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Your First 50-Mile Ultramarathon: Race Day Tips

To ease your anxieties, calm your nerves, diminish any doubt, and get you pumped, consider the following tips and what to expect. They are based on my eleven years of ultrarunning and finishing 13 ultras, including seven 50-mile ultras.
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Anxious and Nervous

You have trained for your first 50-mile ultramarathon. You have been visualizing your run. But you might be a bit anxious and nervous. Doubt is creeping into your psyche. You even had a nightmare that you missed the start of the race. This is perfectly natural. To ease your anxieties, calm your nerves, diminish any doubt, and get you pumped, consider the following tips and what to expect. They are based on my eleven years of ultrarunning and finishing 13 ultras, including seven 50-mile ultras.

What to Pack

The night before you travel to the race site, make a list of everything you need to bring. Pin together what you will wear on race day. Pack two or three pairs of running shoes and at least four pairs of socks in case the race becomes wet and muddy. Pack a rain jacket, especially if the forecast calls for rain. Pack a hydration bottle/belt/backpack, and a cap to protect you from the rain and the sun. I pack a second set of clothes. I like to change my sweaty running clothes after the first 25 miles.

Pack a small transparent storage container to help you and your crew easily locate the following essentials: petroleum jelly, body glide, zinc oxide, toenail clippers, tweezers, scissors, ibuprofen, Neosporin, Tiger Balm, bandages, athletic tape, athletic bandages, wipes, tissues, sunscreen, headlamp, flashlight, sunglasses, bug spray, lip balm, Benadryl, vitamins, and duct tape.

©Miriam Diaz-Gilbert

I also tuck in my running waist pack scripture passages, runner's prayers, including the Ultrarunner's Prayer, inspirational quotes from ultrarunners, and a copy of the course and aid stations. Don't forget your smartphone. Use your smartphone to capture nature's beauty during your 50-mile journey. Although the aid stations are stocked, pack a big cooler with water, sport drinks, soft drinks, fruit, and food that you want your crew to feed you through out the 12 - 13 hour race day.

What to Expect The Night Before The Race

1. What to Eat - Some races offer a pasta dinner the night before for a fee. I usually have sausage pizza, a salad, and ice cream at a local restaurant. I also bring homemade food to heat in the hotel's microwave. Eat what you are accustomed to eating and what works for you.

2. Lay Out Your Running Clothes - Shorts, running tights, skort, top/tank, sport bra, underwear, socks, running shoes, jacket, rain gear, etc.

3. Set Your Alarm - Everyone staying with you should set his/her cellphone alarm. Sometimes this might not always work. The morning before one ultra, my husband, teenage children, and I overslept even after we all heard the alarms go off. We sped to the start in our mini-van and got pulled over by a cop. We made it 15 minutes before the start.

4. You Might Not Sleep - I can never sleep the night before an ultra. I toss and turn. I worry the alarm won't go off and that I will oversleep.

5. Listen to Music - The night before my first ultra, I couldn't sleep. I listened to music on my iPod and sang along aloud. My husband and teenage children patiently suffered and got no sleep either. Singing didn't help me sleep but it helped to calm my nerves and to visualize my race.

What to Expect The Morning of The Race

1. Prepare Your Body - Clip your toenails. Smear generous amounts of petroleum jelly, body glide, and zinc oxide around your toes, feet, nipples (guys), below your sport bra (gals), and through out parts of your body that will chafe. Rub Tiger Balm on your hips, knees, and across the soles of your feet. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

2. Dress - Strap on your running watch or other gadget. Dress appropriately for race day weather. If you're running on a cold day, dress in layers.

3. Consume Calories - Eat a bagel, banana, or what you normally consume before your training runs.

4. Butterflies and Diarrhea - It's an exciting day and you're a tad nervous. Experiencing butterflies and diarrhea is not uncommon at the start of any race. Make use of the porta potty at the race site.

5. Pack Your Car - Don't forget your bib number, timing chip, extra running gear, cooler, and the container with the essentials.

During The Run

1. Start Slow - An ultra is an endurance run, not a sprint! Slow and steady finishes the race.

2. Bask in Nature's Beauty - Enjoy the sunrise, the sunset, and the bright rainbow that adorns the sky after a rainfall.

3. Hydrate - Always have a full bottle and replenish calories at the aid stations.

4. Eat and Run - Take small bites and keep moving your feet.

5. Take Care of Blisters - Have your crew drain them. Use a toenail clipper to pop and drain blisters. Apply Neosporin to the area and bandage with duct tape.

6. You Might Take a Tumble - If you trip over a tree root, a rock, or slip on a switchback or in a creek, dust yourself off and carry on! Scissors, gauze pads, athletic tape, and athletic bandages will come in handy if you take a tumble, twist your ankle, and scrape and bruise your knees, elbows, hands, and head.

7. Carry Wipes and Tissues - Depending on the course, there will be moments when the woods are your only porta potty. Be neat. Be mindful of poison ivy.

8. Thank The Aid Station Volunteers, Race Directors, Crew and Pacers - "Thank you for all you do!"

9. Give Thanks for Each Mile Conquered - "Thank you God! Only 49 more to go!"

You Are A Rare Breed

Earth is home to over 7 billion people. According to the Ultra Marathon Statistics website, a little over 716, 000 of them are ultrarunners representing 170 nations. On the day you run your first 50-mile ultra, you will join this rare breed. May you run many more!

"Run with endurance...." - Hebrews 12:1

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