Updated: May 16, 2022
by Sarah Perry & Luke Kennedy
Nothing good happens without planning and nothing amazing happens without incredible meticulous planning. It's definitely my strong point and I'm hoping there will be something here that might help you when you're planning for your event - perhaps you're new to running or making the jump to ultra running. At the very least you can have a giggle at my previous mistakes and experiences. I wanted to team up with Luke for this blog as he has many more years experience of racing than me and lots of valuable ideas that he's picked up along the way.
Recce the route
I couldn't turn up at a race feeling prepared had I not done this. We're lucky that running is pretty much our only hobby so we love nothing more than spending a weekend getting to grips with a route.
I've seen first hand how skipping this tip can cost you your race, which I think is unforgivable considering the amount of preparation you have to put into other areas before even turning up at the start line. I can't imagine that trying to keep pace with others to avoid getting lost would lead to a pleasant race at all.
Luke added that there are usually arranged recces for the bigger events and these can usually be found on SI Entries. He said knowing the route off by heart reduces stress on race day; it can help you make decisions about preparation too such as when to meet crew, eat and change clothing. Before he tackled the Lakeland 100 he recced the route by walking the full thing! Walking…. what's that???
When I'm recceing the route I'm also making a note of how long it'll take to get there and I look for places that I can park so that I can make a perfect race day plan.
Pick the best Kit & Road Test it
We run nearly every day and you'd think we'd know what kit to wear for races - but no, we still make kit mistakes! I've picked trail shoes for a predominantly road race before (not once, but twice). Even on our weekend runs we've been caught out with the wrong kit; we've resigned ourselves to packing more than we need (and rightly so).
So what kit do you need?
-Properly fitting trainers that are appropriate for the terrain.
- A lightweight waterproof jacket with taped seams (this also means it'll be good for most races).
- I love to have a pair of running waterproof leggings with taped seams for winter.
-When it's wet we both wear waterproof socks to keep comfortable for longer (we're not fans of waterproof shoes as they seem to retain water).
-A properly fitted running bag with plenty of pockets plus a couple of Summit Crazy flasks somewhere you can easily access them.
- We always carry gloves and a spare buff.
- We love wicking layers all year round.
- Spare kit and other bits and bats are kept dry in our Summit Crazy dry bags.
Is race kit any different?
Luke mentioned that it's important to follow race kit lists very carefully. There will be a reason for their requirements!
When we were thinking about the importance of proper kit, Luke talked about the year he did the Hardmoors 55 with the dreaded 'Beast from the East'. The weather was horrendous and the pictures leave a lot to be desired (just figures in a storm). In typical British style it was snowing in March - a good reminder to have kit for all eventualities and a good test that your kit is up to standard.
When I did my recent C2C race, lots of the crew were talking about how difficult their runners were finding it on the hills in the night. It was bitter! When I packed, I never in a million years thought I'd be wearing ALL of my layers: buffs on my head and face as well and my thick winter coat and gloves. I was trotting in all of that too! I'm just thankful that I'm an over-packer and I will be forever more.
Make a plan for eating and drinking - road test that too!
Everyone is different with regards to what they can stomach whilst running but the more you can consume at the right times - the better.
I just happen to be one of the lucky ones - I can stomach proper food for most of my runs. If it's a long run, I might aim to eat a lot of my calories early on whilst I feel good then prepare to nibble nearer the end when I can't stand the sight of anything. On shorter runs I'm happy to take a banana but on anything longer than a marathon distance I think more carefully about what's in my packup. I like a combination of things to keep me interested, for example on a local unsupported 60 miler we both took a humus and falafel wrap, a couple of Chia Charge bars, a banana & some dark chocolate. We finished feeling good in about 12 hours and then were able to have a decent tea and make up for any lost calories.
Since the C2C was my longest run to date, I knew that I would need a better plan for nutrition than our small to mid length ultra runs. I knew I wanted to try to eat 'proper' food as gels and powders are not appealing to me so I made much more that I needed so that I could dip in and out of food.
Luke often struggles with his stomach during ultras and so it's essential for him to try out any new foods beforehand. He enjoys a mix of flapjacks, powders and the occasional wrap.
We're not fans ourselves, but we've heard that other people survive on gels, soup and porridge.
Lots of time can be lost stopping at checkpoints so we want food that we can eat whilst on the go if possible.
We'll talk more about food race food and share some recipes in upcoming blogs.
Decide who you need there (and more importantly who you don't)
Time is precious and we both appreciate everyone that makes the effort to come and see or support us on runs however, sometimes visitors can be a hindrance.
When picking crew, we agreed that it should be somebody that knows you well and preferably someone who runs themselves too. There can be many highs and lows on a longer run and crew that can tune in to what you need but also listen to you is invaluable.
Luke described the difference between effective and ineffective crew. During the Hardmoors 110 he failed to share his race plan with his crew. They did an amazing job of keeping him fed, watered and rested but he remembers feeling frustrated that their plan did not match his - costing him time and a much slower finish time than he'd hoped for.
On the other hand, he talked about a time when his crew worked as a team to keep him moving as fast as possible. He was able to ask for what he wanted before the next checkpoint meaning no time was wasted stopping.
Support runners can be amazing and seeing friends and family, even briefly, can be just what you need to see you through. Again we think it's essential to share your race plan with your support runners and communicate how you feel. I like to pre-warn people that I may not talk much but that I really appreciate them being there.
If you've done all of the above then it must be the week before; taper and eat carbs!
Don't worry, we don't eat a certain amount of carbs per kg of our body weight but we do make sure that we sleep well, eat well and make sure nothing goes majorly wrong in the run up to our event. Life can be incredibly busy but we try our best to not let this affect how we feel on race day.
We like to make sure that we incorporate enough carbs into our diet in the run up to the big day and staying hydrated is really important too. We just make sure that we have a smaller, earlier meal the night before the race so that we can get a good night's sleep.
I don't taper as such, if we're doing an ultra outside of an event I will run as usual throughout the week. If I'm preparing for an organised event, this can't be rescheduled as such so I'm likely to go a bit easier with my miles. Luke is similar but may take a couple of days off before a big event. This can be a great time to go over any plans again and check your kit and route.
That's about all from us! We'd love to hear from you, get in touch and share your top tips too!
🏃🏃♀️🐾 (Luke, Sarah & Murphy)
Also look out for our new Summit Crazy recipes blog; a range of tasty meals for every point in the race calendar.
Since this week is all about race preparation, have a look at some of our carb heavy ideas for the week leading up to your event. 😋