Wednesday, April 4

What to Prepare for a 100K Trail Run

This particular write up is inspired by my few friends whom I was able to convince to join and run a 100 kilometer trail run  distance on the coming TNF100 2012,  Baguio-Bengeut, Philippines for the very first time on April 21 and 22. I hope in little way, this  will serve as their checklist and help them prepare  for the race.

What to prepare for an ultra trail run, especially a 100 kilometer distance?

Well ofcourse, aside from the physical and mental preparation, there are gears that one needs to carry in order to survive on the entire duration of the race. Usually there will always be a list of gear that the organizer of the race will release together with a map and sometimes with elevation. There are mandated gears that runners should bring at all times for there will be a  random check at  some check points and runners  with out it or lacking items on the list are not allowed to proceed further unless s/he will able to produce one, though of  my running twice for a  100K race, I haven't experienced any checking of gears at all.  And  there is a list of just recommended gears that runners will always have the option to carry it or not. 

This is my list of gears based on my ultra trail run experience in the past.

Hydration Pack with 1.5 liter of hydration bladder. It should be light but  big enough to carry all my gears needed for the race. I prefer the one with a pocket on the hip belt so that I can put my provision of trail food from one check point to the next. I use trekking pole, so I prefer the one which can carry trekking pole especially on the first few kilometers of the race. Always replenish water load at every check point.

Jacket. It should be light and waterproof. This is a gear that will keep you dry when it rains and warm  when it's windy and cold especially on the middle of the night. 

Headlamp. What I have is a trekking torch, though there are those that can be clipped on the cap, I still need to find one like that, otherwise I will use what I have. If running on the Philippines, do not put this on the drop off bag, most of the time the race will start dawn and it is still dark. One will be needing this upon the start of the race and when it gets dark towards the 3/4 part of the route. In other countries, race starts when the light breaks in the morning, so this can be at the mid way drop off bag to lessen the weight.

First Aid Kit.  What's inside my first aid kit? thermal blanket, band-aid strips, leukoplast plaster or athletic tape, pertoleum jelly, liniment, beta dine ointment. 

Trail Food.    I have a combination of several kinds, for me variety is very important. I have Gu Power Gel, Gu Chumps, candies, bite size chocolates, sachet cheese, smallest sachet of Boy Bawang and spicy peanuts, tapang pusit, cheese and parmesan pandesal. After 10K of running I already start small intake of food, candy or chocolate. Towards the 20K I already start opening power gel, then alternating it with chumps.  And the routine will continue until the last few kilometers. But based on my experience, after 80 kilometer it is already hard to swallow anything even power gel, I just force myself to take it with water. I alternate it with other food. Boy Bawang and spicy peanut is an important food for me from midnight until dawn. Chewing keeps me busy and lessen my feeling of sleepiness. I just bring few pieces of each  kind enough to last me until the halfway check point where I can replenish my provision for the remaining half of the course. There are food at each check point stations, in the Philippines most likely steam sweet potato and banana, I eat those as well. But I normally bring my own food for in the event that I feel hungry halfway to the next check point, I can always have something to fill my stomach. 

500ML Gatorade. This is very useful to keep a good electrolyte level while on the race. 

Toiletries. Small sachet of wet ones, small sachet of tissue paper. You do  not know when nature calls, but based on my experience I  did it once on each race that I joined. One will be lucky if you will feel it near a community but if not then just do it off trail. If you are a female and you have a monthly visit on the race day,  secure both ends of the sanitary napkin with a safety pin to your undies to make sure it will not move to an unwanted area and will stay to its best position and bring an extra sanitary napkin and safety pins. Others use tampons but I don't. Waterproof the tissue and sanitary napkin on a plastic zip lock. This is the very last items that you would want to be soaked on water.

Personal Items.  Identification Card, Medical Card, and money of smaller bills. You might be needing something  like soda, bread, food or tissue paper when you pass by a sari sari store. Just not coins. 

Extra Socks. When it rains and you wish for a dry socks, this will come handy. Though on the Baguio trail where crossing a river is least expected,  there a very minimal chance of getting wet not unless it will rain. 

Trekking Pole. Others use a pair of trekking pole others not. It really depends on the runner. In my case, this is a very big help especially on the steep ascends distributing the load just on the knees to the pole. Towards the last 20 kilometers this serves as my 3rd and fourth leg. Big help for me. 

