About talkultra

Talk Ultra is an ultra running podcast created by and hosted by Ian Corless. Ian is a runner, writer, photographer, blogger and reporter on all things to do with ultra running. This can be race reporting, interviewing, photographing, podcasting or reviewing equipment. Talk Ultra is a one stop resource for the ultra running world. www.talkultra.com

IAU WORLD TRAIL CHAMPIONSHIPS – ANNECY 2015

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The world trail championships are this coming weekend. Yes! This weekend. What, you mean the same weekend as Comrades? I am afraid so. So while Ellie Greenwood looks to do the double we are going to need to keep an eye on Annecy too… yes! But wait a minute, isn’t Sage Canaday and Max King also running at Comrades?

Yes.

Okay, okay, split screen computer screen required.

I joke of course and ironically while the World Trail Champs kick off in Annecy and Comrades kicks of in Durban, South Africa I will be in another part of SA at the Richtersveld Wildrun with Nikki Kimball, James Cracknell and a whole host of talented runners.

It’s going to be a busy weekend!

The last world championship was in the UK. Wales actually and it took part over a lapped course. Ricky Lightfoot won for the men and Nathalie Mauclair for the ladies.

This year, the Worlds takes place on a course that in my opinion is a proper trail running race. At 85km in length and with 5000+m of climbing the race should test the men and ladies from the boys and girls.

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However, the race is not without controversy.

The race will take place on the Technica Maxi-Race course with two starts! Yes folks, the world championship race starts 90-minutes before the annual open race. Wait a minute! I thought trail running was all about being inclusive?

Well it would appear that I am not the only one thinking that way. Francois d’Haene (Salomon), unbeatable in 2014, made it quite clear that he would not race.

So what we have is a world championship race, with selected individuals racing ahead (90 minutes) of the open race. But what if someone in the open race runs quicker than the world championship race? Unlikely I know but not impossible?

Annecy is an amazing place and quite the setting for a stunning race like this. It really is an adventure playground.

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Staring at 3:30am (really?) on Saturday May 30th the best in the world will do battle on the trails in and around Annecy.

Ricky Lightfoot, Max King, Anton Krupicka, Sage Canaday, Kilian Jornet, Rob Krar, Francois d’Haene, Michel Lanne, Jason Schlarb, Tofol Castanyer, Iker Karrera, Ryan Sandes, Emelie Forsberg, Nuria Picas, Anna Frost, Rory Bosio, Lizzy Hawker….

Will NOT toe the line.

So if this is a World Trail Championship race; who is running?

For the Ladies:

Nathalie Mauclair ©iancorless.com

Nathalie Mauclair is the reigning champ and will look to defend her title and I expect her to do well and more than likely win again.

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Caroline Chaverot had a great run at Transgrancanaria earlier this year placing 2nd and she placed top 5 at the Skyrunning world championships in Chamonix.

Aurelia Truel placed 2nd behind Mauclair in 2013 but I don’t think this course will allow her to make the podium.

Cassie Scallon on paper has the race speed for a great result but Annecy has its challenges that I am not sure Cassie will be prepared for.

Uxue Fraille would probably prefer this race to be longer; she will play the waiting game and then pick people off.

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Maud Gobert, has great potential for victory, particularly on home soil. On her day she can make it happen, don’t rule her out!

Lisa Borzani also has some great results coming into this race, 2nd at Tor des Geants being one of them, but there is a big difference between TDG and 85km in Annecy.

Krissy Moehl, Anne Lise Rousset, Andrea Huser, Ester Alves, Lucy Bartholomew, Sally Fawcett, Simona Morbelli and many more will contest top honours but lets give out a shout to Brit Lizzie Wraith.

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Lizzie is the Lakeland 100 course record holder and currently preparing for the Dragon’s Back Race. Notable runners missing from the UK are Jo Meek and Holly Rush. Prety darn sure had these ladies been fit they would have raced well.

 For the Men:

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Luis Alberto Hernando well and truly heads up the men’s field after his recent victory at Transvulcania Ultramarathon and as we all know, over 80km he is the one to beat as he proved at the Skyrunning World Championships in Chamonix.

Tom Owens at Trofeo Kima

Tom Owens at Trofeo Kima

Tom Owens is back on form and although he may well prefer the marathon distance he has a great record of top results at 50-80km with podium places at Trofeo Kima and Ice Trail Tarentaise.

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Manuel Merillas had a great 2014 and was a revelation and a hot-tip as a star for the future. At the recent Transvulcania he detonated and moved from top 5 to outside the top 15. Showing incredible recovery, just one week later Manuel made the podium at Zegama-Aizkorri. I do wonder though if 85km is outside his race at the moment.

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Alex Nichols is a fast guy and on his day, he recently beat Rob Krar at MoabRed Hot and he placed 3rd at Templiers in 2014. No stranger to racing Europe on the Skyrunning circuit. Alex may well make an impact at the front.

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UTMB winner Xavier Thevenard has seriously blown hot and cold over the last couple of years. He did win the TDS last year and in doing so became the only runner to win CCC, TDS and UTMB. Racing on French soil must have his passions and desire to do well very high, but maybe they will be too high?

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Gediminas Grinius nailed Transgrancanaria recently and that is backed up by an incredible series of results and races in 2014. I can’t help but think though that he will probably just be getting warm as the finish arrives!

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Dani Garcia just rocked the field at  Transvulcania with 2nd place ahead of serious competition so who knows what he can do in Annecy. A real surprise package.

Kim Collison at Mourne Skyline MTR

Kim Collison at Mourne Skyline MTR

Kim Collison from the UK may also turn some heads. He will certainly be off the radar but he has the background to do well. He won the British Trail Championships, the Mourne Skyline MTR and as an adventure races and fell runner he is one of the best in the world.

Patrik Bringer has solid results at Transvulcania (5th in 2013) and has been on the podium in Annecy before, so he knows what he needs to do, always an advantage.

