What do you carry during your ultra-running adventures?

I’ve been asked recently by a number of people who are getting started on their ultra running journey, what do you carry for your longer endurance runs and ultra-running events?

The right gear can mean the difference between having an average run and a frothing awesome one. Conditions can change in an instant. To get the best enjoyment out of ultra-running, it pays to be prepared. You should, of course, refer to your specific event’s mandatory gear list.

Here is a list of the gear that I always carry with me when doing endurance runs or ultra-running events.

Running Pack

My go-to running vest for any ultra-endurance events is my Salomon Advanced Skin 12L, but this comes down to personal choice and fit. I also have several other packs and vests that I use when training or commuting, including an older version of the Salomon SLab, KathmanduNathan and Osprey. My wife is a big fan of the Ultimate Direction Signature series vests.

Salomon is on the higher end price-wise and doesn’t come with the bladder or flasks, but for fit and function, I find they are superior. Other brands such as Ultimate Direction and Nathan do come with flasks or bladders. It’s best to shop around and find what fits you both physically and on price.

Hydration

Depending on the distance or the mandatory gear requirements, I carry two 500ml Salomon soft flasks on my chest and a 1.5L Salomon Soft reservoir in my pack. I fill my 1.5L reservoir with fresh water only, as this can also act as a refill for my flasks plus you should be getting the majority of your hydration from clean water, not supplements. In the chest flasks, I keep Tailwind mix in one and SOS Hydration mix in the other. The new Salomon soft flasks now come with wide mouth openings making it a lot easier to add your powder!

First Aid Kit

An essential item for offroad, remote location events. I use Ultralight / Watertight .5 Medical Kit from Adventure Medical Kits which contains your basic first aid items including bandages, gauze, sterilisation swabs and surgical gloves. It also includes my first aid blanket. The first aid kit is not so crucial for events that are well supported by medical teams on hand, but the first aid blanket should be a mandatory piece of your running kit, you never know when you may need to use it and it may not be you that needs it!

And for my runs in Australia I always carry a snake bite bandage!

Anti-chafe Cream

The best approach to beating chafe is lube up early! If you need to carry some with you, my preference is Neat Effect 3B Action Cream, but there are several great products available including Squirrels NutbutterBody Glide and 2Toms

Sunglasses, Hat and Sunscreen

I’m a big fan of Hawkers & Co. sunglasses. Their lightweight and robust design means they can take a beating and they’re cheap!

My V&B Athletic cap keeps the sun off and Cancer Council Active Dry Touch Sunscreen is a must for my fair skin, with a dry-touch and lightweight non-greasy formula with a matte finish that provides SPF50+ broad spectrum protection.

Waterproof Jacket

A good waterproof jacket is a must for any kit. Look for one with a hood and sealed seams plus be ready to spend a little extra to get a good quality jacket that will stand up against the elements! I’ve witnessed too many events where participants have gone for the cheap option only to find out as soon as the weather turns ugly, their $50 special from Kmart isn’t up to the task. Mine is an ultra-light Kathmandu Zeolite ngx2.5. It’s both water and windproof, breathable, abrasion-resistant and super quick drying – you can shake it dry and it weighs less than 300g! Its designed to fit over the top of your run vest or pack and folds away into itself (using its side zip pocket) making it easy to store in your pack or vest.

Head Torch

Ay Up Lighting Systems have been my headlamp of choice for years now. Their gear is bomb-proof, with excellent battery life and they will light up your path like it’s daytime! Petzl have come a long way with their lightweight models, longer battery life and their range are reasonably priced. I always carry a small Led Lenzer headlamp as my back-up spare.

Trekking Poles

These can reduce the load on your legs by up to 30% particularly on steep climbs and decents. I use Black Diamond Ultra Distance Carbon Z poles.

Waterproof Cases

Keep your gear dry! Exped Zip Seal smart phone cases are fantastic because you can easily use your phone while it’s still in the case. SeaToSummit Ultra SIL bags keep things such as clothing and food dry in wet conditions. A cheaper alternative is to use zip-lock bags. But experience has proved these are not very robust and are usually single-use, so not good for the environment!

Backup Power

The last thing you want is for your mobile phone to run out of juice when you need it most! I carry a Cygnett 4,400mAh Power Bank. It’s light-weight (110g) and gives me up to 2x full charges of my smartphone or GPS watch. Make sure you carry the appropriate cables for your device!

Compass

This is a carry over habit from my hiking days, just in case the GPS fails!

Nutrition

Nutrition is a very individual thing, but whatever works for you, make sure you test it out as part of your training. My preferred carry items are Clif Bars Crunchy Peanut Butter flavour, Smiths Salt and Vinegar chips (go for the Multipack 6 pack, they take up much less room in your pack) and Vegemite sandwiches. I also carry a few spare sachets of SOS Hydration with me. 

My drop bags have these same items ready for me to replenish with at check points when I run out.

