Tag Archive for: endurance

6 common questions about ultra-running

In terms of impressing your family and friends or work colleagues, it would appear the “simple” marathon no longer holds the same prestige. Ultra-endurance and ultra-running events are an almost-impossible test of the human body and spirit, yet their number has increased tenfold over the last decade.

As endurance specialists and experienced endurance athletes, we frequently get questions about this rapidly growing sport.

Here are some of the most common questions that people contemplating ultra-running ask.

Before you contemplate whether racing 100 miles or more is actually right for you, consider this…

Ultra-running is not everyone’s cup of tea.

But if it’s something that sparks your interest, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Why that distance? Does it have a particular significance?
  • Where will it take place?
  • What time of year will you be doing it?
  • What type of terrain? Road, trail, flat, hilly?
  • Will it be point-to-point, an out and back or a loop?
  • Is the plan to do it in one attempt or break it into stages?
  • Will you be supported (e.g. crew and/or vehicle) or self-supported (no crew)?

Your answers to these questions will not only help to define an appropriate training plan.

They may also ensure the effective execution of your event and serve as a reason to keep going when the going gets tough!

Welcome to the post-marathon age

Everybody knows somebody who’s run a marathon.

It seems that now, a genuinely impressive feat has to be something longer and more extreme. Fifty kilometres is OK… Eighty kilometres is moving in the right direction. But if you can reel off numbers in the hundreds, preferably over insanely steep terrain, a wind-blown desert or some perilous jungle – Now we’re talking bragging rights!

With more and more stories of ultra-endurance feats circulating, we hope the following may provide some food for thought to help you defy your limits.

Is it actually possible?

Most people shy at driving 180km, 200km, 250km or more. Even less would consider cycling those distances. But yes, running those distances and for extended periods of time is possible with the right mindset, appropriate preparation and sufficient training!

Will my organs start shutting down?

While organs shutting down during an event is extremely rare, surviving ultra-running ultimately comes down to appropriate training, heat management, nutrition and hydration. 

We always recommended seeking the assessment and advice of your GP or Allied Health Professional before embarking on something like this.

The human heart is exceptionally well adapted to endurance exercise. In endurance events such as 100-milers, the heart is working at well below maximal levels, which it’s good at doing, as long as you’re well trained and healthy going into the race.

However, it’s important to note that the hours of pounding lead to accumulated damage of major muscles. This, in turn, loads the liver and the kidneys. In fact, studies show that it’s common for 100-mile finishers to have abnormal kidney values since they’re working extra hard to filter residue of broken-down muscle from of the blood. However, in 99% of cases, kidney values return to normal shortly after the race. 

Please note, if your urine is cola-brown, seek medical attention immediately!

How do you deal with sleep deprivation?

No amount of preparation can prevent fatigue!

For a 24-hour race, it might not be so bad. But once you start to stretch out beyond 24 hours, you become prone to trips or falls and hallucinations. In fact, after periods greater than 24 hours without sleep, cognitive performance levels are considered the equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1%, nearly twice the legal limit for drivers in Australia!

Training when fatigued reduces the chances that your mind will play tricks on you. We suggest training in conditions that are closest to what you will experience in the race. For example, start a few long training runs at 9 p.m. particularly after a full day at work. In the event that you do start thinking or seeing weird things, learn to slow down and take a breath.

You’ll inevitably experience something called “central fatigue”, a gradual decline in your nervous system’s ability to contract your muscles. Pairing cognitively challenging tasks with exercise while training can help to delay this decline. However, in most cases scheduling in a short nap at regular intervals beyond that 24-hour mark can help to reset the brain and ensure you can push on.

How do you avoid blisters?

As the saying goes, “Prevention is better than a cure”.

There’s a range of products available to keep blisters at bay, including powders for socks that help dry feet out as well as preventing friction. Products such as Body Glide or 3B Neat are great for those areas where chafing between skin surfaces and fabric is likely to occur. Try applying these to problem spots between your toes, along the sides of your feet, and on your heels prior to racing.

We also recommend wearing socks with individual toes, like Injinjis, for anyone prone to developing blisters between their toes. Think about having extra socks and an extra pair of shoes available, often a different make than the ones you started with. This way, if you need to change shoes, it’s less likely you’ll get the same hotspots.

