Ultra Marathon Checkpoint Management - You and the Support Crew 

Posted by Nick Friday, May 13, 2011 9:05:00 AM

Planning what happens at a check-point is a critical aspect of a smooth ultra-marathon.  Simply getting to a checkpoint and then having a scratch and a think is a sure recipe for getting a kilometer down the trail and thinking "crap, I wish I'd ..." 

With support crew, the planning is even more critical, as the last thing you want is an argument or a missed communication to hamper your race effort.

Here's my plan for tomorrow's TNF100:

  • Have a bag with everything you might want at a checkpoint packed before the race and ready for your support crew.  This includes spare shoes, socks, gels, shirts, first aid, strapping tape, electrical or gaffer tape and a selection of food and drinks.
  • Have a detailed plan for what you need at the checkpoint, with optional in-race variations provided by the bag you packed pre-race.
  • Have a plan about what time you anticipate being at a checkpoint.
  • Understand race rules about what is required for check-point access for support crew.  For TNF100, support crew need to attend a briefing and get a sticker for their car to get to the various checkpoints.
  • Make sure your support crew know how to get to a checkpoint - for trail races, these can be obscure, hard-to-access locations.  They can also take a long time to get to.
  • For checkpoints that don't allow support crew, have a mental check-list for the what you need to do at the checkpoint.

For CP1 and CP2 at TNF100, no support crew are allowed.  Heres what I need to do:

  • Pre-checkpoint: Finish all the drink I have in both water bottles.  For CP1, this will occur going up the Golden Staircase, and for CP2, the turn-off to Dunphey's is where this mental note is triggered.
  • Pre-checkpoint: Are there any physical problems I need to address?  Blisters, do I need to change my socks, are there rocks in my shoes that I should get rid off.
  • When arriving at the checkpoint, try to find a volunteer that isn't busy and get them to fill your bottles, giving them precise instructions about what you want.  "Please fill to the top with Endura mix.  Many thanks".
  • Make sure the hydration and food/ gels for the next leg are ready - move them from the main part of the backpack to a pouch/ pocket you can access on the run.
  • Drink 500ml of Endura
  • All good?  Then get the hell out of there.

These are the check-lists for me and Linda (my wonderful wife and support crew for the race) for the suport-crew accessible locations.

CP3 (arrive at 14:00):

  • Grab choc-coated coffee beans
  • Grab 2 High5 gels and a High5 energy bar (already cut in half and in a zip-lock)
  • Dump Nathan waist-belt
  • Swap Camelbak bladder.  I have pre-made ziplock bags with High5 powder refills that are number by checkpoint and also indicate the volume to add to the Camelbak bladder with the powder.  (Swapping bladders rather than refilling the same bladder is much quicker).
  • Check any strapping tape is needed for blisters or hot-spots

CP4 (16:00):

  •  Eat some cake and drink a V
  • Grab some milk-bottle lollies
  • Swap Camelbak bladder
  • Grab 3 gels and High5 energy bar (already cut in half and in a zip-lock)
  • Grab night head-light.  This is heavy, and I carry a lighter model for the first 67km of the race.
  • Consider swapping into a long-sleeve shirt.
  • Swap race number to long-sleeve shirt (if required)
  • Consider beanie
  • Leave sun-glasses
  • Grab extra compulsory gear (fleece and water-proof pants)

CP5 (1900):

  • Eat some cake and drink a V
  • Grab licorice lollies
  • Swap Camelbak bladder
  • Grab 2 gels
  • Swap head-light battery
  • Put on reflective vest as per race rules
  • Go like the wind and finish strong :)

Along with all the great preparation, this checklist and detailed plan gives the best chance of a great race.  Can't wait for tomorrow. 

re: Ultra Marathon Checkpoint Management - You and the Support Crew

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 2:48:03 PM Andy Bowen

Nice work Nick, and good to see it paid off.

You did overlook the first point to check that your support crew is there before you!! I scored 2 out of 3 on that scale. Fortunately you're well drilled crew stepped up, no wonder you did such a good time. Thanks girls!

Good to hear the active rest is working too. I'm looking forward to getting out tonight for a few sneaky kms while the kids are at scouts - very time efficient ;-)



re: Ultra Marathon Checkpoint Management - You and the Support Crew

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 11:59:03 AM Nick

> Is it possible to do the event without a support crew ?

Yep - AROC will bring bags and/ or small boxes for unsupported runners to CP3, 4 and 5.  It would be a bit slower, and a bit harder without the moral support

re: Ultra Marathon Checkpoint Management - You and the Support Crew

Wednesday, May 18, 2011 11:14:53 AM Brett Sammut

Again, thanks heaps Nick. A lot of information for both newbies and experienced runners to use.

Is it possible to do the event without a support crew ?


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