We asked endurance junkie and current (2016) Addo 100 Mile Womens Champion Linda Doke for her tips on what to be looking at to get you prepped and ready to take on 100 miles in the Eastern Cape wilderness.
IMPORTANT NOTE: While the article is primarily aimed the 100 Mile runners, most of the advice is also pertinent to those of you that are tackling the 44km and 76km ultra trail runs as well.
In Part 1 of these articles, we looked at how the importance of incorporating longer runs into your training regime in order to get endurance into the legs, and how back-to-back runs are great for teaching the body how to cope with tired legs.
By now you should have done a few of these sessions. The lessons learned from them are invaluable, and not only from simply a heavy-leg perspective.
In this article, we’ll look closer at what you’re likely to be feeling like now, with just 5 weeks to go before the race, and the finer points you need to focusing on besides simply churning out training miles.
With all the running you’ve been doing in your build-up to Addo over these past few months, you’d expect your legs to be feeling steadily stronger, particularly with the fact that there’s just over a month to go before they need to be powerful enough to carry you up more than 5600m of vertical gain over a distance of 100 miles.
But chances are, they don’t.
In fact, they more than likely feel less like steel, and more like lead!
You’re probably also doubting they could carry you half that distance without you needing to take several long coffee breaks along the way...
Fear not, that’s perfectly normal for this stage.
Your legs have been working hard, and over this next five weeks they’ll be consolidating that hard work so that come race day, they will be ready.
So don’t stress, just vasbyt with your training, and trust in it.
During summer, Addo bakes.
There’s no question about it, you’re going to grill out there.
During December 2015, the Addo region recorded temperatures around 50˚C, and February/March is often not much cooler.
Heat can be as life-threatening as cold, so you need to do all you can to prepare yourself for hot conditions and to prevent overheating.
Learn to recognise the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in yourself and/or fellow runners: racing heart rate, elevated body temperature, altered mental state (confusion and disorientation), nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, headache.
If you’re able to, timewise and location-wise, do your best to practise running in the heat of the day so you know how you’ll cope on race day.
Use these runs to try out various cooling methods (eg. wet Buff on neck, splashing water head, etc.), testing which sunblock products you prefer, and trying out different protective kit (eg. cap with neck flap, running sleeves, etc.)
With heat comes sweat, and with sweat comes chafe!
And believe me, on an ultra, particularly one as long as 100 miles, chafing can reduce a runner to tears.
Use your hot runs to see where your hot-spots for chafing are.
Common spots are the groin, the bum, the armpit, the nipples (for men), the breast bone (for women, caused by the abrasion of a running bra), the side of the neck and various parts of the back (caused by the continuous rubbing of a pack).
There’re various preventative measures you can try against chafing, like lube, tape or micropore.
Use these next few weeks to see what works best for you.
Remember, what works for one runner doesn’t necessarily suit another, so chat to people, get various ideas, and put them to the test in your training runs.
Don’t be tempted to save that testing for race day!
Together with running in heat, now’s the time to try out all sorts of things for your race:
Do your long runs in the kit you’re planning to use for the race.
Check if you’re happy with it; if you’re not, you still have plenty of time to tweak things or find other more comfortable kit.
There are at least four full weeks of training left.
Will your shoes still be in good shape by then?
If they’re likely to be too worn, now’s the time to invest in a new pair for the race – it’ll give you sufficient time to wear them in by race day.
Some of you won’t have experienced running to a headlamp in the dark of night.
It’s completely different from night running in a city – there’s nothing quite like it!
The best way to describe it is to imagine yourself in a tunnel – the only light you have shines only so far, and you have no idea what’s beyond that: there’re no landmarks to guide you, there’s nothing around you but darkness… for hours on end!
So, now’s the time to test your headlamp by doing some night running. Head out with a few friends on a planned route, and enjoy the experience!
Fuelling and hydration:
It goes without saying that fuel and hydration during an ultra are critical.
Never underestimate their importance – getting it wrong can break your race.
Practise your eating and drinking regime during your long runs.
Try out different bars, gels and foods so you know what works best for you, and what your stomach can and can’t take.
(I’ll be covering hydration and eletrolytes in greater detail in Part 3 of this series, so more on that then.)
Ultras involve walking, and that’s a fact that applies to everyone, even the very best runners.
Over long distances you need to expend your energy wisely, saving it for later.
As a hill’s gradient increases, so does the effort required to run up it – particularly in hot conditions. When faced with a hill, always ask yourself the question: energy expenditure versus effort, will running up this one be worth it?
Remember that if walking is as fast as running, it’s pointless not to walk. BUT, by walk I don’t mean amble… I mean powerwalk!
So, practise your powerwalking – make sure your stride is long and strong, and your legs are working hard.
This ain’t no walk-in-the-park you’re training for, this is the Addo Elephant Trail Run in the wild and beautiful Addo Elephant National Park!