 

Julien Rancon, Fabien Antolinus (won Templiers, 2nd at Ice Trail and 2nd in Annecy – one to watch) and Sylvain Court head up the local French talent and then we have Pablo Vila, Iain Ridgway, David Laney, Paul Giblin, Eirik Haugsness and a whole host of other talent that will be looking to take top honours.

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In particular I think the Norwegian entries will make a few people turn their heads. They often fly under the radar but Lars-Erik Skjerveihm and Didrik Hermansen (2nd at Transgrancanaria) will rock the top end of the race.

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But the complete dark horse may well be Iain Don-Wauchope from South Africa. He is a complete unknown in Europe and having watched him race in SA and in Costa Rica, he is the real deal and if his travel goes well, watch out!

 Race website HERE

 You can follow the racing HERE live

News and reports on FACEBOOK HERE, TWITTER HERE, INSTAGRAM HERE

The North Face Ultra Cardiac Trail Running Shoe Review

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In recent years, The North Face have continually been improving their run shoes. Foe me, the Ultra Guide was a stand out shoe and it was a shoe that friends and readers of this website also enjoyed. The upper held the foot well the shoe was cushioned but not too cushioned, it had an 8mm drop and it was ideal for those longer days on the trail and the grip worked well on dry trail, rocks and and muddy (not too muddy) trail/ rocks. It was a winner!

When I heard about the Ultra MT shoe for 2015 I was excited. I thought this shoe would be a step up from the Ultra Guide and the new incarnation would be even better. I have to say, when I first got the Ultra MT I was impressed. Vibram sole, tough durable upper, great toe protection, good grip and so on…. the running experience for me though did not live up to the look of the shoe or my expectations. I did several runs in them looking for that glimmer of hope but for me they just didn’t do it. Sorry TNF but I just didn’t like them. They lacked life, responsiveness and they made my runs feel flat.

I was disappointed! The Ultra Guide would no longer be made and I thought the Ultra MT was the replacement! But then I got hold of the Ultra Cardiac.

All is forgiven TNF!

The Ultra Cardiac is the shoe I was hoping for. It has taken all that was good in the Ultra Guide, tweaked and fine tuned it and what we now have is a rock solid trail running shoe with good cushioning, a grippy Vibram sole and a plush feel when running.

The Shoe

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First off, this is a good looking shoe. Okay let me clarify, this is a good looking show in my opinion! Looks are personal but the Ultra Cardiac ticks all the boxes for me. Although on paper, Quill Blue and Acid Yellow may not sound appealing. Visually it works especially with the addition of a good dose of black. You can’t go wrong with black.

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True to size, I have a UK 9 and it fits exceptionally well, holds the foot firm, hugs the heel well with no rubbing, slipping or movement and the toe box is roomy but not ‘too’ roomy. At 301g/ 10.6oz for a UK 9 (UK 8 is 272g) the shoe is certainly comparable to the competition. Cushioning is plush with 20mm at the rear and 12mm at the front. This provides an 8mm drop (difference between front and back) that is definitely becoming the ‘norm’ in the trail running world. It used to be difficult to find a 6mm or 8mm drop shoe, now you have loads to choose from and 11mm/12mm drop shoes are becoming harder to find. In principal that is a good thing but lets be clear here, although we may be (to coin a phrase) ‘Born to Run’ not everyone should be running in low drop and minimalist shoes.

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For me, 6mm and 8mm drop shoes really do provide a sweet spot for running and particularly when running long. They allow you a more natural feel (mid to forefoot) but also allow you a more relaxed foot strike (mid to heel) and comfort when you get tired. As mentioned, there is nor shortage of shoes with 6/8mm drop so although it’s not possible to compare like-for-like you may want to consider the following:

  • Salomon Sense Mantra 3 (HERE) 15mm/ 9mm has less cushioning, 6mm drop, very wide toe box, plush ride and all the wonderfrul ‘Sense’ attributes. A favourite of mine.
  • inov-8 Race Ultra 290 (HERE) 10mm/ 18mm has been a disappointment. Initially I liked the feel of it but over prolonged running I found the shoe sloppy, it lacked feel and responsiveness and it didn’t hold my heel. I know many out in run land who love the Race Ultra in the 290 and 270 versions (I don’t like the 270 either) so it may just be me.
  • Kinabalu Supertrac (HERE) 21mm/ 29mm is a really beefy cushioned shoe with serious grip. To be honest, it’s the odd one out here as the Ultra Cardia, Mantra 3 and Race Ultra all have similar outsoles whereas the Supertrac is all about grip!

Believe me, these are not the only shoes available at 6/8mm drop, but the above will give you a start point.

I have real confidence in recommending the Ultra Cardiac to anyone. It really is a great shoe that is well suited to everyday runs, dry trail races and even some road. This is not a muddy trail shoe, it can handle some wet stuff and even a little mud in places but the Vibram outsole is all about gripping dry trail, rocks and yes, wet rocks.

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The upper is breathable and uses Ultra Airmesh and FlashDry™ to keep you cool and dry. It works! I found on repeated runs in warm weather that my feet didn’t over heat or expand. A sure sign that the upper is doing the job it is meant too.

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The tongue is loose and well padded. After using attached tongues in other shoes and the Salomon Endofit I am always a little wary now when I see a tongue not attached to the shoe at the sides. To me it just makes sense! Rest assured. The Ultra Guide tongue was comfortable and had little side movement.

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The heel box is well padded, curved and holds everything in place with no rubbing. It gets a big thumbs up.

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Toe box has some protection with the outsole extending up the front of the shoe and then you have a reinforced area of blue and black. It’s minimal protection!

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On the side of the shoe you can see the reinforcement to hold the foot in place and this does a great job without adding any restriction. The most notable areas are the yellow sections on the sole.

