Long Term Goal Setting and Planning for Ultra Running

The Long Term Goal

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Recently I have produced several articles that have been created to help runners formulate a plan for a new year of racing and training. The articles have been as follows:

  • Planning a Running and Racing Year HERE
  • To Base Train or not to Base Train HERE
  • Base Training HERE
  • How long should the long run be? HERE
  • In addition, I wrote several articles on walking and how important it is to practice this for:
  • Ultra running HERE
  • Walking with poles HERE
  • Walking efficiency when climbing HERE

Recently I was involved in a series of discussions about the Marathon des Sables, not the 2016 edition of the race but the 2017 edition of the race. One thing that became very clear is the panic and apprehension many runners feel about a goal that may well be a ‘one-off’ or lifetime goal.

Experienced runners will know how to goal set, they will know how to periodise and plan their training so that they hopefully arrive at a target event in peak form. This was discussed in Planning a Running and Racing Year (HERE). However, goals that go beyond one macrocycle (one year) require a much greater perspective and overview. If you are new to running, well, it can be just terrifying.

A great deal of advice can be extremely counter productive as it makes many runners feel inadequate, inexperienced, lacking confidence and in the worse scenarios even questioning if they should even go ahead with the race.

Let’s be clear. Everyone is an individual, I have yet to find two runners who need the same training plan or structure. However, certain scenarios work for all and it is with this in mind that I am writing this post.

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Why set a long term goal?

Long term goals provide incredible motivation to step out of the door and to train. You will have heard the saying, ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it!’

To that end, iconic races such as UTMB and Marathon des Sables, are races that for many are the ultimate race, they are races to be built up to and therefore a macrocycle is not enough time to prepare; hence long term goal setting.

Irrespective of experience, two key words come in to play when setting a long term plan: Structured and Progressive.

In this scenario, I am using goal setting for Marathon des Sables.

STRUCTURE

A macrocycle is one training year and this is broken down into mesocycles. It may sound like a fancy word but a mesocycle is a series of blocks of training that make up one macrocycle. For purposes of explanation, let’s assume that you are running the Marathon des Sables which takes place in April 2017.

I always recommend getting a year planner so that you get a big picture of what lies ahead. Fourteen months may seem like a long way off, it is, no need to panic, but also don’t become complacent. What’s important here is experience. I am therefore going to have two runners.

Runner A has run a marathon, runs to keep fit and has set the lifetime goal of Marathon des Sables. Priority is completion.

Runner B has been running for years, eats marathons for breakfast, races ultra races regularly and is going to Marathon des Sables as a challenge, to test him or herself and plans to compete over complete.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that runner A and runner B need completely different training plans and strategies. Keeping in mind that A has less experience, more insecurities and a great deal of anxiety about the big target, I will talk through the possible planning cycle for A.

Let’s break down the macrocycle. As I said, we have fourteen months to play with, so a schedule may look like this:

Phase 1: Feb, Mar, Apr, May with C race objective (marathon).

Phase 2: June, July, Aug with B race objective (50k to 50m).

Phase 3: Sep, Oct, Nov with A race objective (multi-day race)

Phase 4: Dec, Jan with B race objective and/ or specific warm weather training camp.

Phase 5: Feb, Mar.

Phase 6: Apr – A race.

Phase 1

Is all about consistent and regular running based on available time, ability and commitments. Set yourself a C race target for the end of this period. It could be a half marathon or even a marathon. It’s always good to have intermediate targets to work to and we often use C and  B races as stepping stones to an A race, in this scenario, Marathon des Sables.

Be realistic here, it’s important. Ask yourself a couple of key questions:

How many days can I train?

How many hours a week can I train?

We are going to assume that running three/four days is possible every week with a fourth/ fifth day for cross training and strength work. A microcycle (week) in phase 1 may well look like:

  • Tuesday – key day
  • Thursday – key day
  • Saturday – Cross training
  • Sunday – key day

In phase 1 we want to just walk, run or walk/ run and build a base of fitness from which to build. No need to rush in and panic. Be sensible and progressive. A safe way to do this is build for three weeks and on the fourth week rest and recover, Yes, rest and recovery is just as important as running.

Use the 10-20% rule and never add more time than this to each run. An example for the first month may look like:

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Over this phase, you would eventually cap the length of time for the Tuesday and Thursday runs at 60 to 90-minutes and the Sunday run would progress to 3-hours 30-minutes as follows:

 

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Use this system in phase 1 building week on week over four months to lay a great foundation of progressive miles and time on feet. If you have built progressively, your Sunday long run will have progressed to over three hours which puts you in a great place for a C run target.

A marathon would be a good C target at the end of phase 1. You wouldn’t taper for a race like this, it would be a training run that would be added to your plan.

Phase 2

You have phase 1 under your belt and the confidence of completing a C target. Phase 2 now builds and at the end of this phase you will have a B race target as a goal. This race should be challenging but not so challenging that it becomes intimidating or breaks you. If you ran a half marathon as a C race, then your B race could be a marathon. If your C race was a marathon, then your B race may be a 50k or up to a 50-mile race if you feel that training is going very well?

