11 Signs You're Ready To Race

Susan Donnelly at Massanutten 100

Suddenly, it was race day.

Double Top 100, with it's unpredictable spring weather, 21,000ft of elevation gain and descent, and five Achilles-ripping climbs up the powerline.

One of the hardest races I do.

What if I didn’t do enough hill training?

What if I missed too many long runs?

What if, since Zumbro 100 got cancelled, my taper was too long?

All leading up to the biggie...

What if I'm not ready?

Right when you need all your confidence, poof! It’s gone, and all you see are what you shoulda, coulda, and didn’t do.

If you only knew you were ready, this would be so much easier!

But how can you tell?

Actually, there are ways to tell, and I’ve created a handy list of a few (with 100-milers in mind, of course).

But first you have to promise two things.

One, you won’t stress if you can’t check all of them off - these are indicators, not a test you need to score 100 on, and there are always exceptions.

That said, you can get by without some of these but that’s a feat, not a long term strategy that respects you, your body, or the race. So, two, promise you won’t blow too many of these off too often.

Alright, you’re ready if...

  1. You want to - you have a strong why. No one else has to believe in it, you don’t have to be able to put it in words, and you don’t have to justify it. It just has to matter to you.

  2. You get scarecited thinking about it. Yes, this is good. It means it’s a big challenge and you’re nervous but excited about it - perfectly normal. Feeling ambivalent would be a concern.

  3. You respect the distance and you’ve trained for it. Even with the inevitable adjustments in your plan, you have a solid base of training. 

  4. Your long runs of 20+ miles have generally been good. Of all the training you’ve done, this tells you the most. 

  5. You respect the race and have studied the course. You have a clear picture of it in your head and know the distances between aid stations and such.

  6. You’re mentally ready for it to be physically demanding. Because it will be.

  7. You have a strategy for dealing with the low spots. Because you’ll get there.

  8. You have enough experience - training or racing - in that type of terrain and conditions not to be shocked by it or be a liability to the race. This isn’t your first time, say, on long, rocky, uphill trails or races with aid stations 20 miles apart.

  9. You know how to handle the temperature and weather extremes, and other conditions like river crossings that you’ll encounter. 

  10. You’re present first and foremost to run the race, not party with your buddies, fill your social media feed, or film a movie. The actual running usually demands focus. Enough said.

  11. You’re not sick, acutely injured, or battling a fully-inflamed chronic injury. This one's last because it’s such a judgment call - I sometimes run with almost-healed this or that. Just know and honor your body.

These obviously go beyond basic ultrarunning skills like eating on the run, hydration, and pacing. While we're always perfecting and refining those, I’m assuming you’ve got them down enough.

“Enough” being the key word.

Because here’s one last thing about being ready.

Remember that you don’t have to be perfect - just ready enough.

Susan Donnelly’s signature