Racecourse reconnaissance (recce) is a vital part of ultra running. Knowing what lies ahead allows runners to pace themselves correctly, and to mentally prepare for climbs to come.
Races can last hours, sometimes days, but, if you know what to expect, you can dial in your nutrition, effort and mental preparation.
Two of Hong Kong’s top ultra runners share their top tips to get the most out of your day on the course.
Watch: Recce tips on the HK100
Know where you are going
The recce might be a way to get familiar with the course, but that doesn’t mean you have to be completely unfamiliar with your surroundings during your practice run. McNaughton said she once wasted an entire day lost, instead of running the course. Make sure you have practised using your watch, or other mapping device, so you can spend the day focusing on running and not fiddling with the technology, or charging down the wrong path.
Be aware of what time of day you’ll be on what section of the course
Cheung said it is a good idea to mirror your time on certain sections with the time of day you are likely to be there during the race. So, if the race starts early in the morning, get out on the first sections of the course during that part of the day. This way, your body will feel the same and you can replicate your breakfast. If you are going to be on the course during the dark, recce that section at night too.
Bring all your gear
Do the recce dressed as though you are about to race, says Cheung. So, wear the same shoes, the same pack, even the same clothes.
“It's best to use your race gear so that you know if they fit for the race,” she said. “A tiny hotspot in your foot is more annoying than you think during a race.”
Practise for checkpoints
Make sure you know where the checkpoints will be, and then practise what you’ll do in a checkpoint during the recce, says McNaughton. Eat food, take a rest, maybe change your socks or get more water if there’s a shop nearby.
Finish your recce
“Do not bail early on your recce – finish what you set out to do and do more if you can,” said McNaughton. “Training your mind is just as important, especially for longer races.”