It’s also important now to think ahead to Phase 3 and an intermediate A race target that will motivate you and boost your confidence for phase 4, 5 and 6.

Also think about planning and booking heat chamber sessions or equivalent for the final build up phase just before the race; this usually takes place in the final 2-3 weeks and sessions go quickly.

In the UK, a race takes place in November called the Druids. It’s a three day race where runners take on a marathon for three consecutive days. It’s a perfect ‘mini’ Marathon des Sables scenario and a great opportunity to test clothing, pack, fitness and build confidence.

Assuming that four days training are still possible and that you have had no injury issues or problems, we can now progress training building on endurance in the long runs and adding some faster/ strength sessions during the week.

A week may look like this:

  • Tuesday – Hills.
  • Thursday – Speed
  • Saturday – Cross training and strength.
  • Sunday – Long run.

As in phase 1, progression is really important and the plan would actually change and evolve over this period with each month looking different.

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The above plan is a guide and this is where a run coach can step in and provide structure and remove the guess work away from how the plan is put together. It’s all about placing the right emphasis at the right place and at the right time.

You will see how month 3 changes from months 1 and 2 so that it is specific to the B target at the end of this mesocycle.

Phase 3

You have just completed your longest run in a B race, be that 50k, 50m or somewhere in-between and your confidence is sky high. You now have an A race on the horizon (November) that involves three back-to back marathons and suddenly your appreciation of what is required is much clearer. You respect the Marathon des Sables target but now it is less intimidating as you have moved your way up through logical and incremental steps.

Another three month phase of training that allows is to fine tune and hone in on the racing skills required.

As you may expect, phase 3 starts with recovery from your B race target. You will need to cross train or just run easy for 3-4 days. By the time the weekend comes around, you will feel as though recovery is well on the way, don’t rush. Take your time and the following week run easy Tuesday and Thursday for up to 60-minutes and then do 60 and a 90-minute run on Saturday and build on the Sunday run. An example of phase 3 is below. Please remember, YOU are an individual with specific needs and what I provide below is a possible structure leading to an A race in November.

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The A race at the end of November provides a significant marker in your training. The experience will allow you an opportunity to find out what worked, what didn’t work, how your kit worked, what was good, what was bad and so on.

December is now upon you and Phase 4 is an opportunity to look at weaknesses and work on them so that you are in great shape to take on Phase 5 which is the final period before your key race.

1. If you lacked endurance in your November A race, keep working on consistency and build endurance with time on feet.

2. If you lacked speed and want to run faster, December is a perfect opportunity to cut back on distance and long runs and add some speed work.

3. Due to the demands of running with a pack, running long and all the associated fatigue, make sure that you incorporate a strength and core routine to make you a stronger runner. It’s easy to say here, ‘I don’t have the time!” You do, cut down your run time on a Tuesday and Thursday and free up time for strength and core. Maybe you can even find an extra day in your week (Wednesday) to allow you to work on this. Alternatively, work on strength and core at home maybe while watching television? The time is there, you just need to find it and be creative.

4. Practice walking. Effective and fast walking is a key weapon to a successful race in any long ultra or multi-day race.

With a new year coming, April and the heat of the Sahara looms on the horizon. January provides a perfect opportunity for a warm weather training camp just as the weather is wet, miserable and cold in Europe.

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In conjunction with 2015 ladies Marathon des Sables champion Elisabet BARNES, we run a week long camp in Lanzarote that provides the perfect opportunity to test everything in a real situation. We even provide a bivouac experience. You can ready daily posts and view images from the 2016 camp HERE and you can listen to client feedback below:

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Phase 5 is the last phase and ultimately you have 6 weeks to get prepared and ready for your key race. If you attended a training camp you will now have a full appreciation of everything that you need to do. That may be changing kit, more time on feet, looking at nutrition or even a combination of all elements

Now is the time to make sure you have all your admin sorted – insurance, medical, compulsory kit and so on.

Don’t leave anything to chance now. If in doubt about equipment, contact MyRaceKit, they are able to provide expert advice in regard to everything that you will need.

Think about heat and how you will adapt. With luck, back in phase 2 or 3 you will have thought ahead and booked time in a heat chamber. Ideally this will take place in the final 2-3 weeks before the race. No sessions booked? Train in a gym with additional layers, take a sauna, do Bikram Yoga etc

Again, consistency is key here. You have been training for this long term goal for sometime, don’t do anything silly, don’t do a long run that is really long; you up your chances of injury risk. Remember, training is about ALL the sessions you have done and not just one session

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Phase 6 is race time.

Be organised, be prepared, think of everything and have the race of your life.

It’s in this final phase when you are so close that little things can go wrong. Be prepared as best as you can. You can’t account for the unexpected but reduce chances of anything going wrong by taking no risks.

The information provided above is designed to provide an outline and a guide on how to plan for a long term goal. Although you may be able to take this plan away and use it, please be sensible and assess your own experience, fitness and goals. Importantly, the scenario provided is with a multi-day race in mind, you would need to tweak and adjust this for a single stage race or a mountain ultra for example.

I can’t emphasise enough that we are all individual, so you need to find out what works for you.

Good luck.

