Interview with MARSHALL ULRICH

Marshall Ulrich Interview

 

There was one day though when Jean lay in her bed at home in a darkened room, battered and exhausted from all that disease was doing to her. The gloomy scene made me claustrophobic. My wife was wasting away in a lightless cabin I wanted to run and I told her so.

 

“How can you leave me right now? How can you be so callous? I need you. I’m so tired. Please stay.”

 

“I have to run.”

 

“Don’t do. Please, god I’m alone.”

 

I looked at her desperate to go. I left. I ran and I still regret it.

 

Marshall Ulrich has run more than 120 ultra marathons averaging over 125 miles each. He has completed 12 expedition-length adventure races, and climbed the ‘Seven Summits’ all on his first attempts. Is he, ‘the ultimate endurance athlete?’

He finished the first-ever circumnavigation on foot of Death Valley National Park, about 425 miles in one of the hottest, driest places on earth. He ranked this expedition as tougher than ascending Mount Everest, but not as challenging as his record setting transcontinental run of more than 3,000 miles from San Francisco to New York City, which was the subject of his book and memoir; Running on Empty.

In his sixties, Marshall inspires adventurers, active and armchair athletes, and a growing general audience by sharing his experiences and defying the ideas of “too far,” “too old,” and “not possible.”

I caught up with this amazing man to get a glimpse into what makes him tick.

You can read the full interview on RUNULTRA HERE

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SCOTT KINABALU SUPERTRAC – First Impressions

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Spring is here and new run shoes are a plenty. Christmas takes place in December but I have to say, if you are a runner, February is stepping up to be a great month for a few surprise presents. Recently I have had new shoes from The North Face (Ultra MT, Cardiac and TR2, the Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 is due to arrive any day and several weeks back I looked at the Scott Trail Rocket and mentioned the Kinabalu.

Today we are taking a look at a new shoe from SCOTT, the KINABALU SUPERTRAC.

This is a shoe I asked Scott to make some 12-18 months ago! Having used and loved the Kinabalu (Here) I pleaded with them to come up with an 8mm drop shoe with a more aggressive sole. They have only gone and done it!

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This shoe is a winner!

Looking at current shoe trends, Scott like The North Face, Salomon and other key brands have realised that a lower drop is the way forward. For many companies, 8mm provides that sweet middle ground. New Balance, TNF and now Scott have confirmed this while Salomon pave a way with 4mm and 6mm drop shoes.

As mentioned previously, if you are after a fast trail shoe (for dry conditions) and with a lower drop (5mm), you can’t go far wrong with the Scott Trail Rocket. But if you are after a shoe that can handle mud and a multitude of different conditions then the 8mm drop, Kinabalu Supertrac may be for you!

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Carrying over many of the characteristics of the Kinabalu, the Kinabalu Supertrac in summary :

Fits like a glove, laces up nice and tight, hugs the heel without rubbing, the toe box provides a secure hold of your foot with a precise feel and grip is AGGRESSIVE!

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In Detail

The Kinabalu Supertrac introduces a new level of technical shoe and a completely new concept of superior grip. The shoes are designed to match the needs of trail and mountain runners in the most extreme conditions : mud, snow, rock and mountain! Delivering great traction on soft and rough surfaces and all within a shoe that provides great comfort, cushioning and with an 8mm drop.

It comes as no surprise to me really. As I said previously, I loved the Kinabalu. I just wanted more grip and lower drop. Scott have that now provided me with that, so this can only mean one thing: happy runner!

If you are familiar with the Kinabalu, this ‘Supertrac‘ version will feel familiar. The tongue is padded, extremely comfortable and the laces are thin and textured. Importantly, the laces stay tight when tied. Scott’s ‘Lace Locker‘ is present and this provides a no nonsense simple solution to store loose laces.

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The shoes are neutral fitting and cushioned using AeroFoam+ which provides additional cushioning, increased durability and great rebound. The upper is breathable mesh with synthetic overlays and the lower part of the shoe is constructed from EVA and rubber.

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The toe box is reinforced extremely well and will withstand some serious contact with rocks or unwanted obstacles. I usually prefer a wider shoe and the Supertrac allows for this but still holds my forefoot firm and without hot spots.

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The heel is injection moulded, plush, soft has no harsh contact points and provides a secure firm grip irrespective of when running on the flat, descending or going uphill. I had no movement at all.

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As one would expect, Scott carry over many features that we have seen on other shoes in the range. The eRIDE is a ‘rocker’ platform that is designed to guarantee a more efficient foot strike. If you already strike mid to forefoot, this may be less noticeable. However, if you are heel striking, the rocker really does roll you forward on to your toes.

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The most noticeable aspect of the shoe is the GRIP! I can’t write about the GRIP without putting it in capital letters. Boy do they GRIP…

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Think JCB meets running shoe. The outsole is extreme and made from a superior wet traction rubber compound that works really well on a multitude of surfaces. I am really impressed with just three to four runs*.

Conclusion

If you are looking for an out-and-out trail beast with great cushioning, 8mm drop and a comfort rating that will least all day, the Kinabalu Supertrac is going to be a serious contender. It has very quickly become my ‘go to’ when heading out on my local muddy trails.

Expect to see Marco De Gasperi, Elisa Desco and Joe Gray using this on the trails and mountains of Europe and the USA.

