.dpuf

It is just weeks now till the glorious 1300+ will be heading off to Morocco to get their feet nice and hot on the sand for the Marathon Des Sables 2016. Andy Mouncey, coach, speaker and writer on all things running, has some excellent last minute advice for everyone preparing to run.

Minimize The Faff Factor

Your personal organization during race week may be the difference between screaming and crying and happy-smiley. Kit choices should be tried and tested by now all in a variety of conditions and by you in a variety of conditions.

  • Can you reach your bottles?
  • Which side are your snacks?
  • Nothing chafes and rubs, right?
  • No irritating little details either?
  • If you need to do running repairs on your feet (a) do you know what you’re doing (b) is the kit to hand?

Practise, practise, practise.

What You Do Between Stages

In my opinion and experience, it’s the things you do – or don’t do – between the finish line and the start line of the next stage that makes the biggest difference to how you last the week. Will you maximize your recovery through deliberate choices or just tag along with the rest of the folks in your tent?

Have a post-finish line and a pre-start line routine written down and rehearsed and be ruthless in its application. There’s still time to come up with one. Think of the stage finish line as AFTER you finish your post-stage routine. Sure, you want to socialize at the end of stage – and you can do that after you sort you out: the next stage depends on it.

Stay Off The Forums

Everyone has an opinion – usually just based on their own experience - and social media has these available in abundance. This is the last place you want to be on the eve of your big adventure. If you have even a hint of nerves it can be spectacularly unhelpful to view the helpfully posted pictures of meticulously organized Gucci-kit by buffed and ripped MdS wannabes, or read how much mileage they’ve clocked up.

Now is the time to focus on you and your stuff  because you know what they say: ‘When the flag drops, the bull**** stops.’

Feel The Heat

If you’re coming out of a northern hemisphere winter then April in the desert can be a big shock. Build confidence in your ability to handle the heat by allocating some of your runs: ‘Over-dressed.’

The budget version is to go all Rocky Balboa and head out with lots of layers to a point of being ridiculously overdressed. Build up duration and layers as you would with any progression. Or you can sit on a stationary cycle with the heat turned up. Or if you have time and money to burn you can put a treadmill into your spare room, close the windows, line the inside with plastic sheeting and turn on the free-standing burners. Bet there’s a YouTube for that…

Bikram yoga is also an option.

What If..?

Having a response planned in advance usually makes dealing with a setback much easier. So it is here. One of the most valuable coaching tools I have – and most used with my clients – is the Scenario Plan that does exactly what it says on the tin. It prompts us to come up with possible and probable situations the client may encounter, and it provides a framework to write down and rehearse responses.

So I assume by now you know what you will do if:

  • Your flight is delayed
  • You struggle to sleep pre-race
  • You start way too fast on the first stage and blow up
  • You want to kill your tent buddies

If you don’t, there’s still time to plan your responses so that if/when they happen for real you have already chosen how to respond in a way that is consistent with your race goals.

Enjoy – and may the sand always be outside your shoes!

- See more at: http://www.runultra.co.uk/Articles/February-2016/Marathon-Des-Sables-The-Final-Countdown-5-things-t#sthash.8VnA3SpO.dpuf

It is just weeks now till the glorious 1300+ will be heading off to Morocco to get their feet nice and hot on the sand for the Marathon Des Sables 2016. Andy Mouncey, coach, speaker and writer on all things running, has some excellent last minute advice for everyone preparing to run.

Minimize The Faff Factor

Your personal organization during race week may be the difference between screaming and crying and happy-smiley. Kit choices should be tried and tested by now all in a variety of conditions and by you in a variety of conditions.

  • Can you reach your bottles?
  • Which side are your snacks?
  • Nothing chafes and rubs, right?
  • No irritating little details either?
  • If you need to do running repairs on your feet (a) do you know what you’re doing (b) is the kit to hand?

Practise, practise, practise.

