10 Top Tips for Multistage and Multi-Day Racing

Running is running yes? Anyone can do it! Well I guess the answer is yes. However, variables come in to play. Running is broken down into many different distances, from 100m to 100-miles and beyond. The longer we run, the more the challenges and requirements on a runner change. Running for multiple days or running a multistage race on mixed terrain throws up many different scenarios. Over the years I have spoken with many champions who have raced in the sands of the Sahara, the forests of Costa Rica and the mountainous paths of Nepal. They all provide me with similar hints ’n’ tips to a successful multistage race.

TOP 10 TIPS FOR A MULTISTAGE

1 – RUNNING IN THE SAND

Desert races are very popular. Marathon des Sables for example is the father of multistage racing and over the years, many races have followed in the MDS format. A desert race is never all dunes but some races have more soft sand than others, so, be prepared. To avoid getting tired it’s important to read the terrain. Carve your own path running on fresh sand and when possible, run along the ridges. In smaller dunes (dunettes) it can be beneficial to run in tracks left by others, at all times, run light as though running on ice – you don’t want to sink in the sand!

2 – HYDRATION

Dehydration is a real risk in any race, particularly a self-sufficient race where water is rationed. The risks of dehydration increase when the mercury rises and a lack of cover comes. A desert for example will be open, have intense heat but humidity will be low. By contrast, a jungle such as those found in Costa Rica may well have plenty of tree cover and streams to cool off in but the humidity will be through the roof. In both scenarios it’s important to drink regularly. Take small and regular sips of water and supplement lost salt with salt tablets. Races like Marathon des Sables provide salt tablets at aid stations and they recommend dosage. Other races you will need to think of this and plan accordingly. Also think about food choices on the trail and when in camp – food rich in minerals and salts will also help you. Importantly, multistage racing is about management from day-to-day and this is what can trip people up. Think about the event as a whole and make sure you recover after each day – rehydrating is as important post a run as when running.

3 – BLISTERS

Many a multistage race is ruined by bad personal management of feet. Think about this well in advance of the race by choosing socks and shoes that work for you. Also choose shoes appropriate for the terrain you will be racing on. A shoe for MDS will be very different to a shoe for the Himalayas for example. By all means take advice on shoes from previous competitors BUT you are unique and your needs are unique. Do you pronate? Do you supinate? Do you need a low or high drop? Do you prefer a cushioned shoe or a more minimalist shoe? What about grip, do you need any? Do you need to fit gaiters? The questions can go on and on and only you can make a choice. If all this is new to you. Go to a running store that understand runners and can provide expert and impartial advice. They will assess you and your run style and provide advice. One consideration for multistage racing is that your foot ‘can’ possibly swell due to variables such as heat, running day-after-day and so on. Your foot will not go longer, but it may go wider. So, think about shoes that have some room in the toe box. Don’t purchase shoes that are 1 or 2 sizes larger – this is poor advice. Larger shoes will only allow your foot to move… a moving foot causes friction, friction increases the risk of soreness and soreness will lead to a blister. Also think about walking. Many people choose a shoe because they are good to run in… But how do they feel when you walk? Remember, a multistage race can involve a great deal of walking!

Do you have sensitive feet? If so, you can prepare your feet in the run-up to an event. Also make sure your nails are trimmed back. While racing, if you have blisters, stop and get them treated as soon as possible. Take responsibility and learn basic footsore before an event. You need to make sure you can make any necessary treatments. Finally, many races have a medical team that are provided to look after you and your feet. Don’t hesitate to use them, but remember, there may be a big line waiting. Self-care is an excellent way to make sure that you are ready to run in your own timeline.

4 – BALANCED PACK

Not all multistage races are the same. The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, for example, is not self-sufficient so a runner only needs to carry liquid, snack food and any ‘mandatory’ kit. By contrast, a self-sufficient multistage race requires you to carry everything. A simple rule is keep everything as light as possible and keep your pack balanced. Luxuries really are luxuries in a race over multiple days so really ask yourself, do I need to take that? You will need mandatory kit as specified by the race and in addition you will need (as a guide):

  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping matt
  • Warm layer
  • Spare socks
  • Food (minimum calories are specified per day)

Clothes, shoes, hat, sunglasses –  but you will be wearing these so they don’t go in the pack.

That’s it. Keep it simple and if at all possible, get your pack with its contents as close the minimum weight as specified by the race.

By general consensus, a luxury item is considered a music player (or 2) such as an iPod shuffle.

Also remember that minimum pack weight will be without water, so, if your pack weighs 6.5kg, you will have to add 1.5kg on the start line on day 1. This is where a front pack or a pack where bottles sit on the front works really well. Bottles on the front help balance the front and the back and provide a greater running experience. Also, think about items your need whilst running… it’s not a good idea having them in the back, they need to be at the front so you can access them ‘on-the-go!’

