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Preparing for an Event

 

The most common questions that are asked just before or just after a competitor signs up to take part in an event / race are:

 

  • How do I start preparing?
  • Is there a training plan?
  • When do I know if I am ready to take part?  

 

A training plan is not published as the training required is so different depending on what level you are starting from and what your goal is.  In a 250-kilometer, 6-stage, 7-day race, the difference in time between the first and the last competitor to cross the finish line is on average more than 50 hours.  The training and preparation for each of these results is very different.  However, this feature has some basic information to help you get started.  The information here is targeted at people who are new to endurance events but some of it does apply to the experienced athlete as well.  Also note that this information is aimed at a 250-kilometer stage event, but if you were to follow it for a 100-kilometer non-stop event then you would also be well-prepared.

 

There are two sides to the preparation:

 

Physical: Actually getting out there and doing the training; and

Mental: Preparing yourself mentally and literally for the event with equipment, knowledge of your body and the confidence that you are able to complete 250 kilometers by foot

 

I cannot tell you how to prepare mentally but by remembering and preparing for the fact that the event you are going to take part in is a “long distance endurance event through some of the most extreme terrain in the world," then you are starting and continually adding to the mental preparation.  Both physical and mental preparation is vital to help you get to the finish line safely.  You can walk the entire course, but even doing this with a backpack is a considerable undertaking.  There have been competitors who have completed events with minimal training and having never run or walked even 20 kilometers in one go, but this is not recommended either for your safety or enjoyment.

 

Your Goal

The first thing you need to think about is what your goal is.  Are you aiming to win the event or simply to finish it?  Do you want to be in the top 10 or top half?  It is also a good idea to think about why you want to do the event as this may help determine your goal.  There are many reasons people decide to do the event, including: for charity; to take on a new challenge having done a marathon/triathlon/ultramarathon; to push oneself further than before; because of a bet; to see a particular country or area in a way you cannot see otherwise.  Each of these generally comes with goal.

 

Other People’s Experiences

You are not the first person to take part in a long distance event, so there is no need to start from zero.  Benefit from other peoples' experiences, but be aware that there is not a perfect answer - everyone is different.  Some recommended sources of information as you start preparing include the following:

  • Blogs from past competitors: Many competitor blogs talk about why the person decided to take part, training and preparation, equipment and thoughts about what they would do differently next time.  The Ambassador Blogs are particularly useful.

  • Expert Articles: Learn theories of blister care, signs that you being affected by the heat, how to maintain your electrolyte balance, managing sleep when changing time zones and more in the Expert Article section of The Outdoor Store website.

  • Fixing Your Feet: This book covers pre-event, during event and post-event foot care.

  • RacingThePlanet’s The Outdoor Store: You can view pictures and compare prices of all the equipment items that you need in order to do an event.  The Outdoor Store sells equipment  that has been used and recommended by past competitors.

    Photos / Videos from past events: See what equipment other people are using and how they are using it.  These visual aids can also give you an idea of the terrain of the course.

 

When Should You Start Training?

You want to build up to a consistent training schedule of more than 50 kilometers on your feet each week. If you are already doing that distance (or more) then you are in good shape and three months of dedicated training may be sufficient.  If you are nowhere near that then one year is recommended to ensure you build up your base athletic level. At least six months of dedicated training is ideal.  Do not ramp up too quickly – do not go out tomorrow and run 50 kilometers if you have not run more than 10 kilometers for a few weeks (or ever).

 

What You Should Know / Do Before Getting to the Start Line?

There are certain minimum goals / objectives that you should aim to achieve before you step up to the start line. These are listed below; however, do note that if you do not meet all of the items below it does not mean you will not be able to take part and finish.

 

-  Have consistently completed a minimum of 50 kilometers per week for 3 – 6 months,

-  Have completed a minimum of 50 kilometers in one go at least once,

- Have completed at least one back-to-back (consecutive days) training of a minimum of 30 kilometers each day,

-  Have consistently carryied a 10-kilogram backpack in training without any strain or pain,

-  Know the amount of electrolytes your body needs and which types / flavours you like, and

-  Have tested all of your kit in training, especially your shoes, backpack, hydration system, electrolytes and food.

 

How to Get Started?

Start Slow: Don't start more with than 5 kilometers than you are used to either in one go or a week.   If you are starting from a very low base then start with up to 5 kilometers of walking.  Then either turn that into running or build up to 10 kilometers over a few weeks and 20 kilometers over a few months.

 

Do Not Just Run / Walk:  Cross training is highly recommended to build overall strength and prevent injury – spinning classes, cycling, swimming and weights are all good alternatives.  However you do need the “time on your feet” as well so do not completely replace running / walking with other exercise. 

 

Build Training into your Daily Schedule: Walk up the stairs to your office / flat (if applicable).  Get used to taking your backpack with you everywhere – carry it to work, to the gym, out for a walk etc.  Slowly build the weight you are carrying – start with an empty bag and then increase the weight by putting bottle(s) of water / rice in it so that it is always weighted.  However do be careful not get the balance wrong - dumb bells in your backpack may cause injury due to the awkward shape of them.

 

An Idea of a Training Schedule

Once you have built your base level to be able to start completing 50 kilometers per week your training may look something like the below:

 

 

Monday

1 hour spin class

Tuesday

10-20 kilometer run / jog / walk

Wednesday

Circuit Training / Weight Session

Thursday

10-20 kilometer run / jog / walk

Friday

1 kilometer swim

Saturday

30 to 60 kilometers jog / walk

Sunday

Rest Day

 

 

Research and Testing

Do some research and read as much information as possible.  Familiarise yourself with the equipment list early and make sure you know what all the items are and how and when to use them.  For example, not knowing what electrolytes are, what they are used for, how much you need to take and the consequences of not keeping your electrolyte balance state could create a possible problem for you during the event or your training.  Equally, having your patches placed incorrectly will cost you time (in the form of penalties) which can be easily avoided and may cause you frustration before you even start the event.  Some tips on equipment are below:

 

Shoes: You will be wearing these for a considerable amount of time.  It is important that they are comfortable, not going to be the sole cause of blisters and will still fit after three days.  Feet swelling from excessive use or heat is normal, but if you are not prepared for this it can be the cause of blisters (especially under your toe nails).  It is recommended that you wear shoes that are 1.5 to 2 sizes bigger than you would normally.  It is also important that the shoes being bigger than normal is not going to cause blisters in the early part of the event before your feet fit into the shoe snugly.

 

Mandatory Gear: All items on the mandatory list are required to be carried.  If you do not have an item at the start of an event, then race organizers may decide that it is unsafe for you to start the event.  If you do not know what an equipment item is, you should ask for clarification and not leave it to the last minute.

 

Food: Expedition Foods have the highest number of calories per gramme.  Other high calorie / low weight foods include nuts (especially macadamias), meat jerky (beef is ideal) and crisps (generally crushed up and eaten with a spoon as it is a challenge to keep them uncrushed).  Whatever you choose, make sure you have tried it during and after training for taste and effectiveness.  Variety is important as you appetite changes.

 

Blister Kit: There are a minimum amount of items that you have to bring to the event for blister care - you must have all of these items.  We do not accept the answer, “I do not get blisters” or “I couldn't find that item at the store.”

 

Getting to the Finish Line

We are talking about a 6-stage, 7-day, 250-kilometer event.  There are many things that can happen along the way that could stop you getting to the finish line, but the main reasons for competitor withdrawals are blisters and dehydration.  Anything you can do to prevent these through training, preparation and testing will see you in good stead to getting that medal. 

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