 Sachet of Iodized Salt or Kiamoy. In case I will start feeling muscle cramps, I have it. 

Whistle. Required but also very useful in case of emergency. 

Cap. Arm sleeves. Sun glasses. Bonnet. Gloves   The first three items, I always have them all the time in any long distance race. The last two,  if it's winter or  if  it is expected that temperature will go down  especially on the evening, it's best to have it. You really do not know if you are going to use it or not but if situation needs it, having both is a big relief.

Buff/Headwear. This is a must gear for me especially if its cold,  very useful in so many ways. 

Celphone with battery and lineload.

Camera. I always love to document what I am doing, though I can only take pictures when I am on a relax mode but at least I can always pull it out when I feel like using it.

Sunblock, Petroleum Jelly, Lip Balm. I apply this before the start of the race. I carry with me the petroleum jelly but leave the sun block and lip balm. 

Drop Off Bag (At Halfway Point)
What's in inside the drop off bag? 
This are items that a runner can leave at the 50K check point or the midway  check point of the race. Usually organizer will collect this the night before the race or before the gun start. This is where you are going to put items that you will be needing on the next half of the race. 

Extra shoes. I haven't tried changing my shoes during the course of the race. Others did, so it depends on what you want. 

Extra socks. Change socks when what you are wearing is  already wet to avoid blisters. And not white socks please especially on trail running. The stain of mud is very hard to wash not unless you will despose it after the race.

Trail Food.   Provision of food for the next half of the race. 

Extra Shirt.  When the shirt that you are using during the first half of the race is already wet,  it's best to change before you proceed to the next half. 

500ml of Gatorade. Replenish supply of electrolyte.

Ipod/Music.  This is very useful from midnight keeping me alive and not sleepy.
Drop off Bag (At the Finish Line)
Organizer also allow drop off bag at the finish line. I normally have my change clothes here before going back to the hotel. At least have something dry and clean. I also put bread, in case there is nothing to eat at the finish line.  I need to eat something right after the race. Just on small amount but at least have something to eat. And Gatorade again.

On Food. Doing an ultra trail run especially doing a 100 kilometer and beyond is a very physical demanding activity. One will burn so much calories on the duration of the race. The reason one needs to replenish its intake right away. On my experience, I need to have a solid food, at least one complete meal for the duration of the race. That is rice with viand. At least one but if a runner can have a chance to have it more than once the better. I think at least twice is better and thrice would be the best, at around 10am, as brunch, at around 8pm as dinner. I feel having just the power gel and sugar booster food is not enough to sustain  the energy needed on a more than 24 hour race. But one has to strategize on how to have a meal at the middle of the race. If  one will have a support vehicle that can  wait at some points where it is accessible by car, it's better, if not, then have something when passing a community that has a restaurant. Last option is to carry with you from the start of the race a rice and fried chicken (Mcdo/Jollibee /Chowking) wrap on plastic just to have a solid food come mid day.

On the trail.  What pace to do? When to give your very best big stride, when to rest and stop?  In my case based on my  personal experience  running a long distance run,  from the gun start, I keep and maintain a pace comfortable to me, a constant steady pace. If there are long steep ascends even before the check points I stop for a minute or two to rest my legs, then proceed. I reserve my energy, for having to tackle a 100 kilometer distance is such a huge long endeavor. At every check points I sit down and rest my legs for around 3 to 5 minutes. It should not be too long as well. I do not sleep on the evening part, I just continue even just on a walking pace. Being a mountaineer and having experienced night  long treks, this  I put on  my mind, is just an extended night trek and I will be able to do it til the finish line. On the evening and towards dawn especially on the Baguio Benguet trail, it's best  to be with a group or at least a buddy. That way one will have somebody to deal with the dogs, the trail, the cold temperature and probably the ghost.

Have a Positive Happy Thoughts. Having to run a 100 kilometer is already a challenging thing to do, having a positive happy thoughts helps me a lot to deal with it. This is the time that negativity is no place in my mind at all. Think of happy memories, celebrate little successes. Even on your mind always celebrate short distance achievements, like  congratulate one self  after passing  a 20 km mark and so on. Appreciate the beauty of nature and be thankful for the opportunity of being there at that very moment. Greet locals, etc. For me this is very big help boosting  my morale.