Pros:

  • GRIP
  • Cushioned
  • Spacious toe box with protection
  • True to size fit

Cons:

  • Not the lightest shoe

Details:

RRP £105

Available SS2015

Technology:

  • Lace bungee
  • Wet traction rubber
  • eRIDE Platform
  • AerFoam+
  • Self cleaning lugs
  • Upper: Mesh/ synthetic overlay
  • Lower: EVA/ Runner
  • Drop: 8mm
  • Weight: 340g (UK8)
  • Sizes: US7-14

#noshortcuts

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*I will provide an updated review after 1-month and plenty of nice muddy shots to show the shoe’s durability in the upper and outsole

Don’t worry, we will give you a credit!

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I am lucky, very lucky! I have a life and business that allows me to travel to amazing places documenting a sport that I love. It’s a dream job and one that I throw myself into 100% each minute, of each hour of everyday.

It’s a job that not many can do. It requires long hours, an ability to handle stress and you need to be fit. Well, you need to be fit if you do the job in the way that I do it!

I have built a business out of hard graft and my commitment has been rewarded. For example, in 2014 I travelled and worked on over thirty races. In 2015, I will work on a similar quantity.

I do have a ‘USP.’ I am not only a photographer. I offer a one stop package for a race with writing, podcast and a website that generates thousands of hits on a daily basis.

But don’t be mislead. If I was doing any other job, I would arguably be wealthy. But working in a niche sport does limit what is available in regards to re-numeration. I accept that!

However, I don’t like having the piss taken!

Let me give you a scenario:

Imagine you work for a magazine. You go to the office on Monday and you start work at 0900. You take a lunch break at 1300, return to work at 1400 and then work to 1800. You do this day after day… At the end of the week, the magazine you have toiled on is ready. You have dedicated forty hours minimum to its success. Your boss comes in, congratulates you on an awesome job and says how great your work is! You feel proud. You feel happy and you pat yourself on the back.

“We have decided not to pay you for your work this week. We have no budget! But don’t worry, we will give you a credit in the magazine. It’s a real plus for you, your name will be associated to the incredible body of work you have created. What more could you want?”

I am well aware that belts are being tightened in the world of running magazines. Lets face it, It’s no surprise… magazines print old news that will have appeared on websites like mine weeks and more than likely months before. However, it’s always nice to have something in print both from a consumer perspective and a contributor’s perspective. But lets not be fooled, somebody somewhere is making money.

Let’s just look at a potential scenario:

  • A magazine sells at £4.99 per issue.
  • They sell 28,000 copies.
  • That is £130,000+ of sales.

“It will be great advertising for your work and getting published by us will help you professionally.”

****

So does this argument have any merit?

Who doesn’t like seeing their work in a magazine? It’s a great showcase and of course as a photographer, it’s a confirmation of my ability.

However, readers of magazines are not the people who are going to commission future work from me, so, other than an ego boost; little gains come from a ‘credit.’

But, I do get a tear sheet and I can add it to my website HERE to show that I am credible and trustworthy! My photography is so credible that the magazine editor didn’t respect me, or my work enough to pay me for my time, skills and professionalism?

“Yes, but other magazine professionals and people in the industry will see how good you are, phone you up and commission something from you.”

No! Potential clients think, aaagh, you worked for ‘X’ magazine, they have a reputation for not paying, so you probably did the work for free.

Without wishing to blow my own trumpet. I am well established in the trail, mountain, sky and ultra world. My work is known and I get the job done. That is a USP and it is a bonus for any commissioning editor or client.

I can overcome obstacles and always come up with the goods. These things all mean far more than if I have been published. As a photographer, the best way to help me (and those like me) is to do what professionals do — treat us with respect and pay us for the work we do!

I work on races all the time. I provide a service and I get paid for that service. So, when an  editor of a magazine emailed recently asking me to use my photos of a particular race I asked, “what budget is available” and I was clear. “I can be flexible.”

“We don’t have a budget for photography,” the editor said in a way that was almost saying; “how dare you request a fee.”

I replied and I used my scenario of going to the office, working all week and then getting a ‘credit’ instead of getting paid.

“Ah, but that is different,” they said, “You were paid by the race to cover the event and therefore you should provide images for free to help promote the race, that is normal!”

Errr no! Some races ‘may’ well have a photographer that ‘may’ be contacted in who ‘may’ have signed a deal where all images are available post race and then the images ‘may’ be used in multiple media outlets? In theory, the photographer will have been paid ‘extra’ to allow this.

I don’t do this!

For one, it devalues my work.

I provide a quality service and any fee I receive covers my time and not the images I take. My images are mine and they are unique to me. They have my style, my fingerprint and that is the value. They are a piece of art with intrinsic value and they are protected under copyright.

Of course, I also provide considerably more! My website can get over 40,000 hits per day when I post images from a race. I also write race reports and I promote a race through my reach… social media has a huge benefit and you will see ‘branded’ low resolution images of my work everywhere. It’s a package that I provide and one that works.

It is time to stand firm

Photographers please stand firm. Don’t let publications walk all over us.

I, just like you am a professional. I have done five years at university; I have been in the business for twenty-five plus years and I have served my apprenticeship.

My work is unique, valuable and worth a fee.