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At the front you have EVA to give that plush feel on the trail and at the rear the ‘Cradle’ is designed to keep ones heel in place. I find it hard to be objective on the Cradle. Certainly my foot was held secure in the shoe and I had a very precise and controlled feel with the ground. However, I do strike mid to forefoot and therefore the Cradle may have to do less work for me?

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The sole is made by Vibram so it’s fair to say that it works! The sole has no cut away so effectively it is one flat piece which gives a great reassurance on the trail. What I like about this shoe is its ability to switch from road to trail easily. It isn’t a road-to-trail shoe but it does a great job. The outsole is not aggressive but it does have lugs and it works on dry trail with loose debris such as rocks, stones, shale, pebbles and so on exceptionally well.

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On rocks, the Vibram grips and provides reassurance even in the wet. When the trail gets muddy you are going to loose grip and this is where my comparisons with the old Ultra Guide leaves me just a tad disappointed. The new ULTRA MT has a sole that was similar to the old Ultra Guide. Don’t get me wrong, this new Ultra Cardiac is a great dry trail shoe and it’s a shoe I will use a great deal. But for me, TNF can you please but the Ultra MT outsole on the Cardiac upper and then you will have two great trail shoes for mixed conditions.

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Summary

TNF have repeatedly had a mixed reputation when it came to running shoes. The Ultra Guide changed that and many hailed that shoe as a real step forward. The Ultra Trail shoe was also well received and it’s a shoe I still use for dry fast trail. The Ultra MT was a step back (in my opinion) and I was seriously concerned after several outings in them. However, the Ultra Cardiac has changed all that. The ‘Cardiac’ (I still question that name!) is a great shoe and one that I would gladly purchase and run in regularly. The cushioning is plush and I would say that if you need some added comfort on longer runs or races, this shoe would be well worth considering. As the name suggests, it would make a great ultra shoe.

Pros:

Cushioning is excellent

Vibram sole

8mm drop

Padded heel box and Tongue

Cons:

Toe box protection is minimal

Tongue not attached to the sides

The North Face say:

Featuring a breathable FlashDry™ upper and Vibram® outsole, this lightweight-yet-protective performance trail runner delivers an exceptionally smooth ride over the toughest of terrain. With its traction and balance enhancing full-length Vibram® outsole and fast-drying and cool Ultra Airmesh upper, this trail running shoe screams speed and comfort with maximum support. Read the full product feature list below.

FEATURES

  • Ultra Airmesh and FlashDry™ keep you cool and dry
  • Zonal protection in the heel and toe
  • Pebax® heel CRADLE™ for proper heel positioning and support
  • Luxurious cushioning in the collar lining and tongue for a comfortable fit
  • 20 mm heel /12 mm forefoot
  • EVA underfoot
  • Vibram® full-length outsole engineered for optimal traction and balance
  • 8 mm offset
  • Approximate Weight: 548 g (pair) *based on Men’s 8

Richtersveld Wildrun™ 2015 – This Week!

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It is days before the second Richtersveld Wildrun™ kicks off and anticipation is building for what promises to be a tight race through one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world.

This four day, 150km stage race is one of the most challenging trail runs in South Africa and runners can expect to take on a harsh, mountainous desert as they are tested to the limit. Similar in format o the iconic Marathon des Sables, ‘Wildrun’ is notably different in that runners are not self sufficient: equipment is transported for them and food is provided.

At the front of the field, three of Southern Africa’s top trail runners and an American ultra-running legend will go toe-to-toe as they battle it out for top spot. Bernard Rukadza and Katya Soggot will both return to defend their titles and will come up against the likes of South African long distance trail running champion, Thabang Madiba and three-time Western States 100 mile champion, Nikki Kimball.   Both Rukadza and Madiba have been enjoying superb form in 2015 with Rukadza securing his second straight ProNutro AfricanX title in March and Madiba taking second place at the same race and at the Otter African Trail Run in October 2014. Madiba will be hoping to go one better at the Wildrun™ and take first place, but he will be up against it thanks to Rukadza’s form and route experience from the 2014 event. This is also the first time Madiba is taking on a run of this magnitude and he will have to adapt quickly to stay in the hunt.

Day 2 of the 2014 Richtersveld Wildrun, 'Die Koei' to Hakkiesdoring, Northern Cape, South Africa on 5th June 2014

“Stage racing is one of the races that helps to find your strength in running. You learn to push while in pain and learn techniques to apply to survive all stages. A win will be a big bonus for me but I’m looking forward to give all my best,” said Madiba.

In the ladies field, Katya Soggot will be representing South Africa off the back of a string of victories in the Western Cape, including the Spur Silvermine Mountain XL, Spur Cape Summer Trail Series™, Three Peaks Challenge, Matroosberg Challenge and Jonkershoek and Helderberg Mountain Challenges. She has been virtually unbeatable locally and will relish the opportunity to measure herself against an ultra-runner of Kimball’s calibre. With three Western States 100 titles as well as an Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc and Marathon des Sables title, Kimball is one of the top ultra runners of her time and will be hard to beat, but Soggot’s experience from the 2014 event is sure to come in handy.

“The magnitude of untouched wilderness, the comfort and welcome at every rest camp, and the elves who made it so. My feet touched where angels fear to tread. I never dreamt I would have the privilege to relive such an experience and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to Boundless Southern Africa and Wildrunner for the opportunity,” – Katya Soggot

Since its inception in 2014, the Richtersveld Wildrun™ has had amazing support from Boundless Southern Africa and marketing manager, Roland Vorwerk was equally excited about the quality of racing anticipated.

“The Richtersveld Wildrun™ route includes many of the Park’s most spectacular features, and includes trails that very few people get to traverse. We are looking forward to these runners experiencing the unique natural and cultural landscape of the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and meeting the communities associated with this innovative event.”