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Lead From Behind by Niandi Carmont

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“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur.” – Nelson Mandela

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I just so love this quote by Mandela one of history’s truly great legendary and inspiring leaders. This guiding principle is what no doubt helped Mandela lead South Africa towards the democracy it is today, even from behind the secluded prison bars of Robbin Island.

Leading from behind is one of the most effective, rewarding and empowering leadership strategies. It goes against the traditional image we hold of great leaders, leading the troops from the front by setting the example.

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As a coach during a 2016 training camp for multi-day racing and specifically the Marathon des Sables (here), I had the opportunity to put this into practice. Marathon des Sables or “MDS” as it is affectionately called by most aficionados is a gruelling self-sufficiency multi-stage running event which takes place every year in April in the Sahara. The event is celebrating its 31st year this year and will gather over 1300 international participants at the start line on 8 April. Participants are required to carry a minimum weight of 6.5kg with a minimum calorie allowance of 2000Kcal/day covering a total distance of 250km with temperatures exceeding 45C over dunes, jebels and scorched sun-dried salt lakes.

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The pre-race training camp last week in Lanzarote provided participants with an opportunity to run long distances on consecutive days in the heat and on demanding terrain simulating that encountered in the Sahara. It also allowed them to test their equipment and exchange with coaches on nutritional and hydration strategies.

Attendees were divided into groups of differing ability depending on the objectives they had set themselves.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” — Sam Walton

Coaching one of the groups provided me with one of the most insightful weeks on leadership, mentoring and providing feedback. How do you support and develop each participant in the group giving them the self-confidence to learn and grow? This is where leading from behind comes in. At times I would be running ahead setting the pace. Then I would slow down and run in the group egging them on to the next landmark. Other times I would drop down to the back of the pack and let them set the pace. After all isn’t it all about a balance between pushing people outside their comfort zone because you know this is what will help them have the strength to face adversity in the challenge they have set themselves? Then again you also need to be there to monitor their progress and not push them beyond their limits or dampen their enthusiasm. A fine line!

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A good leader is also a good listener. Managers are advised to listen 70% and speak 30% when providing feedback. It is surprising what you learn from coachees when you listen actively. I learnt a wealth of useful information listening to each participant in my run group. Listening gave me a better understanding of the difficulties of each and everyone: ranging from juggling personal and professional commitments to finding the time to train, fitting training around consecutive business trips, adopting a healthy nutritional strategy with a demanding work schedule and business dinners, dealing with sports injuries due to increased mileage, apprehension of the unknown, fear of failure, professional stress impacting on training performance…the list is endless. But listening helped me to be specific in my advice.

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” — Rosalynn Carter

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A leader should also enhance competitiveness. Many in my group had set out with the objective of completing Marathon des Sables and getting that beautiful big shiny medal handed over to them by the race Director Patrick Bauer, ticking MDS off on their bucket-list of ultra-running achievements and adding it to their run CV. I know the runners in my group will cross that finish line but I also know that they can achieve much more. They showed that tenacity, grit and determination in training that will take them to the finish line at MDS.

“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men, the conviction and the will to carry on.” – Walter Lippman

And so my final message to my coachees after a week of learning from them about leadership, mentoring and providing feedback is:

“I won’t be there with you at the start-line although I’d love to be but I will be be tracking your progress live on-line and living every minute of the MDS experience with you.” – Niandi

 

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If you would like to join our 2017 Multi-Day Training Camp, please go HERE

View images from 2016 HERE

View daily images and summaries from 2016 HERE

Episode 105 – Eoin Keith and Matthew Laye

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This is Episode 105 of Talk Ultra. Niandi and Ian are back from a multi-day training camp in Lanzarote, The Spine winner, Eoin Keith tells us all about his race and we speak with Rocky Raccoon and Fling Race winner, Mat thew Laye.

00:01:05 Show Start

Lanzarote multidaycamp – Images story and here is some feedback from the participants:

Audio feedback HERE

Images and daily reports HERE

00:12:38 NEWS

ULTRA EASY 100k – Australia

1 – Sam Mccutcheon 10:36 new CR

2 – Grant Guise 11:28

3 – Nick Johnston 11:31

1 – Louise Clifton 13:08

2 – Veronique Chamberland 14:15

3 – Floortje Grimmen 14:49

Arrowhead 135

1 – Jim Reed and Scott Hoberg finished together in 37:20

1 – Carla Goulart 52:51

Emelie Forsberg is injured and out of the SkiMo season: 

“My cruciate ligament is broken. An accident in the first downhill and my season is over. It’s pretty shitty right now. I donno what to say more.”

Honk Kong 100

Francois d’Haene is back with superb win in freaky weather Hong Kong, he ran 9:32 for as new CR ahead of team mate Yan Long Fei 9:37and Gediminas Grinius 9:53 3rd.

Dong Li won the ladies race I’m 12:05 ahead of Liza Borzoi and Silvia Trigueros, 12:30 and 12:34 respectively.

Susie Chan ran a new ‘Guiness’ 12-hour record of 68.5 miles on a treadmill.