Many packs are available to choose from and you will see two or three are very popular – WAA, Ultimate Direction and Raidlight. Choosing a pack is light choosing shoes; we are all personal. However, keep a pack simple, make sure it’s comfortable and make sure it has little or no bounce when running/ walking.

Consider joining a multistage/ multi-day training camp HERE

5 – PROTECT FROM THE SUN

The sun can be a killer in any race, single stage or multistage – use sun protection and apply it daily. Also use products like arm coolers, a hat and a buff. At aid stations or whilst racing, you can keep these wet which will help cool you. Particularly the buff. If you overheat, slow down and apply cold/ water to the back of the neck. Use UV protective clothing and the jury is out on if clothing should be tight or loose. This often comes down to personal preference.

6 – EAT WELL

Any multistage race is quickly broken down into three phases – running, eating and sleeping. Food is a really important part of any race as it has to perform many functions. Most importantly, it has to sustain you so you will need carbohydrate, protein and fat. Individual requirements will vary but carbs will restore energy, protein will repair and fat is essential as this is one of the primary fuel sources for a multistage race. Remember though, our bodies have an unlimited reserve of fat. It’s important to understand that your diet whilst training may well be very different to when racing. In training you may well have eaten less carbs to teach your body to use fat, but when racing, you need to recover and be ready to run/race again the next day. Have variety in your food as your palette will change with fatigue, dehydration and heat. Real foods are good but dehydrated food also has a place. You also need to decide if you will require a stove for heating water? Don’t think twice about stepping up a little on the organization’s requisite minimum daily dose of 2,000 calories a day, remember though, it’s all weight!

7 – REST

Rest is crucial and how much you get will depend on how fast you run. Front runners have no shortage of rest time, however, those at the back of the race get minimal rest. Make sure you have a good sleeping bag that is warm enough for you and is as light and packs small as possible. You can save weight by not carrying a sleeping matt – general consensus says that carrying one is worthwhile as sitting and sleeping is much more comfortable. Matts come in two types: inflatable or sold foam. Inflatable matts work really well, pack small but you run the risk of a puncture without diligence. Foam matts won’t puncture but they can be bulky.

Make sure you have a warm layer for comfort, temperatures drop with darkness. A jacket (usually down) will also allow you to add warmth while sleeping if required. A lightweight sleeping bag and down jacket is preferable (by general consensus) over a combination sleeping bag that turns into a jacket. A jacket and bag offers flexibility, weighs less and packs smaller but will be considerably more expensive.

8 – PACE

Remember that you have entered a race that lasts multiple days. Spread your effort and have the big picture in mind – pace yourself. Don’t set off too quickly and consider race profiles, distances and cut-off times. YOU take responsibility of when you need to be at checkpoints. A day with a great deal of climbing, soft sand or technical train will take longer, allow for this and be prepared. Most multistage races have a long day and it’s fair to say it is the most feared day – keep some energy back for that day. Remember, the long day often has a generous time allowance so don’t be worried by taking a sleep break midway through.

9 – KEEP ON TRACK

Most races will have markers for you to follow but be sensible and self-aware of the challenge. If a race requires you to carry a map and compass, then please understand how to use them. Carry a Spot Tracker for safety and if you use a GPS such as Suunto or Garmin, remember that these watches plot a route that you can use to backtrack. In a race like MDS it is difficult to go off course due to the volume of people, remember though that dunes are not way-marked and you will be given a bearing to run off. If you are alone or in the dark, an understanding of how this works is a positive.

10 – ENJOY IT

A multistage journey often offers so much more than any single-day race. It’s an experience like no other and friends made in the desert, jungle or mountains will stay with you forever. Also remember that this journey is a hark back to a more primitive and simple time – embrace that. Leave gadgets at home and live a simple life for a week – I guarantee it will change you!

contributions from

Elisabet Barnes, Danny Kendall, Jo Meek, Nikki Kimball and Laurence Klein

The Coastal Challenge 2020 #TCC2020

The 2020 ‘The Coastal Challenge’ is upon us! Six days, 230.5km of racing and 9543m of vertical gain, 9413m of vertical descent – TCC is more than a challenge!

Hugging the coastline of the tropical Pacific, TCC is the ultimate multi-day experience that weaves in and out of the Talamancas; a coastal mountain range in the Southwest corner of this Central American country.

The terrain is ever-changing from wide, dusty and runnable fire trails to dense and muddy mountain trails. Runners will cross rivers, boulders, swim through rivers, pass under waterfalls, survive long and relentless beaches and finally finish in the incredible Corcovado National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning final loop around Drake Bay before departing for their journeys home via speedboat.