What about food and nutrition?

The most common issue in ultra-endurance events are Gastrointestinal (GI). 

Endurance running disrupts your digestion. It diverts blood away from your stomach to your muscles. As a result, any solid food that you consume can sit around undigested. With the constant jostling of fluid and food, causes problems often resulting in nausea. Your best chance of thwarting GI issues during a race is to train your gut by practising your fueling plan during training.

Personally we like using a combination of liquid food (e.g. Tailwind) and solid food (e.g. Clif Bars, Bananas, Chips, Vegemite Sandwiches, etc) but this comes down to personal choice and testing during your training. 

Check out our Evolve Endurance Nutrition Program for guidance on how to fuel effectively during your event as well as during your training and recovery.

How do I train for an ultra-endurance race?

Our ELEVATE Tailored Training Programs provide personalised plans designed to meet your specific needs and goals incorporating your current training regime, training availability, work, family and social commitments. So if you’re considering ultra-endurance running for the first time or looking to improve your ultramarathon experience, get in touch!

Jase Cronshaw is co-founder and co-owner of V&B Athletic. He is an Australian endurance athlete and coach, procrastinating artist, teetotalist, and a guy who loves to run! You can find him on Instagram @coachcronshaw

Should I exercise with pain?

Should I exercise with pain? A common question we hear in the clinic, the gym and on sporting fields so let’s look into exercising with pain.

It’s always important to listen to your body and to understand the difference between a general ache versus pain, particularly with exercise. 

But what do you listen for?

The first and most important point to note is that pain is the body’s normal response to perceived danger.

It’s like having an alarm system that will go off if something nasty is detected. So while pain is a normal body reaction, it’s not when it lasts longer than 48 hours after exercise, or when that same pain somewhere in your body starts to hurt during the day, even when not exercising. 

How much is too much

You need to be honest and self-evaluate both during and after exercise.

You can easily do this by giving your pain a rating out of 10; the higher the number, the greater the pain. The following key will then help guide your response:

Am I safe to move?

Usually we ask a medical professional (Doctor or Physiotherapist) for a diagnosis, medications or advice about the best treatment.

What you want to know from them is whether you have a condition that means you should avoid exercise and movement at the moment. There are really very few of these thankfully. In fact, for most muscle, joint and nerve pains, exercise done correctly is not only safe but strongly recommended. This includes joint pain like hip and knee arthritis, and neck and back pain, including spondylosis, sciatica and disc problems. 

Understand that “Hurt doesn’t = Harm”

For most of our lives, pain is a useful thing that protects our body.

If I touch a hot stove, I feel pain and I quickly withdraw my hand. Pain is like an alarm that warns me of danger. 

Unfortunately, persistent pain is much less useful.

It is almost always well out of proportion to any damage going on in the body, and people can feel terrible pain when moving even when it is not dangerous. The alarm that is usually so useful becomes “over-protective”.

This means that if there is a particular movement you do that causes you pain, and has done for some time, it is very likely that that pain is not indicating you are doing any harm. You are sore, but safe. This is important to understand because otherwise exercise makes no sense and you will just be miserable!

Another way to think of this is like a lowering of the pain threshold. A certain part of the body, or many parts of the body, becomes over-sensitive to movement and feels more painful than it needs to be.

Will exercise help my pain?

Most people find their pain decreases with movement and exercise when they find the right thing for them, at the right ‘dose’ and once they manage to get a few weeks of it under their belt. This is not guaranteed though, it depends on a lot of factors, so remember advice and progression from a qualified Health Professional is recommended.

Get into the swing of it

When you have decided what you want to do, decide when you want to do it.

Aim for 3-4 times per week. More than that is okay if the exercise is quite easy. But if you are working hard it is often best to give your body a day off in between workouts so it has time to recover and adapt.

When you know what you want to do and when you want to do it, do it!

And for now, don’t worry about anything more than doing it. The key is to “just show up”, at the gym or in the park. Explore the movements involved in whatever you are doing. Get used to how your body feels, see how it reacts and see how your pain reacts. Enjoy moving your body again. Don’t feel you have to work yourself to exhaustion.

