Feeling Anxious and Nervous
You have trained for your first 50-mile ultramarathon. You have been visualizing your run and you’ve trimmed up the toenails. But you might be a bit anxious and nervous. Doubt is creeping into your psyche. You even had a nightmare that you missed the start of the race. This is perfectly normal. To ease your anxieties, calm your nerves, diminish any doubt, and get you pumped, consider the following tips and what to expect.
What to Pack
Well before the night before you travel to the race site, make a list of everything you need to bring. Check the course for “drop bag” locations and know where the water stations will be. Put what you will wear on race day in a clear plastic Ziplock. Pack two or three pairs of running shoes and at least three pairs of socks in case the race becomes wet and muddy. Pack a rain jacket, especially if the forecast calls for rain. Arm warmers that go on and off without a wardrobe change, are a lifesaver if you start in the cool morning or run through the night. Pack a hydration bottle/belt/backpack, and a cap to protect you from the rain and the sun. You pack a second set of clothes. Some like to change sweaty running clothes after the first 25 miles.
Pack a small transparent storage container to help you or your crew easily locate the following essentials: body glide, zinc oxide, toenail clippers, tweezers, scissors, ibuprofen, Neosporin, Tiger Balm, bandages, athletic tape, athletic bandages, wipes, tissues, sunscreen, headlamp, flashlight, extra batteries, sunglasses, bug spray, lip balm, Benadryl, vitamins, and duct tape.
If the course is tricky or if you are nervous about zoning out and missing that flag on a turn, also tuck in a copy of the course and aid stations. Put it in a ziplock to keep it dry. Although the aid stations are usually stocked, pack a big cooler with water, your sport drink of choice, coconut water, fruit, and food that you want your crew to feed you throughout the 8 – 13 hour race day. One time I cut up a giant burrito for my crew to dangle in front of me each lap. Turns out it was not that appetizing and the on course broth and grilled cheese had super powers. Just eat what you can stomach. Don’t force anything unless its fluids. You won’t make it far without those.
What to Expect The Night Before The Race
- What to Eat – Some races offer a pasta dinner the night before for a fee. Eat what you are accustomed to eating and what works for you. You don’t need pasta! I like a giant salad with a good protein, just as I do at home.
- Lay Out Your Running Clothes – Shorts, running tights, top/tank, sport bra, arm warmers, socks, running shoes, jacket, rain gear, etc. If I am camping, I sleep with them on!
- Set Your Alarm – Set 3 alarms! Everyone staying with you should set his/her cell phone alarm.
- You Might Not Sleep – I can never sleep the night before an ultra. I toss and turn. I worry the alarm won’t go off and that I will oversleep. You will be ok not having a good night sleep that night prior. It is the days and weeks leading up to it where rest and sleep are crucial.
What to Expect The Morning of The Race
- Prepare Your Body – Smear generous amounts of body glide or sport wax around your toes, feet, nipples (guys), below your sport bra (gals), and throughout parts of your body that will chafe.
- Dress – Strap on your running watch or other gadget. Dress appropriately for race day weather. Again, arm warmers! If you’re running on a cold day, dress in layers. I like old socks for my hands so I can throw them away when it warms up.
- Consume Calories – Eat a breakfast that you know you can stomach. It might not taste good, but eat a little something. Amino Acids prior to race start is a good practice if this is something that is not new.
- Butterflies and Diarrhea – It’s an exciting day and you’re a tad nervous. Experiencing butterflies and diarrhea is not uncommon at the start of any race. If you can’t go to the bathroom, a little warm salt water can help, but a little nervousness usually does the trick.
- Pack Your Car – Don’t forget your bib number, timing chip, extra running gear, cooler, and the container with the essentials.
During The Run
- Start Slow – An ultra is an endurance run, not a sprint! You can’t win a 50 mile race in the first mile, but you sure can lose it! Plan on giving yourself walk breaks! If your goal is to finish, walk early in the race and you will feel much better that last 10!
- Bask in Nature’s Beauty – Enjoy the sunrise, the sunset, and the bright rainbow that adorns the sky after a rainfall. Enjoy that you CAN do this… not everyone has the ability.
- Hydrate – Always fill your bottle at the aid stations. If you arrive with a full bottle that is a red flag that you aren’t sipping enough. Eating small amounts frequently is usually easier than a small meal. Take small bites and keep moving your feet. Be mindful to drink or consume some electrolytes and not just water.
- Take Care of Your Feet– If your feet get wet, it is wise to change socks or even shoes. If the blister feels small, take care of it early to avoid a major problem later on. Unless it is hurting, avoid popping a blister. The fluid in the blister is healing. I prefer to put a good amount of neosporin over the blister and cover with athletic or duct tape. I like duct because that is not coming off!
- You Might Bite It– If you trip over a tree root, a rock, or slip on a switchback or in a creek, dust yourself off and carry on! You will likely fall later in the race when you are fatigued and fantasizing about an ice cold beer.
- Carry Wipes – Depending on the course, there will be moments when the woods are the only place to go. Don’t litter and be mindful of poison ivy. And check out Tom’s wipes if you’re a little chapped!
- Thank The Aid Station Volunteers, Race Directors, and Your Crew – They are on their feet longer than you are!
You Are A Rare Breed May you run many more!