Collapsible Cup

Leave no waste and be ready to drink anywhere! My collapsible silicone cup was part of a goodie bag from a Sky Running Ultra several years ago. You can get pick them up online from Pure Running.

Tissues

If there is a long distance between checkpoints and the call of nature strikes, you may have no choice but to go off trail and do your business. This is why I carry a small travel packet of tissues, just in case!

Always follow “leave no trace principles” – dig a cathole 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from the trail and then cover the hole when finished.

What is Periodisation and why is it important?

What is Periodisation?

Periodisation is the division of longer training cycles, called macrocycles, into smaller and more manageable intervals, known as mesocycles. The goal is managing and coordinating all aspects of your training to reach peak performance at a certain point in time, such as a race or competition, or alternatively to manage performance and improvement effectively over longer training periods like football season.

Periodisation is one of the methods we use in the design of our training programs like STRONGCorps where planned manipulation of training variables, like load, sets, and repetitions, enable us to maximise training adaptations of our athletes and prevent the onset of overtraining syndrome (OTS).

Why is PERIODISATION important?

The goal of periodisation is to maximise your performance and improvement whilst reducing your risk of injury and the staleness of your training over the long term.

  • Each mesocycle can target a specific goal or series of attributes to be developed within a designated period of time.
  • Periods of appropriate overload and recovery are designated within each mesocycle. This is done to ensure the neuromuscular system adapts maximally.
  • Alterations to training load or stress, volume, and intensity can be made, where necessary, within each mesocycle.

In summary, if programmed and utilised appropriately, periodisation can result in achieving peak performance multiple times over a series of activities such as competitive trail running or ultramarathons or optimise performance over an entire competitive season in sports such as soccer or netball.

5 Common Myths about Run Club… Debunked!

Run clubs are gaining popularity as women, and men, are choosing to run as part of organised groups to get their exercise fix.

Every Wednesday, as the sun goes down, an unlikely group gathers in a sports shoe store in Rozelle.

They come from all walks of life.

One is a landscape gardener. Another works in PR. Someone else is an editor at a major magazine. A number are from the finance world. Others are engineers, teachers, musicians, accountants, veterinarians, even full-time university students.

They’re all dressed in running gear but they’re not necessarily training for anything in particular. Nor are they there to compete. They’ve come together because they love running with a group of inclusive, supportive, like-minded runners of all abilities.

Welcome to Rozelle Run Club.

The rise of Run Clubs has proliferated over the past 10 years. They draw people in for the camaraderie and experiential thrill of running through an empty city together but it’s the type of people they draw that has changed the sport of running so profoundly.

Which is why Rozelle Run Club isn’t just about the already converted, it’s also about non-runners and people new to the sport.

Five common myths about Rozelle Run Club… debunked!

Myth 1: It’ll be too hard

The sessions include both high-intensity and moderate-intensity activity and are put together in such a way that regardless of your level of fitness (whether they’re a beginner or an advanced athlete) you’re engaged at a level that is appropriate for you but also challenging enough that you walk away from knowing you’ve had a rewarding session.

The sessions are also designed to be inclusive regardless of your ability. That way every participant knows that they are part of the team and no-one is left to run on their own.

Myth 2: It’ll be embarrassing

When we re-launched Rozelle Run Club in late 2017 we wanted to ensure there was a team culture that was courteous, supportive and inclusive. So we created the “4 Rules of Run Club”, although they’re more of a creed than rules…

RULE #1: WE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT RUN CLUB

We encourage everyone to tell their friends, their family, their work colleagues, that Rozelle Run Club is the place to be on Wednesday nights.

RULE #2: WE’RE ALWAYS COURTEOUS TO OTHERS

The path or trail is there to share, we always give way to others, two-legged and four-legged.

Being a group focused on supporting the health and wellbeing within the local community we didn’t want to be seen as disrespectful or oppressive when people saw us coming but rather recognised as “that’s Rozelle Run Club and they’re a great bunch of people”

RULE #3: WE’RE ALWAYS SUPPORTIVE

If we see a fellow run clubber struggling, particularly our newest members, we encourage them.

We wanted to ensure that ego was left at the door and that all levels of runner were made to feel welcome regardless of their ability or fitness level. We may have some elite athletes running with us but they love being able to encourage our less experienced or less fit members.

RULE #4: WE START AS A TEAM. WE FINISH AS A TEAM. NO ONE GETS LEFT BEHIND.

Similar to Rule #3 we wanted every participant to know that they are part of the team and they’re never left to run on their own.

Myth 3: There will just be men

We’ve got a great mix of men and women of all abilities and experience. A picture tells a 1000 words…

Myth 4: A single session won’t affect my fitness

Some people would have you believe that you need to train 6-7 days a week to stand any chance of seeing the results you want. They’ll tell you that any less will not result in an increase in fitness but is this true?