Mens Four Medal Ceremony

From a British perspective, Olympic rower and all around endurance athlete, James Cracknell was scheduled to race the 4 day Richtersveld Wildrun. However, James already had a commitment in place to commentate for the BBC on a rowing event in Poland. This race commentary was due to finish in time to allow James to travel to South Africa. Unfortunately, the commentating has been extended by one day and although James will still travel to South Africa he will arrive late and miss day one of the race. Needless to say, James is somewhat perturbed by this. Never happy taking the easy option, James and myself are currently looking at doing day 1 of the race at the end. Of course, this would mean a solo run but the team at Wildrunner have confirmed that they can make this happen. So, although James will not be able to compete head-to-head with other runners, we will have an overall time for the 4 day run that we can compare to other competitors.

“What more can be said other than this is going to be one hell of a race! Bernard Rukadza has been on fire in the Cape recently, winning everything from marathons to short Spur Trail Series™ events, but Thabang Madiba comes with the South African long distance trail champion label and arguably more endurance experience. I can’t wait to see these two trail heavy weights going head to head, solo, and in the magical Richtersveld desert,” said Owen Middleton, MD of Wildrunner – the events company behind the Wildrun™.

You will be able to follow the Richtersveld Wildrun through images and words here on this website, via Twitter @talkultra, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram @iancorlessphotography

CYCLING for RUNNERS – Put the Spring into your training!

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It has been a while, intentionally so. Over the latter months of 2014 and the early months of 2015 you will hopefully have been using cycling to provide a break from a very structured running plan. Cycling in addition to running allows you to build endurance but more importantly you can add some intensity through well planned and structured faster sessions with reduced impact.

Our last article, no 7 called March On provided a series of sessions that could be incorporated within your training plan that would lead you into Spring as a stronger and healthier runner.

Spring is here and June will provide new challenges and new opportunities.

Lets have a recap. If you have followed March On, you will have incorporated 2 ‘faster’ cycling sessions into your week (typically Monday and Wednesday) and at the weekend you may have replaced a longer run with a MAF bike session. These cycling session should have been weaved into a carefully thought out run plan. Yes folks, you still need to keep running!

Although many of you may well have tipped your racing toes in an event, June does often signify a change. The racing calendar suddenly grows and a multitude of races are available week-in and week-out. This I hope comes as no surprise? If you have been clever about your training, you will have decided some time ago what races are important in 2015 and you will have structured your plan to make sure that you are in the best shape possible when they come around.

One thing is for sure, as target races loom, the need to be ‘specific’ becomes greater. However, the more focused we become, the greater the risk of injury becomes. It’s so easy to be ‘too’ focused. We all run (no pun intended) a knife-edge between being in supreme health and broken with injury. Be careful!

This is where cycling comes! We discussed in Article 3 (HERE) how cycling can be used to replace ‘recovery’ runs. Although a 20-40min run may well seem like a good idea, does running and adding additional impact really enhance recovery? For me, an opportunity to use non-weight bearing exercise like cycling really does provide a recovery option that allows you to ‘spin’ your legs, flush out tightness and toxins and all in a way that adds little or no stress to already sore and tight muscles. If in doubt, replace Monday and Wednesday runs with an easy 30-60 minutes of spinning (90+ cadence) and see if these sessions enhance your run legs. It’s worth noting as we have mentioned previously, cycling can tighten your hamstrings slightly due to the repeated action (in a shorter circle of motion), particularly when compared to running. So please make sure you allow 10-15 minutes after cycling for stretching.

Another factor to consider now is the endurance element that comes from cycling. Depending on your chosen distance to race (50k, 80k, 100k, 100 miles or maybe more?) you may well be daunted with the distance that you need to cover and more importantly, you may well be thinking, ‘how do I train for something that is going to take me 5, 10, 15 or 24 plus hours?’

 

If you are coming from a marathon running background, you will be used to the scenario of making your long run 3.5 hours or approximately 21/22 miles. If you try to apply this scenario proportionately to ultra running you are always going to be struggling. That is not to say that you shouldn’t have some big days of running/ hiking (time on feet) but the reality is that for most of us, we may well break!

Step in cycling!

Lets be clear. Cycling is not here to replace running. If you want to be a good runner (ultra runner) you need to run, you need to be specific and you need to practice. However, cycling can be incorporated to provide you with some great aerobic activity for multiple hours without the added and increased risk from continuous pounding of your own body weight through your knees, muscles and joints.

If in doubt take a look at what Francois d’Haene tweeted in 2014. This was after victory at UTMF, 2nd at the Skyrunning World Championships and a stunning UTMB victory.

Francois D'Haene

Back-to-back runs are a popular training method for the aspiring and experienced runner. It’s a great way of breaking a long distance down; lets say you have a target race of 100k. You may set yourself a key target training weekend for 2 or 3 days. For example, a typical ‘long’ training weekend may look like 30k day 1, 30k day 2 and 40k day 3. It’s a great way to adapt the body, the mind and it provides a wonderful opportunity to practice nutrition, hydration and fine-tune your clothing. But you can’t do this every weekend… okay, yes you can BUT at some point it will all go pear shaped. Your body will say enough! What follows will be a period of inactivity, rest or maybe worse, injury.

Cycling sessions can incorporate an element of faster cycling. Maybe you’d like to work the hills a little? But be careful. You are using different muscle groups. Here are some stats from a 2 hour ride. This ride was all about keeping it nice and easy on an out-and-back ride.

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We all know that consistency is key in any training plan. Training is not about one run, one session; it’s about all the combined sessions you have done that make up a whole. So think about incorporating cycling to replace some of your long runs.

You can still do a back-to-back session: 5 hours on the bike and the next day a 4-hour run. It’s a perfect combination. Think about it, 9 hours increasing your fitness and aerobic activity but only 4 hours of impact.