If we are not getting paid, how are we different from the millions of budding photographers who do this as a hobby while still making money in another profession? How do we pay the rent, how do we put food on the table if we don’t charge for our services?

It is time to stick to our guns and not give away our work and make the magazines (or other businesses) pay us our due rewards for the work that we provide.

What other profession would be expected to work for free?

Clients have the money, they just play the game and far too many times, they win through pressure. If we have photos that are good enough to be published, they are good enough to be paid for!

Magazines will always continue to get ‘free’ content from enthusiasts but in time, the quality will soon drop and with it, the life of the magazine.

****

Note: This post has been generated through a frustration from those in the industry who continue to use bullying tactics in a hope that I will succumb to providing content for magazines and other similar publications without payment.

This post is not a reflection on races, race directors and brands who I work with on a professional basis, day-in and day-out and who I have an excellent working relationship with. To all those, I thank you for your continued loyalty.

Please look at my photography website HERE

Image sales available HERE

Fat Burning Efficiency by Marc Laithwaite

Image ©getphysical.co.uk

Image ©getphysical.co.uk

Last week we talked about the possible benefits of high fat coffee (Bullet Proof Coffee) prior to an endurance workout. Greater levels of circulating fats in the blood stream, may promote the use of fat as a fuel source and thereby saving precious carbohydrate stores. It created quite a stir… as we expected!

As a recap, when you run long distances, you use a combination of both fat and carbohydrate to provide energy. Your objective is simply to get the most energy as possible from fat and less from carbohydrate, as your carbohydrate stores are relatively limited and can run out quickly.

For example: If when running at an endurance pace (say long ultra) you currently use 600kcal per hour with 30% coming from fat and 70% coming from carbohydrate, that’s 420kcal of carbohydrate per hour. If you reverse this figure so only 30% of your energy comes from carbohydrate, then you will only use 180kcal of carbohydrate per hour. That is a saving of 240kcal of carbohydrate per hour (60g per hour), which is actually the recommended intake during most endurance events!

So if the recommended guidelines are to ingest 60g of carbohydrate per hour during endurance events (that’s approximately 1-2 bars or 2-3 gels) and you switch your fat usage from 30% to 70%, then technically you don’t need to take any fuel right??

Not quite… even if you optimise your diet and training to enhance your fat usage, you’re always going to be using carbohydrate to some extent, so you still need to take it on board. There are a couple of key things you need to take into account:

  1. If you’re rested, tapered and fuelled, then you should be starting on a full tank of carbohydrate, so eat a good source of carbohydrate in the days prior to racing.
  2. We are obsessed with carbohydrate portions, thinking that more is better and a bigger portion equates to more glycogen (stored carbohydrate). Your glycogen stores are relatively small, so you don’t need to eat a lot. If anything, eat a little less in the final days to stop yourself feeling bloated and heavy. This is difficult to do, as we generally believe that ‘carbo loading’ is required so eat excessively in the final few days. The same rule applies for breakfast, a huge meal is of no benefit as your stores are probably already full.
  3. If your fat usage is enhanced, you don’t need to eat as much during the race or training. In Ironman many people ‘panic eat’ on the bike with a fear that we won’t have enough fuel on board. There is a real trend for people to be obsessed with how much they can eat during the cycle section. Athletes often have a set plan of several bars and gels, plus energy drinks at regular intervals. Stomach problems are very common due to high amount of carbohydrate, which gather in the stomach, leading to bloating.
  4. The most common reason given for people failing to hit their target times in endurance events is ‘I got my nutrition wrong in the race’. The truth of the matter is that you got your training wrong.

Last week, we suggested that Bullet Proof Coffee or training in a fasted state works best when training for 1-3 hours, depending upon your sports and ability. But what if you’re going further? What if you’re running for 3-5 hours or cycling 5 hours or more? For many athletes, riding for 5 hours in a fasted state would create a very high level of fatigue, which may take several days to recover from and impact upon your normal weekly training. If you are riding or running longer distances, breakfast and food throughout the session is needed and you should follow these guidelines:

  1. Eat food which will maximise fat usage to save carbohydrate.
  2. Maintain a constant blood sugar level and avoid spikes and dips.
  3. Based on point 2, eat foods which provide a slow ‘drip feed’ of energy rather than those which give you an instant hit.

Here are examples:

Breakfast is 1 mug full of muesli with no sugar. To increase fat content, buy mixed seeds/nuts breakfast cereal topper and add quarter of a mug. To further increase fat content sprinkle on desiccated coconut. Add dried or chopped fruit (anything low GI) and eat with full fat milk or natural yogurt. Don’t add any sugar, honey or syrup. It should be a small to medium bowl, don’t overeat and try to stock up with extra toast and jam for carbohydrates.

During exercise eat nothing for the first hour then take something every 30 minutes. You need to avoid things, which give you an instant hit, so avoid all high sugar products and don’t use energy gels. Energy bars take longer to digest so half a bar every 30 minutes would be suitable. Opt to have half every 30, not a full bar every hour, as this is easier for your stomach and intestines to deal with. You can choose something different to sports bars, such as flapjack, dried fruit or bananas. If you make your own flapjack, butter, fruit, coconut and oats are good, avoid sugar and syrups. The key is small quantities frequently (every 30 minutes from 60 onwards), coupled with water, squash or electrolyte solution, but no energy in drink.