As this show comes out Tararwera is going on in New Zealand, it’s Rocky Racoon 100 this weekend, Ian Sharman is running and he said the trails are in good condition, I wonder, can he get close to his 12:44 of 2011? On Thursday Niandi and I head out to Costa Rica with 2015 MDS champion, Elisabet Barnes for The Coastal Challenge.

The season is starting to hot up!

00:21:30 INTERVIEW with EOIN KEITH

01:06:21 INTERVIEW Rocky Raccoon and Highland Fling winner MATHEW LAYE talks running and PED’s.

UP & COMING RACES

Argentina

Columbia Cruce de los Andes | 90 kilometers | February 11, 2016 | website

Australia

Queensland

Caboolture Historical Village Dusk to Dawn 100km | 100 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Caboolture Historical Village Dusk to Dawn 50km | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Tasmania

The Cradle Mountain Run | 82 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Brazil

1000 Miles | 1000 miles | February 09, 2016 | website

Chile

60K | 60 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

El Cruce Columbia | 103 kilometers | February 09, 2016 | website

Costa Rica

Adventure Category | 155 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Expedition Category | 230 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Finland

Lapland

66° North Ultra Race | 66 kilometers | February 19, 2016 | website

Roavve Polar Ultra 300 | 308 kilometers | February 19, 2016 | website

Rovaniemi 150 | 150 kilometers | February 19, 2016 | website

France

Aude

Gruissan Phoebus Trail | 50 kilometers | February 14, 2016 | website

Côtes-d’Armor

Défi Glazig (45 + 18) | 63 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Germany

Lower Saxony

Brocken-Challenge | 86 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

India

Gujarat

135 Miles | 135 miles | February 19, 2016 | website

160 km | 160 kilometers | February 19, 2016 | website

50 km | 50 kilometers | February 19, 2016 | website

Ireland

Kildare

Donadea 50K | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Italy

Marche

Maratona sulla sabbia – Ultra maratona | 50 kilometers | February 14, 2016 | website

New Zealand

Tarawera 100K Ultramarathon | 100 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Tarawera 60K Ultramarathon | 60 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Tarawera 85K Ultramarathon | 85 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Nicaragua

Fuego y Agua 100k | 100 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Fuego y Agua 50k | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Oman

Wadi Bih Run | 72 kilometers | February 05, 2016 | website

South Africa

Wild Coast Lite | 110 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Wild Coast Ultra | 270 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Spain

Region of Murcia

100 km | 100 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Sri Lanka

RacingThePlanet: Sri Lanka 2016 | 250 kilometers | February 14, 2016 | website

Sweden

Ice Ultra | 230 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Thailand

Thai Ultra Race | 140 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

United Kingdom

Cornwall

Arc of Attrition | 100 miles | February 05, 2016 | website

Devon

Coastal Trail Series – South Devon – Ultra | 34 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Oxfordshire

Thames Trot 50 | 50 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Surrey

The Pilgrim Challenge North Downs Way Multistage Ultra | 66 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Worcestershire

Hot Runner 14 in 7 | 590 kilometers | February 15, 2016 | website

Hot Runner 7 in 7 | 295 kilometers | February 15, 2016 | website

USA

Alaska

Little Su 50K | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Susitna 100 | 100 miles | February 13, 2016 | website

Arizona

100K | 100 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

50K | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Pemberton Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Ragnar Relay Del Sol | 200 miles | February 19, 2016 | website

Southwest 125 Ultra | 125 miles | February 15, 2016 | website

Arkansas

White Rock Classic 50K | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

California

American Canyon 50K Ultramarathon | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Jed Smith Ultra Classic – 50K | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Jed Smith Ultra Classic – 50 Miler | 50 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Sean O’Brian 100K Trail Run | 100 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Sean O’Brian 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Sean O’Brian 50-Mile Trail Run | 50 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Sean O’Brien 50K | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Sean O’Brien 50M | 50 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Florida

110 With Donna Ultra Marathon | 110 miles | February 14, 2016 | website

Destin 50K Beach Ultra | 50 kilometers | February 14, 2016 | website

Destin 50M Beach Ultra | 50 miles | February 14, 2016 | website

Iron Horse 100 km | 100 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Iron Horse 100 Mile | 100 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Iron Horse 50 Mile | 50 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Ragnar Relay Florida Keys | 199 miles | February 05, 2016 | website

Skydive Ultra 100M Run | 100 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Skydive Ultra 50 km Run | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Skydive Ultra 50M Run | 50 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Louisiana

Rouge-Orleans Ultramarathon & Team Relay | 126 miles | February 07, 2016 | website

Nevada

Jackpot Ultra Running Festival 100 Miler | 100 miles | February 13, 2016 | website

North Carolina

Uwharrie 40-Mile Mountain Run | 40 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Oregon

Bristow 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Hagg Lake 50k Trail run | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

South Carolina

Mill Stone 50K | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Rut Rogue 40s – 40 Mile 3-5 Person Relay | 40 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Rut Rogue 40s – 40 Mile Run | 40 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Texas

Cross Timbers Trail Runs 50M | 50 miles | February 13, 2016 | website

Piney Woods TrailFest 50K | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile | 100 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Rocky Raccoon 50 Mile | 50 miles | February 06, 2016 | website

