Supplies & Check Lists for Track Ultra's & 24 Hour Events


Experience From - Ron Adams , "Frozen" Ed Furtaw , Gery Wales, Jay Hodde , Bonnie Bush , Alan Casbelly , Randy Young#1 , Matt Mahoney , Jennifer Aviles , Randi Young#2 , George Beinhorn , Jim Stepenson , Mike Dobies , Gordon Chace , Rocky Waters , Jeanie Gerstein , Randy Christian , Gordon Chace #2, Larry Robbins , Rocky Waters #2 , David Sil ,

Ron Adams

I originally intended to write a private e-mail to a friend considering her first ultra outlining a suggested checklist of things to take to a track ultra.

That checklist is below, but I think it would be interesting to see what other comments or suggestions the rest of you have, since it seems that no matter what I take, there is always something else that I could have thought of.


OK, so what did I forget ?

"Frozen" Ed Furtaw

It's been a number of years since I've done a track ultra. I've given it up in favor of trail ultras, which I find more enjoyable. But if I were to do a track ultra, some things I'd want there besides those Ron listed are:

I also agree with Lorraine Lees about the cheering section. In my case, it's my wife Gail, and our stuffed tiger Hobbs. To generalize this idea, bring something that will make you feel happy and smile when you see it as you endlessly lap the track. Since ultrarunning is predominantly a mental sport, it is important to "feel good" and have a positive attitude, so bring something that will help remind you of that.

Geraldine "Lady G" Wales

A small table to put all this stuff on - you don't want to be leaning over to much.

Jay Hodde

Just as important as a list of things TO bring is a list of things NOT to bring.

DON'T bring:

Let me also add to the list of things TO bring:

Bonnie Bush

Don't consider me an expert, just experienced. Here's my general list created from memory so maybe I missed something.

Running Clothes

Ointments and Rx
Shower Needs
I like to use a large chest cooler for my clothes, etc track side. You don't have to worry about rain, humidity or overnight dew - everything stays fresh. I use another smaller cooler for cold beverages and food, and a picnic basket for things that can be exposed to the elements.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Alan Cabelly

What else do you bring to the track for 24 hours?

Randi Young #1

Great suggestions for the track ultra checklist.

Here are some additional things to consider....

Wishing you all good luck and many miles...

P.S. Don't hesitate to sing!

Mat Mahoney

Hey, this is great. :-) Everything from gas grills to chaise lounges to ironing boards! Even better if you can park your U-Haul by the track. What a contrast to Barkley or Hardrock training runs where you have to carry everything you'll need for the next 12 hours in your fanny pack.

How about bringing a plan? I've seen a lot of first time ultrarunners just run at a comfortable pace for the first 20 or 30 miles until reality sets in. "Hey, I'm ahead of Kouros's world record pace!". Not likely.

Set a reasonable goal. For most people in a 24 hour run, 100 miles is probably too far. Even if you think you can do it, that is just over 4 miles each hour. You can walk most of that. Remember, if you are ahead of schedule, you are not putting time in the bank, you are borrowing miles. Around 4 AM you will be repaying the loan with interest.

Don't let your run interfere with your normal routine. Eat your regular meals at the usual times. If you plan to sleep, do it late at night when you would be the least productive anyway. If you plan to stay up, expect your appetite and energy to reach a low in the early morning before dawn, then come back like magic at the time you normally rise. During the night, you probably won't be able to take anything but sugar and caffeine.

Stretch every couple of hours. Spend more time walking than running. If you must run fast, save it for the last hour. Impress people with your finish line kick.

Jennifer Aviles

Wear a watch. Believe it or not, some people don't. I've found that you can keep yourself busy just keeping tabs of your time every 200 or 400 meters if you get to a place where you can't think of anything else to do.

Something for SHADE when you stop and rest. most tracks are out in the open and have no shade whatsoever. Two chairs with a towel or sheet stretched over them works, for example.

an extra pair of shoes - not just for bad weather possibilities but also because you are running and running and running on a surface with the same angle of stress getting to your ankles, knees, hips, etc. If your shoes are worn down, the additional stress on those joints will start to exacerbate anything going wrong. Try changing shoes.

offer to bring your own lap counter. An extra pair of knowledgeable hands really can help the race director if volunteers are scarce

Randi Young #2

Two more comments regarding track (or closed loop) ultras......


