The first thing is congratulations on signing up! You have got past the difficult part and made a commitment, second only to the entry process...continually hitting refresh on your browser and praying to get an entry! The good thing is you have plenty of time on your side, UTA is several months away.
To make the most of your day on the trails there are a number of steps on the well trodden path to the finish line, and a good coach will guide you on that path. "What next?" you will be thinking and now is a great time to start planning.
Start with a goal. Having an idea of what you want to achieve is really important. Are you looking for a specific time on race day or just to have an enjoyable day out? For some, it is about the journey and process of just getting to the start line. None are wrong and all are unique to you. Locking a goal in now will help you with the process of training, preparing and setting expectations for yourself and your support network. Going sub 14 hrs. at UTA100 takes a different approach to walking the UTA22.
Training Program. After deciding on your goal, you need to have an appropriate training program. A good training program will consider a number of factors and below are some considerations:
Training Sessions are an overload stimulus. This is not overload in a bad way if managed correctly, and is required for your body to adapt (improve fitness). A program will manipulate your training stimulus through changing the different types of training, duration, frequency, intensity, and recovery period between sessions. Progressive and gradual overloading leads to higher levels of fitness.
Recovery. Without recovery the adaption your body makes (increased capillaries, mitochondria biogenesis) that lead to your increased fitness levels won't happen at the optimal rate. It is generally an area that is neglected and the reality is some of your biggest gains come with appropriate recovery. Don't be fooled by the wondering array of recovery modalities, from infra red pyjamas to juices. What really works is quality sleep and good nutrition.
Specificity. The specific type of training session will create its own different response. A good training program must be specific to both you as an individual, and to the event you have chosen. UTA has both hills and stairs. How will you incorporate these types of sessions into your program so that come race day you're not cramping after the first big descent? However, don't jump straight into those stair reps! A period of general or base training needs to come first to prepare you to be able to tolerate the specifics of UTA training. As your training progresses you will move through different training phases.
Individualised. Every training program should be tailored to you. Whilst off-the-shelf plans are easily accessible, consider how they cater for your age, gender, the fact you have had a couple of weeks off due to the kids or work. A good program will be updated weekly, based on your feedback from the previous week, your circumstances and how you are progressing.
Variety. UTA is still a few months away, you don't want to get bored! A good program will build in variety, considering different types of exercise, where you train, who you train with and when you train. Additional training on course will help with variety.
Actively involved. Finally, a training program is only as effective as how much involvement you are prepared to put in. Setting realistic goals will ensure you are engaged right up to race day.
The above information has a mainly physical focus. How will you develop your mental approach? Trail and Ultra running can be about solving a number of problems on race day, and having the right mental skills in your toolbox, practiced prior to your race day, will be as beneficial as a well constructed training program.
So what else apart from a goal and a training plan?
Mandatory equipment. UTA has specific lists for each of the races and the equipment you have to carry. This is non-negotiable and checks are carried out on the course, with penalties applied. Following the incident in Gansu, China in May 2021 where tragically 21 runners lost their lives due to inclement weather, mandatory equipment is now even more relevant. The good news is you have plenty of time to get your mandatory equipment together, so you are not rushing around Katoomba looking for a suitable bandage an hour before kit check! The other benefit of having your mandatory gear ready early is that it allows you train with it prior to the race, test it and know it all fits and how it feels. Standing on the start line and thinking your pack is too heavy is not a good start!
Other equipment. What shoes will you race in? What shorts will you wear? Where do you need to apply lube (you may laugh) and what are your favorite socks? Have you considered training with and using running poles? These are just a number of items to consider prior to the gun going off. Remember, you should not be trying, wearing or doing anything new on race day. Everything should be well tested prior to the race in your training, including what you will eat - that's a topic in itself for a different day.
Race week planning. Start thinking about how you will approach race week, drop bags, accommodation, car parking and support crew. Come race day morning you want to have as little as possible to worry about. You just want to be able to run! Planning that final week will save a lot of tears.
Finally you will need to learn the lingo. Trail and Ultra running has it's own unique language. Vert, DNF, hydration and nutrition, CP, back to back sessions, hill reps, poles, electrolytes and power hiking (yes, it's ok to walk sections) are some of the terms you will hear. Come May, you will be dropping them into your everyday conversations without a second thought.
Whilst the above is just scratching the surface, its a great start for you to think about. Ultimately, its about enjoying a day out on the trails. I hope your UTA is a fun day out. Start planning now so you're not the one running around Katoomba, looking for that missing bandage!