So you’ve signed up for an endurance event. Perhaps you want to test yourself, see how far you can go? Perhaps you’ve lost a bet? Or maybe you just fancy losing a few toenails? Whatever your reason, congrats for even considering it! You’re over halfway there.
Endurance events are incredible. The battle between mind and body is intriguing and you are certain to learn a thing or two about yourself. There are a few things that I’ve learned (usually the hard way) over the years that can really make a difference on the day and will hopefully make even the tough bits (and there will be tough bits) far more enjoyable.
So here are some of my top tips. We’re all different, though, so make sure you do what works best for you.
Before You Start
Keep it old skool.
Your trainers, that is. Make sure you’ve broken them in before the day or you may get some nasty (and painful) surprises.
Tape it up.
If you know you often get blisters in the same spot, it can be worth pre-taping your feet with sports tape. This reduces friction with your skin and should prevent most blisters. Prevention is always better than cure.
If possible, stash your snacks & water to be easily accessible without having to stop or take your bag off. Having them to hand keeps momentum up and means you’re more likely to eat and drink properly and have sustained energy (which you’ll need!).
Variety is key.
When it comes down to snacks, don’t underestimate how much you might need when you’re moving for many hours. It’s best to pack mainly carbs as your body needs the fuel, but I find that after a few hours I really crave salty things, so always pack crisps or salted roasted beans or nuts for later. Whatever you want to eat, a variety is good. It’s also worth bringing a special treat for when things get really tough.
Layers layer layers.
Scotland is beautiful but its weather is unpredictable. You can also get pretty warm when moving quickly and then cool down when your body is tired. So it’s best to pack lots of thin layers that you can flex depending on your needs, rather than thicker layers. Oh, and a decent waterproof is a must!
During the Event
Stop, drop and… er, sort!
Stop and sort any hot spots or potential blisters straight away. It’s all too easy to ignore and just keep going, but blisters can get bad very quickly and are often the main cause for people dropping out of endurance events. So a 5 minute stop to get them sorted is better than having to pull out.
Break it down.
I find it helpful to break up the distance or time into smaller targets and mentally tick them off. Just watch that the targets aren’t too small or you’ll be checking your watch every 2 minutes!
Remember the why.
Remember clearly why you’re doing it and keep focussed on that end goal when things get tough (which they will!). Imagine it a bit like a rollercoaster – you’ll be moving forward the whole time and towards the finish (and cold beer!) but there will be both ups and downs along the way.
Stop if you need to of course, but don’t stop for too long as it can get harder and harder to start again.
I would recommend to eat and drink regularly to keep energy levels up and have something to look forward to (so make sure you have tasty snacks!). I usually eat a bite of something every 20-30 mins and try to take a drink more frequently than that.
And Most Importantly…
Savour every moment, even when it gets really hard and everything aches. Know that during the really tough bits you’ll get through it, just keep going, you can do it! And if all else fails, just keep thinking about that cold beer…
Hazel Robertson is an adventurer, endurance athlete and 2050 Climate Group Operational Member. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and her website. Check out her upcoming adventure, Due North: Alaska, where her and Luke Robertson are aiming to be the first people to travel the full length of Alaska by human power, starting 11th May 2017.