The Race:

Stage 1 34.6km 1018m of vert and 886m of descent

Stage 2 39.1km 1898m of vert and 1984m of descent

Stage 3 47.4km 1781m of vert and 1736m of descent

Stage 4 37.1km 2466m of vert and 2424m of descent

Stage 5 49.8km 1767m of vert and 1770m of descent

Stage 6 22.5km 613m of vert and 613m of descent

Total 230.5km – Vertical 9543m/ Descent 9413m

Stage 1

It’s a tough day! Runners depart San Jose early morning (around 0530) for a 3-hour drive to Playa Del Rey, Quepos. It’s the only day that the race starts late and ‘in the sun!’. It’s the toughest day of the race, not because the the terrain or distance, but because of the time of day! The runners are fresh and feel great. That is until about 10km and then they realise the heat and humidity is relentless. It’s a day for caution – mark my words! The 34.6km is very runnable with little vertical and technicality, it welcomes the runners to Costa Rica.

Stage 2 

From here on in, it is an early breakfast, around 0400, the race starts with the arrival of the sun! The only way is up from the start with a tough and challenging climb. It’s a tough day with an abundance of climbing and descending and a final tough flat stretch on the beach, just as the heat takes hold.

Stage 3

It is basically 25km of climbing topping out at 800m followed by a drop to sea and a final kick in the tail before the arrival at camp. For many, this is a key day and maybe one of the most spectacular.

Stage 4

It’s another tough start to the day with a relentless climb, but once at 900m the route is a roller coaster of relentless small climbs and descents, often littered with technical sections, rain forest, river crossings and boulders. At 30km, it’s a short drop to the line and the finish at 37.1km.

Stage 5

The long day but what a beauty! This route was tweaked a couple of years ago and now has become iconic with tough trails, plenty of climbing, sandy beaches and yes, even a boat trip. The finish at Drake Bay is iconic.

Stage 6

The victory lap! For many, this stage is the most beautiful and memorable. In just over 20km, the route manages to include a little of all that has gone before. It’s a stage of fun and challenges and one that concludes on the beach as a 2018 medal is placed over your head – job done!

THE 2020 ELITE LINE UP

Katlyn Gerbin

Kaytlyn joins the line-up of the 2020 TCC with an extremely solid and consistent resume, known in Canada and the USA for a string of top performances, it was a podium place (2nd) at Transgrancanaria that introduced her to worldwide attention. Winner of the Pine to Palm 100 in 2016, Kaytlyn has mixed races distances for the last 3-years, excelling at 50km and 100km with victories at Gorge Waterfalls and Sun Mountain amongst others. In 2017 she won Cascade Crest 100 but her calling cards are 4th place and 2nd place at the 2017 and 2018 Western States.

Manuela Vilaseca 

Is a last-minute entry to the race but that is no problem for the experienced ultra-trail and mountain runner. In November, she once again made the podium at the Everest Trail Race. She has two top-10 finishes at UTMB and a high-ranking in the UTWT. Born in Brazil, Manuela will embrace the Pura Vida approach of The Coastal Challenge.

Abelone Lyng

Hailing from Scandinavia, Abe has gained a reputation in just 4-years for tenacity in ultra-trail races. She recently won the 230km Ice Ultra in the Arctic wilderness and placed 4th overall. TCC no doubt will give this cold weather expert some new challenges but Abe embraces a challenge!

Rebecca Ferry

Becks, as she is known to her friends, has gained a reputation in recent years for achieving great results, be that Everest Trail Race or on the UK trails setting course records. She comes to the TCC with excellent experience of multi-day racing and is a prime contender for the podium.

Brittany Peterson and Kelly Wolfe were due to race and both have sustained injuries preventing participation in the 2020 race. Brittany however will still join us in Costa Rica.

MEN

Cody Lind

Cody has been racing for some years, but may well have only come on your radar after 2017 with a very committed foray in the Skyrunning circuit – He placed 8th at Tromso in 2017 and then followed the SWS circuit racing on iconic courses throughout the world. Recently he raced them Rut in the USA and came away with victory. Cody manages to mix speed and technical ability, it’s a perfect mix for the trails in Costa Rica.

Andy Symonds 

Andy is one of the UK’s greatest mountain runners. He has traditions in fell running and has mixed Skyrunning and ultra-running throughout a long and successful career. He recently placed 5th at UTMB after 3 attempts. He has raced Marathon des Sables and placed in the top-10 but Andy will always be considered a mountain specialist. He has won Lavaredo, placed 3rd at Marathon Mont Blanc, 5th at Transgrancanaria and has represented his country at many World Championships. The technical and demanding trails of Costa Rica with plenty of climbing and descending provide Andy a perfect playground.