The great gel quandary

Gels were invented for a specific purpose. When you felt low on energy and you were about to ‘bonk’ or ‘hit the wall’, you took a gel and it gave you instant energy. They gave you a rapid sugar spike at times when a rapid sugar spike was required. Then at some point the rules changed, gels were no longer a rapid source of energy for low periods, they are now to be taken every 20 minutes to provide a constant flow of energy. Simultaneously we are advised that we need a constant drip feed of carbohydrate and to avoid sugar spikes. Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is key to efficient metabolism. I’m not sure if I’m the only one confused, but I’m not sure how taking a product designed to spike your sugar levels every 20 minutes can be described as ‘drip feeding carbohydrate’ and maintaining a steady supply. In fact, gels sold based on their ‘fast acting’ properties, would surely be the worst things to take? That of course depends upon how you’re using it, if you’re taking it every 20 minutes to top up energy through a long race, the statement is correct. If you’ve bonked and you need an instant hit, then a gel is perfect, as that’s what they were designed for. It’s interesting how the purpose of a product can change, but I guess if you only took gels when you ‘bonked’ compared to buying 18 of them for a 6 hours ride, the gel economy would take a hit. Just saying.

What next?

As a start point, go out and ride or run and try the strategy. Don’t panic eat or over-eat either before or during. Choose low sugar foods in small quantities at frequent intervals and don’t be afraid of ‘bonking’ during this process. It may take your body a while to become accustomed to utilising fat so give it some time.

Pacing is key

Pacing is the missing jigsaw piece for this strategy. Riding or running at the correct intensity is critical during training sessions if you wish to maintain glycogen stores for the full duration of the workout. We’ll discuss pacing in next week’s blog and how intensity impacts upon fuel usage during endurance training and racing.

- Marc Laithwaite

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

The 2015 11th edition of The Coastal Challenge on RUNULTRA

TCC 2015

“Anything can happen in a race that lasts multiple days and believe me, The Coastal Challenge provided more than its fair share of excitement. But as a battle raged at the front, behind, the story was one of survival, perseverance and enjoyment in equal measure.”

Read the full article  and view a selection of images from the 2015

The Coastal Challenge

HERE

A full selection of images are available HERE

And you can read daily reports with images from the race here:

Day 1 HERE

Day 2 HERE

Day 3 HERE images HERE

Day 4 HERE images HERE

Day 5 HERE images HERE

Day 6 HERE

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Karl Egloff breaks Kilian Jornet’s Aconcagua Record

Image copyright TRAIN RUNNING ARG  @trailrunarg

Image copyright TRAIL RUNNING ARG @trailrunarg

Kilian Jornet’s Aconcagua record has been broken!

Ecuadorian mountaineer and runner, Karl Egloff has broken Kilian Jornet’s record for ascending and descending Aconcagua.

“URGENTE: KARL ACABA DE ROMPER EL RECORD DE SPEEDCLIMBING DEL ACONCAGUA HORCONES-CUMBRE-HORCONES CON UN TIEMPO FABULOSO DE 11 hrs Y 52 min”

In simple terms, the tweet posted on the 19th February says:

“KARL JUST BREAK THE RECORD OF THE ACONCAGUA SPEEDCLIMBING HORCONES – SUMMIT – HORCONES WITH A FABULOUS TIME 11 hrs and 52 min”

News is coming in slowly and mostly via Facebook and Twitter. Needless to say, this is a significant result for Karl. This is not the first time Karl has taken a Kilian Jornet record… in 2014, Karl also took Kilian’s record on Kilimanjaro.

Swiss veteran mountain guide, Karl Egloff, has broken the Mount Kilimanjaro fastest ascent and descent record, in a mind-blowing time of 6 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds. The previous record was held by Spanish mountain runner, Kilian Jornet, who in 2010 managed to run to the top of Uhuru Peak and back down in 7 hours, 14 minutes. – taken from climbkilimanjaroguide.com

Kilian Jornet tweeted – “Muchas felicidades @karlmtb ! Nuevo record en el Aconcagua #RecordsAreToBeBroken

Who is Karl Egloff?

Karl Egloff is a natural athlete; he spent part of his life in Switzerland, where he  played football. Karl is now a mountain guide and one of the best runners of trail and mountain running in South America. Karl participates in various sports such as cycling and swimming. He currently holds the record for climbing, descending Kilimanjaro.

More news will unfold as time passes and we will update as and when appropriate.

Bullet Proof Coffee – Boost Your Endurance by Marc Laithwaite

I Love Bullet Proof Coffee

There is a current trend for ‘Bullet Proof Coffee’ which is used to boost endurance performance, in this post, we’ll explain the basic thinking behind the concept and how it can help you when training for endurance based events such as marathon running, cycling and long distance triathlon events.

Why Bullet Proof Coffee?

It’s something we’ve discussed many times before, if you can increase your fat burning during exercise, you will save glycogen (carbohydrate) and therefore exercise for longer. People who use glycogen at a high rate will run out much more quickly, so shifting your metabolism to use fat as your main source of energy is of great benefit.

What is Bullet Proof Coffee?

