It’s the night before the ultra marathon…

14 July 2017

So, it’s the night before my very first ultra marathon: Race to the Stones 100km. If you’re thinking of doing an ultra marathon, or you just enjoy revelling in my madness, I wanted to document how I am feeling and what I’m doing to prepare in the final few stages. You may find it helpful. Or, most likely, you may just be curious.

Let’s start with some of the obvious questions.

What have I packed?

As a complete novice, I wasn’t sure what to pack. It’s a two day event. 32 miles each day.  I scoured the internet for suggestions on “what to pack for a 100km ultra” and “what to pack for an ultra marathon”. The truth is, even though ultra marathons have gained popularity, they’re still not as widely written about. I tried to take a bit of advice from each article (particularly in relation to blister prevention, which could be a whole blog post on its own) and hope for the best.

I’m one of those people who go on holiday and take EVERYTHING just in case. But look, you can’t blame me for anything. I am a complete ultra marathon newbie and i’m making it up as I go along.  So here is what I’ve packed:

To carry on the run

Salomon ADV skin 12 hydration pack, Adidas Sequence Supernova road shoes (no trail shoes as it’s going to be dry), spare running top, small first aid kid (plasters, k-tape and pain killers), travel size sun cream, shot bloks, Nakd bars and sweets (big up the Percy Pigs), electrolyte tablets, sunglasses, hat, anti-bac wipes.

In my overnight bag

Blow up pillow, Skins compression tights, PJ’s, small washbag with travel toiletries, towel, spare tops, shorts and compression socks for day 2, head torch, spare hair ties and brush, portable phone charger, waterproof jacket (weather dependant on which bag to put it in) and Adidas Ultra Boosts for day 2 (if necessary).

What have I eaten?

I’ve been carb loading all week. I learned some important lessons before the London Marathon about this. Do not believe everything you read online about how much you need. Ultimately, you should fuel your body with foods that it is used to and that you know you can digest. I ate way too many bagels (at least 3 a day) and sports drinks before London and felt really bloated and sick. It wasn’t a nice feeling and I don’t feel it benefitted me at all.

So i’ve just increased my carbs gently this time and made a conscious effort to decrease my fibre and protein intake a bit. Porridge for breakfast, bagel for lunch and fish/veg/potatoes for dinner. I’ve swapped salad for pasta where I can and cut down on any processed food. Of course i’ve been drinking like a fish and aiming for 3-4 litres of water a day (I usually drink around 3 litres). I don’t drink caffeine anymore but if I did, I’d probably cut down on milky drinks.

We went to Carluccio’s for dinner this evening and I had: bread basket with olive oil and balsamic, lasagne and apple tart with ice cream. I wasn’t too worried about carb loading. I just wanted to enjoy a big meal and relax. You may think that’s completely wrong, but this is the kind of food that works for me.

How am I feeling?

You know what, I feel pretty good. I have put in some really solid training and banked some really decent long runs (at least three 20 mile + runs). The pace has been much slower than usual and i’ve practiced my race strategy lots (walk the hills and run the rest). I’ve not put any pressure on myself to hit a certain pace. I’ve just focused on getting those long runs banked and run as many easy miles as I can. I had three peak weeks where I hit 45-50 miles (which you can check out on my Strava) and I believe that has set me up well for the feeling of running on tired legs.

I am not nervous about my ability to do the first 32 miles on day 1, but I am really quite frightened about waking up on day 2 and doing it all again. I was in SO much pain after the London Marathon. I couldn’t walk for days. I remember travelling up to Sheffield to meet Jessica Ennis Hill the day after and not being able to step off the train from the pain. I had to get assistance from a member of staff!

I’ve come a long way in my training since then and I’ve been taking my recovery more seriously. I have been having half water and half electrolytes on my long runs and eaten something straight afterwards. I alway wear compression gear during my run and sleep in my Skins compression tights after a tough one. Since doing these things, I haven’t yet woken up with achey legs the day after a run (touch wood). If I try to remember to follow these things during the race, I stand a good chance at tackling day 2 without any major problems.  I’ll also be getting a sports massage as soon as I finish day 1 so hopefully that will help *fingers crossed*.

What will I wear?

Day 1 – weather dependant I’ll start with an Adidas strap top, Nike shorts, ZeroPoint calf sleeves (one yellow, one orange). If I need to change top, I’ll pop this Swansea half marathon finishers top on. Of course i’ll be wearing my trademark sweatband. I’m going to plump for my Adidas Sequence Supernova road shoes because they’re really wide, really supportive and quite grippy. I don’t think we’ll need trail shoes as it’s been so dry and I’ve read that most of the run is on proper tracks and roads.

Day 2 – Karrimor t-shirt, Ron Hill shorts, ZeroPoint calf sleeves (one blue, one purple), obligatory sweat band. I might wear the same shoes, but if they’re wet or they’ve been flattened too much i’ll change into my Adidas Ultra Boost. For both days i’ll be taping my back. I get terrible sports bra chaffage (sorry!) across my back so i’ll be taping it up to the nines and hoping for the best.

Final countdown…

So, look. It’s getting late and I need to head to bed. I’ve got a 4:30am start and I want to get a good nights sleep. You can catch any updates on my Instagram account and I will do a full blog post when i’m done. See you on the other side, hopefully as an official ultra marathoner!