What You Do Between Stages

In my opinion and experience, it’s the things you do – or don’t do – between the finish line and the start line of the next stage that makes the biggest difference to how you last the week. Will you maximize your recovery through deliberate choices or just tag along with the rest of the folks in your tent?

Have a post-finish line and a pre-start line routine written down and rehearsed and be ruthless in its application. There’s still time to come up with one. Think of the stage finish line as AFTER you finish your post-stage routine. Sure, you want to socialize at the end of stage – and you can do that after you sort you out: the next stage depends on it.

Stay Off The Forums

Everyone has an opinion – usually just based on their own experience - and social media has these available in abundance. This is the last place you want to be on the eve of your big adventure. If you have even a hint of nerves it can be spectacularly unhelpful to view the helpfully posted pictures of meticulously organized Gucci-kit by buffed and ripped MdS wannabes, or read how much mileage they’ve clocked up.

Now is the time to focus on you and your stuff  because you know what they say: ‘When the flag drops, the bull**** stops.’

Feel The Heat

If you’re coming out of a northern hemisphere winter then April in the desert can be a big shock. Build confidence in your ability to handle the heat by allocating some of your runs: ‘Over-dressed.’

The budget version is to go all Rocky Balboa and head out with lots of layers to a point of being ridiculously overdressed. Build up duration and layers as you would with any progression. Or you can sit on a stationary cycle with the heat turned up. Or if you have time and money to burn you can put a treadmill into your spare room, close the windows, line the inside with plastic sheeting and turn on the free-standing burners. Bet there’s a YouTube for that…

Bikram yoga is also an option.

What If..?

Having a response planned in advance usually makes dealing with a setback much easier. So it is here. One of the most valuable coaching tools I have – and most used with my clients – is the Scenario Plan that does exactly what it says on the tin. It prompts us to come up with possible and probable situations the client may encounter, and it provides a framework to write down and rehearse responses.

So I assume by now you know what you will do if:

  • Your flight is delayed
  • You struggle to sleep pre-race
  • You start way too fast on the first stage and blow up
  • You want to kill your tent buddies

If you don’t, there’s still time to plan your responses so that if/when they happen for real you have already chosen how to respond in a way that is consistent with your race goals.

Enjoy – and may the sand always be outside your shoes!

- See more at: http://www.runultra.co.uk/Articles/February-2016/Marathon-Des-Sables-The-Final-Countdown-5-things-t#sthash.8VnA3SpO.dpuf

It is just weeks now till the glorious 1300+ will be heading off to Morocco to get their feet nice and hot on the sand for the Marathon Des Sables 2016. Andy Mouncey, coach, speaker and writer on all things running, has some excellent last minute advice for everyone preparing to run.

Minimize The Faff Factor

Your personal organization during race week may be the difference between screaming and crying and happy-smiley. Kit choices should be tried and tested by now all in a variety of conditions and by you in a variety of conditions.

  • Can you reach your bottles?
  • Which side are your snacks?
  • Nothing chafes and rubs, right?
  • No irritating little details either?
  • If you need to do running repairs on your feet (a) do you know what you’re doing (b) is the kit to hand?

Practise, practise, practise.

What You Do Between Stages

In my opinion and experience, it’s the things you do – or don’t do – between the finish line and the start line of the next stage that makes the biggest difference to how you last the week. Will you maximize your recovery through deliberate choices or just tag along with the rest of the folks in your tent?

Have a post-finish line and a pre-start line routine written down and rehearsed and be ruthless in its application. There’s still time to come up with one. Think of the stage finish line as AFTER you finish your post-stage routine. Sure, you want to socialize at the end of stage – and you can do that after you sort you out: the next stage depends on it.

Stay Off The Forums

Everyone has an opinion – usually just based on their own experience - and social media has these available in abundance. This is the last place you want to be on the eve of your big adventure. If you have even a hint of nerves it can be spectacularly unhelpful to view the helpfully posted pictures of meticulously organized Gucci-kit by buffed and ripped MdS wannabes, or read how much mileage they’ve clocked up.