Utah

Moab’s Red Hot 55K | 55 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Virginia

Holiday Lake 50K | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

The Wild Oak Trail 100 | 100 miles | February 13, 2016 | website

Virginia Beach Distance Races 100k | 100 kilometers | February 07, 2016 | website

Virginia Beach Distance Races 50k | 50 kilometers | February 07, 2016 | website

Washington

Orcas Island 100 | 100 miles | February 19, 2016 | website

Orcas Island 50K | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Woolley Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | February 13, 2016 | website

Wisconsin

John Dick Memorial 50K | 50 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

Venezuela

Ultra Laguna de Urao | 65 kilometers | February 06, 2016 | website

01:58:22 CLOSE

 

02:06:25

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Website – talkultra.com

Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 8

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Day 8 of the 2016 Lanzarote multi-day camp was a cracker. The hottest day of the week with little or no wind, a stunning coastal route with mixed terrain, volcano climbing and descending and of course, stunning views and amazing people.

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As on all previous days, we had three run/ walk groups. Everyone managed to cover somewhere between 20 and 35km and it was interesting to see how during the week, people progressed, not only in fitness but in regard to equipment, planning and preparation.

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We also pushed everyone out of their own comfort zones with some tough climbing, very technical terrain and challenging descents. It’s all about taking things up a notch so that when race day comes around, the runners are prepared.

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“Brilliant MdS training camp in Lanzarote with organiser, coach and photographer Ian Corless and MdS 2015 champion Elisabet Barnes. 100-miles run in the week with some excellent advice and support plus great people!” – Paul Allum

Paul’s thoughts were echoed by so many of the camp attendees. Elinor Evans in particular found the whole experience enlightening and invaluable. During the weekly runs, the overnight bivouac, the volcano walk and the daily talks, Elinor realised that she had the wrong pack for her, the wrong sleeping bag, a need to address her nutrition and look at her MdS admin. Invaluable!

“The Training Camp in my opinion was exceptional and far exceeded my expectations. The whole program start to finish pushed everyone to achieve their potential while taking into account the wide variety of abilities. All of the coaches were supportive and challenging and while clearly experts in their field never made novices like me feel stupid. The information we got was priceless and the blend of commercialism and a genuine desire to want to help people achieve their goal of competing or completing MDS was incredibly well done. I wouldn’t just recommend this to future MDS competitors I’d suggest you add it to your Compulsory Kit list! Simply brilliant!” – Simon Dunn

Listen to camp attendee feedback HERE

“Fantastic week in magical terrain with lovely people – thank you Ian, Elisabet, Niandi and Marie-Paule – Sahara countdown is ON.” – Elinor Evans

The morning run of 3-5 hours was followed with a relaxing lunch and then an afternoon Q&A which addressed many of the issues raised during the week and allowed everyone to clarify and appease their minds ahead of their next multi-day race.

The day finished with 20-30min cool down run and then an evening group meal and drinks. It has been an incredible week and one that has provided inspiration for all concerned. Roll on 2017.

‘How was your holiday?’ ask the lads at work. 

‘Amazing’ I say. ‘Look at these pictures’. ‘That’s how to round tape to ensure you minimize the risk of blisters’. Blank looks. 

‘See her? She’s the 2015 MdS champion putting the needle into my foot’. 

More indifference. 

‘Lads, this is the same you fat bastards going to Weston Karting centre at the weekend and Jensen Button turning up to do the safety briefing’. 

They still don’t get it. 
‘Did you learn much in Lanzarote darling?’. 

‘I certainly did. The WAA bag is a goner. It would be like taking a knife to gun fight. Ok, it would be like taking a clutch bag to an all day shopping trip. You know, when only a tote will do’. 

A nod of understanding, but really boredom turning to neutrality at best. 
‘Was it fun running Daddy?’ ‘It was. Midpack daddy is certainly going to need more fat than carbs to keep him going in the dunes girls’. 

‘Did you bring us back any sweets?’. 

‘No’. 

‘Can we watch TV?’ 
‘How was the volcano mate?’. ‘Wonderful. It was cold, but the stars were out and we all had an amazing time’. 

‘Get much sleep?’ 

‘Yes. In fact I’ve found it hard to sleep since without the sound of Elaine gently rustling inside her tent next to me’.  

These people don’t understand me anymore…. I miss #Lanzarote 
– Rich Carps

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If you would like to take part in the 2017 Multi-Day Training Camp, please go HERE

Many thanks for the support of MyRacekit, OMM, Raidlight, PHD. Scott Running, inov-8 and Berghaus.

“Really great few days, some invaluable experience and some valuable miles in the legs. Kit choice, food, packing the bag now all things I’m ready for. Thank you to the organisers and thank you to the fellow participants for making it such a nurturing environment in which to prepare for the MdS.” – Leon Clarance

Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 5

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It was day 5 of the Lanzarote 2016 multi-day training camp and what a day…

Leaving the resort at 0830, three groups covered 4-hours to 5hours 30-minutes on the challenging trails of Lanzarote in three groups: walking, walk/ running and running.