Mauricio Mendez

Mauricio is a rising star from Mexico who is currently an Xterra World Champion. He joins TCC as somewhat as a dark horse but no doubt he will be the hope of the locals. He started running because of his Father and in his own words, is a dreamer!

Julien Chorier unfortunately, took a fall in training and sustained a fracture and therefore is unable top race in the 2020 edition of the race. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope he can join TCC2021. Jordi Gamito should have toed the line at the 2019 TCC but injury prevented his participation and once again, while training in Africa over Christmas, he has sustained a knee injury which unfortunately will keep him away from the race.

The 2020 TCC starts in February as runners from all over the world will assemble in San Jose before transferring to the coast for stage 1 of the race starting on Saturday 8th. Year-on-year, the TCC has grown to be one of ‘the’ most iconic multi-day races. 

#TCC2020
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the INTERVIEWS Season 1-Episode 6 : Dean Karnazes

Dean Karnazes born Constantine Karnazes; August 23, 1962, is an American ultra-marathon runner, and author of Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, which details ultra endurance running.
Karnazes has completed a plethora of endurance events, most notable achievements include:
  • Ran 350 miles (560 km) in 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleep in 2005.
  • Single-handedly completed “The Relay”, a 199-mile (320 km) run from Calistoga to Santa Cruz, eleven times
  • Ran a marathon to the South Pole in −13 °F (−25 °C) temperatures without snowshoes in 2002
  • Ran a marathon in each of the 50 states in 50 consecutive days in 2006
Other athletic achievements include:
  • Winner (male), Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles (217 km) across Death Valley in 120 °F (49 °C) temperatures), 2004 (with five other top-10 finishes from 2000-2008)
  • Winner, Vermont Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run, 2006
  • Overall Winner, 4 Deserts Race Series, 2008
  • American Ultrarunning Team, World Championships, 2005, 2008
  • 148 miles (238 km) in 24 hours on a treadmill, 2004
  • Eleven-time 100-Mile/1 Day Silver Buckleholder at the Western States Endurance Run
  • Ran 3,000 miles (4,800 km) across the United States from Disneyland to New York City in 75 days, running 40 to 50 miles (65 to 80 km) per day, 2011
Other honors include:
  • Competitor magazine Endurance Athlete of the Year Award winner, 2008, 2006, 2005
  • ESPN ESPY Award winner, “Best Outdoor Athlete”, 2007
  • Men’s Journal, Adventure Hall of Fame, 2007
  • Outside magazine, Ultimate Top 10 Outdoor Athletes, 2004
First recorded in 2012
Episode 0h 38m 46s
Talk Ultra back catalogue HERE
*****
Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
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Download links will be added in due course.
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*****
TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
*****

Mount Toubkal and the Atlas Mountains in Winter

Located just 75-minutes’ drive from Marrakech (approximately 40-miles) the Toubkal National Park and Jebel Toubkal(4167m) is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains. It is also, the highest peak in North Africa and the Arab World.

 Toubkal has two-seasons, Winter and Summer. In winter, summiting the peak brings new challenges as it is completely covered in snow. Winter mountain skills are required, and the use of crampons is essential.

I wrote an in-depth article about visiting Toubkal in summer months HERE and some of the information from that article is repeated below.

PRACTICALITIES

The gateway to Toubkal is Marrakech which is less than a 90-minute journey away from Imlil via taxi or private car. Imlil is the starting point for any adventure in the Atlas Mountains with a small village of restaurants, shops and hotels.

Flights to Marrakech are abundant and many budget airlines offer great prices, particularly if one can travel on a weekday.

If you have not been to Morocco before, I strongly recommend staying in Marrakech for several days before and after any trip to the Atlas. Even now, after multiple trips to the region, I still enjoy a pre/post stay in a Riad (local traditional hotel) to help provide some luxury and RnR either side of a strenuous hiking/ climbing period. There are many Riads in Marrakech all offering something unique and prices vary considerably, my favourite is the Dixneuf La Ksour which has only 6 rooms.

If you have been to the region before and want to maximize time, it is of course possible to land in Marrakech, get a taxi at the airport and be in Imlil within 2-hours. Riads in Imlil are very inexpensive and I have stayed at the ‘Riad Atlas Prestige’ on all my trips – it is inexpensive and offers great food.

A taxi to Imlil will be approximately 40 euro and a private car, usually arranged by your Riad will be 80 euro. 

TOUBKAL and the ATLAS MOUNTAINS

If you have not been to the region before, it would make sense that you visit the area in the non-winter months when hiking/ climbing is much easier and very predictable.

