Using aid stations well in an ultra can make a significant difference to your race time and race experience. Here are my tips…
Aid stations are wonderful places. After spending hours on the trail, an aid station is a haven of peace, security, sustenance, tender loving kindness and more. It can also be an opportunity to see your crew, which may be those you love most. But aid stations are also a seductive place where time passes far quicker than you realize, and distracts you from the task at hand; running a race. I have spent far too much time in aid stations, and seen others do the same. I have also left aid stations only to remember further down the trail the important tasks I'd left without completing. Here are some of my tips for making good use of aid stations.
- Think ahead Before you reach the aid stations, work out what you want to do. Try to list the activities and remember how many things need doing.
- Visualize Imagine yourself doing the things that need to be done. This will help you remember what you have to do, and perhaps pass some time on the trail.
- Focus. When you are at the aid station, time passes quickly. Try not to get distracted and keep doing what you need to do. If you want to chat to the aid station staff or your crew, do so while doing what needs to be done.
- Fear the chair If you have to sit down, then sit down, but fear the chair. It will suck you in and make it brutally hard to move on. Chairs by open fires are even worse – they are like the gravitational pull of a gas giant, pulling you down and holding you there.
- Be Polite Aid station staff are some of the finest examples of human altruism. Always be nice, always thank the staff, always show your appreciation.
- Take out Don't try to eat your fill in the aid station. Use a bag, such as a quart Ziploc bag to gather goodies and eat while moving.
- Double Check Before leaving, think if there is anything you've forgotten.
- Move On The hardest, but most important thing is to move on, and continue the race.
Here are some extra tips from Mike D for when you have a good crew...
- Make a checklist of things for each aid station and give it to your crew.
- Have a list of generic questions that you want your crew to ask me at every aid station. These questions are things to remind me of something I may have forgotten before I leave the aid station.
- Have your crew record what you are eating and drinking and your crew can let you know if it is more or less than you planned.