Acing Aid Stations - Page 2
Practice Speedy Exits
Acing an aid station is as much about what you do before arriving as it is about what you do once you are there. Since you know the distance between aid stations (you do, right?), start determining your aid-station needs a mile or so before each. Decide what to pick up (food, drink, other supplies) or get rid of (trash, an extra apparel item).
In ultras, you may need more than just food and drink, and it can be a chore to remember your aid station to-do list. When this happens, come up with a mnemonic device to jog your memory before you arrive at the aid station. I come up with a word for each task and arrange those words into a new funny phrase each time I add a task. Suggests Trail Runner's Ask the Coach author, Matt Hart, "Repeat your to-do list before you arrive at the aid station, and again when you approach the table."
Just before arriving at an aid station where you will refill your fluids, open your water bottle(s) or pull the hydration bladder out of your pack. At the aid-station tables, announce to volunteers what you are looking for. Yassine Diboun, an elite runner from Portland, Oregon, advises, "Make eye contact with the volunteer, speak loudly and clearly and be specific about your needs."
It is generally wise to start your aid-station visit by filling your hydration system before grabbing food or other items. Many times a volunteer will happily fill it for you. In that case, take advantage of the situation by drinking, eating or accomplishing other chores.
Perform only those tasks you determined were necessary before you arrived. It is easy to get tempted by aid stations' creature comforts, e.g. lounge chairs, heaters and sugary treats. If time is of the essence, say thanks, but no thanks, and keep moving.
Although you will often speed through aid stations, sometimes you need to make the worthwhile time investment to deal with a problem, such as taping a blister, fixing a leaky hydration system or addressing dehydration. Professional trail runner Sean Meissner of Sisters, Oregon, recommends, "If you really need help, don't hesitate to ask the volunteers. That's what they're there for. Most are runners themselves, and are very sympathetic to your needs."
Whether you are leading the race or just out there having fun, take 2009 Western States 100-mile champion Anita Ortiz's advice, "Always say `thanks' to the volunteers!"
AID: Ultra Style
Ultramarathons often allow support crews and drop bags, which are bags you fill with supplies that the race organization distributes on the course, at designated aid stations. Here are some tips for utilizing each.
- Provide your crews with clear instructions and expectations prior to the race.
- Make sure your crew knows how to get to each aid stations.
- Have a Plan B in case your crew does not make it to an aid station.
- Clearly label each drop bag with your name, your race number and its destination aid station.
- To help the volunteers who schlep your gear into the backcountry, pack only what you need.
- A distinctive-looking drop bag can speed up retrieval at aid stations.