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Whether you are racing for the podium or just trying to finish in one piece, here are our 5 best tactics and tips to run your race strong:
1. Create Reasonable Expectations
First off, have a plan with reasonable expectations. How long will it take you to finish and what will your average pace be? Ponder these and set realistic numbers. If you set your expectations too high and things start to slip away out there, you risk losing motivation completely. That’s not to say you can’t have high-achieving goals, but be somewhat reasonable with what you think you can actually deliver and make friends with that.
2. Don’t Be In Denial About the Pain
Running an ultra is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Don’t be in denial that the pain will come – because it will come – and it will hurt (sometimes just a tiny bit, sometimes a lot). The more ultras you run, the more you get used to it – but for first timers, it can be overbearing and totally overwhelming when you hit your first slump. Going into a race knowing and telling yourself that it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be painful (or at least uncomfortable), you’ll be able to handle things much better when the going is beginning to get really tough. If you go into a race thinking it’s going to be easy, it’s going to be very difficult to stay strong and push through it as soon as it gets hard. It’s important to not confuse discomfort and hardship along the way with unpreparedness – these aren’t the same thing at all.
3. Enjoy Yourself
After all the months of training, it’s time to finally celebrate! So whatever you do, try to enjoy your time out there. It’s sometimes easy to forget that signing up for races is voluntary, but taking on the mindset of the race being the celebration of all your hard work helps you embrace it and not view it as something scary and way-too-challenging that you regret ever registering for. And don’t forget to smile. Not only does smiling relax the body, it energizes your whole being and sends a signal to all of your cells you’re right where you want to be – and fake ones count too, if you don’t have a real one in you.
4. Eat and Drink Sufficiently
You’ll be burning through a lot of calories and losing liters of water through perspiration during an ultra, so it’s imperative that you fuel and hydrate sufficiently. Have a system in place to make sure you are getting enough energy and water in, especially in the second half of the race. The more tired you get, the quicker you’ll say, “I’ll just skip this gel, it’ll take too much effort to pull out of my pack”. Don’t fall for that trap, because this is exactly when you need to be popping that gel. And if you’re feeling down and in a rut, eat something! If you can make it something a bit different than you’ve been regularly consuming up to this point, even better. 9 times out of 10, the boost in blood sugar will do the trick and get you right back to where you want to be.
5. Don’t Think About the Total Distance
Stop yourself immediately everytime you start to think about the total number of kilometers left to run. It’s so easy to let your head go there, and it’s so easy to be quickly overwhelmed. Instead, break the race up into sections. These can be by aid stations, 10 km intervals, or even geographical landmarks. It will feel so much more manageable if you can focus on getting to the next section as opposed to the finish line. And when the finish line is indeed the next and final point to get to, you’ll be so ready to enjoy the ride all the way there!
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