Most of the times when I participate in endurance races, I take the opportunity to test or experiment on certain things which may or may not give benefits to me. The experiment may range from using different shoes, or attire, or taking different kind of meals before the races, the ORS loading, and many other factors.
There was no exceptions this time when I went into the TNF100 duo event last weekend. I'm not claiming that whatever I did below will work for anybody else. It is also not a guarantee that you will be able to complete the race for sure. Heck, I'm not 100% sure whether what I did below was the significant factors which contributed to my success to get to the finishing line of the grueling 50km race.
And before I proceed, let me clarify once again that in doing endurance events, sufficient training and preparation are the two core ingredients for success. Other supplementary factors are as below, in my perspective.
Mental and Psychological Preparation
Apart from the extensive physical fitness training at which you train your body to adapt t o the race requirement (i.e. mileage wise), you must not forget about the mental and psychological strengths. This is an ultra race, where many casualties are normally resulted from the mind shutting down the body. You need to set a specific and realistic goal and target which will drive you to the finishing line. And if you like, you can also set a time target.
For this particular race, I set my mind to finish it within cut off time. I will push my limit for as long as I'm not injured. To be frank, I didn't think or care much about the trail, because for me those are the external factor that I cannot control or change. But, I can control what I think and what I set to achieve.
However, you must also be smart enough to decide when or whether you should quit the race, if any bad circumstances arise. You know your body best. We do this sports to become healthier, not to commit suicide.
You may be able to go through a 2 or 3 hours endurance race just fueled with plain water along the way. But, for an endurance race lasting up to 9 hours, you will definitely need something more than just plain water.
Being requested by the organizer to carry our own hydration systems for this TNF100 race, I used the opportunity to bring glucose drinks instead of just plain water. On top of that, I also used plenty of Nuun tablets to mix with my glucose drink. I'll blog about my glucose drink recipe some other days. Remind me if I forget.
During the run, I set my timer to beep every 10mins to remind me to take a sip. I noticed that this strategy works well with me, to avoid getting into dehydration state. I think my energy depletes very quickly when I started to feel thirsty. And I drank a lot at every water stations, both isotonics and plain water.
In my previous marathons, I always get muscle cramps. Perhaps it was because I pushed myself too hard for the speed, or because I didn't sufficiently load my body with ORS prior to the race. This time, I started ORS loading earlier, and quite a lot of if actually (I think). I took 4 sachets of ORS per day, starting from 3 days prior to the race day.
This time I brought along 6 PowerBar gels, but I only consumed three as I didn't feel so much need for it during the race. I started the day with a very heavy meal which was nasi lemak (I didn't have other 'healthier' choice on that morning though). And I made sure I took it early and still have plenty of time to purge out my stomach contents before the race.
And from my previous experiments, I can only swallow banana during races. No dates, no Milo bar, no Mars bar, no asam boi, no other things – I can't swallow them without torturing my throat. For me, not only can it supply an instant energy boost, banana also solidly fills my tummy up. I made a mistake in this race where I did not take a banana after the 25km mark, which later on made me feel so hungry and left me running with growling stomach which was a bit of a nuisance. Luckily it was manageable.
Gear and Equipment
Trail shoes are not designed for nothing. Each model and types has their own specific functions. The Cascadia trail shoes by Brooks that I have suits my feet very well and I have no complains about it so far. It's one of my good investments, with regards to sports attire and gear.
During TNF100 race, the trail surface varied from loose pebbles, gravel with small and big rocks, medium soft sands, hard and slippery clay, and also tarmac. Unless you cannot afford a pair of decent trail shoes, you should not be wearing anything else other than a good pair of them in a trail run race like this.
I have no comments for those who decides to wear Vibram five fingers though. Maybe he/she who wears VFF in trail is trying to experiment something else.
It is actually comfortable to run even with a hydration bag on our backs, provided it is securely fastened to our body. My CamelBak weighed 3kg at the start of the race, with a full load of 2litre of glucose drinks, and other stuffs. It only bounced a little bit, but easily ignorable. It snugged nicely behind my back. I don't mind using it again in other long distance races. In fact, I'm planning to use it during Powerman.
Nothing goes without HIS willingness. Enough said. So, don’t forget the power of prayers ya.
There is one more last thing. Well, although this final factor has not been scientifically proven and is highly debatable and arguable, I still like to believe that my sparkling clean shaved legs had given me a little advantage in running speed during TNF. At least a fraction of microseconds was saved for each click I ran.
And I guessed no one noticed that.
Ngeh ngeh ngeh.