Simply put, no it’s not. Research shows that training as little as once a week can still induce gains in performance and aerobic capability.

High-intensity exercise, like sprinting or hill repeats, burns through large amounts of calories quickly and builds and strengthens muscle. Moderate-intensity anaerobic or any aerobic exercise, such as jogging, can grow the number of mitochondria (cellular power plants) in your cells, increase the volume of blood in your veins and arteries, and boost your overall cardiovascular health.

In a 2013 Runner’s World magazine article, cardiologist and researcher James O’Keefe stated, “A daily exercise habit is the single most powerful therapy for improving both the quality and quantity of your life. Getting just 30 minutes daily of moderate or vigorous physical activity can cut your risk almost in half for premature death, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and heart attack.”

Another study found that runners had a 19 percent lower risk of death than non-runners. But the data also indicated that running has a “sweet spot” with regard to health benefits.

“The latest data from our studies and others strongly suggest that the ideal dose of daily vigorous exercise is about 30 to 60 minutes,” Dr. O’Keefe says in the article. “If you do more than 60 minutes of strenuous exercise daily, you start to lose some of the health benefits seen with lesser amounts of physical activity.”

Exercising for just 45 minutes can increase the number of calories you burn throughout the day, through what’s known are the “afterburn effect” or EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).

Originally referred to as an oxygen debt, this post-exercise state was first examined by A.V. Hill and H. Lupton in 1922. Further studies on the benefits and effects of EPOC have found that the intensity of an exercise also has a direct impact on the EPOC. As exercise intensity increases, so too the magnitude and duration of EPOC increases. Therefore, the higher the intensity, the greater the EPOC and the greater the caloric expenditure after exercise has been completed. We know that it generally takes anywhere from 15 minutes to 48 hours after a workout for your body to fully recover to a resting state, meaning you experience benefits long after your session has ended.

Myth 5: It’s expensive

All Pace Athletic’s Run Clubs are completely FREE! Just turn up and run.

Click to find out more about Rozelle Run Club

About Pace Athletic

Pace Athletic is an independent, 100% Australian owned business located in Sydney and a proud partner of V&B Athletic. As an innovative group of experienced sports shoe specialists, the team at Pace strives to help people meet their running, walking or general fitness goals and offer weekly run clubs in Rozelle, Manly, and Mosman – visit their website for more details.

How to get the most our of your City 2 Surf

How to enjoy one of Australia’s most popular road running events and the fifth largest running event in the world!

Heartbreak Hill

A lot of people focus on the infamous section of the race which starts approximately 6km into the course from the Rose Bay shops and then rises about 75m over the next 2km with an average grade of approx. 3-4%, otherwise known as “Heartbreak Hill”.

In reality, it’s not the gradient that affects most runners but the fact it’s the third climb in the race and by the time you’ve reached the top you’re past the halfway point of the course.

Running is very much a mental game – if you’ve made this into a big thing in your head in the lead-up, it will impact you much more significantly on the day.

The key is to pace yourself! By shortening your stride and maintaining a fast cadence or turnover of your feet, you’ll keep the intensity to a moderate level and be able to maintain good momentum.

Halfway up it flattens out into a steady, gentle incline. So get through the first half and then pick up your speed again when you pass the Anglican church on the left.

Don’t forget to hydrate

Don’t just wing it on race day! That means being properly hydrated in the days leading up to the race and not just downing that bottle of electrolytes at the start line. As a general rule, men should aim to drink 2.5 litres of water each day and women roughly 2 litres.

Avoid consuming a huge amount of water right before the race as it will leave your stomach feeling full, bloated and nauseous. This will also prevent the need to take that mid-race toilet break.

During the race, you need to stay hydrated but you’re worried those drink stations will slow you down. To minimise this, avoid the area at the start of the station. This is where most of the crowd will head first and it becomes the most congested. Instead, skirt around the mass of people and grab a drink from the far end of the drink station.

Know your fuel

Test this as part of your training sessions to find what works best for you and decide in advance what you plan to eat before and during the race. As the golden rule states “Don’t try anything new on Race Day”.

If you’re going to use gels or energy supplements on the day make sure you train with them first and don’t change the type or the flavour you’re going to use on race day. Introducing something new on the day can upset your stomach and the last thing you want is a “gut bomb” while you’re running.

Generally, 14km doesn’t really warrant much in the way of energy gels anyway. Start the day with a good breakfast (ideally at least 2-3 hours before you expect to start running) of some natural yoghurt, oats and fruit or multigrain toast with banana and honey and you’ll have plenty of fuel to get you across that finish line.

Stay warm on the start line

Wear old clothes that you don’t mind donating to charity, such as that old jumper that’s been hiding at the back of your wardrobe, and then toss it once the gun goes being sure to get it out to the sides of your start group so people don’t trip over it! All discarded clothing is collected and distributed to charity so you’re staying warm and doing a good thing for those less fortunate.