If you only have time to run long once a week then look at incorporating a 3 week on and 1 week off scenario. So for example, your long runs may look like this:

  • Week 1 – 3 hours
  • Week 2 – 3 hours 45 min
  • Week 3 – 4 hours 30min

On week 4, forget a long run and add a 6-hour bike. You still get the aerobic benefits but once again, you rest those tired muscles and joints and use them in a different way.

There are no hard and fast rules here.

This post is about making you look at your training from a different perspective. To make you realise that just because you are an ultra runner, it doesn’t mean that you need to be an ultra runner everyday!

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Summary

  • Have a target planned in your diary so that you can be specific with your planning and work back from your key date.
  • Don’t neglect run speed work and hill training.
  • Use cycling in the week as ‘recovery’ from harder running sessions (speed and hills).
  • Incorporate long bike rides in conjunction with your long run training. For example:
  1. Do one weekend in four that utilises long bike rides instead of long running.
  2. Mix and match – Long bike on Saturday with long run on Sunday.
  3. Back-to-Back Mix – Long run, long bike and a long run makes a great 3-day session.
  • Don’t be worried about thinking out of the box. If you are feeling tired, sore or just need some inspiration – jump on the bike instead or running. It’s all exercise and as long as you are training, you are getting fitter. Just make sure you listen to your body and add rest as and when appropriate.
  • Rest – it is a training discipline. Don’t think of it as weakness. Planned rest allows you and your body to adapt. It’s crucial.
  • Use a HRM and GPS to monitor your training and efforts.

Enjoy the process. One thing that is great about sport is the ability to enjoy the outdoors. Cycling or running, take both hands, grab it and embrace it. Just think, you can cover considerably more ground on a bike.

Join us on STRAVA

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Thanks to SCOTT SPORTS and SUUNTO for the support and backing

Check out SCOTT HERE

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Check out SUUNTO HERE

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Mayonnaise, gin, cheese and taulas – Trail Menorca 2015 by Niandi Carmont

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Mayonnaise, gin, cheese and taulas ……..what do these words bring to mind? No, you got it wrong! The answer is ………Menorca!

Yep, not many people know that mayonnaise (and who doesn’t love dollops of it on chips) was invented by the Duc de Richelieu on encountering and adapting the Menorca aioli. As for gin this little island is home to Xoriguer Distillery and is well-known for producing its own distinctively fragrant variety of the spirit.

But where is Menorca might you ask? This Balearic Island is located in the Mediterranean off the Spanish coast not far from Mallorca. Menorca means windy island and hardly surprising as there is a gentle breeze on most days due to its relatively flat relief. A little wind is welcome if you consider that the island enjoys 300 days of yearly sunshine.

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Booze, sea and sun ….convinced? Well what enticed me to the island were none of the aforementioned but more the opportunity to take part in what I consider to be a fantastic and scenically beautiful trail race. The Cami de Cavalls is the backdrop of several trail races organized on the island in May. It is an ancient hiking trail/path of 186km that takes you around the coastline of the island. This long-distance walking route is the GR223 of the Senderos de Gran Recorrido network in Spain. Historically-speaking the Cami de Cavalls was built in order to connect the watchtowers, fortresses and cannons distributed along the coast. It was patrolled by soldiers mounted on horses hence the word cavalls meaning horses in Catalan.

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In the 2015 edition there were several distances: 185km, 100km, 55km (trekking), 32km (trekking).

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The 85km race (TMCS, Trail Menorca Costa Sud)) takes on the whole southern coastline from Es Castell to Ciutadella. This is the trail race I decided to do as I really wanted to experience as much of the historic Cami de Cavalls as possible but had only just recovered from Marathon des Sables 4 weeks prior. Taking that into consideration it seemed the best and most reasonable option. I arrived in Menorca on Thursday and my race start was on Saturday so this provided me with the opportunity to relax a little, do some sight-seeing and pick up my number and chip without too much stress. Thursday on arrival in Ciutadella I picked up my number and chip after some leisurely tapas and rosé in the port and attended the race briefing in the late afternoon for the 185km. This was followed by a cocktail with some local dignitaries involved in the sponsorship and promotion of Trail Menorca .

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The Friday was spent walking around the cobbled streets in the old quarter of Citadel and having fresh grilled squid al fresco with 2015 MDS winner Elisabet Barnes near the town-hall and an early night in anticipation of the early race start the following day. Saturday I was woken by my alarm at 5am. Some instant porridge and I was off to catch the shuttle bus at 6am to the start in Es Castell. What is practical about the different races is that they all finish in Ciutadella, the 185km and 100km (TMCN Trail Menorca Costa Nord) starting a day before. Shuttle buses at the finish in Ciutadella take the runners to the start of the different races so logistically it makes sense to book your accommodation at the finish and it is completely hassle-free. Also should you drop out (highly unlikely of course) or not make the cut off times shuttle busses are laid on at the checkpoints to take you back to the finish).

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An 85km drive along the coastline and the bus of excited runners arrives in Es Castell. During the journey Elisabet and I exchange worried looks as the rain starts pelting down – this must be one of the 65 days of rain on the island! However, it proves to be just a short-lived downpour and at 8am we start the race in cool and pleasant temperatures.

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The course is well marked with the over 2.200 GR 223 landmarks making it hard to get lost with added signage and red & white tape in urban areas on lamps or posts. These are reinforced with spray paint, biodegradable tape and red leds for runners running at night.

There are 7 well-equipped feed stations on the TMCS offering water, coca cola (ice-cold), isotonic drinks, fruit juices, fruit, nuts, dates, bread, Nutella and local ham and cheese. I found it unnecessary to take any additional food supplies although the race is supposed to be “self-sufficient” and runners are encouraged to do so. The support, friendliness and encouragement at the feed stations are amazing. When you do this race you really don’t feel like a number when you are cheered as you enter the feed station and cheered when you leave!

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I was incredibly surprised at the beauty of the course. I had been told that the TMCN along the North Coast was more scenic although much more technical but to be honest the TMCS was absolutely stunning. The variety of the course is unrivalled – beach sections, little coves of azure turquoise water, tiny coastal villages, luscious green flowered fields and cliffs overlooking the island’s multitude of pristine bays.

