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What to do at night during multi-day Ultramarathons

Long day’s journey into night

By Frank Wainwright 

Ultrarunning is my freedom. The time it takes between start line to finish arch is my own. Nobody interrupts my forwards progress. Ultras allow you to be intensely self-centred whilst laying claims on something heroic.

People who run fast road marathons often ask me the polite version of how I can bear my own company for so many hours at a time. The answer is that the slower pace removes intensity and allows room for the brain to roam into. I can also calmly think through the plan.

The next aid station can – and should – be a 5-minute stop – so how did 20 mins slip by? Use a mental list – food, drink, body, gear, clothes – and prioritise. It sounds simple enough, but the tired brain plays tricks. Some Spine runners sew their gloves into the sleeves. Leaving them behind can be race over.

If your physio has told you to stretch that hamstring and some kind marshal offers you an unexpected coffee, most will grab their cup and forget the stretch, when in fact you can get the stretch in as the coffee is made.

For a multiday event, the last aid station is also a sleep station and the same principle applies – every moment counts. The sooner you are clean, warm and comfortable the sooner you stop chafing and shivering from the day that is done and the sooner you are refuelling, repairing and rebuilding for the next stage. Cross the line and keep moving, keep thinking.

Perversely, a bit more exercise, an evening walk is a great option. Get the camera and take a stroll. You can loosen and stretch as you go, whilst switching down alertness.

The quicker you get through the list, the better organised will your next day kit be, and the sooner you can relax, and following relaxation, sleep.

Sleep is the most important part of recovery. Multiday ultras are also multinight. Event adrenaline always erodes sleep. You are preparing to move, ready to run. Having a routine, working the plan, and dealing with issues helps relax the senses and give you as much rest as possible.

In September and October, I’m doing Ring of Fire, Anglesey and Lake Tahoe Triple, California/Nevada. Both these are 3-day events where I want to take home the whole event experience – the people, the place, the occasion.

By treating the overnights like a long sleepy aid station, I should get the best event experience.

Here is Frank’s Recovery Overnight Plan for the Ring of Fire 135 mile race around the Isle of Angelsey,

Day 2 – Day 3 plan 

9.00pmCross the line, confirm finish with the organiser team
9.05pmCheck any organiser requirements ahead of Day 3
9.05pmRehydrate, protein bar
9.10pmHead to camp, charge watch and phone
9.10pmShower, teeth, laundry
9.30pmCheck sore spots, full stretch routine
9.45pmCompression garments, including Riixo Recovery cuffs to also apply ice
9.50pmWhilst wearing Cook/prepare food
10pmSet up pack for the morning charged watch and navigation checklist
10.15pmSet alarm
10.15pm1-2 mile walk
11pmCuffs off / Campfire unwind
11.30pmFinal stretches. Teeth refresh
11.45pmCheck alarm and lights out

Learn more about the ice and compression recovery cuffs 

Read more about Franks Run 202020 Challenge

Read how Frank reflects on his injury in the Kerry Way Ultra

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