Now is the time to focus on you and your stuff  because you know what they say: ‘When the flag drops, the bull**** stops.’

Feel The Heat

If you’re coming out of a northern hemisphere winter then April in the desert can be a big shock. Build confidence in your ability to handle the heat by allocating some of your runs: ‘Over-dressed.’

The budget version is to go all Rocky Balboa and head out with lots of layers to a point of being ridiculously overdressed. Build up duration and layers as you would with any progression. Or you can sit on a stationary cycle with the heat turned up. Or if you have time and money to burn you can put a treadmill into your spare room, close the windows, line the inside with plastic sheeting and turn on the free-standing burners. Bet there’s a YouTube for that…

Bikram yoga is also an option.

What If..?

Having a response planned in advance usually makes dealing with a setback much easier. So it is here. One of the most valuable coaching tools I have – and most used with my clients – is the Scenario Plan that does exactly what it says on the tin. It prompts us to come up with possible and probable situations the client may encounter, and it provides a framework to write down and rehearse responses.

So I assume by now you know what you will do if:

  • Your flight is delayed
  • You struggle to sleep pre-race
  • You start way too fast on the first stage and blow up
  • You want to kill your tent buddies

If you don’t, there’s still time to plan your responses so that if/when they happen for real you have already chosen how to respond in a way that is consistent with your race goals.

Enjoy – and may the sand always be outside your shoes!

- See more at: http://www.runultra.co.uk/Articles/February-2016/Marathon-Des-Sables-The-Final-Countdown-5-things-t#sthash.8VnA3SpO.dpuf

It is just weeks now till the glorious 1300+ will be heading off to Morocco to get their feet nice and hot on the sand for the Marathon Des Sables 2016. Andy Mouncey, coach, speaker and writer on all things running, has some excellent last minute advice for everyone preparing to run.

Minimize The Faff Factor

Your personal organization during race week may be the difference between screaming and crying and happy-smiley. Kit choices should be tried and tested by now all in a variety of conditions and by you in a variety of conditions.

  • Can you reach your bottles?
  • Which side are your snacks?
  • Nothing chafes and rubs, right?
  • No irritating little details either?
  • If you need to do running repairs on your feet (a) do you know what you’re doing (b) is the kit to hand?

Practise, practise, practise.

What You Do Between Stages

In my opinion and experience, it’s the things you do – or don’t do – between the finish line and the start line of the next stage that makes the biggest difference to how you last the week. Will you maximize your recovery through deliberate choices or just tag along with the rest of the folks in your tent?

Have a post-finish line and a pre-start line routine written down and rehearsed and be ruthless in its application. There’s still time to come up with one. Think of the stage finish line as AFTER you finish your post-stage routine. Sure, you want to socialize at the end of stage – and you can do that after you sort you out: the next stage depends on it.

Stay Off The Forums

Everyone has an opinion – usually just based on their own experience - and social media has these available in abundance. This is the last place you want to be on the eve of your big adventure. If you have even a hint of nerves it can be spectacularly unhelpful to view the helpfully posted pictures of meticulously organized Gucci-kit by buffed and ripped MdS wannabes, or read how much mileage they’ve clocked up.

Now is the time to focus on you and your stuff  because you know what they say: ‘When the flag drops, the bull**** stops.’

Feel The Heat

If you’re coming out of a northern hemisphere winter then April in the desert can be a big shock. Build confidence in your ability to handle the heat by allocating some of your runs: ‘Over-dressed.’

The budget version is to go all Rocky Balboa and head out with lots of layers to a point of being ridiculously overdressed. Build up duration and layers as you would with any progression. Or you can sit on a stationary cycle with the heat turned up. Or if you have time and money to burn you can put a treadmill into your spare room, close the windows, line the inside with plastic sheeting and turn on the free-standing burners. Bet there’s a YouTube for that…

Bikram yoga is also an option.

