By Mallory Richard
Are you excited for the Spruce Woods Ultra? Whether it’s your first year at the event or you are a veteran, you are doubtlessly putting time and energy into getting the best result you can. We want to help.
In the lead-up to this year’s Spruce Woods Ultra, we are going to post some information and updates to help you prepare for your event. This post is all about tips we want to share based on runners’ previous experiences at the Spruce Woods Ultra. An upcoming post will highlight some of the improvements we are making to the organization of the race so you can look forward to some more bells and whistles to make your race more fun – and the suffering more worthwhile.
So, without further ado, if you’re preparing to run your first trail race or improve on a previous result at the Spruce Woods Ultra, here is a collection of advice and observations we gathered from previous years’ runners:
Don’t underestimate the morning temperatures
This is especially true if you are registered for the 100km or 50 mile races. Early May can bring some very warm weather, but the mornings are often cold. In 2015, some runners in the 50-mile event who were using water bladders found the water was freezing in the hose during their first 10km and therefore had trouble drinking. Keep an eye on the forecast in the week leading up to the race to see how the weather may impact your gear choices. There is an aid station at the start/finish that can pour some hot or warm water into your water bladder before you start the race to help keep your water from freezing.
Study the course
This is true of any trail race. Trail races tend to have fewer runners than most road races. That means you can’t necessarily follow other runners like lemmings. It also means the race budget is smaller and so there probably aren’t barricades funneling you down the correct path. On a happier note, it also means your race will feature beautiful scenery that is largely untouched. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that our course markings will be untouched. We will have volunteers checking the course regularly, especially at points that confused runners in previous years. There is a precedent for people who aren’t associated with the race accidentally moving course markings, and we don’t want something like that derailing your race. More importantly, it’s harder to concentrate when you’re tired and you don’t want to get lost or take a wrong turn that adds extra distance to your race. Study the course map in advance and get a sense of your route.
Carry the essentials with you
The Spruce Woods Ultra boasts some well-stocked aid stations operated by friendly volunteers. In 2016, we plan to have even more supplies at our aid stations and we’ll use a future post to give you an idea of what you can expect to see. That being said, you are running a trail race to test yourself – your endurance, your grit, your ability to execute a good race plan. Please account for the necessities in your race plan. Can you only survive on one type of gel? Do you get nausea in every race? Do you need to smear a thick coat of petroleum jelly on yourself every 10km? If you answered yes to any of these, consider carrying some supplies with you. Our race volunteers will be doing their very best to help you, but you will race better and run with confidence if you take control of your race and any issues you might face.
Watch for wildlife and make some noise
This year we’ll have more runners than ever before in events that run through or start at night (100 miles, 100k, night run). The extra traffic means it’s less likely you’ll be surprised by any large wildlife on the trail. To avoid surprising or being surprised by any large animals, be aware of your surroundings and use headphones with caution. If you see a bear, make some noise while you’re still quite far away from the bear so that it has time to react without feeling confronted and defensive.
Do not treat the Prairies like a dystopian wasteland
Yes, you might feel like you’re just trying to survive as you push yourself toward the next aid station. And yes, you might see a fellow runner lying on the ground in the fetal position, undone by fatigue. But you should help that runner. Say encouraging things. Offer him or her a gel. Do not “scavenge” his or her gear. To be clear, this has not actually happened yet, and the runners (ahem, Greg) who keep threatening to do it are probably just joking. But we need to cover our bases, for insurance reasons.