If you miss a workout, don’t beat yourself up. There is no value to doing this. Just try again next time

What about the pain?

The golden rule of exercise and pain is to “exercise within tolerable pain that plateaus during exercise and does not continue to rise significantly, and gradually decreases once you have finished”.

We know that pain is like an “over-sensitive alarm” and doesn’t mean you are doing damage, therefore you don’t need to avoid pain. Some pain or discomfort might be necessary to get a good workout. But, of course, you don’t want too much pain, especially if it is the kind of pain that ‘flares up’ after exercise and stops you from working and sleeping properly.

Tolerable pain is hard to quantify as it is very subjective and can be perceived differently for each person.

For some it will be mild discomfort, for others it will be more. Another way of thinking of tolerable pain is something you can cope with and feel is manageable. It should not feel frightening and you should still feel in control.

It will take some trial and error to find this level. At first, you might do too much and flare up your pain. Take time to let it ease off then try again, doing a little less. Think of a flare up as a learning process, as then you will know what is “too much” for you. As you continue to exercise, it is likely that what was once too much will become achievable.

Be ready for DOMS!

Everyone, regardless of whether they have a painful condition, is likely to feel sore the next day or two after trying something new.

This is called DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. So, if you do feel worse after your first session or two, consider that this might not be a flare-up of ‘your’ pain but normal muscle soreness that will diminish over time.

Time to push-on

Each time you push out of your comfort zone, your body adapts and gets stronger for next time.

Once you have had a few weeks in a row of “showing up” and doing exercises such as STRONGCorps, no matter how little, and you have worked out your level of tolerable pain, it is time to start pushing on to get the most benefit from your time and effort that you can.

Once you are in the habit of exercise, you might find that you end up doing the same thing each time. For example, walking the same route or lifting the same weights. Unfortunately, the body quickly adapts to this and you will stop getting as much benefit. You are just maintaining things, but not getting any fitter or stronger. To get the most from exercise, you have to keep moving out of your comfort zone, a little bit at a time, with variety being the spice of life!

Over time, the benefit adds up. To make sure you are doing this, it helps to keep track of what you are doing. You can make sure you progress over time. For example, try to walk a bit further, or do the same distance in a shorter time. If you are doing home exercise or weights at the gym, try to do a few more “repetitions” or lift heavier weights. 

What doesn’t challenge you, won’t change you!

As you start to build the exercise habit, this becomes key.

The best exercise is one that you enjoy, because you will stick to it. This is true, but it is also true that part of your exercise should be quite hard. Not all of it, but maybe just the last few minutes or the last couple of repetitions. Give yourself some tough love. Are you out of breath? Sweating? Are your muscles tired? If not, you may not be getting the benefit you want.

Another benefit of keeping track of what you are doing is that it helps you to follow your exercise programme based on what you plan to do that day, rather than based on your pain. Allowing your pain to ‘dictate’ what you do often leads back into the spiral of doing less and less.

Key points to remember

  • Get advice from an experienced physiotherapist to determine what the injury is and ensure it’s safe to continue exercising.
  • Modify training to bring it to a level that doesn’t aggravate symptoms during or after exercise.
  • Calm the pain with ice, heat, massage, taping or whatever works for you.
  • Identify the cause of the problem (training error, muscle weakness etc.) and address it.
  • Rehab with strength and conditioning work from your physio and make sure you do it!
  • Develop some strategies to reduce pain when exercising as mentioned above and practice these in training to see what works.
  • Taper well before a race or event, as generally less is more when managing an injury, give it some time to settle before and after race day.
  • And finally, plan long term, not just for the next race. Discuss with your physio how you can fully rehab the issue. This might mean a reduction in training volume and gradual build up when races have finished.

Craig Gregory is an APA Sports Physiotherapist Practice Principal at Balmain Sports Medicine. He holds a Masters Sports Physiotherapy, Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy) and Level 1, 2 & 3 APA Sports Physiotherapy. Craig can be contacted via email craig@balmainsportsmed.com.au.

The top 5 things that helped me survive my first ultra

A year ago, if you’d have told me I’d take on a 31-hour, non-stop relay event and actually enjoy it, I wouldn’t have just been surprised. I would most likely have responded with hysterical laughter.