Start slow and keep it steady

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and go out too hard. Unless you are right at the front of your group, just relax! Remember you have a journey ahead of you so try starting at a steady pace.

Try and run the most direct line possible. This can be difficult depending on what wave you start in, but try to hug the bends, cut off the corners of wide sections and avoid wasting energy on useless metres by weaving constantly through the crowd, otherwise you could end up doing a lot more than 14km! If you run at a good tempo you should notice the crowd start to thin as you progress and you can then adjust to a more direct race line.

Above all else have fun!

Don’t forget to look around and enjoy the atmosphere. While you’re going to push yourself a little harder on race day, it’s not supposed to be torture! The course provides some amazing views of Sydney with an amazing party feel the whole way down to Bondi. Cheering spectators, balcony parties, DJs and bands line the route and fellow participants dressed in ridiculous costumes will be cheering you on. If things get a little tough, fall into stride with someone, ask how they’re travelling and enjoy yourself!

Key POI (points of interest)

  1. When you hit the William St tunnel, take the opportunity to look back, the sight is amazing.
  2. Once in the tunnel, the noise of the footsteps and the calls from the thousands of runners is one of the highlights of the run.
  3. The band cranking out Rock Anthems on the awning of the Golden Sheaf Hotel. Last year it was Tim Rogers and You Am I!
  4. Look out for the blue Smurfs camped out around 4km from the start line. If you want to finish the race don’t accept the beers they might be offering you though!
  5. Cruising down to Bondi through kilometre 13 is an absolute dream and can be your fastest kilometre even if you are exhausted.

The 6 Nutrition Tips every runner should know

Whether you are a running newbie, or a seasoned pro, getting the nutrition right is essential to ensuring you’ll perform at your best come race day, though it is the often forgotten part of these events.

Being able to tick the box that says you’ve run a marathon or done an ultra trail event is on many peoples bucket lists, and rightly so – being able to run for an extended period of time, on any type of terrain is a fantastic achievement!

HERE ARE 6 TIPS TO HELP YOU GET YOUR NUTRITION RIGHT FOR YOUR NEXT RACE.

Eat based on your goals

There’s been so much in the media in recent years about if you should be low carb, high fat; high carb low fat, or somewhere in between. Best practice is about eating enough of the right nutrients to support your training, help you achieve your goals and keep you healthy.

Eating and drinking enough carbohydrate to support your training is essential; consuming carbs before and during your race allows you to race at your individual maximal sustainable pace. Not enough means you won’t be able to move as fast. Given that for the majority of people participating in endurance activity, the goal is to do the best you can (and by best I mean the fastest speed over the distance), carbs are king. This doesn’t necessarily mean high carb though; it means eating enough to support your training, which means more around training sessions and races, and less at other times.

The one caveat here is if you do happen to NOT be aiming for your maximal sustainable pace; maybe you’re pacing a friend who is less experienced, and doesn’t move as quickly as you, you’ll likely find that during the event you can get away with consuming less, as you’re moving at slower than your maximal sustainable pace.

Choose your food

Some foods are better suited at certain times than others. For example, high GI carbohydrate which is digested quickly is better consumed either right before or during endurance activity, such as a sports drink or gel.

Lower GI or slower digested carbohydrate is better when you have more time beforehand, or the day before, such as whole grain bread, brown rice or pasta. Lower fat choices right before activity are also suggested, as higher fat choices slow digestion. Donuts (unfortunately) do not make for a good choice!

Fasted and Fed sessions

Doing some of your training sessions fasted will help your body better adapt to using fat as fuel, as does including some sessions where you’ve eaten before. As a starting point, for your longer sessions and resistance sessions, eat something beforehand (e.g. banana, muesli and milk, toast with peanut butter and honey). For shorter sessions, do these without eating beforehand.

Timing is Key!

Eating adequate amounts before, during and after sessions is essential. Eat something beforehand that is easily digestible that leaves you feeling comfortable.

For most men, aiming for 40-60g of carbohydrate is adequate per hour during a training session or race. Is this a lot? Potentially, and the reason it is important to test your fuel out in training sessions so you know what works for you. Aim to eat within 30 minutes of finishing the training for best recovery results, and to help manage appetite later on in the day.

YOU PLAY THE WAY YOU TRAIN

We all know not to wear new running shoes on race day; nutrition is the same. Practice your nutrition strategies during training to help instil you with confidence in what you have planned, and to iron out any kinks in your plan.

Remember to Hydrate!

Drinking enough fluid day to day is essential for a number of reasons. These daily needs significantly increase as soon as you add endurance training and events into the mix. Remember to check the colour of your urine and aim for pale yellow to colourless, and if you find you sweat a lot, also incorporate electrolyte drinks as well to help replace those lost in your sweat.

How can I stay motivated this winter?

Consider this.

