Preparing to Run a 30K Trail Race

I’ve signed up for my biggest race yet! With almost 10 months to prepare, there are plenty of questions going through my mind before I can truly start training to run 30 kilometers, or about 18.6 miles. Will I be ready in time, will my husband be ready in time, what if we get injured, what if we literally don’t have enough time in our week to actually practice running long distances? When we volunteered at an Ultra race in May, my husband and I were astonished to overhear finishers on their phones describing how unprepared they were. I mean, who plans to run overnight in the wilderness with no flashlight, or tent camp without cold-weather clothes, and so on and so forth? Determined to not be those people, here we are, mentally preparing and making lists of all the stuff we need to buy or learn before race day in order to successfully complete a 30K trail run.

1. Training

I don’t know about you, but 18 miles sounds like a ridiculous amount of distance to me. Though I’ve always dabbled in running, and definitely splashed in a whole lot of walking to go with it, I never thought “30K sounds normal and doable and fun.” 🙄 I most likely would have rolled my eyes and told you that distance is for crazy people. But here we are. We’ll be given about 8 hours to complete the race, and the math shows I’m fast enough to finish in time, but gosh my body has to get ready for a whole lot more movement and impact.

First I need to figure out if I’ll be needing special trail running shoes. According to Fleet Feet, most high-quality running shoes have a lifespan of about 300-500 miles, so it will absolutely be time to replace my current pair before really starting to train for the 30K. My running shoes are great, giving me support and cushion just where I need it, but I’m considering trail shoes to match the potentially difficult terrain of this race. Running on roads is pretty predictable, but at this remote trail race I’ll need to know ahead of time how things like gravel, sand, or general loose and slippery ground under my feet might affect my race and shoe choice.

Next I’ll need to, obviously, run a whole bunch in the shoes that I bought. Living in Las Vegas gives me the wonderful advantage of being able to practice on loads of steep hills, rustic trails, and in a rather dry environment. One BIG difference on race day will be elevation. Las Vegas sits at a nice 2,000 ft of elevation, but we’ll be running at 7,000-9,000 ft. Holy cow that’s high! As Active At Altitude explains, running at a higher altitude than you’re accustomed to makes activity seem significantly harder because the amount of available oxygen is less at higher elevations. Who knows, maybe I’ll be heading up Mt. Charleston to try out a higher elevation so I don’t absolutely feel like I’m dying on race day. I will say from experience, training on tougher hills and terrain just gives me all the more confidence on race day to say “these courses are easier than the trail I trained on…I can do this!”

Now to actually log these training miles, I need to fall in love again with my Samsung Health app, help my fitbit flex to limp along before its pending death, or invest in a real quality fitness tracker or watch. As I type, my fitbit is “charging” but not actually charging. Oh and the band is falling apart, and the back fell off the charger. My husband is going to read this and gently remind me to just throw my poor old fitbit in the garbage can (update: I totally trashed it and am patting myself on the back for letting it go). I’d love to know anybody else’s favorite fitness trackers!

2. Even More Clothing & Gear

If you’ve ever seen me in person, you’ve likely noticed my skin is barely prepared to deal with the sun and the elements on its own. Always cold and at a fairly high risk of sunburn, being exposed to the elements on a trail for 30 km may be an extra challenge for me. How in the world am I expected to wake up insanely early in the morning and dress for all the possible weather of the day? My main concerns are not freezing my butt off, not sweating my butt off into dehydration, and not burning my skin to a cancer-y crisp. I need to find and train with the lightest-weight layers that will protect my skin while being adaptable with changing winds and temperatures.

Do you know what happened on my very first half marathon? At the first mile marker I passed a girl crying into her cell phone about not wanting to complete the race because of her pants. That’s right, she only finished one mile before realizing her pants were falling down and she’d have to run while holding them up for the rest of the race. So, in case I hadn’t already known this lesson: always. train. with. your. race. gear.

How the heck am I going to carry everything I need for the five or more hours it might take me to complete this race? I have no idea yet if I’ll need trail running poles, and I’ve already apparently decided I’ll need layers of clothes, sunscreen, and lip balm. I’ll be moving crazy slow if I try to drag along all the things I might possibly need. My cute little running waist pack would hardly be able to carry additional stuff, so will I need to switch to a vest? Will drop bags be an option on the course, so I can pick up or trade out extra items? My head is going to start spinning soon with all these options.

3. Nutrition & Hydration

Yesterday I completed 6.75 miles, yay! Unfortunately, mile 5 or so is usually when my muscles start to question why in the world I didn’t bother to give them more fuel or the maybe the proper electrolytes. If I’m going to complete 30K, how much fuel and water will I need?? I’m definitely a hangry-type of person, so running/walking/hiking from breakfast all the way to lunch time is a risky move if I don’t have enough food and snacks available. I literally have a morning snack I call “second breakfast,” and my dad once laughed and informed me that’s a hobbit habit. Anyway, I am going to need lots of room in my fictional trail running pack to stash all the gels and jelly beans and whatever supplements I might need on the course. Thankfully I’m counting on there being an extremely detailed race guide available to us, so I may actually just start training with the snacks they’ll offer at aid stations. For example, if the race organizers have arranged for participants to have bananas and Gnarly hydration products on the course, then you can count on me training with those foods and drinks too. I absolutely don’t want my muscles or tummy to throw an unexpected fit about a new food during the race, yikes!

What do you think, am I on the right track? I need to figure out what to wear, how I’m going to carry it, how to not run out of food and water, and how to protect myself from the terrain and elements. And, you know, I have a vague plan of getting my body ready for the course and the elevation. My original running plan came from Jill Angie’s Kindle book, Not Your Average Half Marathon. I’ve continued to modify her training template to kind of make a schedule that works for me, so I’ll most likely just keep on adjusting the same training plan to reach longer and longer distances.

Next step: get my husband as pumped about this as I am, woot woot! 30K here we come ❤


Running and racing at altitude

4 thoughts on “Preparing to Run a 30K Trail Race

  1. It sounds like you’re on the right track and with 10 months to go until race day, you’ll be prepared by then. FWIW, I would say yes to a running vest for sure.


    1. Wonderful, now I just need to find a running vest that’s in stock! After a quick amazon search yesterday, it looks like some just flew off the shelves during the pandemic


  2. Plenty of time to play with – you’ll do it!
    A key to what you need to carry is what food stations there will be and that will also help determine how you carry it – but don’t compromise on the fluids. Perhaps consider arm warmers/sleeves for adaptable skin protection.
    Enjoy the training.


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