Bullet Proof Coffee 2

The subject can become a little over complicated, but in simple terms, it’s ground coffee with added MCT oil and butter. The perfectionists will argue that you need a specific high quality coffee bean freshly ground, but I’m sure you can start with general filter coffee powder and progress from there! The term MCT oil refers to ‘medium chain triglycerides’ which are a specific type of fat which is known to be fantastic for energy. MCT is found in coconut, so MCT oil is generally derived from coconut with the flavour removed. The other ingredient is butter, preferably organic and grass fed to be high quality, don’t use ‘Flora’ or ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ it’s really not the same. Full fat, organic, grass fed butter might sound a little strange as it’s high in saturated fat. However, saturated fat is one of your main fuels and critical for endurance performance.

Those who know a bit about nutrition trends will be familiar with the above info, those who are not familiar with nutrition trends might be thinking ‘I thought saturated fats were the bad one’s?’ It turns out they were wrong, who’d have thought it? it’s a long explanation so probably easiest if you just go with it…

The process:

Bulletproof Coffee

Make your coffee, add 1-2 tbs of MCT oil and 1-2 tbs of butter. Put it all in the blender and whip it up until you have a nice froth on the top. You can pour boiling water into your blender to keep it hot, then empty it just before the coffee goes in to stop the coffee cooling. Fat & oil don’t dissolve in water so it floats in the top.

You alternative option (the fanatics will not like this) is to use MCT powder. It works a bit like coffee mate, add a heaped teaspoon to your cup then add a small amount of coffee. Give it a good stir and whip to get the lumps out, then add the rest of the coffee. MCT powder tastes quite creamy (not of coconut) and you might find it more palatable than oil and butter floating on the surface, although I’d encourage you to try to original recipe also!

When should I drink it?

Before you go training, most people will generally opt for one of the following:

1. High carb breakfast
2. No breakfast
3. High fat breakfast

All 3 are viable, but it really depends upon the athlete and the type of session you are about to take part in. We will discuss this in a lot more detail next Tuesday.

Eating no breakfast (fasting) is a common method for encouraging the body to burn more fat, but actually taking a high fat breakfast (in this case a bullet proof coffee), might enhance fat usage even greater, by increasing the amounts of fats circulating in the blood.

IMPORTANT: It should be used for endurance sessions (long and slow) and works perfectly if you’re following a Maff formula or similar (as per last week’s blog). Each person will differ, but eating no breakfast and drinking a bullet proof coffee would work perfectly for:

Endurance runs of 1-2 hours
Endurance cycles of 2-3 hours

The timescales will very much depend upon the experience and fitness of the athlete. If you are very well trained, you may well be able to do more on a single drink, but these are average timescales. You should not take any breakfast beforehand and you should not eat sports products or ingest any other form of energy during the run or ride. You should also ride at the correct intensity (as per Maff or similar).

What to do next?

Buy some filter coffee, or some beans and a grinder. Google MCT oil or MCT powder and purchase some online, then get some grass fed organic butter. If you don’t have a blender, don’t worry, just give it a good whisk with a fork!! Drink the coffee 30 minutes before exercise.

- Marc Laithwaite

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

Tromsö Skyrace, soul skyrunning between the sea and the sky

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The second edition of the Tromsö Skyrace to be held the first weekend of August in northern Norway was presented today. This year’s event will include a vertical kilometre race but will still keep the essence of the first edition: technical routes for lovers of skyrunning and a family atmosphere.

There will be a Skyrace, 45 km and 4,600m climb and a Miniskyrace, 21km and 1,600m D+. In addition, a new circuit has been added: a Vertical Skyrace of 2’6km and 1,044m D+. All of them are ‘very technical circuits designed for experienced runners who enjoy the wilderness’ declared athletes Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet who, once again, will be ambassadors of the event. This year the Skyrace and the Vertical Kilometre will score towards the Skyrunner® World Series, and some of the best athletes in the world will take part in it.

After the excellent reception last year, in which inscriptions were sold out within hours, the number of runners has been increased by 600 -200 per race- but not too many to crowd the race with runners, and always with the mountains taking centre stage.

Like last year, athletes will enjoy a route with the Norwegian fjords in the background as well as wild paths, technical trails and glaciers. A unique landscape in a race that remains very respectful of the environment and very familiar. The bond between the sea and the mountains, with participants from all over the world. Last year there were up to 25 nationalities present, and this number is expected to increase this year.

The event will have two star athletes: world champions Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet, who are very excited about this second edition ‘we are looking forward to returning to share those circuits, at a very special time when it never gets dark.’

Emelie and Kilian are actively involved in the Tromsö Skyrace by helping out the organizers, designing the circuit and in a rather curious and original way: by cooking cinnamon pastries for all participants. Emelie explained: ‘We want this to be a race where all runners feel looked after. Last year I had a great time cooking and sharing moments with the participants. The race is growing but we still want to maintain this spirit.’

Nature is the most important thing in the Tromsö Skyrace and, therefore, the environment is taken care of by marking the circuits with biodegradable tape, setting up the checkpoints in shelters and crossroads and avoiding paper notices.

Registration for this event, which is the dream of every Skyrunner, is now open.

The event will take place on July 31st, 1st and 2nd August 2015 and will be part of the Skyrunner World Series.

Registration for 600 places opens today and the event hopes to be as successful as last year.