Despite having crewed countless ultra-running endurance events, thanks to a couple of ultra-loving individuals you may know (aka the co-founders of V&B Athletic) I’d never, ever contemplated actually doing one. Until I was invited to be part of a team tackling one of the world’s craziest, no-rules races, The Speed Project (TSP).

The mission?

To run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas through Death Valley, a total of 550km, not stopping until you hit the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.

As a relative newcomer to running, having only taken it up for a milestone birthday a few years back, the entire idea filled me with terror.

Having started with 5km Park Runs, gradually followed by City2Surf, half-marathons and in July last year my first marathon, every fibre of my being wanted to scream “Hell no!” when I was ambushed at the office and asked to join Team 440 for TSP 2020.

But since life’s too short not to challenge yourself, I said yes.

And the rest is history.

For those who’ve always wanted to tackle ultra-running but never dreamed it could be possible… I’m living proof that, with the right training, it absolutely is.

So in the interests of sharing, here are the top five things that helped me get across the finish line intact, and with a huge smile on my face.

Start training early

I can’t stress this one enough. Starting well in advance of your event is the secret to success, and has so many benefits.

It means no last-minute panic, allows you to build up fitness and strength gradually. It also minimises the risk of injury from overload, and ensures you go into the event as physically and mentally prepared as possible, knowing that you’ve done all the hard work prior to race day.

When TSP 2020 was postponed due to the pandemic in March – three days before our team was due to fly out – rather than feeling defeated, I kept on training. With the entire world turned upside down, the routine and structure of a training program during lockdown was a massive sanity-saver.

Also, having the motivation and accountability of my V&B Athletic family to rely on during this time was a total game-changer. There’s no way I would have done this level of training or preparation if left to my own devices.

All I had to do was turn up, train with the group and gradually, over a period of six months – without even realising it – I got fitter, stronger and faster.

The ultimate win-win situation!

If you’re a runner, don’t just run

While it may sound counter-intuitive, the number one thing that improved my running was adding regular strength training into the mix.

While I’d always done RUNCorps Run Club on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, adding STRONGCorps Group Training three times a week took my running speed and endurance to the next level. And the proof was right there on paper in the monthly time trials.

Do I like burpees, push-ups and badger crawls. Um, no!

But once I started to see and feel the results, it became addictive and made every bit of hard work and sweat worth it.

The variety was also key. In addition to 2 running and 3 strength sessions each week, I made sure to squeeze in a social run or yoga on the weekends, coupled with plenty of foam rolling in front on the TV at night. While I was exercising 5-6 times a week, it definitely didn’t feel that way since every session was different, flew by in less than an hour and (I’ve got to admit) was actually fun thanks to the legends who lace up and show up at training each week.

Never underestimate the power of the mind

I’d always looked with awe at ultra-runners and wondered how on earth they kept going: mile after mile, with no sleep and when everything hurts.

Once race day rolled around on September 5 (thanks to The Speed Project morphing into a virtual event, TSP DIY, for the first time) the most valuable thing I learnt first-hand is how incredibly important visualisation, and the power of the mind, can be.

Luckily, I went in prepared having spoken to people who do this kind of thing regularly, including ultra-runner and endurance athlete, Samantha Gash. One of the best pieces of advice she gave me?

Yes, there will be times when you want to stop, when you don’t want to get out of the van and keep running. But remember why you signed up for this, just keep going, and put one foot in front of the other. And when things get tough, think about how good it will feel when you finally cross that finish line.

Samantha Gash

Knowing my team was relying on me to get out there, even at 2 AM, in the freezing Bondi night, meant slipping the shoes back on was so much easier.

Mantras also make a massive difference. The two that helped me the most? “I choose this” and one of Sam’s adventure racing favourites “Team before self”. Sounds slightly woo, but it works.

Eat small and often

Coming in to this event as an ultra-running rookie, one of the things I was most worried about was food.

What to eat.

When to eat it.

And how much to eat to keep your body fuelled, but not weighed down.

I knew I’d done the training. But I was concerned I’d get the crucial nutrition part of the race wrong and end up sick, or running out of steam.

