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Tips för ultralopp: Recipe for disaster

September 6, 2012

Team running has its benefits and disadvantages. In the Gore-Tex Transalpine-Run 2006 I ran with three different partners due to various reasons. Photo credits: GTX TAR

Despite of, or probably because of their challenging character, ultra-trails and extreme marathons tend to attract a group of people that have no or very limited prior experience of this kind running and racing. Teaming-up with such a partner is a sure recipe for disaster. In adventure racing, where the team’s success depend on each individual’s ability, experience is essential. You don’t want  to risk your own or your teammates safety by bringing an unexperienced person. Being able to manage your own intake of energy and liquid is basic. The same goes for keeping your body, especially your feet, gear etc in shape before and during the event. With some experience you will be able to avoid the simple mistakes that is in your own control. Shorter races in your vicinity are ideal for learning  and building experience. In longer races you will learn the importance of strategy the hard way. How to pace yourself. The importance of eating and drinking. The importance of having the right gear. To learn this you’ll need to practise on longer races, like marathons or “short” ultra marathons (sub 100 K). The qualification system they have for entering the UTMB serves as a filter. The organisers know that all participants have done at least a few ultra marathons before. However this is not the case in all races.

At the Jungle Marathon 2004 I didn’t know how to manage my feet during multi-day races. It was a painful experience. Fortunately “Foot doctor Dave” could fix them up OK so I could finish the race. Thanks Dave! Photo credits: Jungle Marathon

Recently a friend travelled to the north of Sweden to participate in a 2-day mountain marathon for 2-person teams. Traveling from southern Sweden to the furthest north by train is a long journey, approx 24 hours. There he met up with his new team mate, a last minute solution since his initial partner got injured a few days prior the departure. It turned out that this new partner completely lacked experience of mountain running. She was a military fitness kind of girl and turned up with barefoot shoes. Unexperienced trail runner she was concerned with running only on the forefoot. Before the second checkpoint, a mere 2 hours into the rac, she sprained her ankle. After a while the pair got into an argument, shouting at eachother. Two complete strangers, in the middle of nowhere. In a place soo beautiful, pristine and quiet they were struggling, fighting and finally losing it. Not being able to agree which route to chose. Then came the rain, then the darkness. After stumbling around in untrailed terrain for 12 hours they finally reached the night camp. My friend had had enough. His weekend was spoiled. The joy was gone. Now he just had to wait until he could take the train 24 hours back home. The funny thing was that before his departure his main concern was which shoes to wear. I think he chosed his superlight Inov-8 X-Talons.

Big races requires thorough preparations. If you’re going to spend a lot of money, time and effort on your race project, make sure to eliminate risks for failure. Be aware of the risks and act accordingly. Don’t run head over heels in a long race. Instead, try to run a smart race by staying focused long before it has started. Photo credits: MDS 2008.

A few guidelines to avoid disaster:

Don’t enter a race with injury or illness! it’s not fair to yourself, you teammate, race org. or fellow racers who will have to care of you.

If you leave your teammate without partner before the event, due to injury, illness etc, It’s your responsability to find a competent replacement. It’s actually wise to include a third extra member in the project early on.

Be clear that you and your teammate share the same goal!

Avoid illness and risk for injury prior the event! Boost your immune defense during 2 weeks before race day.

Be cautious during the travel to race location and during the gathering at the race location before the race, greeting new people, shaking hands etc.

Prepare in time and be in control of your gear, feet and food. This way you can spend any free time before race start to check maps, resting and focusing.

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