Please note! You now MUST have a guide for any treks/ climbs in the region. This was a rule imposed in late 2018. There are currently three passport checkpoints on the way to the refuge. This in time will change with one new police checkpoint that is currently being constructed just before the entrance to the National Park.

Our guide, Mustafa

The refuge at Toubkal is a great place to plan a booking as you are able to arrange a guide and a bed at the refuge all in one email. Hamid is my contact who is always helpful.

refugetoubkal@gmail.com – Liaise with Hamid.

Refuge Tariffs (Jan 2020):

  • 34.5 euro per person per night full board (Dinner, breakfast and lunch)
  • 29.5 euro per person per night half board (Dinner and breakfast)
  • 19.5 euros per person per night (without meals) 

The refuge can also arrange the following for you:

  • Transport from and back to Marrakech
  • Accommodation in Imlil
  • Mountain Guide 

A guide will be approximately 50-80 euro per day and is payable in Euro (cash only).

CLIMBING and TREKKING

Toubkal is considered an entry level 4000m peak and as such it is a great place for training and gaining experience, particularly in summer.

In winter, it is still considered an entry level 4000m peak, however, far more equipment is required and some exposure to harsh winter environments would be strongly recommended.

In summer one can usually wear shorts and t-shirts during the day but it is essential to have trekking pants, a warm upper layer, waterproof jacket/ trousers, hat and gloves at a minimum for any summit treks. Poles are for many an essential item too!

Winter is completely different, and the environment can be very harsh and dangerous. One needs to be prepared for conditions that can be below -20 with very strong winds, thick snow and a great deal of ice.

At a minimum you will need:

  • Merino base layer, top and bottom.
  • Trekking pants.
  • Mid-layer thermal top.
  • Down or Primaloft upper insulation.
  • Gore-Tex or equivalent out layer, top and bottom.
  • Very warm gloves. Probably with inner Merino layer.
  • Very warm socks, usually two pairs made up from inner Merino and outer mountain sock.
  • Climbing boots suitable for harsh winter than can take a mountain crampon – La Sportiva G5 as an example.
  • Crampons.
  • Ice Axe.
  • Poles.
  • Pack.

Sleeping bag (the refuge is usually quite warm (in the sleeping dorm), so, with a merino base layer, a bag with comfort to -5 should be ok). 

ROUTE TO THE REFUGE

 Imlil to the refuge is designed to introduce you to the terrain and slowly adapt you to the altitude. Imlil is at 1800m and the ‘Les Mouflons’ refuge is at 3207m. Depending on experience and adaptation, Imlil to the refuge can take 3-6 hours.

Leaving Imlil, you have a narrow trail that rises quickly to a road and then the village of Aroumd. Here you will meet the first passport control and then you cross a floodplain before starting the climb to the refuge. The terrain is rocky and rough but not dangerous. Chamharouch is the next passport control and here you will see a large white rock that is a Muslim Shrine. Here it is possible to by water, food if required and soft drinks such as coke.

Depending on the time of year and how harsh the winter has been, snow may already be present on the trail. Usually, just wearing trekking shoes or boots is fine to the refuge, however, it can be possible to need to add crampons in a harsh year, so, make sure they are easily accessible from your pack when you leave Imlil.

Passport check point

The path now climbs steeply and gently reaches upwards, once again the terrain is rocky. You will arrive at two disused building that now sell drinks and here is the 3rd and final passport check. Before you know it, you will arrive at the refuge located at 3207m.

Depending on what you have arranged with your guide, you will have a meal at the refuge and then you will stay in a shared dorm with all the other climbers. These dorms are often unisex, so be prepared. You also need to be self-sufficient in terms of sleeping bag, additional clothes and warm layers. Everyone usually sleeps by 8/9pm. Bring wet wipes/ toilet roll as this is not provided at the Refuge.

Dinner is typically served at 1830 and offers soup, bread, a carb rich main meal with protein, fruit dessert and tea. A shop is available to purchase soft drinks, water, chocolate and other items.

Breakfast is bread, mixed jams/ honey, soft cheese and a selection of drinks. Depending on one’s plans, breakfast is often served from 0400 through to 0900.

Lunch is served on request.

ROUTE OPTIONS

TOUBKAL

The standard Toubkal summit day will typically start at 0400 with breakfast and the intention will be to start the climb asap. Sunrise is approximately 0810 (+/-) in winter, so, depending on your projected speed, the guide will advise on a departure time so you can climb from 3207m to 4167m and arrive at the correct time to experience sunrise.

Note – It is dark for pretty much all the climb and very, very cold. How cold depends on many factors but be prepared! Ambient temperature may be -10 but in the wind chill this can easily be beyond -20.