Since I’ve never used gels or powders, I stuck to things I’d used before and knew my body could tolerate when running. For 31 hours and 15 minutes, I basically lived on Vegemite and avocado wraps, salt and vinegar chips, peanut butter Cliff Bars, SOS Hydration and mandarins when I felt like something sweet.

I also treated myself to one coffee on the first morning, and devoured an entire box of Oporto’s hot chips with chicken salt at midnight, thanks to an unexpected delivery from one of our epic support crew. It wasn’t scientific, but by sticking to the rule of eating and drinking something small at every break (even if I didn’t feel particularly hungry or thirsty at the time) I kept powering no problem and felt good the whole way.

Mentally break it down into bite-sized chunks

Last but not least? I broke the two nights of TSP DIY into manageable mental chunks.

I never thought about it as 31 hours and 15 minutes.

Or 62.8km, the total distance I ended up running over that time.

As a team strategy, we aimed to smash out no more than 5km at a time (or 3 laps of the 1-mile loop we ran continuously in Bondi) before tagging the next runner. Which helped enormously as an endurance first-timer. I simply took it one step, one lap and one set at a time.

And, while it sounds ridiculous, I used small incentives, like the thought of what I’d get to eat when I stopped, or the chance to sit in the shade, as motivation.

For example, some of my many mental notes to self went a little something like this:

“Only half a lap to go and, in less than 3 minutes, you’ll be sitting luxuriously in a camp chair downing a cold drink. You can do anything for 3 minutes”.

A few other valuable lessons.

Go into the race with a plan but be flexible and prepared for it to change.

Take energy from your support crew and other runners, and be sure to give the same positive vibes back.

And, most importantly of all, remember to have a good time!

What’s next?

After the TSP DIY experience, it’s safe to say I may now have the ultra-running bug. Next stop, the Stromlo Running Festival in Canberra mid-November. Then, who knows!

Jacqui Mooney is a Sydney-based editor, content director and media consultant. She’s the former editor of Women’s Health Australia and a passionate supporter of women in sport. You can find her on Instagram @jacqmooney

What should I take with me during 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.


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!


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


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.


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’ 15 cm to 20 cm deep at least 30 metres from the trail and then cover the hole when finished.

Jase Cronshaw is co-founder and co-owner of V&B Athletic. He is an Australian endurance athlete and coach, procrastinating artist, teetotalist, and a guy who loves to run! You can find him on Instagram @coachcronshaw

How to tackle your first Ultra Marathon

Pace. Gear. Nutrition.

Three causes of the most common mistakes made by aspiring endurance runners when embarking on their first ultra-marathon.

We outline how to get maximum enjoyment out of your first journey down “the long trail”.

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. This 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 tenfold in an ultra-marathon. Many times we fail to use race-day gear in training. Small things, both mental and physical like chafing and unwarranted fatigue, become huge setbacks and will quickly ruin your chances of a successful ultra-marathon campaign.

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 ultra-marathon event, 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 expensive piece, consider having a good outer-most layer that keeps you warm and dry.

A quality waterproof jacket, 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.

Label or colour code your gear. This will help you to find what you’re looking for when your brain is no longer working properly.

What about those items you’re least like to use… Most ultra-marathon events now require you to carry your lights and hi-vis vest with you from the start. Pack these at the bottom of your pack as you won’t need them until later in the event. There’s nothing wrong with packing a lighter headlamp for the day. If you have a bigger, chunkier headlamp that will be your main one at night, you 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. 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

Most ultra-marathons start in the early hours. 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 an 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 or neck tube is perfect as you can use it to trap heat when you’re cold or let heat out when you’re warm. You can also use it around your wrist like a sweat band to mop sweat and wipe your nose!

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.



Don’t just wing it on race day. Being properly hydrated in the days leading up to the race and not just downing that bottle of electrolytes at the start line is the key! At a minimum, you should aim to consume at least two to two and a half litres of water every day to ensure your body is functioning at its peak.

Before your first ultra-marathon

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 first ultra-marathon

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.

Check out our Evolve Endurance Nutrition Program for guidance on how to fuel effectively during your race as well as during your training and recovery,

Pace yourself!

Start slow and keep it steady

Avoid getting caught up in the excitement and going 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. You’re going to push yourself a little harder on race day, but 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 your first ultra-marathon!

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 and author of 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.