It was a tough day, the clouds cleared, the sky came a deep blue and the heat started to slowly rise but all the time it was masked by the ever present winds coming from Morocco.

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Starting at Club La Santa, the groups moved along the coastline, moved inland to Soo and then re-navigated back to the coast and the village of La Santa before heading out on new coastline. Lanzarote’s mixed terrain provides the perfect environment for a multi-day camp and today, camp attendees enjoyed a real mix os sandy access roads, volcano trails, climbing, coasteering, volcano climbing and then out-and-out technical dried lava.

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Elisabet Barnes from MyRaceKit and sponsored Raidlight athlete guided the ‘fast’ group over 5-hours and 15-minutes and although it’s her first time on the Canarian island, she is taken back by its unique beauty and its specific trails.

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“Lanzarote is just amazing. The climate and the trails are just perfect for Marathon des Sables training. La Santa and the surrounding area manages to throw everything at you that you will experience in a typical edition of the iconic Moroccan race, even down to the strong winds, variable heat and especially the mixed terrain. Soft sand, stoney ground, hard trails, tough climbs and beautiful views; what more could you ask for?”

Like any training camp, mixed abilities are catered for and Niandi Carmont has guided a run/ walk group and Marie-Paule Pierson (who recently competed Atacama) has guided and paced the walkers.

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After a midday break, the afternoon had a foot care seminar hosted by Elisabet Barnes where she clearly explained the pros and cons of specific foot treatments and she also provided some very clear and highly informative ‘taping’ workshops.

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Tomorrow is another long day with a 2-hour run at 0700, a seminar late morning and then in the afternoon a 2 to 3-hour run will be followed with an overnight bivouac.

If you would like to join our 2017 training camp, please go HERE.

Many thanks to Raidlight, OMM, inov-8, Scott Running, Berghaus, PHD and MyRaceKit of the support of this camp.

Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 4

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It was an active recovery day at the 2016 Lanzarote multi-day training camp. It was kicked off with a guided 3-hour walk through some of the islands most stunning volcano sections close to the Timanfaya National Park.

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Famous for it’s volcanic landscape, today everyone was able to appreciate up close how dramatic and tough these trails can be. Black lava sand, interspersed with jagged rocks but ultimately everyone was blown away with the dramatic and somewhat eerie vistas. In the early 1700’s, this area had six continuous years of volcanic eruptions that created this stunning landscape.

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Elinor Evans, a yoga expert undertaking Marathon des Sables for the first time in 2016 commented after the walk:

“It’s been a really special day in this environment. We have walked with our packs, covered some miles and in the process had a wonderful learning experience. It has been magical.”

It was a sentiment echoed by everyone in the camp and with 5-hours of running waiting for everyone tomorrow, the opportunity to walk today was welcome.

The evening discussion was all about food and hydration for multi-day racing and we discussed the different nutritional needs for someone who may be looking to compete, the mid-packer and the walker. Of course, it’s all very personal, but many similarities from all three scenarios crossed over providing all the participants with plenty of key and essential information that they can now take away and formulate their own strategies for their chosen race.

Tomorrow, Sunday, kicks off with a 5-hour run along a new coastal section that will involve some climbing, scrambling and of course a plethora of mixed terrain.

If you are interested in a multi-day training camp, our 2017 dates are set and you can view HERE

Many thanks to:

Raidlight, OMM, inov-8, Berghaus, PHD, MyRaceKit and Scott Running for the support with this camp.

Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 3

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The 2016 Lanzarote multi-day training camp really got underway today with a full day of activity. This morning was a 4-hour run or hike over some very specific terrain that provided every participant a full-on appreciation of what terrain they may encounter at a race such as Marathon des Sables.

Mitch Keene, on the training camp with his wife, said post run:

“It was great to experience the sort of terrain that we are likely to come across when we get to the real event. To understand what it is like to run in some deep sand. It was also great camaraderie on the run. It’s good to know that there is going to be people around you who are in the same sort of position as you are and learning from them. And then there is just some basic stuff like understanding that wearing very short socks is a bad idea when running in the sand. So really simple stuff that you think you know when you set off but don’t. The whole learning experience is phenomenal out here and I really enjoyed it.”

The morning session took a relatively flat run out over very mixed terrain (sand, rock, lava, dunes) in three groups. Elisabet Barnes leading the runners who are able to hold a faster and more consistent pace. Niandi Carmont leading the runners who will run and occasionally walk and then Marie-Paule Pierson leading a small group who intend to walk the whole event. Ian Corless moved from one group to the next.

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“It’s nice meeting people who actually want to talk to you while you are running. I have found it quite difficult taking up running again on my own and going to events on my own,” said Leon Clarance. “People are usually polite but today people were actually chatting about their own experiences and it was nice to meet some likeminded people.”

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At the coastal resort of Famara, everyone turned 180-deg and the re-traced along the coastline but this time taking in the small mountains and hills that back on to the sea in this area. At times rocky and technical, everyone had a real insight into the complex terrain that one may encounter in a multi-day event. At the summit, one or two runners experimented with foot care and treatment; a key element of successful multi-day competition.