The trail goes straight up often zig-zagging to ease the gradient. The snow and ice can be unpredictable, and crampons are essential. The use of poles is highly recommended and the carrying an ice axe is in my opinion compulsory. You may very well not need it, but better to have one just in case.

 Once at the saddle, the trail goes left and right. Here you go left for a final push to the summit. On a clear day, the views are magnificent and if you time it correctly, the sunrise can be truly magical. The terrain here is not as steep but depending on route options, it can be a little more technical.

Most arrive at the summit between 0745 and 0900 to experience the winter sunrise. Depending on the day, hanging around is usually not an option; it is too cold. Of course, you may want to take a photo? Be careful! Removing gloves at the summit in -20 is not a good idea. Be sensible.

 Descending becomes easier from an altitude perspective, with every meter you go down, the easier it will become to breathe. Rely on your crampons on the descent, they provide great security and often, depending on conditions, it is possible to take a more direct line. Let the guide dictate, they know all the route options and will keep you safe.

Once back at the refuge, many take a break for lunch and they will look to descend back to Imlil in the afternoon via the exact same route they went up the previous day.

The above scenario is the classic Imlil-Toubkal-Imlil mini-trek that is ideal to do over a weekend, Friday to Sunday or as a mid-week adventure. If possible, I always recommend mid-week, far less people!

FAST OPTION:

If you are experienced or want a challenge. Imlil-Toubkal-Imlil can be done in one day. I have done this twice now, once in Winter and once in Summer. Depending on one’s speed and ability, it is possible to leave Marrakech at 0530, meet a guide at 0700 in Imlil, summit at midday/ early afternoon and then be back in Imlil before dark.

The above is not for everyone, but for me, it was an ideal opportunity to fit an action-packed day between holiday days, before and after in Marrakech.

ALTERNATIVE OPTION:

Once you have summited Toubkal it is possible to take another route down. This is a more challenging descent with some exposure, very lose scree and lots of technical rocks in summer. In winter, you would need an experienced guide who understands the route and weather conditions and you personally would need a greater level of skill. The route rejoins the main trekking path and you then have an option to go left and return to Les Mouflons refuge or go right and return to Imlil. 

OUANOUKRIM ROUTES

Located high above Les Mouflons refuge, Ouanoukrim offers the 2ndTIMZGUIDA’ and the 3rd, ‘RAS’ highest peaks of the Atlas range. These two peaks are often neglected due to Toubkal being the highest peak, but these two are just a fraction lower at 4089m and 4083m and they offer much more challenging and technical climbing.

Leaving Le Mouflons, one heads up the mountain, Toubkal is to the left and you take the valley leading to the peaks ahead. The out and back trek/ climb is longer than Toubkal and the early gradients are less severe. However, as one moves up the climb the terrain becomes increasingly challenging and steeper.

At the saddle, you can decide to go left for RAS or right to TIMZGUIDA. TIMZGUIDA is higher and a more challenging climb that in winter requires more advanced scrambling skills, the need for an ice axe and a level head. It’s a stunning route that is perfectly achievable, even for a novice climber, as long as you have a good guide and the correct equipment.

After several scrambling sections, the mountain opens up with one last scramble to the summit.

The return is via the way you arrived, so, constantly ask yourself on the way up, ‘Am I happy down climbing these sections?’ – It is always easier to climb up than climb down. Exposure to the elements is a factor that you must consider, especially in the final 100-200m where the mountain is exposed. On my most recent trip, we had thick snow which made trekking up and down hard, we had snow flurries, thick mist, fog and very, very cold temperatures.

Of course, it is possible to do RAS and TIMZGUIDA in one day.

OTHER ROUTE OPTIONS

AFELLA 4043m and AKIOUD 4035m are two other route options from the Toubkal refuge.

AFELLA is to the west of the refuge with more complex faces. The majority of the winter lines are on the south face and are accessed by a narrow ravine. The east face requires ice climbing.

AKIOUD is accessed from the south via the ‘Assif ait Maine.’ The climb can take 3 hours based on conditions and it is possible to ski down following a south east direction.

Other route options exist that can be made up of multiple days. 

EQUIPMENT:

As suggested previously, summer on Toubkal and you can get away with standard running apparel with the addition of a warm layer (PrimaLoft or down) and water/wind proof top and bottoms for the climb and summit. Gloves, beanie, buff and so on are also essential.

In winter, you need very specific equipment which I will list below with links. Climbing boots are large and heavy and I strongly suggest you use a much lighter approach shoe or run shoe for the trek from Imlil to refuge and back.

