Saturday, May 10, 2014

TNF100 - Gear, Nutrition & Race Strategy

I don't really need to give an overview of the race itself. For anyone into trail or ultra running in Australia the TNF100 needs no introduction. But for anyone wanting to know more about next weekend's event, jump on over to the website, or watch the YouTube promo below. Instead this post will focus in detail on the gear I chose, and my nutrition strategy.

Assembling the mandatory gear for TNF, and developing a sound nutrition and hydration strategy, is an exercise that both emptied my bank account and chewed up several hours with intense spreadsheet analysis, as I counted calories, calculated leg times, and assessed fluid requirements.

Fortunately I love all that stuff, except for the bank balance bit. The gear was pretty straight forward, although I had to buy most of it, as well as a new hydration pack, as my tiny Nathan HPL008 just wasn't going to cut it. That was my major expense, along with the waterproof jacket. The gear is all listed below, and believe me, once you put it all together, plus 2 litres of fluid, it's bloody heavy. I decided I wasn't going to weigh it because I didn't want to know, but finally gave in to temptation before a fully loaded long run a couple of weeks ago, and it was over 4kg.
  • Long sleeve thermal top (polypropylene, wool or similar – not compression)
  • Long leg thermal pants (polypropylene, wool or similar – not compression)
  • Waterproof and breathable jacket with fully taped (not critically taped) waterproof seams and hood
  • Beanie, balaclava or buff
  • Full-fingered lightweight thermal gloves (polypropylene, wool or similar)
  • High Visibility Safety Vest that complies with Australian Standard AS/NZS 4602:1999 – D/N Class for day and night time wear
  • Headlamp
  • Small backup light in case of headlamp failure
  • Mobile phone.
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Compression bandage minimum dimensions 7.5cm wide x 2.3m long unstretched
  • Lightweight Dry Sack to keep your compulsory clothing dry (Zip lock bags are fine)
  • Capacity to carry 2 litres of water (water bladder or water bottles)
  • 2 x bars / food portions
  • Ziploc bag for your personal rubbish
  • Waterproof map case or any other way to keep your maps protected such as map contact
  • Set of maps and course descriptions (provided by organisers)
  • A5 Participant Emergency Instructions card on waterproof paper (provided by organisers)
  • Full box of waterproof & windproof safety matches (provided by organisers)
  • Firelighter block for emergency use only (provided by organisers)
  • Race number with timing tags to be worn on your front and visible at all times (provided
  • by organisers)
  • Long leg waterproof pants*
  • 100-weight long sleeve synthetic fleece top (must not be made of wool)*
* Carried depending on conditions, or left in specified drop bag

After much research on hydration packs, I settled on the Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0. It's significantly smaller than the Salomon S-LAB 12 that will be the most popular pack on course, and it was a tight squeeze to get everything in, but it's very light and well constructed, and after 200k+ wearing it, I'm very happy with the choice. I'll use the 1.5 litre bladder out of my Nathan, as well as 460ml bottles (Sistema from Woolworths) in the front pockets, as I didn't like the 500ml ones that came with it - they were weird to drink out of and the shape of them stuck into my ribs a bit much.

The Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0

For the jacket, I went with the Outdoor Research Helium II, which is only 180g and folds up nice and small. It's been raining quite a bit lately, so I've been able to get plenty of practice packing and retrieving it on the go. I got caught in torrential rain down at Cape Schanck the other week, and with this jacket on, it didn't bother me a bit. With conditions likely to be a bit nippy at various latter stages of the race, I'll probably be pulling it out as a windbreaker occasionally as well. Both the pack and jacket I purchased from Bogong Equipment on Little Bourke Street, who have been supporting trail running in a big way lately.

The OR Helium II - packs up nice and small

For my kit, I'll be wearing my trusty Adidas Response shorts, which I wore at 30/50 and Maroondah Dam. I usually prefer to run in a singlet, but it can get pretty cold in the Blue Mountains, so I'll be in a tee for the first time in a race - Adidas Climalite. The shoes have been a difficult choice. For my last two 50k races I have worn the lightweight Adidas Adios Boost, which I love, but for 100k I felt like I might need a bit more cushion, especially towards the later stages. In the end though, the light and nimble feel I get with the Adios won out, and I'll be sticking with the shoes that have served me well. Socks will be Injinji Trail 2.0 Midweight Mini-Crew, which I bought from the TNF100 online shop at a discount, and I'll be wearing my lucky, battered, old white Climacool cap. Depending on weather, I'll probably start the race wearing my jacket, gloves & beanie, and shed them around the 20k mark, after the Tarros Ladders descent.

My Kit

My Adidas Adios Boost

For nutrition, I have been training with Tailwind electrolyte/carb mix, which I will be using on the day, supplemented with Shotz gels. All up I will take in about 3000 calories which works out to between 250-270 / hour. I will start with 1 litre Tailwind  (600 calories) in the bladder and 2 x 460ml (500 calories total) bottles of Tailwind, plus 2 x gels. I will have drop bags at 46k, 57k & 78k where I will swap my bottles, and grab a couple of gels. I will probably leave some coke in the last two bags as well. My full plan is below, and allows for the fact that I will have some extra in the bladder if some legs take longer than expected.

My Nutrition/Hydration Plan

Which I guess brings me to my race plan. Exactly how long do I think this thing is going to take? Common sense would suggest that over my first 100k, I should take things conservatively and make sure I get safely around. But I think I race best when I throw myself in the mix, then fight hard to keep my position. Obviously I won't be able to match strides with the top guys, but i'm going to try and put myself in the top 20 early without going too hard, cruise through the middle sections, put it all on the line from 57k - 78k (the tough Leg 5), then hang on for dear life the last 20k.

Hopefully this will get me a time somewhere between 11:00 and 11:30 and a top 25 finish. This will put me at risk of a big time crash and burn, but I don't want to die wondering, and I don't think I will ever get a better opportunity to perform well in this race. 4100m ascent/descent is not really that excessive over 100k, and the grinding last 15k uphill will play to my strength assuming I can still move. On the downside, I'm carrying quite a few niggles, any one of which could develop into a full blown issue over this distance. Hopefully if that happens, I'll be close enough to the finish to limp home in sub 14, and still get my silver buckle!

I'm incredibly excited for this event, but trying to keep a lid on it as much as possible. My last few races have gone so well that I feel like I'm due to have a bad one. I just hope it's not next weekend. But good race or bad, I'm just going to focus on staying in the moment - breathing, cadence, form, sustenance, environment. Bring on next Saturday!