Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Figuring out yours can make you a stronger competitor
If you do this it will then allow you to work on the shortcomings or to pick the races that play to your skill set. It’s easy to enter every race you can for the year but being sensible, especially as ultra runners, can mean that you get the most out of your season and avoid injuries! You may be an epic descender like Tom Addison, a great mountain climber like Mary Wilkinson or have monster calf muscles like Eirik Haugsnes. Perhaps, like me, you’re able to churn out mile after mile of woodland trail and rolling hills, one of the more ‘glamourous’ skills. Whatever you’re good at, there are races out there for you.
Looking back over previous results can tell you a lot. All of my best races –West Highland Way, Iznik Marathon, South Downs Way and Pilgrims Challenge -have all been on those wonderful rolling hills where you can efficiently move uphill and power over the flats and the downs.
That’s why, on the February 7, I will be lining up against some of the top ultra runners in the World at the Tarawera 100k ultramarathon in New Zealand. Miles and miles of beautiful woodland trails, single track and lake side mud to cruise through in my X-TALON 212s. The event, which includes 2610m of elevation gain, is on the 2015 Ultra-Trail World Tour calendar and, as such, the field will be super-stacked.
New Zealand is one of the places right at the top of my dream destinations and the Tarawera 100k a bucket list race, so when the Ultra-Trail World Tour asked if I wanted to fly out for the event it was an easy decision.
It’s a great way to start 2015, with the first half of the year being dedicated to rolling trail and 24hr racing, as I have been selected to represent Team GB again at the 24hr World Champs in Turin in April, before heading back to the mountains in Portugal and the Alps for the rest of the year. Last year’s apprenticeship in the big hills, including the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), was invaluable, with lessons on pacing, moving efficiently uphill and enjoying the view maybe once a race!
Whatever race you pick you need to train specifically for that, whether it means hitting flat trails, steep uphills or coastal undulations. Replicate the conditions you will find on race day, getting your mind and body ready and it will be that bit easier when you cross the start line. Ultra running is hard, so make it as easy as possible.
So, have a think about what your strengths are and when you find it easy in a race. Is it up or downhill, are you a fast starter or someone who is still going steady 24hrs into the ordeal? Look at mountain races, multi-day events or fast trail events and maybe even try something new in 2015 to find out what brings the best out of you.