Following my post on ‘What To Pack For A Death Race‘ I thought I’d write a few more tips on how to survive a ‘Death Race.’
These kind of events are growing ever more popular as those crazy enough to sign up look to push theirselves further and further – We’ve got Judgement Day The Unknown, Spartan Agoge, GORUCK, ROOTS Adventure Training, Fuego Y Agua Survival Run to name a few, with more coming out of the woodwork each year.
Some of what I recommend may seem a little over the top. I know some people who have gone into an event with no preparation and still finished. I have also seen those people have doubts throughout the event to whether they are going to finish. The doubts are poisonous. I have never had doubts because I knew I was prepared. Don’t leave it to chance. You have entered the event because you want to finish.
Know your kit. Test your kit. It’s not good going into a multi day event wearing new kit, shoes, bag etc, when you haven’t trained with it. Put it all on and go for your usual run, do a circuit in the garden. Yes, you’ll feel like a plonker running around in full adventure kit but how else are you meant to know how it feels if you haven’t tested it?
How long does it take you to get undressed from a wet outfit into a dry outfit? You don’t know? You best try it.
Know where your kit is packed. Practise unpacking your bag and repacking it in a rush.
If you can’t locate what you need, when you need, you’ll get in a fluster and likely fail a task.
Study the location of the event. Print off a map if you haven’t already and look at the surrounding terrain.
Look at local landmarks and learn some local history.
Maybe you won’t need the information, but in the event you do and you know the answer, you will be winning. Maybe you’ll get a half an hour break whilst everyone else works out the answer. Maybe you’ll get a prize ready for your next task. Who knows? So many times, the research I have done previously has lead me (and my team) to win a task, and ultimately win the event.
This isn’t an OCR. Far from!
I’m amazed when I see people at the start line of an adventure race dressed in obstacle racing/running gear. Maybe that has come across a little unkind…. I don’t mean it like that. However, you’re going to be on the move for 24+ hours. You’ll be cold, wet and exhausted and your body temperature is going to drop! Even in the summer.
Sometimes the race directors will be really mean and give you a ‘rest.’ ‘Phew!’ you’ll think…… but it’s not them being nice, sometimes it’s done with intention. You’ll relax, you’ll get cosy under a tree (yes that happened to me), your body temperature will rapidly drop and then you will feel like shit. Sometimes it is best to keep moving or doing something, anything.
I’ve got distracted….. back to clothes……. Think hiking. Think top of a mountain. Layers that you can take off and put back on. Merino wool is wonderful when wet as it still keeps you warm. Goretex and Windstopper clothing is glorious to retain body heat (please refer to What To Pack For A Death Race).
It’s better to be too warm than too cold. Once you’re cold and tired, it’s very difficult to come back from that.
Take a spare pair of socks for every 8 hours of the event, or roundabout. See 7. for more info.
AND put all your spare clothes in dry bags!
3. Food & Hydration
Food and hydration are 2 key factors that will keep your internal fire burning.
Constantly drink water. Constantly encourage your team mates to do the same. You’ll unlikely feel thirsty because you’ll be so switched on to the tasks but keep drinking!
Eat every 2-4 hours, even when not hungry. Once again, you’ll be so focused on tasks that you could go hours before realising you’re hungry. Take an opportunity to eat something. Keep that fire burning slowly.
I like to package individual food bags with 200-300 calories of food and eat every 2-4 hours, alternating savoury with sweet. Eat too much sweet stuff and your blood sugar levels will trip out and you’ll crash and get tired. Don’t forget the savoury stuff! (check out the ‘Pantry’ list in What To Pack For A Death Race)
Avoid caffeinated food, drink and supplements for the first 24 hours. There’s no need to reply on these so early on. Save them for late on in the event when times are really hard and then you’ll notice the difference. But be prepared for the crash. I usually open up my emergency stash of chocolate covered coffee beans around 3am on the second evening/morning to get me through. Go easy on them and share them out to boost morale.
Designate a morale boosting snack, something you will only eat once you are REALLY feeling rubbish (mine is chocolate covered brazils or peanut M & M’s)- usually after the first 24 hours. This will not only be a great physical boost as it tastes delicious, but a phsycological boost as you know you have worked hard for it. Stash it at the bottom of your food bag so it isn’t easy to get when you are feeling vulnerable early on. Use it as a reward.
4. Conserve Energy
Getting nervous, excited and chatting to fellow participants will all use physical, mental and emotional energy. I am a right chatter box usually but when it comes to the start of an event like this, I am silent. Gathering my thoughts and energy and focusing on the task ahead. Nothing else can be done once you are at the start line, there’s no point in flapping.