Exercising in winter provides more benefit than exercise during the rest of the year because it specifically addresses the needs of our body during the colder winter months. Plus colder temperatures can actually help us get more out of our training because we’re asking our body to work harder!

Developing an exercise routine during winter can be the key to turning over a new leaf and improving your outlook on life.

Some of the many benefits include:

Burning more calories

Putting your body under greater physical strain forces it to burn more calories. This also leads to strengthening your cardiovascular system.

Developing greater endurance

You’ll notice how much harder your lungs need to work and that hard work pays off by increasing your endurance.

Experience more lift

Exercise is a proven natural way to lift our mood as it produces endorphins which in turn can trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine, the ‘happy chemicals’ that regulate our mood.

The Benefits of Group Fitness

Now consider the added benefits you gain from training with a group, such as STRONGCorps, full of like-minded people including:

Motivation

You’re challenged to go beyond your perceived limitations because of those around you. You are likely to work out harder, than you would on your own, as everyone is exercising toward a common goal.

Mood

Whether due to fitness-related goals or the personal relationships you build along the way, it is a win-win scenario, both physically and your state of mental health.

Accountability and Support

It’s an amazing feeling as a Coach to see people do things they never thought they could until it took the person next to them to encourage them to complete that set, rep, the mile or session. There’s a bond that is created when the team struggles, sweats and grinds their way through a tough workout. When we work out with other people we can gain a sense of camaraderie, because everyone is there for the same purpose. The people you see each week at training eventually become like family and look forward to seeing you back at each session.

When that alarm goes off or you look outside at the weather and you think “…it’s too cold. I’m going to skip today.”

Instead, think of how much your teammates could benefit from you being there and the difference you’ll make when they’re dragging themselves through another tough session.

Those high fives and pats on the back for completing sets, surviving those calls to do one more rep, or to push to past the finish line, creates an amazingly positive environment. It also triggers the release of the ‘happy chemicals’ that regulate our mood and make us feel good.

INSTEAD OF EXCUSES

You could be the reason someone else gets uplifted and encouraged to be better.

Yes, it’s harder to get out there in the dark and the cold but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort.

Ultimately, you’re doing this to be a better version of yourself, to lose the weight and to get fit. But you could also be the reason someone else sticks with their training and starts going beyond their impossible.

BE THE REASON SOMEONE ELSE SMILES TODAY!

So you’re about to tackle your first Ultra Marathon

How to get maximum enjoyment out of your first journey down “the long trail”

Pace, gear, nutrition. Three causes of the most common mistakes made by new or aspiring ultra-marathoners when moving past the marathon distance for the first time.

Never try anything new on race day

If you haven’t used it and tested it during your training, leave it at home on race day. That includes clothing, footwear, gear (i.e. head torches) and nutrition.

Your shoes play a pivotal role

Planning on wearing those fancy new pair of shoes for the first time on the day of your race? Don’t. New shoes can easily give you blisters and various other lower leg pains and can easily ruin all the hard work you’ve put in to get to the start line.

That goes for clothing, gear and nutrition too

If you haven’t used it and tested it in anger during your training, leave it at home. Avoid the temptation to sport that wonderful event t-shirt you scored in the goodie bag. Even the smallest inefficiencies in gear become amplified ten fold in an ultra event. Many times we fail to use race-day gear in training and small things like chafing and unwarranted fatigue, both mental and physical, become huge setbacks and will quickly ruin your chances of a successful event.

Carry ALL the mandatory gear and make sure it’s good quality

It’s worth the investment and not just because it will be checked. It’s there for a reason.

During a recent race, we needed to use every single piece of mandatory gear. Bad weather had closed in and with a sub-zero wind-chill factor the temperature plummetted; many competitors were caught out and ended up being treated for hypothermia as they were under-prepared. If you’re going to buy one expense piece having a good outer-most layer that keeps you warm and dry, like Kathmandu’s Zeolite v2, can mean the difference between an awesome day out or one you’d much rather forget.

Practice packing and unpacking your pack

Ideally, train with a full pack with all mandatory gear and individually bag your items in waterproof bags. Use sealable bags like Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil bags or for a cheaper option GLAD Snap Lock Bags. They need to be sealable so you can squeeze the air out of them and keep the contents dry. Bagging them individually helps with packing but also means you can access things quickly. If you also label or colour code them this will help you to find what you’re looking for when your brain is no longer working properly.

The items you’re least like to use…

If you have to carry your lights and hi-vis vest with you from the start, which most ultra events now require, pack these at the bottom of your pack as you won’t need them until late. Nothing wrong with packing a lighter headlamp for the day though, if you have a bigger, chunkier headlamp that will be your main one at night which can collect this during the race.

Use gaiters

You don’t need to spend $100 on them, cloth gaiters are available if you want to be fancy otherwise mowing gaiters from Bunnings do the job just as well for a fraction of the price. You want to prevent rocks and dirt getting in your shoes because as the saying goes “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Don’t wait for chafe, lube up early!

