So you bit the bullet and signed up for 24 Hours of Shale Hell or 8 hours, or some other race where you must go as many laps as possible in a given time period. Your reasoning might have been a desire to challenge yourself to see what you are capable of or you might have been suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out) but at this point, the why matters a little less and the how matters a little more.
A 24 hour race takes a little more than just showing up. Many of us can show up and fake our way through a 5k or even a 10k. To go for 24 hours, you must pay attention to your nutrition, you hydration, your feet, and your body. You also have to keep your head in the game.
Set a goal. It gives you something to push towards or something to push beyond. The way you set your goal is your choice. You are going to go as long as you can, regardless of how many laps that gets you. You want to get at least 5 laps or more than 3 laps. You might want to go the entire time and take less than 20 minutes between each. Whatever will drive you forward.
Know your why. This can be a part of your goal but doesn’t have to be. You want to push yourself. You are running in memory or honor of someone.
Head Games. Your mind will try to tell you that you are too tired to go on, that you can’t do it. Find a way to silence that voice. That being said, listen to your body and stop before it gets injured.
Despite telling you to watch out for head games, if you decide you are done and have had enough, that is okay. Just make sure it is a rational choice and not an emotional “I QUIT!”
So now that your head is in the game you need to take care of everything else!
Hydration. Start early. Start now. If you normally drink 3-4 liters in a day, up that should be plenty. If you drink less, up it. While Shale Hill has 4 water stations on course, I encourage you to carry water with you in a bottle, a belt, or a hydration pack. The last thing you want is to get dehydrated while running multiple laps in the hot sun. If you like your water icy cold, bring a cooler with ice, don’t count on a venue to have it. If you like having something mixed in your water, electrolytes, sugars, such as Nuun or Tailwind, you can pre-mix in liters or gallons and keep in your cooler ready to refill.
Nutrition. Keep your tummy happy, don’t try new foods on race day. If you know bean burritos give you an upset stomach don’t eat them the night before or during the race. Make sure to consume calories during your run and in between your laps. This can be in the form of gels and chews while on the course, or via tailwind,
but could also be real food, almonds and dried mangos. When you come in to transition, in addition to refilling your water, make sure you to consume calories. Eight to ten hours into a 24 hour even is not the time you want to bonk. Bring more food with you than you think you will need. Remember, food for fuel and food for happy.
Foot Care. Keep your feet dry and happy. Change your shoes on socks as often as necessary to keep your feet dry. Apply Trail Toes or some other type of moisture barrier. Powder your feet to remove moisture, drain blisters as they form to keep them from getting worse. Blisters are not your own problem, keeping your feet dry is imperative to keeping away maceration. Maceration, if severe enough, can end your race.
Body and Chafing. Lube is your friend. Inner thighs, where the waist pack or hydration pack rubs, shoulders, and especially between your butt cheeks. Finding out you chafed when you get in the shower is not a pleasant experience.
Gear List. Towels, headlamp(s), spare batteries, water, food, gels, hydration pack, water bottle, socks, shoes, two to three sets of running clothes, long sleeve, hat, sun glasses, tent, chair, first aid kit, foot care kit, sunblock, bug spray, and a roller if you want one. Don’t forget a bin or bag to hold it all and keep it organized!
That’s it! Oh, and remember to have fun.