Random Thoughts from Dick

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by Dick Kearn

Random Thoughts from Dick

Even more random thoughts - this time from me, Dick.

For Off Road + Ultras comfort has to be a major priority. Running long distances hurts enough without added irritations. It is well worth taking the trouble to experiment and perhaps try others' methods.

Feet need room in socks as well as in shoes. I wear ordinary cotton-rich socks (I've wasted enough money on "Thousand Mile" ones) inside-out to keep seams away from the skin. I don't worry about keeping feet dry, but aim to keep them cool. I grease my feet with Vaseline and only get blisters when they get hot. To this end I often pour water on them at the start and during races. (Don't take water from water stations without asking if there is plenty spare -your comfort is not as vital as another runner's hydration.) You will see from previous contributors that lots of runners do aim to keep feet dry and change socks and shoes en route - Rory Coleman has been known to make 7 shoe changes in one GUCR! - but how do these folk cope with rain, puddles, mud, wet grass and even snow? I just can't see how anyone can hope to stay dry and surely, while they're stopped pampering their tootsies, isn't the competition getting away? I guess it's a case of each to their own, but we all definitely agree that tight shoes are a recipe for disaster. Sometimes, though, loose shoes can be pulled off in mud. If you need them tight to avoid this, try cutting laces in half (they're usually far too long anyway) and tie the front lace holes loosely to save squashing toes. Then tie the back holes tight (preferably butterfly laced) to keep them on - even in 'Grizzly mud'! Finally, if things do go bad in the foot department with relatively few miles to go, it is sometimes best not to look. Once sore feet are freed from trainers they seem particularly reluctant to return to captivity!

Clothing should also be comfortable. Look out for lumpy seams and stiff labels. Remember that what causes a slight niggle at the start can cause a red-raw sore after fifty miles. Have sufficient kit for a variety of weather. Even in relatively short ultras you are likely to be out for several hours - the temperature can vary widely in this time and especially if night falls. Remember too that you will probably be running slower than is usual and thus not generating so much body heat.

Grease!!! moving parts (not just nipples, but armpits, groins and other bits I'll get to later) liberally - as our 'Enry used to say 'Splash it on!' If you ever suffer cold-sores you may like to consider greasing lips - even that well known lover of endurance events, David Blaine, used lip salve - and he wasn't hitting himself in the face with a drinks bottle all day!

Do not read the next 6 lines if you are of squeamish disposition or are easily offended. Many runners (even good ones, by what I saw in the elite loos at Blackheath) suffer what is possibly best described as loose bowel movements (or to use the medical term, the shits) due to nerves before races. This condition can be alleviated by using Imodium or similar, but beware as it can induce the 'constipation complication'. My preferred solution is to grease the planet Uranus (or to give it the medical name, rusty bullet hole) the night before racing. This acts as an effective fire retardant and helps with the clean-up operation should an 'incident' occur.

Nausea is an all too frequent visitor to many runners. Does anyone have a cure? I think Glyn and Mark are right to recommend variety of intake, a little of what you fancy really does do good. Fizzy ginger beer wakes my taste buds up.

Stomach cramps is the term used by TV marathon commentators when referring to the squits - another problem which can spoil your enjoyment during an event. For this Imodium is an effective remedy and your traveling dispensary should also include Dioralyte to help replace body salts however they are lost. If possible find room in your bum bag (how appropriate) for some strong 'blue roll' or kitchen roll that won't disintegrate if it gets wet.

Drink plenty. When I ran the GUCR self-mixed Leppin carbo-load, flavoured with banana Nesquick was my main source of energy. These days there are loads of excellent pre-mixed drinks available, though I still use some Leppin on the long races. To my mind drinking plain water (it can be handy as a mouth rinse) is a wasted opportunity to take on more energy and minerals. In cold weather, or at night, take the chill off 'cold' drinks by warming them on the car dashboard or between the thighs of a helper. Why waste your energy heating liquid taken from a freezing car boot?

Fatigue is sometimes the biggest enemy. Aim to be well rested by race-day. To keep awake coffee is still used by traditionalists or ProPlus tablets if you don't want a hot drink. These days many of us use Red Bull or similar stimuli (Bob Brown used 15 cans on his GUCR), but you may need all three on the longest run. If you must sleep, do so where there is someone to wake you after a few minutes.

Stop for as short a time as possible, the longer you rest the harder it is to re-start. It is undeniable that the fastest overall times have been set by those stopping least. It is also fact that the faster you go, the sooner the race is over and the less time you will have to get tired.

Pain for some of us is part and parcel of the job. Ibuprofen either as cream (for specific twinges in joints) or tablet (as a preventative or when everything hurts!) is effective for me and the anti-inflammatory property seems to help speed recovery. (I have taken twice the recommended dose on many occasions, but be warned, I have heard of people being admitted to hospital with kidney problems having exceeded twice the daily dose.)

Preparation is vital. This is not an ordinary race where you can put the info aside until the night before. Read everything well beforehand. If possible involve your crew well before race-day.

Maps should be studied - as Glyn has said, it is easier to keep going if you are aware of making progress and know where in the world you are. Think where you will be at what time and what kit you may need. (E.g. lamps, warm clothes)

Race number should be pinned on vest or bib (pins away from sticky-out bits) at home, before g oing to start. Have vest/bib big enough to go over jackets, T-shirts, sweatshirts, girdles or whatever else you might put on to keep warm/dry. Your number can then always be on the outside so you don't annoy the organiser!

Pack your rucksack (if you carry one) carefully, only with things you need. I am often surprised at the weight some carry. We, or your crew, are there for the heavy stuff. Use a checklist so nothing is forgotten.

Practice running on rough ground in the dark.

As always with ultras, the golden rule is to start well below your training pace but remember that the slower you go does not necessarily mean the more likely you are to finish.