A technical route in a unique setting with Norwegian fjords.

Images copyright Jordi Saragossa

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Iain Don Wauchope (aka Gandalf) writes about winning The Coastal Challenge 2015

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On Sunday, 25 January, at 15:30pm I departed my home in the Drakensberg, South Africa, and embarked on the longest and most challenging trip of my life. I finally arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, on Wednesday, 28 January. Actually, I only arrived at my hotel at 17:30 after taking 3 local buses from the airport to Poasito where I had booked a hotel room for the next few nights. In total, 82 hours had elapsed since I had left home! Not only was this trip long and testing in duration, it was extremely stressful and proved to be a bigger challenge than the actual trail running race that was the purpose of my trip to Costa Rica.

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The Coastal Challenge is a 6-day, 225km, supported trail run through the tropical rainforests of the South Western region of Costa Rica, Central America. All runners bring along their own tents, sleeping mats, sheets, mosquito nets etc. The organisers provide the meals, the overnight camping venues, transport for your bag, a well-marked route, aid stations on each day’s route and the usual back-up crew of media, medics, volunteers and logistics people. All runners are treated the same whether you are an international trail running legend or a local Costa Rican that the organisers haven’t even heard of before.

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For me, this race was a true test of perseverance and a reminder of how important it is to maintain a positive mental outlook no matter how bad the situation seems. I struggled for the first 2 days with headaches, my legs feeling lethargic, without rhythm and generally out-of-sorts. It felt as though my body was fighting off a bug or possibly still recovering from my arduous trip. Nevertheless, I kept plugging away and just tried to enjoy the journey and the beautiful surroundings. Despite how I was feeling and the results of each day, it was a privilege and honour to be in Costa Rica running through forests, rivers and beaches that most people would never get to experience.

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As it turned out, the final result of day 1 was not bad. Mike Murphy, the Canadian, was galloping off ahead in the lead, looking mighty fit, when he failed to see the course markings and continued in the wrong direction. As a result, I found myself in the lead and somehow managed to maintain that lead all the way to the end. It was extremely hot towards the end of the stage and it required a lot of mental effort to keep going all the way to the finish. I only had about 6 minutes on Ashur Yousseffi, a local Costa Rican, but about 14 minutes on Mike. There was no doubt that Mike was in great shape and the fastest runner on the day. I would have to keep an eye on him. As expected Karl Meltzer had started slowly and make good progress towards the latter stages. Joe Grant struggled in the heat, as did everyone else. I just seemed better able to adapt to the conditions and get to the finish quickest despite not feeling great.

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Day 2 started with a steep climb from our lovely overnight campsite at Rafiki Lodge. Mike immediately took the lead closely followed by Joe and I. While I kept an eye on Mike and Joe, I remained focused on myself maintaining a constant pace that I was comfortable with at that stage. By the top of the climb Mike and Joe had a few minutes on me and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see them again. So I continued to slog away up and through an overgrown track through the jungle, not feeling great but moving forward. By the 2nd check point / aid station, another local Costa Rican, Jeffrey Portuguez, had caught up to me while Mike had extended his lead to about 10 minutes. Joe was only 3 minutes ahead so I was hoping we could reel him in at some point. The section towards checkpoint 3 was flatter along a good gravel road but it was also getting very hot. Jeffrey dropped off the pace along this section but I was also suffering, so I stopped to buy a coke at a local shop. Shortly thereafter, at checkpoint 3, I was surprised to catch Joe; he had rolled his ankle badly and was hobbling along. We headed off together to tackle the last section along a long open beach; it was hot and we were both suffering a bit. It was great to have some company for this last stretch and I was very relieved to finally reach the end of day 2 alongside a new friend. Mike had a stormer of a run; he set a new stage record and finished almost 30 minutes ahead of us. That evening I mentioned to someone that the only way to beat Mike would be to chop his legs off! He had a 16-minute lead, I still wasn’t feeling 100% and he looked like he was ready to take on the world! Little did I know that he was having a few issues of his own that would soon escalate into more serious problems.

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Day 3 started in much the same way as the first 2 days. Mike sped off from the start and the rest of us followed. I needed a few minutes to warm up and then started feeling okay. I soon realised that Mike wasn’t gaining any more distance on me and I slowly caught up to him. I knew we had a rocky river section ahead of us and I suspected that I would be able to negotiate the slippery rocks better than Mike. As it turned out, this was a critical part of our race and the turning point of our dual. We arrived at the river section together. I focused on just getting over the rocks and through this river section as efficiently as possible. Mike, on the other hand, was struggling over the rocks and kept falling and slipping. He lost his sunglasses and most of his pre-mixed race juice. He grew increasingly angry with himself and I knew I should keep the pressure on by moving swiftly through this tricky section. After 10km, we arrived at checkpoint 1 together. The big difference was that Mike had expended a lot of energy up until this point. He was battered and bruised with numerous cuts on his legs, he had lost his sunglasses and his pre-mixed race fuel and, more importantly, this was now playing on his mind. Incidentally, I had also lost my cap but I didn’t worry too much about it. I filled up my bottles, grabbed some delicious fruit and then ducked off into the bush to alleviate a bit of diarrhoea.

