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Ultra Trail New Caledonia - Race ready with Martin Kern

Martin Kern Team Altra NZ Ultra Trail

Flying frenchman Martin Kern has an incredible work ethic and talent that has led him to win some of the hardest races both here in New Zealand and over the ditch.

Below Martin shares some thoughts on preparing for a race, following his recent win at the Ultra Trail New Caledonia 110km race-

I really love travelling and racing in so many amazing places around the world. Living in New Zealand has helped me pursue my ultra trail running passion and have a pretty cool way of life with the amazing nature surrounding the city. I have seen some really tough weather conditions, I have been to many tough races and I have raced with some of the best runners from around the world. But what I like most is discovering new places, new people and new races because you never know what is going to happen. Over the last 2 years in New Zealand, I have raced 10 major races, from the marathon distance to 100 milers. While I decided to end up my 2018 running season, mainly to recover, my last objective was the Ultra Trail New Caledonia, 110km 4700m+/- on the 18th May. I feel pretty lucky to have learned from my family and friends a lot about how to prepare for an ultra.

Martin (centre) after winning the Ultra Trail New Caledonia. 


#1 Get the proper nutrition. EAT SMART

  1. Prior to the race: I love food but most of the time, it's better with a great bottle of wine. People who have been with me post race know how much I enjoy celebrating things! However, I go through a 2-3 weeks food tapering approach that I really enjoy as I see my body and mind getting ready for it. I reduce alcohol, dairy, gluten base, meat, fish (all the best indeed) and I tend to eat a lot more vegetables. Instead of wine, I swap it for a fresh veg/fruit juice, it's delicious! And then, I am really happy to go back to my old friend meat and wine once the job is done, of course.
  2. During the race: plan your energy needs while you are training and adapt along the way. For New Caledonia, I estimated about a gel every 45 mins that I will alternate with a bar every 1hr. This forces me to drink a sip or 2 every 20 mins roughly. This will allow me to carry limited weight and I will be able to keep moving on through the night without having some major fatigue downtime. On longer stuff, it is another story, I think consistent meals are ideal throughout the race. What happened? the temperature in New Caledonia was a bit warmer than expected. I had to get more water from the aid stations and from nature as well. I decided to drink from the river we passed and manage to get enough along the race. I ate about 22 gels, 15 bars, a piece of cake and a sandwich which was just enough for me to push through. No stomach bug, my plan worked well. 

     Race nutrition for the 110km Ultra Trail New Caledonia race.

    #2 Get your training right. TRAIN SMART
    1. Be consistent if possible and build up gradually. No need to rush to long distances if your body is not built up for it yet. And take a 2 week break when you feel you need it, it won’t kill anybody.... I realised I had a really busy year in 2017, motivation was there on top of it so my training has been a real pleasure. I have been struggling in 2018 as I feel I have been digging in the pain cave trying to train hard, handle stress at work and accumulate races without having a proper break... My motivation has been low and I struggled a lot to get hard training done to prepare for the Buffalo Stampede. I realised there my fitness was not optimum and I had to have a good break off running in order to turn the page and get things done for New Caledonia... so that’s what I did, taking 10 days off after Mt Buffalo. Try to work that extra bit and make core work a habit. 2 times a week to do some squats, abs etc, it allows you to set some other goals and grow the motivation again!

    2. Ask for help! learn from others and appropriate coaches as they will push you to your best. They will know what they are talking about and will guide you through your training. Ideally, I would recommend you select a coach that have experience in the distance you are aiming for.

    3. Go to your chiropractor! They will help your body to function at their best, enhance performance, life potential, health and well-being. I truly think chiropractic helps me to perform well at work, helps to develop myself and perform sports wise.

    4. Experience the terrain. I believe that if you could train on a similar terrain as the one you will race on, the best your result will be. Indeed, you will be already conditioned and prepared to handle the tricky bits and you won’t need to get out of your comfort zone for too long. Therefore you will be managing your race and be focus on your ultimate goal to enjoy while performing.

    Views from the trails in New Caledonia

    #3 Plan your race and trip accordingly. PLAN SMART

    1. Plan. Going to New Caledonia was not a big deal for us, only a 3hrs flight from Auckland and French speaking. However, we had to fly the same day as the race. We landed in Nouméa at 4pm and the race start was at 9pm. During this time, we planned everything we had to do to avoid any mystery: Travel to and from the city, race bin collection, hotel luggage drop off, grocery shopping, drop bags drop off, dinner, travel to the start line.

    2. Get somebody to help you! We had friends helping us to achieve it all within the tight time frame... get your crew to know your race strategy and what they have to do, it is key to making your aid station stops efficient. I planned 2 pairs of Altra Lone peaks 3.5, 2 pairs of compressport socks and a compressport T-shirt change in case I would need it. This works for me as new clothes can change a tired man. Remember your support crew do the hard job, sometimes standing in the middle of nowhere at night time, sometimes when it’s raining, all for you! So remember to smile and communicate to make this experience a great time for everyone.

    3. Holiday? Last but not least, plan your holiday for after the race. New Caledonia was the ideal location. We visited some of the nearby islands and it did not disappoint! We went on day missions out of town and a three day trip to Îles des Pins to relax on the white sand beaches, swimming with Nemo, turtles and enjoying a real holiday...doing nothing!!

    I hope you enjoyed these tips and maybe we will see you in New Caledonia next year!

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