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Peaking at the Peak District Ultras

We've compiled the best tips, anecdotes and words of wisdom from some of our previous ultra participants to help you arrive at the big day in September prepared and ready to rumble. So whether you're tackling the Peveril 33, Limestone 50 or the Millstone 100, there is something here to take away for everyone... and hopefully not chafe!

Getting in Peak Shape:

- The Peak District Ultras (without meaning to state the obvious) tackle hilly, challenging routes and across all three distances you'll gain a lot of elevation. Completing hill training - whether running or hiking - will help to prepare your legs and mind for those challenging climbs! Previous Limestone 50 finisher Stuart says"not having the terrain on my doorstep meant having to use the local country park and doing monotonous loops of the parkrun course. Time on feet was the goal though so it helped, even if the looks got stranger when I passed other park users for the umpteenth time!"

- Another great way to prepare the body for the distance and the terrain is by supplementing your running & hiking training with other forms of movement and exercise which may hep to prevent injury. Katie (finisher of the Millstone 100) says"calf raises, single leg deadlifts, glute squats and ankle strengthening exercises helped me to stay injury free. Completing such exercises may help you to finish this epic challenge in one piece." Katie isn't alone in recommending this as Phill (also a Millstone 100 finisher) agrees"you don’t need to own anything fancy, some dumbbells are great, but you can stick some books in a rucksack and use that. With my personal trainer hat on, and my experience as a kickboxing coach, a little bit of time spent performing some basic movements like deadlifts and squats with a bit of weight can dramatically reduce the risk of injuries."

And Jon - who completed the Millstone 100 last year - when asked whether he'd approach the ultra any differently the second time round, said, in typical runner fashion;"I’d do more training beforehand! But I always say that."

- At this stage much of the physical preparation is complete. There's still time to sharpen up your mental game though and prepare ahead for that intense tiredness that is unique to the ultra scene! Katie says "My approach is to write down everything I can think of about race day on a piece of paper... Tiredness can make it really hard to think and having a list with decisions already made, will help to minimise the need for decision making on the fly."

Demonstrating how crucial the mental game is Phill says "I rarely see runners failing to finish because they didn’t run enough during their training. Most people DNF due to injury, nutrition or their mind... If you can keep your emotions in check and your mind working through your race, that gives you a better chance of finishing well."

Avoiding (Kinder)Downfalls:

- What carries us around an ultra (or any event!) is our feet and so Katie recommends "find the right shoes for you and test them during long runs." Stuart adds that "decent trail shoes are a must, just make sure they're broken in!"

With the continuous movement for long hours that we experience during ultras the rest of the body can also get sore and Katie, Queen of the Anti-Chafe, says "establish which areas of your body are prone to get sore. You might be okay for some time, but your skin eventually gets tired. Where possible, use something you've tested before and bear in mind that it must be thick, otherwise it'll wear off quickly. Again, my preference was Gurney Goo in a handy 10 ml tube." Take this advice to avoid something known as monkey-butt...

- From speaking to our Millstone 100 finishers it's clear that a high quality head-torch was key for navigating during the night. This was also an area where some felt that there was room for improvement in their preparation. Jon says "I would take two headtorches. It’s difficult to change the batteries when you don’t have a second light source, and it’s good to have a back-up. I’d make sure one of them was a bright one. I have a reasonable headtorch but there were places when I found the dark peat in the first half just sucked up all the light shone at it. I might even consider getting a waist or chest light to reduce the light reflected back in your eyes when it’s foggy."

Katie adds "my head torch was one of the items of kit which let me down. I found out that my headlamp (Petzl Tikka-300 lumens) was not bright enough and the batteries were going down pretty quick causing unnecessary stress. There are also technically difficult ground sections of the race, it might be foggy as well so I recommend having an additional torch to support your night vision."

- Mark (finisher of the Millstone 100) makes light of some of his navigation mishaps; "whilst following the GPX, I got to a junction with a path. It seemed to go in the right direction, plus it looked like it had been recently trodden (broken branches within the brambles). After around 5 minutes of navigating through the jungle following a less trodden path, I realised that this probably isn’t the correct path. It would have been one a couple of metres away through the foliage (parallel to my path). But I was almost there, so I decided instead of backtracking I would carry on bashing through the brambles and the other annoying vegetation." Mark made it through the jungle you'll be glad to know, but there may be in a lesson in there that sometimes - though frustrating - back tracking to where you know the route is may be quicker and save you some bush whacking!

Having a Peaky Time on Race Day:

- For the 100 milers Jon says "you’ll probably find yourself naturally grouping up at night. It’s good to have some company in the early hours and you’ll probably find you keep each other motivated and can help each other out from time to time."

- Staurt, lover of the flat coke, says "Oh, and don't refuse flat coke!! It's an absolute game changer and saved my race when I'd hit a low after about 40 miles!!!"

- Phill says"be kind to the people you meet. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own race, but the time passes so much quicker when you are chatting away as you run."

- Katie recommends planning a nutrition and hydration strategy ahead of the race;"I was eating every hour and drinking every thirty minutes, supplementing it with salt tablets every hour... My advice is not to rely on your judgment of feeling thirsty or hungry as tiredness and adrenaline can mask your needs!"

And as a final shot of motivation to get you to that finish line, Mark says "the feeling of reaching the end is indescribable. I can’t put it into words. It’s something that you have to experience to understand it."

If you're here out of sheer curiosity and haven't yet entered the Peak District Ultras (?!) you can find out more by clicking here. Alternatively, to read more from Jon, Phill, Stuart, Katie and Mark, head over to the main blog area.

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