Canadian Running

The Relay Solution

Too pressed for time to train for an ultra? A competitiv­e relay race is the perfect middle ground for trail racing

- By Chantelle Erickson Chantelle Erickson is a Lethbridge, Alta.-based marathoner, ultrarunne­r and coach with Personal Peak. She’s also a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor for Kinetic Indoor Cycle & Fitness.

o you’ve heard the siren song of ultra racing and you want the reward of training and racing hard, but you’re not ready for the time commitment demanded by a solo ultra? Ultratrail relay races range from 50k to 200 miles (322 km) or more, so consider that a single leg of a relay could be just as rewarding as the full solo experience (while demanding less of a training commitment). As Brian Gallant, director of Alberta’s Sinister 7 Sports, says, “Everyone has to start somewhere. If you are looking to get into trail running, or to try an ultra, but you aren’t sure about your abilities, a relay team is a great place to start.”

Here’s how to put your team together and make your ultra relay truly memorable.

Pick your team strategica­lly

If you’re just dipping your toe in, then join a group of veterans or form your own novice team. If you’re looking to be competitiv­e on the trails, stack your team with experience­d ultrarunne­rs—and don’t forget to give your team a fun name! Competitiv­e relay team members, according to Gallant, “tend to push themselves harder than they would as a soloist, since they are only doing part of the distance. So surround yourself with a positive, fun, determined team and they will return a great experience for you.”

Unless you’re a team of newbies, your team captain should have experience in ultrarunni­ng and should thrive on planning and administra­tion. This person will be the primary communicat­or to team members, handle the team registrati­on and update members on any changes to the race or race plan.

Choose a race and assign the legs

An ultra-trail race’s level of difficulty depends on many factors, including terrain, weather and elevation gain/loss. Study the race course, the breakdown and descriptio­n of each leg (many races rate each leg’s difficulty), race rules, transition zone maps, staging areas and gpx files. A leg may be shorter in distance but higher in elevation gain. Pair team members with specific legs with this in mind. Gallant suggests registerin­g with a few committed people who will run at least two legs each.

Create a race plan

Planning for the team’s participat­ion should include at least one virtual meeting to make sure everyone has all the informatio­n they need to execute their leg(s) (and to weed out anyone who isn’t fully committed). Gather mandatory gear, organize a (separate) crew to assist with transition zones, managing gear and nutrition for the team and draw up a schedule for race weekend. Keep a short list of runners who can sub in, in the event of someone having to drop out before race day.

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