What If..?

Having a response planned in advance usually makes dealing with a setback much easier. So it is here. One of the most valuable coaching tools I have – and most used with my clients – is the Scenario Plan that does exactly what it says on the tin. It prompts us to come up with possible and probable situations the client may encounter, and it provides a framework to write down and rehearse responses.

So I assume by now you know what you will do if:

  • Your flight is delayed
  • You struggle to sleep pre-race
  • You start way too fast on the first stage and blow up
  • You want to kill your tent buddies

If you don’t, there’s still time to plan your responses so that if/when they happen for real you have already chosen how to respond in a way that is consistent with your race goals.

Enjoy – and may the sand always be outside your shoes!

- See more at: http://www.runultra.co.uk/Articles/February-2016/Marathon-Des-Sables-The-Final-Countdown-5-things-t#sthash.8VnA3SpO.dpuf

Running in the mountains is hard. I’m certainly not going to say it’s harder than other running, but it needs to be treated differently. Many experienced runners get a sharp shock when they first race in the mountains.

Mountain

I was quite an experienced ultra runner myself before moving to Chamonix three years ago. It took quite a while for me to adjust my running to suit the mountains, and even now I won’t claim it is any where near perfect.

I have now gathered some great mountain experience and I would like to share some of the main points that need to be considered if you want to be prepared for your first mountain experience or you want to improve.

  1. Walk up hills. Now this is one of the biggest sticking points for flatlanders. There is something in many of us runner's brains, that thinks that walking means we have failed. Some ascents will be runnable, but depending on your state, the gradient, and the length of the climb, many alpine ascents should be walked. Walking can be a lot more economical than a run, and when it is very steep and long it can actually be quicker. My fastest time up the Vertical KM here in Chamonix was done when I walked around 60% of the course. There is no shame in walking. The best in the world will walk when the going gets tough.
  1. Practice power hiking! The first point will only be effective if you have a fast power hike. This is something that should be practised. Some people hike incredibly fast and will take so much time out of someone who labours away running every hill. Practise with short steps. This is when poles are at their most valuable if you use them. It’s all about getting a fast rhythm going which the tapping of the poles can certainly help. If you don’t use poles, then push your hands against your thighs on the steep sections to utilise you upper body power. Ideally if you have access to a steep hill of at least five minutes, then do hill reps, but hike the whole thing. Try to improve your times.
  1. Experiment with poles. Poles, like walking are treated with disgust by many. I won’t get into that, but if used correctly they can really help some people. They can help set a rhythm, add stability, help utilise your upper body during ascents and even help you if you are injured (I may not have finished the Spine without mine!). The major downside for me personally, is that it creates extra faff as your hands are always full which is frustrating. It is a very personal thing. Just give them a go. If you’re not keen, then at least you know.
  1. Do not compare speed in the mountains to flatter runs. This may sound really obvious and easy, but it isn’t always. Roughly speaking, my time spent running is the same, but the distance covered is at the best, around half what I used to cover. So, initially this was difficult to understand. I knew it was hilly, but to go so much slower! The best way to measure your training is by time not distance. Height gain also adds another useful dimension.
  1. Run all the flatter more runnable sections. If you are trying to go as fast as you can, then whenever the gradients ease, run. Many times I have found myself walking along a very runnable section of trail wasting time, dreaming of some unobtainable food probably! Stay focused on economical pacing and adjust accordingly. For me, one of the great things of mountain running, is that there are lots of changes in style and speed. The variety keeps things interesting. From running ups to walking ups, to dancing down the descents to racing along the flats, things are constantly changing, and the skill is knowing when to do what.
  1. Train for the descents. If you don’t have access to huge, steep descents, then you will probably want a new set of quads after your first big mountain run. When you descend for an hour, it can feel great, liberating and will take you back to your childhood, but the forces this is putting on your untrained quads is extreme and either later in the day or, disguised as DOMS, a few days later, you will be crippled with an intense soreness. If you don’t live in the mountains, then find you local biggest hill and do sprints repeats DOWN it. Stay in control though as you will be no use with a sprained ankle!
  1. Practice technical running. You could be the fastest runner up and down mountains, but if you can’t effortlessly cruise over the difficult terrain the mountains throw at you, you will never win. When you have a decent level of confidence on the technical terrain, you will move faster, have more fun and will be less prone to injury. To improve you need to find a hill that you hate to run down. Tree roots, steep, rocks, loose rocks, wet, slippery and super twisty is all good. Again, take short, fast steps.
  1. Altitude. Here is a difficult one if you live in the UK or are not to far from sea level with no real easy access to the higher altitudes. Of course, not all mountains are high enough to have any real impact on your performance, but as soon as courses climb above 2500 metres, many people will start feeling the effects. The interesting thing is that some people just seem to cope much better than others, and that is not fitness related! What can be done about this? Well, if you have no access to higher terrain, then just be aware of the higher parts of races, and when you get there don’t fight it. Your performance will drop and things will become much more laboured. It’s fine, just keep moving and when you descend you will recover. If you push harder then you might well get into trouble.