You should be able to determine which of the counters is keeping track of your laps, and when the shift changes occur. Make eye contact with YOUR counter each and every time you go past.

This will help to ensure accurate lap counting.

If you are going to be off of the track for a break longer than the normal "pit-stop", it's often good to mention it to the lap-counter during the lap prior to your break. When you come back on, remember to re-establish a rapport with your counter.

Thank these people repeatedly for their efforts and time! (I tried to send thank you cards after the race, if the RD was able to give me addresses.) It's a boring yet nerve-racking job they are volunteers.

If you can, try to make yourself an elastic race number holder. Just a strip of 3/4" elastic with a stiff backing which is as wide as the standard bib (to which you pin the number). By backing the part behind the race number, you won't risk tearing the number off when you pull it on and off over the various clothing changes which are inevitable. Makes those quick changes even quicker, and keeps the number visible to the lap counters at all times (not covered by a late night windbreaker).

Again, good luck and many miles.......

George Beinhorn

I've never done a track ultra, but I ran 36.5M as a training run at Skophammer in 105 degree heat. Never underestimate the power of an ice chest. The way they make 'em nowadays is amazing. My $18 Coleman plastic ice chest sat out in the hot sun for eight hours, actually under my little folding table. When I got home I didn't feel like cleaning it out, so it sat and I forgot about it. <> it still had solid ice in it!

It was really nice during the run to have that little island of cold. I could have put all kinds of neat things in ice, wash cloths, hats, whatever.

Jim Stephenson

I also prepare a "lap bag." Rather than digging through all the coolers and things, I can grab the little belt pack that has vaseline, a small bottle of water, various pills, sunscreen (I mix mine with some bug repellant), something to eat. All those things that one can do on the fly. After I do whatever I want to do, I just flip the thing in the general direction of my cooler on the next lap. More than a few times I haven't used anything else.

Mike Dobies

Pat asks:

"I'm seeking help on how to approach a 24 hr run. My goal is to run Olander Park in September. Anyone out there with experience there?"
This trail dog learned the hard way that the roadrunners rule at Olander. Don't expect to do well unless you're running roads -- flat roads -- not a hill in sight at Olander. I tried Olander last year while training less than 5% of my miles on pavement. I bailed at 13 hours -- the pounding from the pavement trashed my legs.

So, I guess I'm trying to say to match your training with what you're going to be racing.

Gordon Chace

Before my first 24 in 1995, I had a roughly similar notion. The event I was planning (FANS) has a 2.7 mile loop, so my notion was to think of 48 intervals of a half-hour, and in each interval either run a loop or take a break. If I could run 37 and limit the breaks to 11, 100 miles could result. Fortunately, E-mail with experienced all-night runners showed me that this notion was seriously wrong. Except for Sue Olsen, who used a lap-and-nap technique the day before giving birth, but was only trying for about half of her usual distance.

Absolutely positively KEEP AWAKE all 1440 minutes, and never surrender relentless forward progress for more than a few minutes at a time and never for any reason except a few shooze & sox updates plus toilet necessities. If like all but the very best in the world, you cannot maintain an actual running pace for 23+ hours, mix in walking breaks. If you don't keep your legs moving, they can cramp up, and if you don't keep your eyes open, they can remain sealed.

This mailing list includes Kevin Setnes who ran 160 miles at Olander a few years ago. Kevin has proposed intervals of 25 minutes running and 5 minutes walking. I suspect Kevin's intent was to convince elites that they shouldn't attempt pure running. For us mere mortals 25/5 is easy for about two marathons but gradually becomes unsustainable. Most of us need to switch strides more often and let the walking fraction increase. I personally improvise my stride changes, rather than look at a clock, to allow for head winds and food digestion.

Olander has a 1.1 mile loop. It is flat asphalt. The official aid station is well equipped although I personally disagreed with the 1996 choice of sports drink. (they made up for this with FREE GU) The rules allow pit crews and private aid stations (my ALARC club provided an absolutely wonderful support team) but there cannot be any pacing by people other than official racers.