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The course is partly exposed and partly shaded providing a certain amount of respite from the midday sun. Temperatures at this time of the year can vary and although the day spent sightseeing was quite hot (36°C), on race day it was pleasantly mild. The only technical parts of the course are along the sea-front on hardened rock formations where you can easily trip up especially once fatigue starts setting in and the last section of the course although flat was quite technical and rocky with the head-on wind from the North Tramuntana complicating matters! At this point I was walking as I really didn’t want to trip up on the rocks and no longer had the energy to battle against the wind.

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The final kilometres of the race take you through the coastal seaside resorts into the finish area at Ciutadella where a welcoming crowd of local supporters and giant paella and free beers await the finishers. The icing on the cake? The beautiful medal with the words Live the Legend……..and I really felt I lived the Cami de Cavalls ….. until 2016 that is!

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Ciutadella and the surrounding area is extremely Spanish and beautiful – take a look.

Race images are available to view and purchase HERE

RAIDLIGHT’S GILET RESPONSIV 8L PACK REVIEW

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Niandi Carmont recently ran the Compressport Trail Menorca, an 85km race on the island of Menorca, Spain. Knowing the race would be semi self-sufficient, the need for a comfortable hydration system would be required. RaidLight stepped in and provided the new RAIDLIGHT GILET RESPONSIV 8L vest so that it could be tested in a ‘real’ situation. On first looks it would be easy to think that this pack is female specific, apparently no. It also comes with a hint of blue for those gentlemen who are not in touch with their feminine side.

RaidLight say:

The Responsiv 8L is a combination of bag/vest. Lightweight and ergonomic.

The Responsiv 8L race vest allows you to carry essentials and hydrate with ease, with the bonus of being ultra light at only 160 grams!

The bag has recently been awarded the prestigious Janus Design Award (2015), awarded by the Institute of French Design

 

Hydration is always an issue when you compete in a self-sufficient or semi self-sufficient trail race or even when training. There are multiple ways of carrying energy drinks and water but what most of us look for is a system that is:

  • Hassle-free – no fumbling around, fidgeting or groping
  • Provides easy access – you can hydrate easily on tricky technical sections of a course or when fatigued in the latter stages of a long trail race
  • Is quick and efficient – you can refill quickly when passing through the feed stations, wasting as little time and energy as possible
  • Is comfortable – no chafing, no bouncing, no sloshing, no leaking
  • Allows you to manage your water supply efficiently and gauge how much water/energy drink remains until the next feed station

Raidlight’s new Gilet Responsiv 8L ticks all the above boxes for me. It’s a great little pack.

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What I like:

  • It comes in 2 sizes: Small/Medium & Large/Extra Large. I used the smaller version as it’s probably more suited to the female body type and lighter runners. It also comes in grey/ pink! For the men, grey/ blue.

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  • The vest is equipped with 2 micrometric adjustment systems; I have seen this before on a pair of TNF Shoes called the Boa and a TNF pack. This system provides for an even more “customized” fit. These are located on either side just under the arm openings. So there is no messing around with dangling straps and buckles to tighten. Basically, as you remove items from the pack (food, water and so on) you can adjust the pack in minute detail so that it remains close to the body.

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  • It weighs just 160g and that is ultra-light!
  • Designed to be used with RaidLight’s new soft flasks (optional extra) which come in 2 sizes either 350ml or 600ml. So depending on how far apart the feed stations are on a course and what your own personal hydration needs are, you can use either one or the other or a combination of both. The RaidLight soft flasks are also equipped with straws which make drinking on the go extremely practical. The flasks fit comfortably into the 2 front pockets and are extremely easy to remove and slip back in. I found the straws a little distracting as they came close to my face, however, on the shoulder straps, two access holes are available should you use a bladder (the pipe would feed through these on the left or right). I found that I could push the soft flask straws in here. Perfect!

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  • The pack is made of a breathable flat-seamed mesh (thermal adhesive), which doesn’t chafe and please note ladies it is very pleasant to wear over a t-shirt, a sleeveless tank or even a crop top.
  • The stability is reinforced with two pectoral buckles on the front of the pack

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  • The stash pocket on the back can be used to carry a bladder (Velcro strap supplied) or mandatory race kit. I used it to carry a survival blanket, a mobile phone, a lightweight wind stopper and some extra food

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  • There are two tiny pockets underneath the main soft flask pockets; they can be used for lip balm, sunscreen, gels, tissue paper and gels/ food. For me, this is where the pack fails and needs greater improvement. I personally found I had too little room for ‘on the go’ nutrition and I used a lightweight fuel belt to store additional energy.

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I would recommend using the Gilet Responsiv 8L for any self-sufficient race or training run. It’s ideal for short outing and longer runs but I do think the lack of food storage impacts on its use for very long self-sufficient runs. If you are racing with adequate feed stations and the opportunity to replenish liquid and food, then it’s a great pack. For me it was ideal on the Trail Menorca Costa Sud, an 85km trail race with 7 feed stations, relatively hot weather (36°C) and a course which is technical in parts but without any major difficulties. Importantly ladies, this pack is one of the most comfortable I have tried. I don’t have big boobs but as you will know, anything that doesn’t sit comfortable is a real problem. The Raidlight was great in this area and gents; you have nothing to worry about. If it works for us ladies, it will work for you too!

CONCLUSION

This is a neat little product by RaidLight that works for men and ladies. Importantly, this pack is really comfortable for ladies and the option of two different sizes (S/M, L/XL) means that you can get a pack that fits you! This can also be fine tuned with the micrometric adjustment systems. The downside is on the go access to food/ gels as storage is minimal.

The vest will be available in June 2015.