As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than a cure”. Lots of products available including powders for socks that help dry feet out as well as prevent friction with product such as Body Glide, Lanacane or 3B Neat for those areas where chafing between skin surfaces and fabric is likely to occur; between the buttocks, between the legs and beneath the breasts and for the gents, nipples. Also remember the shoulders where your pack may rub and the lower area of your back where older packs can rub; the newer, more modern vests like Salomon Skin and Ultimate Direction shouldn’t do this. Don’t wait for chafe, lube up early!

Use layers to manage your temperature

Use gloves early and at night when it’s getting cold. But also be careful of overheating, particularly at the start of your race – it may be cold early in the morning but unlikely to be cold enough to need your thermals on. You will heat up quickly. With event like Ultra Trail Australia the start can be congested for quite a while once you hit the single track, because of the number of runners in this event; it gets difficult to stop and disrobe out of your warm gear, and you’ll lose quite a few places if you need to do that in the early stages. If it’s cold, go with your waterproof jacket, buff and gloves as these can be packed away quickly and easily without the need to stop.

Wear headwear that you can adjust

A buff is perfect as you can use it to trap heat when you’re cold or let heat out when you’re warm. Can also use it on your wrist to mop sweat.

Mental strategies are key

Pack a change of shirt and socks for the mid-point… sure. However if everything is feeling great, socks and shoes aren’t rubbing, then consider not changing unless you absolutely need to and saving them for much later in the event. There is not much better feeling out there than a fresh pair of socks after 8 hours or so of wearing the same pair through mud, water and bush.

Nutrition

Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!

Don’t just wing it on race day. That means being properly hydrated in the days leading up to the race and not just downing that bottle of electrolytes at the start line!

Before your event

Ideally, you should have tested this as part of your long distance training sessions to find what works best for you but decide in advance what you plan to eat before your event. As the golden rule states “Don’t try anything new on Race Day”

During your event

This is a very individual thing but whatever works for you, do it regularly and frequently throughout the race. You’ll begin the day feeling good and running strong, you’ll be churning through those energy stores, so avoid not beginning early enough. At the first signs of a sour stomach and we tend to shy away from eating. This is the last thing you want to do. You can’t run when you aren’t fueling and hydrating.

Pace yourself!

Start slow and keep it steady

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and go out too hard. Remember you have a journey ahead of you so try starting at a steady pace.

Stay relaxed and positive

Think back to the hard work you’ve put in to get there – all you have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other until you cross that finish line. Listening to music helps some to refocus when things get a little tough for others, having someone to share those dark patches with is a better way to keep their spirits up so if you fall into stride with someone, ask how they’re travelling!

Have fun!

Take a look around and enjoy the atmosphere. Remember that you signed up for this whole crazy thing in the first place. While you’re going to push yourself a little harder on race day, it’s not supposed to be torture! You’ve put in all the hard work getting to the start line, now’s the time to enjoy the rewards that come with it.

Reset your frame of reference

Technically a frame of reference is defined as a complex set of assumptions and attitudes which are used to filter perceptions to create meaning.

Situations and environments that we are familiar with and comfortable with are our frames of reference.

Therefore experiences we have in physical training and in life are directly linked to how we perform in certain situations.

Spartan Up!

“The development of mental control is the foundation for building an unbeatable mind that will not fail at any worthy goal or task…”

Spartan Race co-founder and CEO Joe De Sena in his book Spartan Up!.

Changing your frame of reference means every time you hit a challenge, be it a tough workout, your first marathon or climbing a six-metre cliff face in the pouring rain at 1:00 am in the morning; you have a choice.

Changing your frame of reference means making the choice to keep things easy and comfortable, the way you’re used to doing them, or intentionally making them harder or at least not avoiding difficult situations when they arise.

Expect the unexpected

You can’t control situations that may crop up in an event, such as an ultramarathon. Which is why I follow the principle “train for all conditions”. This applies as much to mental preparation as it does physical preparation.

Things will go wrong, and you need to be able to refer back to situations in which you’ve faced similar challenges. Change your frame of reference by embracing the obstacles and challenges that pop up, as well as actively forcing them upon yourself and you’ll reap benefits both in training and in life.

Sometimes that means seeking them out

By experiencing new challenges in life and learning how to overcome them will make you better prepared to handle future obstacles when they arise.

Don’t be afraid to follow the path less travelled once in a while.

If you’re thinking “it’s time to change my frame of reference” and looking to embark on your first challenge then check out this great post by Obstacle Course Racer and Coach Mike Meredith where he talks about finding his passion for Spartan Racing and what to expect when you take on your first Spartan Race event.

Are you getting uncomfortable?

Becoming enamoured with uncomfortable can lead to improvements in all aspects of life.

New and unfamiliar situations trigger a unique part of the brain that releases dopamine, our body’s feel-good chemical. However, this unique region of the brain is only activated when you experience completely new things.