In fact ( I was’t going to write this) but I take myself off and mediate for 10 minutes in order to calm my mind and relax, visualising the end of the event and receiving my medal/trophy/whatever. I believe this is the best way to start an endurance event.
Throughout the event, rest when possible. If you are waiting for instructions, or another team is getting instructions, rest. Every minute and second counts. Also, whilst you rest, you are able to listen. Listen to what is going on. What are the race directors saying? How are your team mates feeling/acting? Are your feet ok?
Rest and observe. You don’t know what you might learn. BUT, stay warm! Don’t get cold.
5. Chunk Your Time
You’ll be so up for it at the start of the event – buzzing and excited. After 12 hours, you’re going to start feeling rubbish. Never think ‘I have XX amount of hours left,’ it will make you miserable realising you are not even one third (or less) of the way through.
Instead, work towards your next snack break, work to complete the next task, break the event down into manageable chunks of time, 2 and 3 hours at a time.
Is the sun going to rise in 2 hours? Work towards that. Never think ‘I have 24 (or whatever) hours left.’ That thought is like poison and will destroy your morale.
6. Use Positive Affirmations
Sometimes I write affirmations on my forearm in permanent marker before heading to the event. It might sound a bit weird, but I find it helps me.
When I am starting to struggle I’ll give it a read and it will give me a boost.
My favourites are: Ask. Believe. Receive. Think of Winning. Strong Legs & Feet. Stay Calm and Relaxed.
Sometimes I write other stuff, sometimes I write nothing at all.
If you do this, make sure to write positive affirmations, no negative words otherwise it doesn’t work.
You can also say these out loud in the latter stage of the event to cement your wishes about completing the event. Trust me, it works.
7. Foot Care
And finally, footcare.
Possibly as important as eating and hydrating, if not more!!!
One of the most common reasons people drop out of endurance adventure events is because of their feet. At least with food and drink, if your blood sugar drops or you get dehydrated you can eat and drink to resolve it. But if your feet go, there is absolutely NOTHING that you can do to reverse it. And you will be forced to quit!
You’re going to get wet (at least I’d hope so) in these events. If you’re lucky, it will be early on. Your feet may stay wet for 24+ hours in which case, you’ll need to have done some good prep to keep your feet up for it.
The winning product to save you and your feet is Gurney’s Goo – a magical silicone formula enriched with tea tree to (almost) waterproof your feet, helping prevent trench foot, blisters and nasty foot infections.
Apply a generous layer of Gurney Goo the evening before the event and go to bed with a pair of socks on. Before the event, apply another layer then keep applying every 4 hours (or as close too) after the first 8 hours, even if your feet don’t get wet. I’ve seen someone’s little toe split in half from having wet feet and blisters as big as the sole of their foot and it’s not nice.
Gurney’s Goo has seen me though hundreds of miles with no blisters, and no trench foot and I wouldn’t go to a single event without it.
Combine Gurney’s Goo with pre-talced merino wool socks and your feet will be in heaven.
Shove a generous amount of talcum powder in your spare pairs of socks prior the event. Tuck the socks together and store in a dry bag with Gurney’s Goo and Compeed, plus the small bottle of talc.
On every opportunity after 8 hours, even when you don’t think you need to (like eating and drinking) stop for ‘foot admin.’ If you get a pocket of time to swap your socks and take care of your feet, then do it! You do not know when the next opportunity might be. Encourage your team mates to do the same.
And if you think you have a blister coming…… Compeed it immediately. Don’t risk it. Get it early and you’ll be laughing.
If in doubt, do your foot admin…. and drink water!
I hope you find this useful and that it helps you get to the end of your event.
Just remember to smile, enjoy it, even when times are tough and that you can finish. That’s why you signed up for it right?
If you have any questions, please ask away.
And Happy Endurance Racing x
Hello, it’s me again…….
Are you still here? Good on you! You passed my little test.
I am adding a bonus tip for you…..
8. ALWAYS READ THE SMALL PRINT, or in this case, keep looking and reading.
Most events will start planting clues and tips about tasks and challenges long before the event start. This is the race directors way of having fun before the event actually begins.
The event starts the minute you sign up, it will have started before you even signed up.
Do your research, look at previous events, read blogs, regularly check the event website, Facebook and Twitter page and look for hints to suggest what might be involved. It may be a waste of time, but for the time it takes, I only ever see the benefit.
At one event, the race directors gave our team a challenge that could have taken hours. As soon as they issued it, I knew exactly what to do and where to look given my previous Facebook stalking. 10 minutes on and the task was complete – we felt like the dogs bananas!
Stay on the ball. Listen to everything. Read everything. And pay attention!