Final Preparations for UTCT
With only a few weeks to go until the Ultra Trail Cape Town race weekend, your real training for the event should be done. During this period you are not going to get fitter, faster or gain more endurance, regardless of what you do. You are however more likely to find yourself lining up for the big race being tired. So what to do? Sit on the couch? No, definitely not that either. Save that for after the race.
Keep running, but keep them shorter, and fun. If there are sections of the route of your race that you are not familiar with yet, go check them out. It helps so much knowing what lies ahead of you when you are feeling tired, rather than being surprised by a rough or technical piece of trail, or even worse, a climb that you underestimated in your head, and is actually much harder than you’d anticipated. Then in the last week, keep the legs moving a little, but relax as much as possible. What you want is to stand on that start line feeling like your legs have got springs in them.
Whichever of the UTCT races you are doing, get familiar with where the aid stations are, and how far they are apart. Especially for the 65km and 100km races, a good strategy is to break your race down into little sections, and just go aid station to aid station. If you’ve got someone able to second you on the day, make specific arrangements of where you will meet each other, and pack extra shirts, socks, caps and even a spare set of shoes in a bag with them. You will be amazed how much better you will feel after refueling, and running off with fresh, dry kit, compared to the soggy sweaty stuff you were running in to get there. That aside, knowing that someone is waiting for you at the next aid station is great motivation to keep going, so if you have not lined it up yet, get on it. It makes the world of difference.
The next thing is to make sure you’re on top of is your kit. Go onto the UTCT website and make sure you’ve got all the mandatory kit. You don’t want to arrive at registration with one or two items missing, or that don’t meet the necessary criteria. Then decide what you will wear on race day. If you’ve got new shoes, or shorts, run them a couple times before race day. Also get used to taking nutrition out your pack on the move, the cutoff times are tight so you don't want to waste time digging through your pack. Making sure you can reach all the pockets where you’ll be keeping your bars, gels etc will keep your momentum going nicely. Practice stashing your jacket and arm warmers as well. Even though it only takes a minute or two to stop to take your pack off to do this, it can also break your rhythm.
Talking of forward momentum, if there’s one thing that got me through my 100km finish at UTCT last year, was keeping in mind what someone told me before the race, which was “just keep moving forward, one step at a time”, and I recommend you use this too, particularly deep into the race when things start getting dark. It is amazing how far you can go after you think you can go no further.
Good luck, enjoy the final preparations, and have a fantastic run. I will see you there.