by Sarah Brown
So the much thought about [and feared] moment has finally arrived. What an anticlimax! You have to remember there is all day to do this job. The first 20 miles are just a warm-up, a chance to visit with friends, eat and drink to set down reserves for later, recall some of your good training runs to build a little confidence and walk early and often. Let the macho guys take their testosterone off up the trail, you will be passing them in 7-8 hours feeling strong still. That will feel SO good!!
Give some thought to Aid Stations. Try not to spend too long in them, just refill on fluids and food, deal with any blisters/chaffing or other needs and go. ALWAYS be polite and thank the volunteers. Walk the first few minutes out of an aid station. This gives you a chance to eat the handfuls of goodies you picked up, have a drink and let it all settle in your stomach.
If the thought of running the full distance is too much, break it down into sections; go from aid station to aid station, or loop to loop depending on the course.
You will have bad patches, but guess what? They will pass! Your legs will do what the brain tells them to do, in this case relentless forward motion. As long as you look after yourself and keep well fueled you should be fine. Races are more likely to be ruined in the first few hours by impatience and going out too fast than in the last few hours by lack of training.
Problems in a Race
These could include stomach problems and may be solved by changing what you are eating/drinking. Slowing down for a while, taking TUMS or papaya enzymes can all help acid stomachs. Vomiting is not the end of your race, as long as you can get more fluids/fuel into your stomach gradually and gently afterwards. Think of it more as a cleansing of what didn’t work for you! It is important to concentrate on maintaining your electrolyte balance and maybe adjusting your intake to how you feel or the conditions of the day.
Blisters are miserable. By now you should have any trouble spots identified and learnt how to deal with them before problems arise, but that doesn’t mean new ones wont arise. Try to treat them when they are just hot spots. Carry whatever tape you like. Hydration levels can affect blister formation too. The book “Fixing your Feet” by John Vonhof is an excellent reference and is surprisingly good reading.
Biomechanical problems such as joint or tendon pain and cramping can occur. Some things such as cramps can be alleviated with some salty food or electrolyte tabs. Changing shoes, a bit of stretching, changing pack or even the hand you are carrying your bottle in may help ease other problems, as can a change in course from up to down hill. But a time may well come when it just gets to be more pain than it is worth. Only you can decide if it is fatigue or you are really injuring yourself. Some days it is just not smart to tough it out. A DNF is usually preferable to 6 months of injury, rest, rehabilitation and recovery.