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  • About VJ
  • August 16, 2023 4 min read

    I'm a 90s kid. I grew up listening to alternative rock, my favorite band was Radiohead. One of my favorite Radiohead songs is No Surprises. Thom Yorke is definitely not talking about trail running in this song, however, I stick it in my head and it helps me to, as best as I can, manage everything that is possible and leave nothing to chance.

    Now, it's impossible to fully think of all contingencies when it comes to trail running but if you think about the main things, you can do a great job being ready and  hopefully not have to DNF a race over something that could have been avoided.

    I've ran many races, training runs, and self supported adventures on trail. I've made a lot of epically bad mistakes over the years, so you don’t have to!

    Let me give you some of my go to advice to not leave anything to chance. This is a quick crash course. 

    If you are new to the trails and running in general, get fitted for shoes at a local running store. Even if you do not agree with the recommendations, it's good to have someone that has been working in run specialty look at your foot shape, gait, etc. and make recommendations. Believe me, they see a lot and can give you an edge you can’t get on your own.

    Know what works best for you! Nothing beats proper gear that is comfortable for you. The fit, making sure gear is not too worn, and that the gear is relevant and works for the adventure you are doing is crucial. Do not bring gear you have not fully trained in on a race. When it comes to clothes, hydration pack, shoes, socks, and even hats, make sure you are totally comfortable in all of your gear.

    It's wild how just a single piece of gear could potentially be your undoing at a race!

    Part of training leading up to an adventure is testing out what food works for you on the run. Make sure you have go-to foods and backup go-to foods! Experiment and make sure you have it dialed in before the big dance. Have a sports drink, that you have tested extensively, for electrolytes that won't upset your stomach.

    Lube is important. Especially during these hot months right now. Make sure you are doing lube tests out on your training runs and really figure out what works best so it’s totally routine come race day. This is something you do not want to ignore or wing it when its go time. Trust me, chafing on a race can quickly cut your time short out there and leave you remembering that DNF in a very physical way for days to come afterward. 

    A real important thing not to forget is the importance of a headlamp. If you plan on any night running at all. On ultras or just in general you need to have a good working headlamp which offers great visibility and varying brightness settings. Make sure it has great battery life and bring extra batteries!! Without a good headlamp you could get lost, lose confidence, possibly get injured, do not skimp here and overlook this key component! 

    Under training is better than over training. I don’t advocate for anyone to not train for a rigorous adventure but, with that said, do not run yourself ragged before the planned adventure. Balance out your training. If you are like me and want to run a race every weekend maybe talk to a personal trainer, friend you run with, or someone who can keep you accountable, so you don’t overdo it.

    Have a plan. Know the weather and prep for what you need to survive. Know the course. Aim for no alarms and no surprises out there! Be ready, don't just wing it! I highly recommend checking out the course before the race. If that’s not possible because it is a destination race, try to find the closest trail locally and prep there.

    Know the map and if possible download it to your watch and have an app on your phone (if you will be taking it).

    Make sure to get rest, especially leading up to the race. Once you start tapering, prioritize sleep. Trust the training you did working up to the race and be confident the hay is in the barn.  

    You cannot plan for everything. The worst is forgetting gear. This is the only time I’ll improvise and use gear I have never used before and, again, this is only when you forget needed gear and cannot find a similar substitute. I’ve had to use gear from local grocery stores or Wal-Mart on some remote races. Sometimes this is even fun but only as a last ditch effort!

    No alarms and no surprises! As long as you keep this mantra you cannot screw up anything too badly. Hydration, gear, training, weather, and the course are the critical elements.  Just keep it simple but try to know at all times what you are getting yourself into. This will give you confidence even on the gnarliest of trails!! 

    - John Calabrese @breezytrailhead