Jul 08

HOW TO Prepare for The North Face 100 Singapore 2011

The early birds rate are gone and those who are interested in the race, would probably have signed up. If this is your first time doing a trail race/long distance trail race, it might come at a shock to you how different it is from road racing.
North Face Singapore 2011
Singapore has no mountains, nor does it have have major hills. That is not to say that you should underestimate the terrain. The many small hills can add up to give you a real challenge, not forgetting the main DNF cause of the race: humidity and heat.

Before I start, I will like to clarify that the products mentioned below are NOT sponsored. It’s my honest review.

1. Hydration, hydration… Hydration!

I can’t stress how important it is to run with your own hydration, where both water and electrolyte intakes must be carefully experimented during your training runs and plan out before the race.

Electrolytes… Many of you would have drank 100PLUS (a kind of isotonic drink if you don’t already know of) throughout your runs and felt like puking after that. The main reason is because, 100PLUS is laden with sugars, and while it is good to have carbohydrate intake throughout the race, having a constant flow of the same sugary isotonic drink makes your stomach grouchy.

This however, can be very much dependent on individuals. For myself, I prefer to separate my electrolytes from my carbohydrate intake. I personally recommends NUUN tablets (zero calories), which dissolves in water to give a refreshing yet mild tasting electrolyte drink. GU now makes similar electrolyte tablets too.

Other forms of electrolytes include electrolyte pills (most economical), energy gels (there is an endless variety of it) and gummy (recommend: GU Chomps).

For a plus point, an optimum amount of electrolytes in your body can prevent – or delay – the onset of cramps.

Water… Water is the source of life, but if it’s your only source of hydration throughout a run, it can be damaging to your body. Water flushes out your electrolytes through sweat, and if you do not replace those electrolytes, you can land yourself in deep trouble. A good balance of how much water and electrolytes that you bring for a training run/race determines how far you can go in a race.

Hydration System? So, you will need something to carry your water and electrolytes. So what are the best hydration systems? Well there are tons of them.
For the specifics of this race though, I would recommend waist bottles(recommend: Terra Nova Ultra 1) coupled with handhelds (recommend: Amphipod) and hydration vest/bags (recommend: Nathan series of running vests). Just remember to meet the minimum amount of fluids that you need to carry on you.

My experience… I ran the 2010 version, which was my first ultra trail race and I underestimated how much hydration I need. I suffered when I was at the end of the race through macritche (which is incredibly hot and humid in the afternoon), I thought I would only need a minimum amount of water and I didn’t fill up much at the last checkpoint. Bad mistake, it was a hard slog at the end of the race, being dehydrated all the way to the end point. Certainly not a comfortable way to end your race!

2. Nutrition

Nutrition is really dependent on oneself. Therefore, do try a whole mix of food-on-the-go during your training sessions to find out which are the food that will suit you best. A good balance of proteins and simple carbohydrates will be beneficial for your body. Remember: You lose more calories than you can replace throughout your run, so you can afford to be more liberal with your food intake.

Some common food items: sweets, energy beans, gummy bears, peanut butter (with or without bread), Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem and many more.

Just be creative and explore your nutrition possibilities. With the right nutrition, it can be really motivating for your runs.

3. Are Trail Shoes important?

To be truthful, trail shoes might not be necessary in the context of The North Face 100 Singapore (there’s a Singaporean who ran the whole 100km in the Army supplied new balance shoes in 2010). However, they are a good thing to have in the cases where the trail is slippery due to rain (which is common in Singapore). If you plan to venture deeper into the sport though, this will be the right time to invest in a good pair of trail shoe.
Trail shoes come in different categories:

Minimalist… footwear are what you can expect them to be; almost no support, good “feedback” from the ground with every step and lightweight. However, there is a strong following of this minimalist movement, all due to the fact that it provide a more authentic experience on the trails and it’s a more natural way of running (as claimed). I would recommend the MT101 for this category, which I have done a review.

Hybrids… footwear are made to be used on both the tarmac and also on trails. This is probably the best suited category of shoe to get for The North Face 100 Singapore since you will definitely experience a good amount of tarmac running in between trails. I would recommend the Salomon XR Crossmax. It’s a little expensive, but I have heard many good things about it.

Technical… footwear are the ones with whole lots of features and whole lot of supports. This could be quite a overpowered category for TNF100 Singapore as the trails here are really not that technical (Also, the race never pass through the more technical trails of Singapore). I would recommend Hoka One One Mafate trail running shoes. You will definitely get lots of attention, support from the shoes and I read that they are the perfect shoes for downhills.

4. Training: on trails or road?

Hit the trails on your long weekend runs. You have to get used to running on the trails. Trail training helps to strengthen your ankles, reducing the risk of injury, and also helps to strengthen the other leg muscle groups to allow you to tackle the hills and trails better.

However, during the weekdays, you might be too busy to make your way down to the trails. Fret not, just choose the most hilly roads that is convenient to you. If you can’t find any, do not worry, because the good thing about Singapore is that you can’t miss the many HDB blocks that has at least 12 storeys of stairs to get a good training for hill climbs.

Trail race is not a road race…

The organisers have set out a mandatory rule that runners should carry 1.5l(50KM DUO) and 2l(100KM DUO) and it must be strictly adhere to. The reason is simple; to prevent heat exhaustion, or worst, heat stroke. If you have gotten heat exhaustion before, you will know that it makes you more prone to itself in the future (I unfortunately, am a victim of this).

In addition, the beauty of most trail races is that, you carry your own hydration through nature, instead of having many water points which you can stop at. Embrace this fact and never treat a trail race like a road race.

If there is anything you will like to know more about, do drop a comment below!

Good luck if you are running on 15th October 2011 :D