Last Updated on December 1, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP
You’ve spent the last 6 months or more training for your 100 miler. You’ve put in your miles, and now entered the taper block of training, a time both hated and loved by runners everywhere. Now that your training volume has cut back significantly, what else is left to do before race day (besides feel like you’re going to lose your mind from lack of adequate activity?) Answer: plenty. Here are seven things to do during a 100 mile ultramarathon taper to help get you ready for race day.
Write Out a Race Plan / Outline
Physically write – or type – out your race plan. Put it down on paper for you and your crew to see and bring with you to the race. This will be incredibly helpful during the chaos of race day, especially in the later miles when your exhausted brain is absolute mush. What should you include on the plan?
Pacing Goals & Cutoff Times
Write down your pacing goals for each segment of the race, or between aid stations & crew points. Include things like:
- goal pace for that segment
- total time anticipated to complete segment
- estimated time of arrival to that checkpoint (helpful for your crew!)
- cutoff time for that segment (if applicable) and minimum pace required to make the cutoff.
- miles until next checkpoint
In your race outline, note when you anticipate to change gear, such as socks, shoes, clothing, etc. Note when you plan to pick up trekking poles, lamps, or switch from a hydration pack to a handheld. Nothing is worse than leaving an aid station, getting a half mile down the trail, and realizing you wanted to change your shoes – but forgot to.
Write down a nutrition plan, and have a backup nutrition plan incase the first one falls through. You know, if all of a sudden at mile 70 you declare you never want to see a f*#%ing gel again. You likely already know what you plan to do, as you’ve been practicing your nutrition throughout your training. However, having a nutrition plan written down is important for your crew, so they can check in with you and make sure you are doing what you need to in order to avoid “bonking”. Note how many calories, how frequently, and even list what foods you want to take when.
Prep Your Pacers & Crew
100 Mile ultramarathon taper is the perfect time to think about the people who are going to help you get to the finish line. Lay out the logistics of race day – both physically and emotionally – with your crew. Before my last 100 miler, I told my pacers and crew that I was most likely going to try to quit, and listed the reasons why (you can read them here). I told them what my goals were, what my weaknesses were, and what I needed from them. Sure enough, when I bonked somewhere around mile 70 because I hadn’t eaten enough, my pacer Eric laughed at my teary face, forced me to eat (because I had warned him that this would happen) and 15 minutes later I was good to go again.
Tell your crew exactly what you need when, and how they can help you achieve that. Further, if your crew and pacers are new to the ultramarathon world, prep them for the realities that can accompany 100 milers: including gross blisters, tears, hallucinations, emotions, puking, etc. It’s almost like dealing with a toddler. I’m not kidding.
Clothing / Gear Check
Double check all of the clothing and gear you plan to race in. Make sure everything still fits and is in functioning order. If you’ve bought anything new to use on race day, take it on one of your taper runs for a test drive. Check your headlamps, test your batteries, make sure your hydration bladders are good to go, etc.
Related post – 100 Mile Packing List: What to Bring to an Ultramarathon
Put Together a “Feel Better Box”
I have found a ton of benefit from having a “feel better box” that I either leave at camp (for a looped course) or give to my crew to bring from aid station to aid station. The feel better box is an emergency supply box for when the sh*t hits the proverbial fan. Items in the box include (but aren’t limited to):
- Anti itch cream (bug bites, poison ivy, etc.)
- Sunscreen & aloe (for when you forgot the sunscreen)
- eye drops / saline solution
- blister care
- an emergency 5 hour energy shot
- backup batteries / headlamp
- baby wipes (I love Nathan Power Shower wipes– affiliate link)
You get the idea. This box doesn’t have to be large, it can be the size of a small fishing tacklebox or Tupperware tote
Double Check Travel Logistics
Are you going out of town for your 100 miler? Now’s the perfect time to double check all of your travel logistics. Confirm your flights, hotels, rental cars. Make sure your pet sitter and/or babysitters are still good to go. Locking in these details can help calm the pre-race jitters, as well as lessen the chance of any surprises that might put a damper on your race weekend.
Dive Into the Mental Side
This one is huge. I want you to take some time during taper to acknowledge what you are about to do – and why you want to do it. One hundred miles is a huge undertaking. Sure, lots of people succeed, but many don’t, because of the incredibly demanding physical and emotional tolls running a 100 miler puts on the body.
One of the greatest pieces of advice I was ever given was to think about all of the reasons why I might quit during my race. Write them down, and then counter them with a solution to the problem. For example:
Problem: “I might quit because I know I’ll get so tired – and I struggle without sleep/overnights.”
Solution: “When that happens, I will take in some source of caffeine, remind myself that night can’t last forever and daylight will return soon, and then find a distraction – such as a pacer to talk to or music to listen to.”
Go through every possible scenario, as silly as it may seem. Come race day, if these situations DO happen, you’ll be able to recall your solution and have power to counteract the problem.
REST & RELAX
Taper time can be maddening. You’ve spent months knocking out high mileage training runs, and suddenly, it feels like you are doing nothing. You might even fear that you are losing fitness. But I am not exaggerating when I say the best thing you can do during your 100 mile ultramarathon taper is to follow your training plan…which likely now includes much more rest.
Remind yourself that tapering is an integral part of the training process. This is when adaptations to the stress of training occur, making you a stronger runner. This is when your body recovers from the months of high mileage, rebuilds muscle tissue and glycogen (energy) stores. You are getting your legs, lungs, heart, and mind prepped for a massive undertaking. You might be tempted to keep pushing through until race day, hoping you can gain EVEN MORE fitness….but you won’t. So don’t. (Said it my best, stern coaching voice).
Enjoy this rest period, and get excited…you’ve got a hundred miler to run!