To prepare properly for an ultra trail race, it is important to follow a specific training program tailored to the distances and characteristics of the course.
What is an Ultra Trail Race?
An ultra trail race is a long-distance running competition that takes place primarily on mountain trails and natural terrain. It differs from traditional marathons or road races in its extreme length and the characteristics of the course, which often include steep climbs, technical descents, rugged terrain, and significant changes in elevation.
Ultra trail races are generally divided into different distances, such as 50 km, 80 km, 100 km, or even longer distances like 100 miles (160 km) or more. In addition to the course length, the positive elevation gain (d+), which represents the total sum of climbs, is another distinguishing element of these races. Some ultra trail races may also have a time limitation to complete the course.
Participating in an ultra trail race requires good physical preparation, mental endurance, and the ability to manage food and water autonomy during the run, as many of these races take place in remote environments without frequent aid stations along the course. Athletes must be able to tackle the various obstacles and challenges that arise along the way, such as rugged terrain, weather changes, physical and mental fatigue.
Ultra trail races are popular among nature running enthusiasts, trail runners, and adventure lovers. They offer the opportunity to immerse oneself in nature, explore spectacular landscapes, and test one’s physical and mental abilities. The sense of conquering such long distances and overcoming challenges along the course is what attracts many participants to these races.
How to prepare for an Ultra Trail race?
Preparing for an Ultra Trail race requires a comprehensive approach that involves physical, mental, and logistical aspects. Here are some tips to adequately prepare:
Gradual and progressive approach: Gradually increase your distance and training volume in the weeks and months leading up to the race. Progression should be slow and steady to avoid injuries and fatigue, allowing your body to adapt gradually to the workload.
Specific training: Include trail running-specific workouts in your training program that incorporate climbs, descents, and varied terrain similar to what you’ll encounter during the race. Also, incorporate strength and endurance exercises to improve your ability to tackle climbs and rugged terrain.
Long runs: Schedule regular long-distance runs to condition your body to handle prolonged fatigue. Gradually increase the length of your runs to approach the race distance.
Mountain training: If the race takes place in a mountainous environment, try to train on similar terrain. Climbing and descending steep inclines will help improve the strength and balance necessary to tackle the challenges of the course.
Functional training: Include functional training exercises that engage the core, stability, and mobility, as they are important for maintaining good running form and preventing injuries.
Nutrition and hydration: Experiment with different fueling and hydration strategies during your training to find what works best for you. During the race, make sure to consume an adequate amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fluids to maintain energy and hydration.
Proper equipment: Ensure you have appropriate trail running gear, including shoes suitable for the terrain, weather-appropriate technical clothing, a trail backpack with provisions and safety equipment.
Mental preparation and race strategy: Prepare your mind for the ultra trail race as well. Develop a race strategy, set intermediate goals, visualize the course, and work on your mental endurance to tackle obstacles during the race.
Recovery and rest: Include rest days in your training program to allow your body to recover. Rest is essential to avoid overtraining and reduce the risk of injuries.
On-ground experience: If possible, try to familiarize yourself with the race course by doing training runs or preliminary explorations. Knowing the terrain will give you greater confidence during the race.
Remember that every individual is unique and has different needs, so adapt these guidelines to your personal situation. Additionally, always consult with a qualified professional for a personalized training plan and specific advice on your preparation for an Ultra Trail race.