Race Attire  (For Female)
Inner Layer.   tank top and soft nylon spandex undies 
Outer Layer.   a soft comfortable jersey shirt and  full compression tights. On trail running I cannot use running shorts or short tights, in as much as I wanted to for it gets so hot when it's a sunny race, I am allergy to bushes, so I train myself using full tights. On winter and cold place races this is very useful. On the coming TNF Benguet race, there is a part that has a blood sucking leeches, so having a full tights is a must for me as well.
Good pair of Trail Running Shoes.  I am using a Salomon Whisper 2 model. For me, any trail running shoes will do for as long as you have break it in well and you have tried it on several long distance trail running as well. It's best to have a shoes that you are already comfortable using it on long distance running.
Good pair of Socks. Use a pair that you have been using for several times already and not a new one.
Armsleeves, Cap, Sunglasses. I am not use to wearing longsleeves on a long run but instead I use armsleeves, that way if it's cold I can roll it up when it gets hot I can roll it down. Cap,  I have it all the time. Sunglasses, I just put it on my cap when I don't use it, when the sun is out I just pull it down.
Buff/Headwear. When it's cold I put it on my neck as neck gaiter, if it gets hot I roll it on my wrist. I use this as well when I have colds and need to wipe my nose when a tissue paper or wipes is not handy.

Preparation Few Hours Before the Race
Rest well if you can before the race, sleep early, sleep longer, get a good sleep. I normally wake up two and half to three hours before the check in time of the race. Take a bath, prepare, eat a full meal, then get ready. I eat small amount of my meal while preparing until I finish all my meal me almost ready as well. My feet,  I wrap it with athletic tape on hot spots to blisters on both my feet, for a 100K I usually wrap all the fingers on my feet. This is how it looks like.  It is a bit uncomfortable at first but I just get use to the feeling as the race progess. That way I do not have blisters as the race goes. This is difficult to take out after the race but I just patiently take it out slowly rather than suffer blisters during the race. Petroleum jelly, I rub on areas that I expect to have chafe like both my  armpit, the part of my torso that touches the garter of my tank top, the part of my hips that touches the garter of my tights and my ankle. I put on sunblock on my arms, my face, my neck and ears. Lip gloss on my lips.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
After months of physical training, the preparation of items and gears that will be carried on the race day, I bring with me as well so much prayers. I pray for good weather, good health, a safe and injured free race not just for me but to all the runners. I also pray that my body will adjust to the extreme activity that I am about to embark, I pray that my stomach will adjust to the variety of food that I will take . If the going gets tough and on those times that I feel sleepy and uncertain on the trail I say the rosary, chant the Our Father and Hail Mary. As I always mentioned, I don't run fast, I just do it constantly. I bring with me so much courage and determination to finish the race no matter how difficult it is.   Most of the time I make it to the finish line on time, there are times I did not. But I am always thankful that God give me the courage to even start it.

This I can say, everything that I write above is based on my own experience.  I hope this will serve as a  guideline and can help prepare others especially those who will do the first 100 kilometer run.  But honestly, for me it is really through your own experience that you will learn what is most effective for you. When to eat, when to rest, when to hydrate, when to eat complete meal, what gear best work for you, what trail food is most effective for you, etc.

Recommended Gears as stated at TNF100 site

  • Hydration equipment (water bottles or water bladder up to 2 liters)
  • Dry bag or plastic bag to keep gears dry
  • Trail food to last several hours
  • Jacket (Rain/Wind)
  • Thermal Blanket
  • Headlamp/Flash lights (with spare bulb and batteries)
  • Blinker or reflective equipment
  • 1 Mobile phone with at least 100 credits (to call or text in case of emergency)
  • Whistle
  • First aid kit
  • Map case
  • Map of the course (provided by the organizers)
  • Cap or hat
  • Extra clothing/shoes
  • Trekking poles
  • Sun block or Sun Screen
  • Extra pair of socks
  • Petroleum Jelly, Body Glide, Vaseline, Etc.
Mandatory gears should be carried by the runner at all times during the race. Random checks will be conducted by the organizers and a runner without the mandatory gears will not be allowed to proceed with the race until the missing item is replaced.

For day running
  • Hydration Equipment
  • Trail Food
  • Whistle
  • Cell Phone
For night running
  • Headlamps with batteries
  • Blinkers or Reflectors
  • Hydration equipment
  • Whistle
  • Jacket (Windbreak, Rain Jacket, etc.)
  • Cell Phone

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