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“It’s ben a real eye opener,” said Alan Guthrie. “I have been behind with my training and today I managed my longest session for some time in some very specific terrain that directly relates to my chosen event; Marathon des Sables. It’s been a tough session but I have loved every minute of it.”

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Post run stretching relaxed tired muscles and 2-hour break was followed with a talk and discussion called, ‘What goes in the Multi-Day Pack?’

And just when the runners thought it was time to relax and chill-out an ‘optional’ 20-30min shake out run fired everyone up for one last effort, making the day a very successful and tiring one. Evening drinks, relaxing chat and good food was extremely welcome. Tomorrow we have a structured group walk in the Timanfaya National Park in a series of volcanoes followed with a talk on nutrition and hydration.

Many thanks to MyRaceKit, Raidlight, OMM, PHD, inov-8, Scott Running and Berghaus for the support.

If you would like to take part in a multi-day training camp like this, dates have been set for 2017 and it’s possible to book HERE

Click on an image to view today’s gallery

Mark Gillett – A Tribute

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I lost a good friend at the weekend, Mark Gillett.

Taken away from us way to early in life, it was Mark who I experienced my first Marathon des Sables with. It was such a laugh, such a great moment in time. We hit it off immediately. We had similar humour, a mutual respect for each others work and we somehow managed to verbally abuse each other without upsetting each other.

As Steve Diederich and Kirsten Kortebein can confirm, the 2013 Marathon des Sables was such a great experience.

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“Today we lost a friend, some of you may have met Mark Gillett at previous MdS’s and recently at the MdS Expo a few weeks ago. He was a great supporter of the MdS, as a competitor, as a photographer / videographer and most of all as a great guy. Ian Corless and I have spent many a night with Mark crying with laughter – his humour was brutal and funny which contrasted his love for his daughter and life. He was hugely talented as a tennis player and a photographer, however it was his courage and zest for life that stood him apart. We will miss you Mark – Ian and I will drink a mug of shit brandy to your memory in April. – See you mate” – Steve Diederich

I think back to 2013, I shared a 4×4 with Mark, we worked from 5am to midnight everyday. We walked in the dunes, we chewed the fat discussing everything and anything. But most of all, Mark talked about Emily, his daughter. Jeez was he so proud.

Life is way to unfair. Beyond unfair, I can’t even to begin to explain how life chews us up and spits us out. My Dad left this world way to young, I have had several other family members and close friends leave us too.

Mark embraced everyday as his last and if he had one message it was about living life to the full. Something that I have embraced 100%. But Mark will live on in his work, his daughter and the people he has influenced.

Kirsten came to MDS wide eyed and a blank canvas. Both Mark and myself helped her (and took the piss). We had a great bond that has continued through the years but Mark took her under his wing, something that Kirsten has acknowledged:

“Mark, you piece of work. You beautiful, life-changing piece of work. You are so loved and will be so missed. There are no words. Thank you for everything.”

I have often wondered about Talk Ultra my podcast, and what value it will bring in future years. Yesterday I realised to a small extent its worth and value. I interviewed Mark in 2012 about Marathon des Sables as I was putting a special show together. With the approval of Emily, Mark’s daughter, you can hear that interview here, it is 15-minutes long.

Rest in peace Mark. You will be missed buddy.

Mark Gillett

Daddy, my absolute hero. 

I have watched you do so much. You were my tennis player, coach, photographer, explorer, writer, runner, cyclist, counsellor and father. You have taught me so many valuable lessons, and given me experiences that i will take through my life with me to help me become the best person that i can. You have inspired me, loved me and comforted me and i feel at peace with your love.

You tell me that when i was born, you held me and told me you wanted to show me the world. You have shown me the world and more than i could have ever asked. You have taken me to beautiful places and shown me the people that you loved, and that loved you dearly back. You always showed me your love, and did anything and everything for me. You showed me how to be a photographer and a tennis player, how to love myself and those around me, and most of all, you taught me that no challenge is too hard and that anything is possible. That i have no limits.

My precious father, i am lost for words. I cannot describe the pain i am feeling of losing you. But really, you will always be here. People like you never leave. You will never know how proud i am of you and what you have achieved, and to say i am the daughter of Mark Gillett is a blessing from God in itself. You will live on through me, my dear daddy. I just wish more than anything that we had more time.

Birdy is with me, and i know she loves and misses you dearly. She is a part of you that i now have to cherish and love, the same way you loved me.

Daddy i hope you know how much i love you. Rest up, and may your beautiful, kind soul rest in peace.

Your Ems

You can download the MP3 interview HERE if you would like to keep a copy

CALENDAR 2016 iancorless.com – Order now!

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The 2016 iancorless.com calendar is now available to order.

Price £20.00 (free postage UK)

Delivery is guaranteed on or before December 7th with the first batch of calendars being posted in early November. Numbers are limited and will be sold on a first come, first served basis.

To order a calendar please use the contact form below.

Featured races in the calendar are:

Marmot Dark Mountains, The Coastal Challenge, The Dragons Back Race, Marathon des Sables, Tranvulcania Ultramarathon, Richtersveld Wildrun, The Rut, Glen Coe Skyline, Ultra Pirineu, Everest Trail Race and the Dolomites SkyRace.

