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Ultrarunner Checklist

Inspired by the book, The Checklist Manifesto, this checklist comes from my list after completing 9-100 milers and several 50/100K races. I reviewed my race reports to create this but wanted the community’s input. List items should be simple and self-explanatory so it’s quick to check leading up to your race.

Experience is king, so learn from the mistakes that I and others have made. Please let me know if you think I should add something. It’s broken into six parts.

Training Checklist (6-8 Weeks from the event):

  1. Training terrain matches race terrain.
  2. Weekly mileage increases won’t exceed 10%.
  3. Cross-training with mobility and strength weekly.
  4. Eat Whole/Real Foods
    1. Paleo Shopping List
  5. Rest
    1. When motivation is low or after extreme efforts.
    2. Cycle 3 weeks high intensity and 1 week low intensity or rest.
      1. The macrocycle has December as extremely low mileage.
      2. Supplement Vitamin D/Turmeric in winter to combat inflammation
    3. Limit alcohol after hard workouts to improve recovery.
  6. Back-to-back long runs
    • Increase our ability to use lactate as fuel
  7. Train in different weather conditions(Hot, Humid, Wet)
  8. Train with race day gear. (Poles, Shoes, Food) close to race
  9. Limit inflammatory foods while training.
  10. Injuries
    1. Indicates a lack of strength or mobility
    2. Follow the story – where else are you tight or lack range of motion?
  11. Daily Healthy Shape Diet
    • Don’t work out hard and then sit all-day
    • Constantly be moving
    • Daily Drills to improve form

Pre-Race Checklist (1-2 weeks before the race):

  1. Lower caffeine consumption to increase race day effects.
  2. Taper Weekly Volume Reduction of hours training
    • 40-50% – 3 weeks before
    • 20-30% – 2 weeks before
    • <20% last week
    • Taper keeps race specificity
  3. Focus on mobility, rest, hydration, and stretching, and sleep
    • Follow 3-2-1 for great sleep
      • 3 hours before bed, no food or drink
      • 2 hours before bed no work or complex thinking/stress
      • 1 hour before bed no screens.
  4. Preset pace/plan for crew and pacers
    1. Pace chart
  5. Know the course.
    1. GPS Course on the watch (Garmin only?)
    2. Aid Station Details (Distance and Quantity)
    3. Elevation Profile
  6. Weather
    1. Hot = Slow down / Watch hydration!
    2. Wet = Correct shoes to maintain traction.
  7. Pack drop bags 2-3 days before the race. (vary on race requirements, see drop-bag checklist)
  8. Mentally Prepare
    1. Envision the course, aid stations, and finish line.
    2. Read Race Reports
    3. Watch Course Videos like mine 😉
    4. Record an audio clip pep talk from yourself or a family member to boost mood or prevent drop – (Credit Tracy Baker)
  9. Cut your toenails! (Avoid losing them from swelling or kicking a rock)

Race Checklist (Carried/Start of Race):

  1. Bib pinned on clothes (Pants or race belt – something you won’t change)
    • Be careful not to swap clothing and lose your race bib. I’ve done this twice.
  2. Pace Chart for aid stations (cut-off, mileage, drop bag, or crew access). You want to limit thinking during the race.
  3. Poncho or Emergency Blanket depending on temps
  4. First aid:
    • Pain Relief (Acetaminophen only)
    • Tums or Rolaids
    • Salt or Electrolytes
    • Electrolyte tablets
    • Caffeine
    • Foot Care
      • Band aids/Blister Management
      • Spare Socks
  5. Batteries/Charger for phone, watch, or whatever needs to last.
  6. Anti-chaffing cream/gel of choice for hotspots
    • Hotspots should be handled ASAP because they only get worse
  7. Headlamp (Depends on race start time)
  8. Something to carry ice (check forecast) I use small plastic bags.
    • I use plastic bags to grab ice from aid stations and then stick it in my shirt
  9. Male/Female bathroom products – Wipes (If you have to go in the woods, you don’t want to use leaves) or female menstrual products. (Credit Gabrielle Orsi)
  10. ID/Cash (Gotta catch a ride or pay a nice samaritan, or maybe they have to ID your body?)
  11. Bear Bell or Whistle (Depends on how remote the race is and if you are racing alone)
  12. Gloves for start (check forecast)
  13. Poles (Course Dependant)
  14. Camera or Phone (Capture something to remember!)
  15. Bandana or Buff – (Credit Tracy Baker)

Race Checklist (General Actions/Guidelines):

  1. Nothing new on race day. 
  2. Control pace early (CRITICAL)
    • All risk is at the beginning of the race.
  3. Feet and body clean, dry, and lubed on hotspots.
    • The drop bag should have dry clothes.
  4. Change socks and shoes as needed.  (Every 20-30 Miles)
  5. Batteries/charger for headlamps.
  6. Mood Booster (When you feel low/sad/tired)
    • Drop bag treat
    • Power Playlist
    • Picture of your family or loved one
  7. Caffeine saved for night.
  8. Don’t stop eating (30-minute repeating timer on watch)
  9. Drop bag treat
  10. Ice Ice Baby!
    1. Fill zip lock and bladder at aid stations
  11. Nap for 5 minutes if shit hits the fan.
    • A quick power nap can bring you back from the dead!
  12. Head-to-toe inventory every hour.
    • Review form, food, hotspots, fluids, electrolytes, pace and distance until next checkpoint.
      1. Gratitude
    • Be grateful you get to do this for fun and realize you CHOSE this pain, and it’s not suffering.
    • Smile – studies show when we are having fun we suffer less.
  13. 300-400 calories an hour (highly personal)

Post-Race Checklist:

  1. Move to recover – Motion is lotion.
  2. Increase blood flow to the legs. (WALK, massage from loved one, or foam rolling)
  3. Write a race report of what went right, and wrong, and how you would do it differently next time.
  4. Hydrate
  5. Ibuprofen if you must (Slows recovery, best to walk/move)
  6. Sign up for the next race! (Best way to avoid post-race depression!)

Drop Bags

  1. Spare shoes
  2. Spare socks
  3. Spare Sun Glasses
  4. Spare shirt
  5. Plastic Poncho
  6. Spare Shorts
  7. Special Treat (Food you are excited for)
  8. Batteries (charger packs or double/triple As)
  9. Long Sleeves
  10. Electrolyte pills
  11. Hat/Gloves
  12. Spare Headlamp
  13. Spare Pace chart
  14. Vaseline
  15. Baby Wipes
  16. Paper Towel (Use to clean feet for shoe change)
  17. Poles
  18. Hand Warmers
  19. Zip lock bags (used for ice)
  20. Poncho or Emergency Blanket (sometimes a race requirement)

That’s it. Reference this list as you’re training, during and after the race. Test these items out. A checklist is only good if it is tested. I plan to keep adding to this list and refining it. The articles on this list should keep you healthy and racing successfully year after year. Let me know what you think is missing and why.

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