 Base layer:

RAB Forge leggings and top

Mid layer:

RAB Shadow hoody

Insulation:

RAB Xenon Jacket (Stratus insulation) 

Pants:

RAB Torque and Winter Torque

Gloves:

RAB Forge liner glove and RAB Xenon Mitt

Hat:

RAB Shadow Beanie 

Waterproof layer:

inov-8 Stormshell

Shoes:

La Sportiva Mutant (used for Imlil to refuge) 

Boots:

La Sportiva G5 mountaineering boot 

Crampons:

Petzl Irvis Hybrid

Ice axe and Poles:

Petzl Glacier and Black Diamond Distance Z Carbon

For extreme cold:

RAB Neutrino Pro Jacket

RAB Aragon Pants (down)

Sleeping Bag:

RAB Neutrino 600

Other:

Make sure you have good sunglasses and I found goggles essential in winter conditions.

Make sure you apply sun screen.

I recommend you have an emergency tracker, I use a Garmin InReach for all outings. 

TIME OF YEAR:

Summer:

August for me is perfect. Marrakech is hot but has less tourists. Expect 30-40 degrees during the day. Imlil to the refuge, temperatures will be somewhere between 15 degs at 0700 and 30 deg in the afternoon.

Winter:

January through to April provides excellent winter conditions and snow/ ice levels will vary depending the usual weather variations. I have climbed in January and April. January provided more extreme conditions with much colder temperatures. 

RETURNING TO IMLIL

The way to return to Imlil is via the trekking path used when coming out. There is no need or requirement to visit the control points and show your passport.

This January Toubkal and Atlas Mountain trip was undertaken in preparation for a 2020 expedition to Nepal for the ‘Three Summits Expedition‘ – read more HERE

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facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

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the INTERVIEWS Season 1-Episode 5 : Ellie Greenwood

Ellie Greenwood is a British/Canadian runner born in Scotland, and spent most of her childhood in England. She moved to Canada after graduating from university to work for a ski tour operator. Her career  began in 2008 and is a two-time 100k World Champ. winning the title in 2010 and 2014. She holds numerous course records, including those for the iconic Westerrn States. She is the first British woman to win the 90 km Comrades  in South Africa.
*****
First recorded in 2012
Episode 0h 26m 36s
Talk Ultra back catalogue HERE
*****
Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
ANCHOR app on Apple HERE and Google HERE
Download links will be added in due course.
Apple Podcasts HERE
Breaker HERE
Castbox
Google Podcasts HERE
Overcast HERE
Pocket Casts  HERE
RadioPublic HERE
Spotify HERE
Stitcher
*****
TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.

Lanzarote 2021 – The Ultimate Multi-Day Training Camp

Lanzarote 2021

January 7th to 14th 2020

We are well aware that we get many repeat customers for our Lanzarote Training Camp and in 2020 we spiced things up and it was a huge success. We actually think it may well have been our best ever camp….!

We are not going to lose sight of what makes the camp a success, so rest assured we will be providing the same experience as in previous years and developing what we have learned in 2020.

The core coaching team will be Ian Corless, Elisabet Barnes and Sondre Amdahl.

Our camp will start with a nice easy run of 1-hour and then followed with a specific group welcome in the Timanfaya meeting room at Club La Santa, here we will introduce you to the coaches and outline the week ahead. This will help ease those nerves.

Our welcome dinner will be in the El Lago restaurant which provides a great experience both in terms of ambiance and food.

In 2020 we started the camp on the 7th January, we were well aware that many of our clients are now expanding their multi-day running to other races, in particular The Coastal Challenge and Everest Trail Race. We therefore wanted to reflect that in the training camp. The earlier start of 7th January allows for more time between our camp ending and the start of TCC which is early February. As in all previous editions, the training is geared very much towards the Marathon des Sables.

TCC is a technical race at times with water crossings and coasteering – In 2020 we incorporated more technical running and the ability to be guided on technical coastal paths. This is of course optional – we fully appreciate that for some clients this may not appeal or be required.

ETR requires great strength, a real requirement to use poles correctly and an ability to climb with confidence and descend with confidence. We will work on specific sessions to get you ready for a race like this.

Night running is a skill and we will therefore add a specific night run in groups so that you all feel comfortable with the dark and running in a beam of light.

Lanzarote has some amazing trails and because we run, it is often difficult to explore more of the island. In 2020 we arranged a ‘point-to-point’ run. This required us to leave Club La Santa early morning, be driven to the Uga and we then ran/ jog/ walked back to CLS exploring new trails and gaining new experiences. This was a real highlight and it will be repeated in 2021.

Our bivouac still proves popular and for 2021 we will still have this on the camp – we are looking for ways to add a little spice and make it appealing for those who have camped before.

Talks are a key element of the camp and we are going to tweak them all for 2021 with the addition of some new talks.