Bring a LARGE safety pin. Olander issues you a cluster of cardboard tags that you tear away and submit each time you run thru the score keeping tent. The bar codes allow quick computerized accounting and the fact that they keep used tags represents an audit trail. No more worrying over whether eyeball observers saw your bib!

If you've never run during the wee early hours of the morning, I strongly suggest doing so in some training runs. The 1997 race will be after the Autumn Equinox so we will have right about 12 hours of darkness. I fear the dark even tho the numbers show that I have done better than most people at night. Fortunately, Olander has permanent street lamps for part of the course, and sets up portable floodlights for the rest of it.

Jay just posted the "never give up" quote. Very applicable to the 24, as your competitive ranking takes a huge change during the night. 24's attract a lot of people who use the event as time-trials to the 50-mile or 100-kilometer distances. These people sleep at night, along with a few who hoped to win the 24 but went out too fast. If you are in motion at night, you are competitive! My first 24 completed with 10 hours of pure walking, during which I passed half of the people in front of me and wasn't passed by anybody behind me!

"If it didn't break before midnight, don't fix it" (me)

Jeanie Gerstein

I have run a variety of ultras of distances including 50K, six hour, 50 mile and 100 mile and will be running my first 24 hour in September at Olander Park.

I would appreciate any advice regarding pacing. (Do I try for an even pace here or expect to die as in a 100 miler?) and anything else unique to a 24 hour race. Should I plan to change my shoes every 6 or 8 hours, etc??? Any advice would be appreciated.

Rocky Waters

Before attempting my first 24 hour (only one so far) I tried out various running/walking strategies. I had received invaluable information from this list about pacing. What seemed to work well for me was to run one mile then walk a quarter (the race was on a quarter mile track). I planned to do 4 miles per hour for as long as I could. I set my watch for a 3 minute count which was my running pace (12 min/mi) and I would walk a 5 min or less lap (20 min/mi). This left me with at least 4 minutes per hour that I could then use for other things. I used this in an 8 hour training run before the event and felt very good. During the event I ended up with a foot injury and was unable to complete the full time. However, for the time before the injury this plan seemed to be working well for me. This allowed me to easily take in food and drink only during the walking sections. I find that I have a harder time running and eating than I have walking and eating. 5 minutes was plenty of time to eat, where I found that I if I took longer I would end up walking for quite a bit after finishing my desired drink/food.

I intend to use this same strategy again this year as I do my second 24 hour (July 19-20). Only this time, I have an overall mileage goal of at least 100 miles. To do this the pace for the running and walking will be a bit faster than last year. I have particularly been working on my walking speed which should be closer to 4 min/lap (16 min/mi) and the running speed this year will be 2.5 min/lap (10 min/mi). I fully expect that this will take me through at least the first 12 hours, if not more, before I get entirely bored of the routine. I have a few more weeks before I will be doing an 8 or more hour test run with the new timing, but I expect it will go well.

Each person is different and I would very much advise trying out strategies on a similar course (the same if possible) before the race is run to find out what works for you. For better or worse, I often get in a regimen mind set to meeting my goals, particularly when running a multiple loop course. If you want to make a particular mileage, I would suggest setting your target for a bit more than your goal. For instance, I have set my pacing based upon 110 miles in about 22 hours (does not include any stops) to meet my goal of 100+ in 24 hours (with stops). This leaves room for the expected unexpected.

Randy Christian

Having only done one 24 hour event (though I loved it) I don't see myself as qualified to add or challenge much of what is being said. However, I would counter the "don't bring a tent" advice. Since weather is always questionable, I found a tent (particularly one tall enough to stand in) a *very* valuable addition at Megan's Run. Being able to change clothes comfortably, and in my case in a dry setting, was very important. My answer to not taking a tent (I presume to avoid the temptation to sleep, which numerous people gave in to at MR) is to have a crew person nagging me to not lay down, or sit down except to facilitate clothing changes.

One more thing. I found the 24 hour to be a surprisingly enjoyable format, so go willing to have fun! Best wishes on your run.

