Little decisions make a big difference
Marcel is a Foundation Run member training for his first ultramarathon. He’s sharing his thoughts and tackling it one run at a time.
A month to go before the Tarawera Ultra and I’ve become obsessed with the minutiae of running matters. Where should I put my ears: tucked under my cap or sticking out like a pixie? Should I arrange the backpack drinking hose over my left or right shoulder? Hook it across my chest or let it dangle? It took me four long runs to get the hose arrangement right. An uncomfortable piece of paraphernalia very quickly becomes a burden. The smallest decisions make the biggest difference.
When summer arrived I stopped carrying an extra layer of warmth in my pack. Hurrah, I thought. Less weight to carry! But then my pack started jumping around on my shoulders.
Small decisions, big difference. What type of socks? Which colour? Yes, the colour of my socks apparently matters too. I bought two different colours of my preferred brand. One colour feels silkier. It’s more slippery in the shoe, a subtlety that matters when you’re navigating tree roots. Glad I worked this out in advance instead of discovering it during the race.
Decisions about shoes
This was always a big one. Buying shoes is fraught. We’re runners, not millionaires. I tried and erred a couple of times more than my bank account planned for but shoes are not something I want to get wrong.
I’ve settled comfortably with Saucony Peregrine 7s. Didn’t like them at all at first, until I worked out that my socks were the problem, not the shoes. Damn socks again! Changed my socks – happy feet. Every little decision makes a big difference.
For shoes, Debbie favours LaSportiva Helios. She did her best to like Altras but the pair she ended up with were too chunky, much like my dismissed Hokas, and she kept tripping over roots. Her Helios are incredibly slender and light. Every shoe is a compromise and we’ve both concluded that stability is more important than cushioning. With the distance we’re doing, our feet will hurt no matter what we’re wearing. Better to hurt while not falling over.
Decisions about food and drink
We’re starting to plan our nutrition for the race. I’ve become a big fan of real food on the trail: sandwiches, almonds and dates, cold salted roast potatoes. (Mmm, cold potatoes. Better than you could possibly imagine.)
Also, I’ve been making my own sports drink. It’s been a work in progress with a base of apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and fresh ginger. Debbie can’t decide if this is hilarious or admirable, so she usually defaults to mocking me as I measure out the ingredients each night before a big run.
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be putting together a nutrition plan. Our coach gave us a sample spreadsheet to help plan our food intake across each aid station. I never thought Excel would insert its boring rows and cells into my running life. And we’re starting to have conversations about quantities of carbohydrates and protein. This is far too much maths and accounting for my liking, but I’m up for it. I’ve got to be. The ultra marathon will be a full day of running, walking and sobbing. Better fuel it properly. Every little decision will make a big difference.