Ultra-Running Tips from the Pro’s Part Two
Written By: Ben Mounsey
In the second instalment of a four-part series, professional runner, Ben Mounsey has spoken to ultra-runners Howard Dracup and Georgia Tindley to get their top tips on how to improve your long distance running.
3rd place in the Montane Spine Challenger 2018
FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL
Planning & preparation before a long-distance race is absolutely vital to success. Especially for distances of 100 miles and above.
In the weeks and months leading up to the race, I recce all, or as much of the route as possible (in sections). This helps me to understand things like what terrain I will be running on, what shoes and kit I will need and most importantly where the race goes. Then I sit down with a note pad & pen! I close my eyes, visualise it and try and run the whole race in my head - I get into its mind! I’ll start with how long I think it’s going to take me on a good day & a bad day...I break it down into legs/sections. I ask myself questions like; are there any aid stations? How far apart are they? Am I allowed support/able to use drop bags, how much food, water & electrolytes do I need to carry to get to the next supply point?
Time spent at checkpoints needs to be as fluid as possible. You want your next lot of Energy/kit ready to grab and go without any faffing. I put mine into clear ziplock bags and label it CP1 for example, and make sure my dropbags are organised.
By constantly familiarising myself with the route and planning, it means that on the day I know exactly what I’m doing & where everything needs to be. By preparing in advance it gives me more confidence on race day and puts me under less stress before and during the race- especially if you’re travelling abroad! I also do the same with my kit choices.
The Montane Gecko Vest was my most used race vest last year, I love it! It’s remarkably comfortable and extremely breathable – perfect for running ultra-distances.
I used my “Montane Prism Mitts” a hell of a lot this winter. I prefer mitts to gloves as they keep my hands a lot warmer and revive them if they've gone too cold & wet!
Team GB Long Distance Mountain Runner
TRAINING FOR TECHNICAL RUNNING
If you're one of these people foolish enough to not only sign up for an ultra, but who decided to make it a technical and exhausting skyrunning style ultra then heed this advice; train on technical terrain. prepare for technical terrain. adapt to technical terrain.
Moving over ridges, rocks and scree is both mentally and physically exhausting and will take it out of you far more than running on a lovely smooth trail. It will also require a different style of movement and use different muscles; incorporate some scrambling and strength work into your training (or limp across the finish line!).
DON'T START TOO FAST
It's the classic piece of advice for ultra-running for a reason: everyone knows it, and everyone has done it anyway. In the excitement of the start line it is easy to get carried away, especially if you're used to running shorter, faster races. No matter how good you feel at the start of an ultra, there will come a time when you feel awful. If you start too fast this rough patch Is going to come sooner and last longer! If I'm feeling unexpectedly fresh and springy at the start of a race, I remind myself that it'll make a bigger difference to be able to push hard at the end than to keep pace with my competitors at the beginning.
DON'T PAY ATTENTION TO OTHER COMPETITORS
It's easy to get psyched out before a race when you start chatting to your competitors. How much water are you carrying? Are you eating gels or solid food? Do you think it is t-shirt weather? Where are you going to push hard?But making changes just before the race, no matter how small they seem, can totally unravel you. It's important that you work out what works for you during training, and stick to it in the race. Maybe carrying 500ml less water in a race of a couple of hours wouldn't make that much difference, but over the course of an ultra that could be litres less that you manage to consume.
This year Merrell are the lead sponsor for the Skyrunning World Series and have put together a team of international runners to showcase their range of new skyrunning specific shoes. This includes the Merrell Long Sky running shoes, which are specifically designed to provide both grip and support in grueling ultras. If you fancy something a bit lighter, the Skyfire is a great all round shoe and easily robust enough to take on ultra distances.
This is part two of a four-part series.