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Soon thereafter, we trotted off from checkpoint 1 together and immediately started a climb out of the valley. Mike dropped back half a stride and then a full stride. I was feeling good so I increased my tempo slightly. I knew I had to take advantage while I was feeling good and Mike was struggling. Even though I was aware of Mike, I remained focused on myself realising that it was still a long way to go to the finish on day 6. I got into a comfortable rhythm, kept myself well hydrated and as cool as possible. Towards the end of the day we had a long beach section to negotiate. It was very hot and, without my peak, the sun felt more intense than usual. I attempted to make a plan with a large leaf to provide some protection from the blazing sun, but it only lasted about 500m. Despite feeling good at the start of the beach section, by the time I reached the other end of the beach I was suffering and really feeling the heat. To everyone’s relief, including mine, there was an Eden-like freshwater stream and plunge pool as the route left the beach and entered the forest. I submerged by body in the cool water, gulped down some oh-so-refreshing water and then started the slog up the steep forest track towards the final checkpoint. From there it was a blistering hot 4km stretch along tar towards the finish. I didn’t want to over-exert myself but I also didn’t want to lose any advantage that I had built up over Mike. Keep in mind that you have no idea of the time gaps between yourself and those behind you; I didn’t know whether Mike was 3 minutes or 30 minutes behind me and how he was feeling or moving. So I just kept trudging along towards the finish. I was pleasantly surprised to arrive in a new stage record time of 4:43, beating the previous record by almost 33 minutes. Mike arrived about 16 minutes later, also under the old stage record. Overall, I was now leading Mike by less than 2 minutes. The race was on!

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Day 4 was another big day starting with a long, steep climb and ending with a very steep descent with a total ascent of 2950m. Mike was a little more tentative at the start and didn’t go tearing off as usual. As soon as we hit the first climb he fell off the pace again. I applied the same strategy as in the previous stages; I kept going at a good, steady pace that I knew that I could sustain all the way to the finish. My body was feeling better each day and I was now in the groove of running on a daily basis in the hot and humid conditions. Interestingly, the long and steep descent towards the end of the day was actually very dry.

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It reminded me of running back home in South Africa with brown, dry grass and dusty paths. My legs felt very good over the last few kilometres and I had a nice spring in my stride. This was a good place to be after 4 days of tough running. In contrast, Mike was taking strain and had fallen again on his elbow. This elbow later became infected and added to his health issues. Nevertheless, he wasn’t giving up and kept persevering all day long. My time of 3:58 was more than 20 minutes faster than the previous stage record and almost 40 minutes faster than Mike. I know had a comfortable lead but anything can happen in a multi-day event so I didn’t want to take my foot off the accelerator.

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Day 5 was the last tough day and the longest in distance of the race. We were greeted overnight with some rain and started the day’s run in a gentle drizzle. The road conditions were good for the first 16 kilometres and with the cooler temperatures this made for a relatively fast pace. I was happy to tick along at my pace and soon found myself running alone up front. Shortly after the first check point the route headed onto a smaller forest road that had recently been graded. In fact, I passed the grader and other trucks at the start of this forest section. Consequently, the next section was very muddy and slippery. Even gentle gradients became almost impossible to run up. Instead of fighting through this section of about 16 kilometres, I once again focused on getting through the mud as efficiently as possible. Once I was through the slippery quagmire, I was able to pick up the tempo again and head towards the finish at Drake Bay. Despite the testing conditions I was very surprised to beat the previous stage record by 3 minutes. Unfortunately for Mike, this was the day that his body starting shutting down. He put in a huge effort just to reach the finish line unassisted but he was clearly in some serious trouble. The medics were very quick to attend to him and he was ultimately admitted to hospital the following morning with multiple health issues.

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Mike’s withdrawal from the race left the door wide open for Ashur and Roiny to fight it out for 2nd and 3rd place overall. The final day’s stage was only about 24 kilometres and in the end Ashur secured a well-earned 2nd place with Roiny about 10 minutes back in 3rd. I decided to run the last day just like I had run all the other stages and managed to set another stage record.

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In summary, I won 5 out of 6 stages, I set records in the last 4 stages and I set a new overall record by almost an hour. I surpassed all my own expectations and was very grateful that I did not experience any major problems. What appeared to be problems for me in the early stages were, in fact, minor in comparison to what others endured, especially Mike. The beautiful setting of the finish at Drake Bay, the wonderful people and fantastic weather (despite the humidity it’s great to be in the sun!) made my victory even more enjoyable.

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While any stage race over this distance requires careful body management, a distinguishing feature of this particular race is learning to deal with the very high humidity and high temperatures. As expected, correct hydration, nutrition and recovery are vital components of this jungle race. And don’t forget to look after your feet and to avoid infections from cuts and grazes while negotiating the trails! Most importantly, remember to maintain a positive attitude and enjoy the beautiful surroundings; Costa Rica has tremendous biodiversity and is a paradise waiting to be explored.

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All in all, The Coastal Challenge is a great event that tests your physical fitness and mental toughness to the maximum. However, what I will remember most about this unique event are the wonderful people that I met along the way. The local race organiser, Rodrigo Carazo is a gem. This guy has done some of the most amazing backpacking trips, adventure racers and explorations that I have ever heard about. Furthermore, he has a fantastic team of workers and volunteers, from the cooks to the medics to the aid station crew to the sweepers. A bunch of great people who have a single purpose, to make The Coastal Challenge as enjoyable as possible for each and every participant.