Go to RaidLIght HERE to find out more

RUNNING BEYOND – A new book announcement

Cover

Multiple meetings, trips backwards and forwards to London and I am pleased to say that I can now announce that I will have a new book available in late (September tbc) 2016.

It has been a long term dream to find the backing of a publisher and I am pleased to say that Aurum Press Ltd (Here) have had the trust to allow me to produce a book on a sport I love through photography and words.

An added bonus is that Kilian Jornet has agreed to write the foreword.

A work in progress, I anticipate some long days and nights as I evolve this project. I hope through imagery and words it will be an inspiration to those who look at it and read it.

Grubby pages with repeated use, I’d like to see multiple ‘post it’ notes marking races for future ‘bucket lists’ and most of all I hope it will be a book that allows you to dream.

Wish me luck as I put this together. Many thanks for the continued support and most importantly, thanks to Aurum Press Ltd, Kilian Jornet and all the wonderful races and people around the world who have afforded me the opportunity to make a dream a reality.

Ian

*Please note the cover is just an illustration. I anticipate a new cover for the actual book.

 

Recent Printed Publications for iancorless.com

TCC Lead Page

The first few months of 2015 have been very rewarding and I have had several articles and features printed worldwide in a series of top ranking magazines.

From the rainforests of Costa Rica, to heat of the Sahara. Anton Krupicka looking broken at Transgrancanaria, Joe Grant between a rock and a hard place at The Coastal Challenge and Sir Ranulph Fiennes beating the heat at the Marathon des Sables.

Here are the magazines with links

Like The Wind HERE

Runners World HERE

Trail Running Magazine HERE

Competitor HERE

Outdoor Fitness HERE

Here is a selection of the printed articles. All my tear sheets can be viewed HERE

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MDS 2015 Darren Outoor Fitness UTLD Runners World 2015 TCC 2015 Trail Running Mag MDS Sir Ranulph Fiennes captured_spread

Elisabet Barnes writes about victory at Compressport Trail Menorca Costa Sur

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The trail that runs along the coastline of Menorca, Cami de Cavalls (CdC), was originally established by the settlers of Menorca as part of a defence system. It was patrolled by soldiers on horses, hence the name (Cavalls mean horses in Catalan). The path weaves its way in and out of the coast, and lets the traveller experience varying terrain and views. These include woodland trails, white beaches with intensely turquoise water, beautiful rock formations, farmland, ravines and urban areas. The profile is undulating with moderate climbs but yet offers a technically challenging experience.

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Now in its fourth year, the Compressport Trail Menorca Cami de Cavalls has grown quickly since its inception and in 2015 offered 5 courses ranging from 32km to 185km. I opted for the 85km Trail Menorca Costa Sur, TMCS. This starts in Es Castell in the east and finishes in Ciutadella in the west, following the CdC trail along the south coast of the island.

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A bus was organised for Saturday morning at 6am to take participants from Ciutadella to the start in Es Castell. During the night there had been thunderstorms and heavy rain was falling as we made our way. Niandi Carmont and I both agreed that this was not what we had come to Menorca for! Luckily, an hour later the skies were clearing. As we were about to start some dark clouds were looming but the temperature was perfect.

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I fell into a comfortable pace, which turned out to be amongst the front 20 or so runners. No other women seemed to be in that group but I didn’t look back to figure out where they were, I was going to do my on race. The first few hours took us through a variety of landscapes as we made our way forward on roads along the coast and pretty, undulating trails in a mix of farm- and woodland.

As I was beginning to approach half way it started to get a bit tougher. A few more climbs slowed the pace down and there were many gates to negotiate. I seemed to be running with the same group of people but we were more spread out now. Weaving in and out of each other, some stronger on the ascents, other on the descents or the flats.

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The checkpoints were fairly well stocked: sandwiches with jam, peanuts, almonds, fresh fruit (apples, bananas, orange), cheese… I did take orange at most checkpoints but I was largely self-sufficient. The volunteers were very helpful, asking if I was ok or if I needed anything. Good thing I speak a little bit of Spanish so I could understand them.

Just before the half way point at about 39km everything was going swimmingly well. I felt great, I was on a roll and I was moving at good pace. Another gate to negotiate laid ahead at the end of a slight down hill section. A lovely couple held it open for me so I didn’t have to stop. Instead of looking at the ground ahead I looked them and smiled as I cruised though the gate. Just as I passed them, much to their horror and my embarrassment, I stumbled and abruptly face planted on the stony trail.

At first I thought disaster had struck but after a quick assessment I decided that I was only bruised and scraped. Blood was pouring from my knees and pumping rather heavily from a wound in my thumb but it looked worse than it was (or so I told myself!). At this point I was glad that I had carried my first aid kit. After some moderately successful patching up I hobbled on.

©iancorless.com_Menorca2015-4266It was a mental relief to get over the first Marathon and know that I “only” had half way to go. Here, the terrain started to get a bit trickier. We ran on beautiful but equally brutal uneven rock formations, close to the coastline. It was now also getting warmer and I had to drink more and focus on my nutrition and hydration. This part of the race was hard mentally. I kept thinking: “when I get to 65km it’s only 20km left and flat”. That became my next target but little did I know that flat could be so hard!

©iancorless.com_Menorca2015-4525After a while I started to see more people around me on the trail. I was catching up the slower runners in the 185km race (they had been out for nearly 30 hours at this point!), and the fresh runners who had just started the shorter Trekking Costa Sur (TCS) came bouncing along on annoyingly fresh legs.

To my relief we hit roads as we were approaching the last checkpoint at 73 km. I ran into it feeling positive and was informed I was the leading lady. I had incredible support from the spectators and the checkpoint volunteers were very helpful, just as they had been at all support points so far.

I left the checkpoint to cheers and felt good. I followed the road to the end where it turned, about 100 metres or so. As I turned the corner I was abruptly hit by the next obstacle which came in the form of an extremely forceful headwind. It would of course be silly not to expect strong winds on a small island like Menorca but this was something different altogether. Apparently there is a Menorcan legend that the winds of the island change people’s personalities. Whether there is any truth in that I don’t know but I certainly needed a large portion of positivity at this point!

