North Face Preparation
Thank’s for reading our April article on the 5 tips for the North Face 100 and hope there’s some value for you in that Article. This post is kind of like a part 2, an extension to the article, covering more functional tips for long distance trail running.
These tips come from my own experience in ultrarunning and will certainly differ to the way that other runners would prioritise your race preparation. But I think that telling everybody to take 0.8-1.1g CHO/kg .bw/hr etc is so specific as to limit people’s curiosity regarding – for example – different nutritional strategies, like properly conditioning themselves to benefit from the approach now characterised as lower-carb-high-fat and utilised, apparently, so very well by runners like Timothy Olson.
So, if you’re looking for more specific advice I would suggest the following:
Music after about 60km can be AWESEOME but make sure to have some conversations, learn some new things, and make a bunch of new friends before plugging in.
One word, LUBE. Anywhere that your pack or pants or shirt might rub, do not be shy. Gurney Goo is a personal favourite but 2Toms also gets it done as do a number of other options, right through to trusty old school Vaseline.
Personal choice but my favourite sustaining fuel source is concentrated Tailwind Naked Flavour sipped from an bottle and washed down with a small amount of water from a bladder. This way I can mix about 130g-160g carbohydrate up in a 420ml UD soft bottle or 540mL Amphipod and not need to refill or swap it for 3-5 hours. I also use VESPA which supposedly helps with the utilisation of body fat as an energy source, but as it’s expensive I keep it only for race day or epic training runs. Roctane by Gu is also worth deploying for its amino acids and caffeine as needed, so too 2nd Surge (100mg caffeine with agave nectar – BOOM). Oh yeah – Babybels. Thank you to endurance athlete and author Jill Homer for that tip.
I will be mentioning HOKA in this section so roll your eyes and turn away if the commercialisation of trailrunning just became too much for you BUT the simple reason I use these shoes for long running is because I’ve found them to work like nothing else. I first reviewed HOKA on my own blog 4 years ago when they blew my mind, leaving my legs feeling on a Monday as if I’d only run 20km the day before when I had in fact run 70km. And they still do this for me. There is also the endless battle between the length and heat of compression shorts versus older school flappy pants. Hey, if you can run for 12 hours in side-split marathon shorts from the 1980s, congratulations – do it! The jury might be a rabble but they’re still out on the exact and provable benefits of compression shorts, but one definite plus is chafing prevention, unless you perform ill-advised manscaping really close to race day… like this legend! 🙂
The challenges you might face over 10 or 20 hours can differ widely from anything you experience over 4 or 5 hours.
I generally prefer to have as little extra material packed into my shoes as possible, so it has to be there for a good reason, if at all. I very much question the trend toward heavy all-over taping of the foot, even when using quality product like Fixomull. I think it’s almost better to risk blisters, manage them, and be a bit more cautious next time, than to mummify your foot now and forevermore and never know whether you really needed to. But I certainly recommend taping the ball of the foot minimally for anything longer than 8 hours, and doing it with Leukoplast branded Athletic tape, straight across and with no lumpy edges. Then, apply lube in key wear areas and to sensitive spots on toes. If it’s going to be raining heavily, then also consider spraying on a coating of plastic skin – this isn’t for everyone.
In heavy rain I like Injinji mid-weights for their separation of the toes and their hydrophobic CoolMax blend. As much as they’re kind of old school, X-Socks are light and breathable and great for shorter runs up to about 8 hours. Anything substantial though, especially 100km or more, and I’ll wear either thinner and more constrictive Swiftwick in shoes which fit neatly to my feet, or Wright Socks’ Stride model if it’s a particularly pounding course (like road ultra) or it’s going to be wet or if I’m wearing my shoe a bit roomy and want more padding to make a perfect fit. If you’re thinking of changing socks during your run but want to use compression on your calves, then use sleeves with short socks rather than long compression socks. Taking long compression off mid-race feels, well…. special.
Shoes – this is the big one!
as HOKA now has a number of trail and crossover models to consider.
I love the Challenger, this all-terrain version of the Clifton is superbly comfortable, fits like a slipper, and happily chews its way across most terrain. It rocked my world for the first 60km and last 18km of Coast2Kosci and for the mixture of rubble, single track, steep climbs, fast descents, and buffed out fire trail on offer at The North Face 100 and 50, especially for runners feeling feisty and agile, the Challenger ATR is a big recommendation. Also the current shoe of choice for HOKA ultra athletes Scott Hawker, Ben Duffus, and Jess Baker.
Although the Stinson ATR is at the other end of the spectrum, being the MOST cushioned model from HOKA, it is also a version of a shoe I have actually worn to a happy 14:50 finish at TNF100. The smooth rolling cushion doesn’t just soak up downhills and long hours on feet, but happily moulds over rocks and obstacles, absorbing rather than relaying jagged edges and pointed corners. Super comfy and ideal for long running.
Again, my friend with the radioactively chafed manparts probably has the handiest review of the all-terrain Mafate Speed to offer. It’s an entertaining write-up by Sydney’s Adam Connor who, like almost all of us, is in a different arc of the running spectrum from gun runner and HOKA athlete Ben Duffus, who first wore the Mafate Speed to a solid 5th place at TNF in 2014.
And finally, there is the new Rapa Nui 2S (or Kailua S for the women who don’t prefer a wider-footed shoe) to consider. This update is available only in very small numbers and at a higher price point than earlier incarnations, as its deeply lugged 5mm Vibram MEGAGRIP outsole brings a previously unknown high end technical stickiness to the range. Ben wore this model pre-release for his sensational 3rd place at the World Skyrunning Championships in 2014. Having run the Hume and Hovell 100 in the Rapa Nui without the Vibram compound in 2014 and enjoyed the firmer feel on legs that had been heavily conditioned by road training, I think this would be my personal choice this year.
The Huaka – that aggressive hybrid RMAT beast machine – may again be the choice for speedster demons like Tarawera winner Dylan Bowman, but I’m probably about 20kg and 5 hours away from that spicy weapon as also chosen by Sage Canaday and frequently Scott Hawker being my shoe of choice right now.