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Entries for the 2016 The Coastal Challenge are now available online.

Please go to tcccostarica.com and thecoastalchellenge.co.uk

 

Maffetone Formula for better endurance performance by Marc Laithwaite

Marc Laithwaite at Lakeland 100/ 50 2014

Marc Laithwaite at Lakeland 100/ 50 2014

In a new series of articles, Marc Laithwaite (The Endurance Store), endurance coach and regular contributor to Talk Ultra podcast will provide insight in how you can become a better endurance athlete by training smart and eating for performance.

In the first article, we look at the Maffetone Formula also known as ‘MAFF.’

 

The term ‘aerobic base’ is used widely in endurance sports but what exactly does it mean? To build aerobic base athletes will generally do long and slow distance to gain specific benefits, we consider those 2 key benefits to be as follows:

  1. Conditioning – Your legs deal with a great amount of impact every time they hit the ground, which causes muscle damage. In turn, this muscle damage will slow you down. The only way to prevent this muscle damage is to become accustomed to ‘time on your feet’. Hence, by slowing down and running long distances at a slower pace, you will ‘harden your legs’ and prevent damage. If you run too hard during your ‘base training runs’ you will not be able to run far enough to get the required ‘time on feet’ so slowing to the correct intensity is critical. It’s important to note that this applies to cycling also, whilst the impact isn’t the same, the repeated action of pedalling means that your muscles will break down, your hips will become tight and your back will ache!
  2. Metabolic Adaptation – Your muscle fibres will adapt and more closely resemble the ‘slow twitch variety’. One of the key changes is the ability to use fat as a fuel source and also to use less energy overall. These combined changes mean that you are less likely to run out of fuel during longer distance exercise. If you can change your muscle fibres so running out of fuel is unlikely, combined with your ‘hardened legs’ which don’t become damaged easily, you are ready for some serious endurance action.

So how slow should I run?

It’s very common for endurance athletes to get the ‘training zone’ thing very wrong. The key thing to remember is that variation is critical, so easy sessions to develop base should be easy and high intensity sessions to develop power should be extremely hard. Many athletes tend to drift into the middle ground where no training is really easy, no training is really hard, but pretty much everything is ‘moderately hard’.

What is the Maffetone Formula?

Made famous by Mark Allen who won the famous Iron War with Dave Scott in 1989. Allen had repeatedly failed to beat Dave Scott, always running out of fuel in the marathon stage. He turned to Maffetone who revolutionised his training, with the principal aim of enhancing fat burning to make him a more effective runner. Maffetone employs a maximum aerobic heart rate above, which you cannot exercise. Initially, athletes find it very frustrating as they will be running very slowly, but over time there are large benefits to be had as the base aerobic system improves.

What’s the Formula?

Subtract your age from 180.

Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:

If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same.

If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are thirty years old and fit into category (b), you get the following:

180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm).

If it is difficult to decide which of two groups best fits you, choose the group or outcome that results in the lower heart rate. In athletes who are taking medication that may affect their heart rate, those who wear a pacemaker, or those who have special circumstances not discussed here, further individualization with the help of a healthcare practitioner or other specialist familiar with your circumstance and knowledgeable in endurance sports may be necessary.

Two situations may be exceptions to the above calculations:

  • The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of sixty-five. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self-assessment is important.
  • For athletes sixteen years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best.

Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used as a training range. For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate were determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be 145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training at 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed.

Completing the Test:

Completing the test is simple, for running find a flat 3 miles course or complete 20 minutes. The simplest way is to find a running track as this makes distance measuring easier. Warm up for 15 minutes within the Maffetone Training Zone and then run 3 miles within the Maffetone Training Zone and record your time. You could use a flat circuit on road and use a GPS but variations in GPS accuracy mean that a running track is more accurate. Record your time for the 3 miles and preferably record your time for each of the mile splits. For the bike, it’s best done on a calibrated turbo training or riding to power. Warm up for 15 minutes in Maffetone Training Zone, then ride 30 minutes within the Maffetone Training Zone and measure average power or distance completed. Remember that the turbo and power meter needs to be calibrated or the accuracy is poor.

Practicalities:

You may find the run pace very slow and frustrating, if so, then you should take this as a positive, your base is very poor and you therefore have plenty of improvement to make for the 2015 season!! All of your easy mileage running should be done in the Maff Training Zone and the test can be repeated every 4-8 weeks. You should see an increase in speed and distance for the same heart rate as your base fitness improves. If you keep getting quicker, then don’t worry about speed work until the Maffetone training reaches a plateau. Develop your base as much as possible at the start of the year for maximum gains later.

On the bike, heart rate is generally lower than it is during running, so you’ll find the test a little less frustrating. In reality, the Maffetone Training Zone for cycling should be adjusted by reducing it between 5-10 beats (my opinion – you might want to incorporate it). This test is based on 180 minus age and we all know that maximum heart rate varies from person to person (220 minus age to calculate maximum has been widely criticised), but just go with it and try the formula, nothing is perfect!

We’d be keen to hear your feedback, go and give the test a try and let us know your progress. If you found this article useful, please share with your friends and re-post on Facebook or Twitter!

- Marc Laithwaite

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

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