Measure your health by the number of uncomfortable decisions you are willing to make

5:45 am Wednesday morning.

It’s the beginning of winter.

Outside it’s cold, it’s dark… and it’s raining again.

The warm-up has just begun. Your body is sore, your legs feel heavy, you’re cold, out of breath, and you feel like crap.

You’ve been at this bootcamp thing for a couple of months now, and although you’re starting to see good results, you’re still struggling.

Another hill sprint session, urgh!

Your calves and glutes are still screaming at you in retaliation for Monday’s session!

Desperately you try to get enough oxygen in your lungs and your throat feels like it’s been lined with razor blades from sucking in the cold air.

You start to question what the hell you’re doing, and why the hell you’re doing it…

  1. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
  2. When does it get any easier? Never!

Let’s look at the reasons why and how these truths can lead to achievements beyond your current perspective.

The benefits of progressive overload

In the early stages of any type of physical activity, everything seems to hurt.

Our muscles are broken down and forced to adapt to the stresses we place on them. Then they rebuild and recover, struggling through regular bouts of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and each time growing a little bit stronger and more resilient than before.

As time goes on, your body adapts to this level of stress, it learns to recover faster and starts to perform more efficiently. You begin to feel less like you’ve been through a meat grinder and you perceive to use less energy in order to complete the tasks you demand of it, for example:

  • Your first 1-mile time trial. Excruciating! However, with each additional sprint session, your body builds up a strength for that particular activity and it becomes easier.
  • Your first attempt to complete 10 pull-ups. Abysmal! But by incorporating pull-ups into your regular routine you eventually build up the right muscles in your body so that 10 pull ups become part of your warm up.

Think of it like catching public transport for the first time. That first time you had to brave the Sydney Transport system, from unpredictable schedules and complicated interchanges to maddening fellow passengers, it’s incredibly challenging. But make the same trip several times, it becomes less of a challenge.

Before long you’ve adapted and it’s almost easy, becoming just another part your regular routine. You reach a stage where you’re able to relax and can get other things done, like catching up on email on your phone or reading an old-fashioned paperback. You’ve adapted to your environment.

The human body is no different

The human body is designed to be as efficient as possible but in order for growth to occur, it needs a reason to adapt. If we pick something that is physically challenging for us and over a period of time become really good at it, we don’t continue to get the same boost to our strength or stamina. In fact, our body can actually become more efficient elsewhere.

The Hadza of Tanzania

A study was conducted of the daily energy expenditure among the Hadza people of Tanzania, one of the few remaining populations of traditional hunter-gatherers. Most days the men in this tribe would set out alone to gather food or hunt using handmade bows and poison-tipped arrows, often covering 25 to 30 kilometres. This is what the study found:

“…despite all this physical activity, the number of calories that the Hadza burned per day was indistinguishable from that of typical adults in Europe and the United States. We ran a number of statistical tests, accounting for body mass, lean body mass, age, sex and fat mass, and still found no difference in daily energy expenditure between the Hadza and their Western counterparts. How can the Hadza be more active than we are without burning more calories? It’s not that their bodies are more efficient, allowing them to do more with less: separate measurements showed that the Hadza burn just as many calories while walking or resting as Westerners do. We think that the Hadzas’ bodies have adjusted to the higher activity levels required for hunting and gathering by spending less energy elsewhere. Even for very active people, physical activity accounts for only a small portion of daily energy expenditure; most energy is spent behind the scenes on the myriad unseen tasks that keep our cells humming and our support systems working.”

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0040503

What does this tell us? That in order to progress, in order to adapt, in order to get stronger… we need to constantly increase the difficulty.

Up the ante

This is a difficult but crucial change that a lot of people struggle to make. Stop looking at your workouts like something you are being forced to participate in and suffer through. Stop thinking “how much longer” or “it’s too cold” or “I can’t do this”.

Instead, start looking at it in terms of a challenge:

  • “What am I capable of today that I wasn’t capable of yesterday?”
  • “What can I lift this week that I couldn’t lift last week?”
  • “How much further will I get in my run this week than last week?”
  • “How many more sessions can I make it to this month than I could last month?”

Accept that every time you exercise it’s going to be uncomfortable.

You’re going to be out of breath.

You’re going to sweat.

But every time you do those things, you are slowly turning up the dial on your “baseline” of what comfortable is. While you’re squatting the lightest sandbag and feeling miserable, that person next to you at Bootcamp squatting the heaviest sandbag is as just as uncomfortable as you are. They’re drenched in sweat, their legs are shaking, and they’re gasping for air. And so are you. The only difference is, they’ve invested years building up their baseline level of strength and as a result, they have to squat the heaviest sandbag to feel that same level of discomfort you feel.

Life gets pretty boring without different levels of difficulty

Most of us have played the game “Tetris”.

