Trail Sisters Half Marathon & 10k

September 14th • Buena Vista, CO

Ask TS : Running Through the Night

Ask the Trail Sisters Panel of Experts is made up of inspirational and knowledgeable women who share a love for trail running, hiking, and the outdoors. These women volunteer their time and expertise to help others enjoy a better experience on the trails.

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I have a 100 mile race coming up where I’ll be running throughout the night. This will be my first time running for longer than two hours in the dark and I’m a bit nervous about it. Do you have any recommendations on headlamps, and any tips on embracing those long dark hours (and not get too scared or sleepy!)?

Depending on where you are, definitely plan for adding layers as the night time miles often go a little slower and you may feel cold.  I keep those little hand warmers in my pack just in case the temps drop significantly.  If precipitation is likely, make sure you have some dry layers in your drop bag or with your crew.  A nice dry shirt and socks can be a huge boost to morale.  I use a Ledlenser rechargeable headlamp, and I love it.  It holds a charge all night long and provides amazing visibility, even in foggy conditions. That being said, I also keep a small spare lamp either in the bottom of my pack or in the drop bag, as insurance.  If it works out to run some of those hours with someone, or if you’re allowed a pacer by that point, that can be a nice way to pass the time.  I don’t usually do music or earbuds at night because I find I just need to focus on what’s around me and pay attention to the terrain.  As far as being scared, I just remind myself that I’m doing what I love and take in the peacefulness of being out in nature at night.  We don’t often get that opportunity, and it can be helpful to pivot your mindset from scared to excited!

PETZL- especially the NAO+. I recommend heading to your local run specialty shop, talking with the staff and hearing their recommendations. (Because I work at Mountain Running Company in Asheville, I have my own recs! Based on brightness, ease of use, re-charging and warranty!). Enjoy those night miles, they are like nothing else!!! They’re the best and you will have to dig deep to persevere! 

Get yourself a headlamp that is reliable and powerful. I ditched the expensive headlamps with proprietary batteries for one like the Ledlenser NEO10R (you can buy it at REI for half the price of many other big name headlamps). The rechargeable battery is a simple Li-ion 18650 3.6V which you can buy anywhere online for about $6 so I always carry an extra battery which gives me confidence that I won’t ever be left in the dark. The 600 lumens have lasted me for over 1.5 continuous nights so far (it probably lasts longer but I haven’t had to use it longer than that yet!).  During a race when the night feels long and lonely, I always remind myself that I’m not alone out there. All of the other racers are in it with me, working through similar feelings and struggles. It sounds cheesy but if it’s a clear night I like to turn my light off and take a moment to look up at the starlit ski to remind myself that it’s pretty darn special to get to run through the night like that! A gentle stream of caffeine can be helpful; I like to switch to caffeinated Tailwind or fill up my soft flask with green tea (warm or cold) and a spoonful of honey or sugar.

I would use caffeine if you start to get sleepy and get excited about the unknown! It’s fun to push new limits. For healdlamps the NAO by petzel is really good. 

Oh man, there are SO many good headlamp options now – I kind of can’t believe where we were at a decade ago and where we’re at now. I personally use the Petzl NAO for alllll them lumens and my hot tip is to get a backup battery and switch it out around the 2-3am mark, aka the witching hour, where things get super sleepy and weird. You may still have battery power, but it’s shocking how much brighter it is when you put in the freshies. The other thing that has worked really well for me is to mostly abstain from caffeinated items during the day, save for my morning coffee, and start using the buzzy stuff in the evening and night so that it has more of an effect. I’ve never felt scared in the dark of a race environment – I think because my brain is already kind of shot, so there’s that!

My background as a bat biologist has me researching the best headlamps over the last few years. I love the brand Fenix, they make flashlights and also headlamps. Their products are bright, light weight and have a lifetime warranty. If you can get out on the trails more at night and practice those night runs, that can really help you on race day. The more you practice and get comfortable being in the dark allows you to have confidence and not feel scared or sleepy. If you can have a pacer during the night hours that can help with safety and keeping you awake. Best of luck and enjoy the trails on your 100-mile race!

Awesome! What a great adventure! I love to embrace the peacefulness of those dark running hours. Sleepiness can definitely hit you hard in the night, but if you have some strategies ready to battle it, it is manageable. A cup of coffee at a 3am aid station can help, or singing out loud, or stopping to sit and close your eyes for a moment on the side of the trail can all be great ways to keep the sleepiness at bay. And once the sky starts to lighten, there’s an amazing boost of energy you will feel as you greet the sun and realize how cool it was to run through the night and to be that much closer to your finish line.

The best lesson I learned regarding night running was to get the best lighting system I could afford, and to wear my glasses (that I use for driving and watching movies)! Once those two things were dialed in, I felt a lot more confident in running all night. I use a headlamp and a waist lamp, and depending on the terrain, I will carry a small light to better see technical rocks and roots. To deal with sleepiness, I will cut back on caffeine a week or so before the race so that when I do take it during the race it will have a stronger impact. Running with music (one earbud only) really helps me stay alert in the darkness. Of course, practice all of this before race day, preferably with a fun adventure with friends where you run into the night for a few hours so you can also practice nutrition.

No need to be nervous!  I use the Petzl Actik Core headlamp and really like it. It’s compatible with their rechargeable battery and AAA batteries, with good battery life and brightness. To prepare for a nighttime of running, consider doing a few of your training runs in the dark to get more accustomed to those.  You may go late in the evening, after dark, or early in the morning before sunrise.  I think familiarity with these very different set of conditions is key.  For staying awake, consider a little caffeine if your gut can tolerate it.  You’ll want to practice this in training, of course, if you haven’t already. Many brands offer caffeinated versions of their gels and powders and aid stations offer caffeinated sodas.  Of course, if you have a pacer, that helps too, as they can talk to you and help you stay awake that way.  Essential to being prepared for night running is to do a few practice night runs using some of the gear and nutrition you plan for race day (night), which will make it all feel more familiar to you, before the big day.  So exciting!  Best of luck to you!

Congratulations on your upcoming first 100 mile race!  So excited for you!  It is still an ultimate challenge for me to stay awake throughout the night for longer race.  I have done so many 100 mile races, but I still cannot find the best solutions for myself.  I have tried decaffeinating myself for 3-4 months before the race so the caffeine can help me to stay awake during the race.  This worked somewhat ….so it is worth trying.  I tried listening to music when I got sleepy, and it worked for a few hours.. I tried chewing gum… I tried to pour water on myself…. I tried to keep talking to my pacers.. etc. These are some things I’ve tried. I have not found the best solutions yet, to be honest.

There are so many different kinds of headlamps out there, making sure that you check –  brightness, battery life, weight of headlamps, and spare battery. 

First off, good luck.  I can recommend the Kogalla waist lamp for night running.  It has changed my life when the time change occurs and many of my trail runs occur during the evening.  You can buy different battery sizes and the waist lamp is super bright.  I have not had the tremendous pleasure of running 100 miles so I know my fellow panelists will be able to give advice on embracing the evening hours.

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Ask the Trail Sisters Panel of Experts is made up of inspirational and knowledgeable women who share a love for trail running, hiking, and the outdoors. These women volunteer their time and expertise to help others enjoy a better experience on the trails.

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Sept. 14th 2024

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