I told myself that it could be worse, that I could still be on those treacherous rocks and that at least I was on the road. Well, guess what awaited a few hundred metres ahead… That’s right, the rocks, taking us even further out on a completely exposed section of coastline. There was nowhere to hide, no shelter.

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This went on for what felt like an eternity but eventually we entered an urban area and could run on the road again. The finish in Ciutadella came quicker than I thought. I could hear the music from the speakers and the cheering from the crowds. I recognised my hotel on the other side of the little bay by Platja Gran, just a stone’s throw from the finish line. What a relief! I turned left onto the final stretch, entered the funnel on the artificial grass that had been laid out and to the sound of the cheering crowds I crossed the line.

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I was very happy to have battled through all the obstacles of this race! Knowing how tough the finish was I felt for those brave runners I had passed out there who were completing the final stretch of the 185 km. Some of them would not finish until Sunday morning and maybe some would not finish at all, finding the challenge too big to muster this time. I sent a thought their way before enjoying my post-race relaxation in the finish area, which offered a pool, cold beer and paella to the competitors. What more could you wish for?

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This was my first time in Menorca and I hope there will be many more (maybe those winds did have some impact after all!). The scenery is stunning and the coastline, having been protected from development, offers many areas of raw beauty and wilderness. The course is very pretty but deceptive and should not be underestimated. Having said that it is perfectly achievable. On reflection I think it could be a great race for those looking for a course with some technical challenge but who don’t like heights or who struggle at altitude. It is also perfect to combine with a long weekend or holiday. The people involved in this event and the passion and effort they put into it makes it a very memorable experience and I can highly recommend it.

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Entries for the 2016 Compressport Trail Menorca Cami de Cavalls are not yet available, however, please check the website HERE

Elisabet Barnes won the 2015 Marathon des Sables (ladies category) holds course records at the GoBeyond C2C and XNRG Pilgrims. She now holds the course record for the 85km for the Compressport Trail Menorca Cami de Cavalls

Beat The Heat (Part Two) – Marc Laithwaite

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Exercise in the heat can place a lot of strain upon your body, if you’re used to cooler climates. For this reason, many elite athletes will spend time acclimatising to the higher temperature. Acclimatisation can require up to 14 days, so what if you’re an amateur athlete traveling abroad for an endurance event, who can’t afford to travel 3 weeks before the event?

This is part 2 of our ‘exercise in the heat’ blog series. Last week we explained why exercise in the heat is such a problem (you can read by clicking the coaching articles link at the top of the page and then scrolling down through past blogs). In this week’s blog, I’ll explain how you can acclimatise before you travel and highlight the key physiological changes that take place, as a consequence of acclimatisation.

It’s a bit cold up North, so acclimatising might be difficult!!

Okay, if you live in the North of the UK and you’re traveling abroad to race, then you might be struggling to understand how you can possibly acclimatise. I use the term ‘North of UK’ as we all know that in the South of the UK, the temperature rarely drops below 18c. I’ve never traveled further South than Birmingham, but I hear they wear shorts and flip-flops pretty much year round.

In simple terms, to acclimatise before traveling, you need to make yourself hot and encourage sweating when you train. There are really easy ways to do this:

  1. Wear extra clothing
  2. Run on a treadmill or cycle indoors and turn up the heat
  3. Spend time in a sauna or steam room on a daily basis

I’d recommend you start doing this from 2 weeks out, but you need to do it consistently. Ideally it should be on a daily basis. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the above methods can help acclimatise you before travelling to warmer climates.

General guidelines:

  1. If you’re exercising outdoors, wearing extra clothing will lead to a higher sweat rate, so make sure you hydrate during the session. The same can be said for indoor running or cycling, make sure you are hydrating throughout.
  2. You should expect it to affect performance to some extent. If you use a power meter when cycling or you run at specific speeds on the treadmill, you should expect your power of speed to be a little lower than normal. If you’re temperature is higher, attempting to maintain the same intensity as usual could result in you being exhausted by the finish of the session!
  3. Try to progress the sessions in terms of exposure and intensity. For example, if you ride indoors, gradually turn up the temperature over a 7 day period and gradually build up the volume and intensity of the session. Don’t simply crank up the heat on day 1 and ride the full session as you’d expect to in cooler temperatures.
  4. The same rule applies for the sauna and steam room. Start with 10-15 minutes and gradually build your time to 30-45 minutes. Take a drink into the sauna or steam room with you to ensure you are hydrating adequately.

What are the physiological changes that take place?

There are a couple of key changes that take place when you are forced to sweat at a high rate:

The first is an expansion of plasma volume, this refers to an increase in the amount of blood plasma. Last week we explained that blood is made up of plasma (the fluid part) and cells. As you sweat, you lose plasma, which then thickens the blood. Part of the acclimatisation process in as increase in plasma, which means your blood is thinner. By increasing your plasma volume, this also means that you have more blood in general. The amount of cells doesn’t change, but the fluid component is increased, thereby increasing the overall blood volume. This is handy when your blood has to supply both muscles and skin, as discussed last week.

The second key change is a reduction in salt loss. Early in the acclimatisation process, your sweat contains a high amount of sodium. As the acclimatisation process progresses, your body retains sodium by reducing the amount lost in sweat. In simple terms, your sweat becomes less salty. If you’re acclimatising over a 2 week period, lick your skin every day and see if you can taste the change. It’s not socially acceptable to lick someone else’s skin.

As stated earlier, for these 2 changes to occur, you simply need to encourage a high sweat rate when training. The more you sweat, the more these changes will occur. Be sensible, reduce the intensity of the training session and gradually build up heat exposure over the 2 week period.

Until then, stay cool.

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo