Mark Tanaka - Race Tips

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

By Mark Tanaka

Confession:  Though I've finished over 90 trail ultras in the past seven years, I continue to forget learned lessons, and find myself repeating the same mistakes.  Must have something to do with being middle-aged.  Some of these perhaps don't apply to everyone.  If nothing else, I figure I might finally master some of these tips if I read them on Sportiva LIVE!
Never assume that the sky will stay the same as when you leave home.  In particular, unless you KNOW it will be cloudy all day, bring that cap or visor.
If it's hot at all and you will be running any significant distance, carry electrolyte caps.
If there is any chance of chafing, stash some lube on any long run (or race).  Bad chafing is as irreversible and progressive as a large crack in an eggshell.
Even if you don't need music while running, it's sometimes nice to have the option just in case a song pops into your head and won't stop.  Ear worms can be torture.
When you plan on doing a quick run in the morning, and you wake up early, don't pretend you are going to get back to sleep.  Get out of bed and get going!  You will be wishing you had when you have to end your run prematurely to be wherever you needed to be.
If juggling family, work and training, always know your route options beforehand.  Common scenario:  Kids acting crazy since daddy's taking them to school, running around naked instead of getting dressed, not eating breakfast, complete mayhem.  By the time the fun ends, you realize you are not going to be able to do that trail running commute to work, so have some other options that require less time.
Another common scenario:  short on sleep, but not working until afternoon.  Want to get a run in, but also need to nap.  Run first, nap later.  Why?  Because you probably won't get to sleep by the time it's sunny and you've returned home after dropping the kids off at preschool, and even if you did, the guys the HOA hired to blow leaves off the street will wake you up.  You will run anyways, but not get the nap, and then as luck has it, the shift from hell.
Become familiar with the whole race website, even if you've run the race many times before.
Look at the race website again the day before the race.  Stuff comes up at the last minute.
If decent portable maps are made available, carry one with you.  Markings get vandalized or sometimes never get put up.  Any navigational aids can help and save you minutes to hours and at least some angst.
Although I usually don't solicit pacers or crew for my 100 milers, being paced is fun and social.  If someone offers to pace you, accept.  If someone gives you a vague offer to help you before a race, consider the possibility that he or she would like to pace you.
Think of what you need to do well before arriving at the next aid station.  In the likely event there is more than one task to be done, count them, so you can more certainly ensure you've done everything before you leave.  It is easy to be distracted when thanking and even chatting with the volunteers, which you should always do.
Steve Prefontaine reportedly often said, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift."  As much as I am into pushing myself to my limits, it is permissible to take into account your next 100-miler three weeks away.  Plus, I am not as gifted as Pre was.
To balance the previous point, never underestimate your ability to make up time late in a race.  Don't calculate yourself out contention for some buckle or other award cutoff until you are 100% sure you are not going to make it.  Remember, extreme fatigue hinders mathematic calculations.
If married to a non-runner, only schedule as many races as you can give her equal alone time.  Though I think I owe my wife a solid month-long vacation...

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