Moving fast through the mountains is an incredible experience, and like anything, the better you get the more fun! Most people are hooked once they begin.

Remember that the mountains are the boss, so always have a great respect and always be prepared as things can change very quickly.

Written by Neil Bryant who lives in Chamonix, France. Neil has much experience in big mountain races and anything else ultra. He also is a coach training clients online all over the world. To find out more click here

Written by Dave Stuart - http://76thmile.blogspot.co.uk

Or how to run a race and not get lapped by the sun

 Things that are essential to do in the 6 months before you race

- You should be running at least 50 miles a week (lots of 200+ months)
- You need to a follow a training plan
- Pacers and a crew are essential. Use this time to get at least one pacer and ideally at least two crew members
- Don't even think about signing up for the race if you have never run more than 50 miles
- Back to back runs are essential. Ideally you should be aiming for a 50mile / 50 mile weekend and plenty of 35 / 15s if you want to finish, let alone break 24 hours.

I did none of these  in the 6 months before the Centurion TP100

Things I did in the 6 months before 

Started well with a 183 miles in December with bonus miles due to London Bridge being shut so lots of extra commuter running miles.
January - mile 123 of the month was when things went wrong. I slipped trying to turn and run up some steps next to Blackfriars station and fell. Nothing too serious but bent back fingers. I got to work, showered and carried on with my day. A couple of hours later it didn't seem right so went to Guy's hospital urgent care unit. Turns out I had broken my 4 and 5th metacarpal bones in my left hand and required surgery. 14 weeks to go until the start of the TP100.



If you can't run then walk

My normal day involves a lunchtime run so instead I headed out with my arm in a cast and speed walked up and down the Thames with my one arm in a cast and my Garmin on the other one. Two weeks later I was up to 15- 20 mile walking weeks and also the slowest person on Strava. Good miles were sub 14 or so even with tourists on the South bank to avoid. Now if could do another 99 of those I could do a sub 24 hours for 100 miles...

Back in training

After two weeks, I had the big cast taken off and a smaller one put on. I asked the physio about running and he said it would be fine as long as I didn't get the cast and scar wet. Running lunchtimes back on with hand in a cast and the cast in a plastic bag just in case it started to rain. Proper running resumes with a 21 mile week. 10 weeks to go now

Back in proper training

Next 8 weeks was steady training with the three longest runs being two 30 mile runs on the Thames to Richmond and back plus a 28 mile run on the NDW. Now time to taper

Start line -  Zero days to go

So now I am on the start line Aaveraged 30 miles a week for the previous 6 months with a long of 30 miles. Longest run of my life was the Centurion NDW50 (9:58 - see report a bit further down). Surely this had DNF written all over it as I looked at everyone else with their Ultimate direction backpacks and purpose bought drop bags(some people have a strange idea of what "shoe box" size is) at registration. Everyone was talking through plans with their crew and arranging when to meet their pacers.

