Try to get as much information about the course and the terrain of your planned ultra. If it’s at all possible it is helpful to run/have a look at some of the course prior to the event. At least get a course map and study the topography to learn where the major hills and challenges lie. There are often videos of events on YouTube or the organisers themselves may have a DVD of the event. You can be well prepared for a particular ultra never having stepped a foot on the course prior to race day but the more you’re prepared for the footing, elevation, and possibly the conditions the better are your chances of success.
Taper your training and allow your body to mend any strains and work out some of the toxins that build up from extreme training. The reduced output will probably result in a slight weight gain, which is actually beneficial for longer ultras because the reserve comes in handy after your body runs out of glycogen, the fuel your muscles use to keep you moving. It is also quite a good idea to do as much training as possible at the time of day you’re likely to be running. In the case of a multi-day event get used to starting at the daily start time.
If it’s your first ultra an important thing to do is to slow down and focus on maintaining your own manageable pace, one that you are more likely to maintain throughout the event. You should run your own race – don’t worry about what others are doing. Ultras are rarely raced, which adds to the non-competitive, friendly atmosphere that surrounds most ultra or multi-day events.
As you do all of this training and racing, listen carefully to your body. Ease off if you feel you are hitting a lull in your training. You may be overdoing it or suffering from the beginnings of an injury.
Think about the proper clothing, shoes, and equipment you will be using for the race. Unique to ultras, you will need to consider items such as a head torch for running in the dark, lubricant, nipple covers, hydration, gels and/or energy bars, rain and sun protection, hats, and gaiters.
Don’t overdo it. Rest when you need to. Listen to your body. If you need to take a day off, do it. If you need to take three days off, do it. Actively rehabilitate with ice, heat, rest, compression, massage, and, in very rare instances, anti-inflammatory drugs, which should be discontinued as soon as possible.
Besides acute physical breakdown, be aware of illness and stress. Don’t wear yourself out trying to force too much training or to fit 36 hours worth of stuff into every 24 hours. You’ll drive yourself and those around you crazy You won’t enjoy it. You’ll be miserable. Be reasonable.
If you go through a heavy training period and start to feel worn out for a couple days in a row, you may be over training. Take it easy for a week. Even during the peak of training if you feel burnt out take some time off; give it a day or two (or more) then start again. Your enthusiasm for running is key to getting through the training and key to getting to the finish line!