Gordon Chace #2

That "don't pitch a tent" quotation is one of those great succinct ways to make one think. Since this started with a question about Olander, I'll point out that event is at an excellent lodge building with kitchen, fireplace, and the RD hires massage therapists.

These luxuries are much more tempting than a personal tent. In 1996 I had tent shared with teammates and crew, and decided to tell myself the tent was there for the crew rather than for me, and I also managed to stay out of the lodge, and made my goal. 97: not enough training, behind on my pacing plan, discouraged, pizza slice to console myself, then spiralled downwards to the massage table and fireplace. The result was my first ever 5:08 mile and I do *not* mean minutes:seconds!

Actually, when running without a crew, a tent is great to spread out all those multi-lap supplies so they can be seen without emergency unpacking, still protected from rain and dew.

Larry Robbins

I have been in about 8 of these events, that I recall. Only once was I successful at making the 100+ mark. I was also Race Director at the first 24Hr National Championships in Atlanta won by Roy Pirrung.

This is my advice:

Have a per hour plan or per 30 min plan. This a routine that you will stick to the entire 24 Hrs. Factor all of the elements of the run into this plan. Run for so long, walk for so long, plan down time for so long (potty, aid, repair, interview time, etc).

Plan for the weather. It will be hot, cold, wet, windy, snowy, rainy, lightning, burning sun, or just right. This means bring the right gear, vaseline, changes of socks, changes of shoes, changes of clothes, assortment of clothes, a hat, sun glasses, sun screen, and anything else you might think you will need.

Prepare to stay awake all night, moving. You will get tired, sleepy, discouraged, maybe lonely. You will need to block it all out and focus on your routine. Caffeine helps keep me awake.

The Tent: Tents are great to have, a motor home is better. Tents have advantages and dis-advantages. It's a nice place for hiding! It's a nice warm place to sleep. It's a home base for your planned downtime. It will let you organize all of your supplies. If you plan to come enjoy yourself and your competitors and have a great time, which I suggest, then bring the tent. If you plan to focus on maximum mileage, maybe bring a tent. The tent encourages you to go to bed. Others may encourage you to go to bed. I don't use a tent.

Plan your aid. What do you use in Ultra's? Bring a variety of things to eat and drink. Bring a pain killer. Work your aid plan into your routine.

Get your act together, bring a camera, and come to have a great time.

Rocky Waters #2

I have done a couple 24 hour events and attended others. I have had a tent (which was used by crew only) and not had a tent. It is dependent upon the individual race and weather of the time. At one event there was a major drizzle during the night, so it was very appreciated to have the tent to house the crew and supplies. At my last 24 hour, I went without a crew and took four packages. They were: Lounge chair, quilt, running bag (contained mainly clothes), and ice chest (contained mainly water). This was more than enough.

I do like changing my clothes during a 24 hour, although I wear the same shorts and shoes the whole time, unless there is some problem. I have no problems with changing in front of other people. I have know idea if it is scary or offensive to them, but haven't heard had any complaints so far.

I agree with run walk strategy for 24 hours. As someone mentioned, I find that it helps to have hourly goals as well as overall goals.

David Sil

In 24 hour runs I also agree that a tent is necessary. Do not come off the track unless you really need to. Controlling the mind is key to doing well in these races. You will have high spots and low ones. Do not let the low ones give you an excuse to come off the track but if you get really low go for a long walk and consume something like a Mars bar or coke (if you can tolerate) to pick you up. Bad patches pass. In desperation do not be afraid to have 30 minutes sleep but make sure you get back on the track again afterwards no matter how you feel and irrespective of the weather in the early hours. It is essential that you start slowly or you will pay later. Start your walk strategy from the very beginning. The 25 min run + 5 min walk is good (or 5 laps + 1 lap) but be prepared to do more walking as the race progresses especially in the early hours. You will be surprised how much better you feel as soon as the sun rises so do not get despondent in the hours before dawn. If you are a good walker you have an advantage. Talking to the other runners is very helpful to keep you going especially when you are having the inevitable low spots. Keep up the carbos and fluid from the very beginning.