About 23 hours later

I was arriving across the finish line in 79th place with a shiny "100 miles in a day" Centurion buckle. Miracles do happen.

 

 So what is my advice?

Clearly I'm not going to recommend breaking your hand in training but there are a few other things which helped me get into the 100 miles in a day club.

There is no shame in walking

There are over a 1,000 members of the Brotherhood of Centurions 1911 and the world record for walking 100 miles is 16:31:38 which would be a very competitive running time. I made sure I put lots of walking breaks in the first 50 miles and most of the last 50 miles was walking. The average pace for a sub 24 100 is about 14 min/mile after allowing for some quick aid station stops. It was very late in the race when my walking / running dropped below this pace despite a lot of walking

Get through aid stations quickly

A typical Centurion race will have to 12-15 aid stations with amazing food and even more amazing volunteers. If you spend 15 minutes in each having a lovely cup of tea while talking to the man dressed as a chicken, you have lost 3-4 hours which is a lot of running to make up. A quick bottle top up, grab some food, make sure you say thanks and be on your way. I always try to get moving quickly but at walking pace to allow my body to digest food. My first few ultras I used a camelbak style bladder but switched to bottles as it is much easier to refill at aid stations. People will also help fill bottles but less willing to do camelbaks. The screw top of the camelbak is easy to cross thread and a lot more complicated than a bottle.

 

Speak to other runners

 It helps pass the time and it is great to find out what other people are up to. It takes your mind off the pain and reduces the risk of getting lost as you have an extra pair of eyes. You might find yourself talking to someone who answered you question about which watch / bag / jacket / shoes / socks / .. you should be using.

 

Mix up training

I had a January goal of a sub 20 minute 5k and sub 90 half marathon. This mixed things up and meant that I had a block of speed work and fitness before starting the slower ultra style high mileage slow weeks. Unfortunately my broken hand stopped things. The broken hand may have been a blessing in disguise as taking two weeks off helped me to recover (no harm having some time off)

Pick up a flattish race with good aid stations

Sub 24 will get you on the podium for Hardrock 100 so not all 100s are equal. The Centurion Thames Path 100 is a fast race on paper but being almost totally flat can lead to you going off too quickly whereas a few hills help to break things up. The T100 is a self supported race so will clearly be trickier as you have to carry you food with you. If you are going without a crew or pacers, I can highly recommend the Centurion races as they have the biggest fields so lots of company for the nighttime and lots of choice for food.

 

Read blogs and books

It helps to read about running. Puts running 100 miles into context.

- Blogs about the race and similar races
Good to know what to expect. Many Centurion blogs out there plus others on Ultrarunning community. I will put a list of my favourites on here shortly.
- Training books
Helps you avoid stupid mistakes. Hal Koerner's one is good.
- Crazy people books
It helps to normalise running 100 miles if you read about someone running across America (James Adams /Marshall Ullrich), Marshall Ullrich's Badwater Quad, Scott Jurek winning WSER on a diet of mung beans and carrots etc.  Also worth watching the "fruitarian" run the WSER only eating raw fruit and veg (lesson - don't eat avocado and dates while running)

 

And finally...

The 76th mile is the hardest. Staying up all night watching a boxset or playing poker gets tiring so trying to stay up all night having run 50+ miles is always going to be tricky. Be prepared for lots of walking and a bit of questioning you sanity but soon enough the sun will come up, your pace will improve and a shiny buckle will be waiting for you shortly.

* I am a pretty good but not amazing runner so a lot of these things will apply if you are chasing a sub 20 finish or 29:59:59. However the sub 24 title sounds better...

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