To order a calendar please tick the calendar box and then your preferred postal preference – UK, Europe or outside Europe (please tick only one postbox). You will receive an invoice via PayPal and once paid a confirmation.

BIG RED RUN Australia June 2016 – Entries Open

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Marathon des Sables celebrated 30-years in 2015. An amazing achievement. Just think about it, multi-day racing has been in existence for so many years. It’s a sign of how ultra running and the challenge of testing oneself over long distances and over multiple days is so appealing.

Racing is a word I like to use in a very casual way when I talk about ultra running. After all, only a very few runners can really race an ultra. The real story often is those who test and push themselves to see what is possible, to push a boundary, to achieve something that they thought impossible is what captivates me. Don’t get me wrong, I marvel at the front of the race but I can often feel a little removed from the supreme efforts.

Over recent years, multi-day racing has boomed due to several key factors:

  • It’s an opportunity to travel
  • It’s an opportunity to push boundaries
  • It may well be a once in a lifetime experience
  • It allows you to escape back to our primitive roots of survival and escape a material world
  • It affords an incredible opportunity to socialize with like minded people and create special bonds
  • You get memories that will last a lifetime

Imagine finding all of the above in Australia?

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The Big Red Run is the brainchild of Greg Donovan, a runner who ran the 4 Deserts and then decided he needed a 5th, back home, in Oz.

Taking on the classic multi-day racing format created by Marathon des Sables, runners at the Big Red Run will travel through the Simpson Desert on mainly untracked paths but gear is transported to each night’s camp allowing you travel each day without the burden of a heavy pack.

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Sleeping in tented accommodation for the entire race, the week is topped and tailed with accommodation at the Birsdville Caravan Park or Sports Hall.

Mixing sand dunes, gibber plains, salt lakes, clay flats and several station tracks, the Big Red Run is a true adventure. Camp will be near Big Red for the first 2 nights and on a gibber plain in a dune amphitheater for the next 2 nights. The final camp after the long day is on the Diamantina River just outside of Birdsville.

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Covering the classic distance of 250km in 6-stages the race is a great adventure into the Australian outback. 5 marathons and a long day of 84.39km make up the total distance for the race and if that is too much, a shorter race of 150km is available; The Little Red Run.

As with any race, the after party is a key element. Here in Oz they celebrate properly with a concert. Yes, runners gain entry into the ‘Birdsville Big Red Bash Music Festival’ that coincides with the end of the race.

Attracting a global audience, the Big Red Run in 2016 is inviting past winners to rejoin the race and to increase the competition, 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies champion, Elisabet Barnes will toe the line.

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Entries for this unique experience opened on the 16th September 2015 and places are limited.

I caught up with Greg Donovan, the Big Red Run race organizer in a one-to-one interview to find out about him, his history and of course the Big Red Run – Listen HERE

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Elisabet Barnes needs no introduction to a worldwide or UK audience, her rise in the sport in the past 12-months has been quite incredible. Speaking about the Big Red Run she said:

“I am really excited to be taking part in the Big Red Run. It will be my first time in Australia and getting the opportunity to experience it through a multi-stage desert race is just fantastic. Greg Donovan, the race director, has extensive experience from other multi-stage races around the world and he has created a truly unique event, aiming to offer the best possible experience to the participants. Having heard the feedback from previous entrants I can’t wait to head out to the Simpson Desert!”

Elisabet Barnes at the 2015 Marathon des Sables

Elisabet Barnes at the 2015 Marathon des Sables

In conjunction with Elisabet, iancorless.com is running a multi-day desert training camp in late January that will provide a perfect opportunity to gain information and train specifically for a desert race such as Marathon des Sables or Big Red Run – Details HERE

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Entries close on May 5th for the Big Red Run and all entrants who enter before January 16th will obtain an early bird discount.

Entry details are as follows:

Be sure to get in early and take advantage of the early bird specials outlined below which apply to both Australian and overseas participants!

All competitors and volunteers receive free tickets to the Birdsville Big Red Bash music festival on 5th and 6th July valued at over $300! Festival details to follow in late 2015.

Payment Installments

Register by 31st October 2015 Deposit $500 Balance8th April
Register 1st November 2015 to 16th January 2016 Deposit $1000 Balance 8th April*
Register 17th January 2016 onwards Full entry fee payable  on registration
ENTRIES CLOSE 15TH MAY 2016

* Balance of entry fees will be invoiced and payable by 8th April 2016. Entry fees can be paid by direct transfer or credit card. Credit card payment will incur a 2.5% surcharge.

Early Bird Offers

For all entrants who register BEFORE 16th January 2016

Early Bird extras include

  • $100 entry fee discount
  • Helicopter flight voucher valued at $60
  • Big Red Run fleece valued at $60
  • Big Red Run casual T Shirt valued at $40

Total Early bird extras valued at $260. Early bird packs will be sent by 29th February 2016.

UK and European entrants can find out key information HERE. Pricing is as follows:

Overseas Fundraiser: AUD $2,850
Overseas Non Fundraiser: AUD $3,200

Please use the contact form below to express an interest in the race or book a place.

All images ©alisonstepens / ©bigredrun