Imagine if the game pieces in Tetris never fell any faster? You could slowly place them and get rid of each line, one by one. Very quickly you’d start building complex structures with the pieces because just clearing lines would become mind-numbingly boring. Luckily, Tetris consistently gets more difficult; your brain is forced to adapt as the pieces continue to fall faster and faster in order to continue succeeding.

Your muscles work the same way.

Our muscles need to be constantly challenged because they are constantly trying to become more efficient and provide you fewer results.

Increase the difficulty and become friends with uncomfortable

To get anywhere in life, we need to accept the fact that the things that will help us grow are going to make us uncomfortable.

Without physical discomfort, our muscles are never be forced to adapt.

Without mental discomfort, we will never do things that challenge us.

As soon as the uncomfortable becomes comfortable, you’re no longer getting the same benefits out of it anymore. This is the time to reach for that next challenge that pushes you beyond your comfort zone, beyond your impossible.

The couch is comfortable.

Netflix is comfortable.

Getting good at something and then just doing that thing, over and over is comfortable.

Learning new things can be hard.

Trying a new routine can be hard.

Building new habits can be hard.

Getting out of bed when it’s dark and cold can be hard.

Pushing your muscles to lift heavier weights can be hard.

Running harder and faster can be hard.

Seek out new challenges

Challenge yourself today to accept the fact that anything worth doing doesn’t get any easier, you just get better at it. Every time you find yourself getting too comfortable, or things are getting too easy, then reach for something that produces discomfort. Seek challenges that push you beyond your comfort zone, beyond your impossible, and you will be rewarded. As you progress, you’ll be amazed how other aspects of life also get easier!

If doing new things fills you with a sense of dread, you’re not alone.

Your body and your mind may hate you doing these things. That’s GOOD!

Here’s how you can reduce the discomfort:

  1. Take small steps. If the thought of running a marathon terrifies you, start with just 1km, then keep adding small increments to your distance… before long 1km is just your warm-up.
  2. Do ONE more. During your workouts aim for one more rep each set, run one more metre, or complete your workout one second faster. You’ll be surprised how quickly you improve if you practice “Do one more” often enough.
  3. Celebrate small wins. Are you’re paralysed at the thought of talking in front of a large crowd of people? Start by talking in front of just a few people, and prove to yourself that you can do it. Slowly up the ante and keep reminding yourself “I can do this.”
  4. Don’t give yourself the chance to back out. Tie your fate to somebody else and follow their lead. Jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft in a tandem skydive, the guy you’re attached to makes the decision to jump, not you. Say yes to opportunities that scare you before you get a chance to say no. You can figure out the rest later.

Your body depends on it to survive

Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to work properly

Your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste, and lubricate your joints. Water is needed for overall good health.

Improve your wellbeing

As a general rule, you should aim to drink a minimum of 2 litres, every day. Different people need different amounts of water to stay hydrated. Most healthy people can stay well hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty. For some people, less than 2 litres may be enough. Other people may need more than 2 litres each day. If you are concerned that you are not drinking enough water, check your urine. If it is usually colourless or light yellow, you are well hydrated. If it is a dark yellow or amber colour, you may be dehydrated.

Water is best

Other drinks and foods can help you stay hydrated. However, some may add extra calories from sugar to your diet. Fruit and vegetable juices, milk, and herbal teas add to the amount of water you get each day.

Even caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea, can contribute to your daily water intake and a moderate amount of caffeine (200 to 300 milligrams) is not harmful to most people. This is about the amount in 2 to 4, 250ml cups of coffee. However, it’s best to limit caffeinated drinks as caffeine can cause some people to urinate more frequently, feel anxious or jittery.

Sports Drinks and Hydration

Can be helpful if you are planning on exercising at higher than normal levels for more than an hour. They contain carbohydrates and electrolytes that can help your body absorb water. However, some sports drinks are high in calories from added sugar. They also may contain high levels of sodium (salt). Check the serving size on the label. One bottle usually contains more than one serving. Some sports drinks contain caffeine, too. Remember that a safe amount of caffeine to consume each day is between 200 and 300 mg.

Energy Drinks and Hydration

Energy drinks are not the same as sports drinks. Energy drinks, such as Red Bull and V, usually contain large amounts of caffeine. They also contain ingredients that overstimulate you, such as guarana, ginseng, or taurine. Most of these drinks are also high in added sugar. These are things your body doesn’t need so best to avoid energy drinks!

Tips for Staying hydrated

  • Carry a reusable water bottle, fill it with tap water and keep it with you during the day.
  • Try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your water.
  • When you’re feeling hungry, drink water. Thirst is often confused with hunger. True hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water.
  • Some research suggests that drinking a glass of water before you eat may also contribute to a healthy weight-loss plan.
  • If you have trouble remembering to drink water, drink on a schedule. Drink water when you wake up, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and when you go to bed. Alternatively, try drinking a small glass of water at the beginning of each hour or before each meal.