Finally, Shane Benzie of Running Reborn will return in 2021 (tbc). He will provide a group talk and presentation followed by two break out groups on the track for analysis. He will then be available for private bookings either on a one-to-one basis or in small groups, for example 2-4 people.

2021 is going to be an exciting year for the Lanzarote Training Camp, we are looking forward to welcoming back past participants and new participants for the ultimate multi-day training camp.

More information HERE and booking.

All enquirers to:

iancorless@mac.com

Website: https://iancorless.org/training-camp

the INTERVIEWS Season 1-Episode 4 : Geoff Roes

Geoff Roes was raised in Cleveland, New York and excelled in track and cross country at Paul V. Moore High School in Central Square, NY. He competed in cross-country at Syracuse University for one year before becoming injured. Roes took a hiatus from competitive running until trying his hand at ultra marathon running in 2006 when he won his first event, the Little Susitna 50K. In 2007, he set a course record in the process of winning the Susitna 100 miler. In 2010 Roes won the American River 50 Mile Endurance Run. Roes also won the 2010 Western States Endurance Run in a record time of 15:07:04. Roes set the still-standing course record for the Wasatch 100 (a 100-mile race along the Wasatch Front range of the Rocky Mountains near Salt Lake City, UT) in 2009 with a time of 18:30:55, beating the previous course record by nearly one hour and five minutes. Roes now resides in Juneau, Alaska. (Reference wikipedia)

First recorded in 2013

Episode 0h 43m 13s

Talk Ultra back catalogue HERE

Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
ANCHOR app on Apple HERE and Google HERE
Download links will be added in due course.
Apple Podcasts HERE
Breaker HERE
Castbox
Google Podcasts HERE
Overcast HERE
Pocket Casts  HERE
RadioPublic HERE
Spotify HERE
Stitcher
TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.

Lanzarote Training Camp 2020 – Day 8 and 9

The penultimate day of our training camp was a cracker and one that many of the camp attendees have called a highlight.

Our first run was between 8-10 miles and included a climb, traverse and descent of the Montana Soo. It’s a great route and one that pushes many out of their comfort zone as the terrain is often steep, technical and challenging with loose stones.

At the summit it provides a great photo opportunity with Club La Santa off to the right in the distance.

For the more experienced runners, they move fast over the terrain embracing the challenge that it brings. Others move slower, more deliberate and thoughtful. We include it in the camp as it closely replicates the feeling and exposure that one can get at the large Djebel at Marathon des Sables.

After the mountain loop, we all returned back to CLS for a 3 hour break before a self-sufficient run. This is our mini multi-day experience that allows all our clients to run to a bivouac location in ability based groups with packs carrying sleeping bag, essential, dehydrated food for dinner and breakfast and a minimum of 1.5ltr of water. Most packs weigh around the 5kg mark.

We transport tents to the bivouac, rationed water and two gas burners to provide hot water for cooking. Once the runners leave CLS, they are self sufficient.

At the bivouac, they put up tents.

As the sun disappears they test out dehydrated food and simulate a bivouac experience. They understand the weather, the need for warmth and then they sleep under the stars.

Our night started perfectly with beautiful clear skies. Amazing star views and warm temperatures. As the night progressed, the wind increased and very much simulated a stormy night in the Sahara. For many, it was a sleepless night with shaking tents and sand being blown everywhere.

An early breakfast call, self-sufficient breakfast, water rations given and they were then off for another 13-miles of soft-sand and dune training before returning back to CLS.

Our final day has one final talk by Elisabet Barnes and Sondre Amdahl and then a group dinner to say farewell…

The next time we will all meet will be in Morocco for the 35th Marathon des Sables.

Our 2021 Training Camp will be announced soon HERE

Huge thanks to our coaches guides

Elisabet Barnes 2x MDS champion

Sondre Amdahl MDS top-10 and Trans Atlas winner

Gemma Game 2x 3rd place at MDS

Jodie Moss 8th at MDS

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Lanzarote Training Camp 2020 – Day 7

It was a cloudy day but the anticipated rain never came, thank goodness! In some respect, today was an easier day with just two run sessions and no talks.

But… the day did include the in-famous Volcano Hill Reps.

This kicks off with an easy 5km along the coast and then ideally, 6 repetitions of a loop up and down a volcano. It’s a perfect session that requires strength, running skill, an ability to handle technical terrain, good lungs and at time, nerves of steel.

The climb is approximately 100m up a narrow path of stoney sand. It requires commitment and depending on ability, some strong will and nerve.

The descent is very stoney with lots of loose rock, sand and gravel. As Elisabet Barnes said post the session:

“🌋 Volcano hill reps in a moody landscape was on the menu today. I’ve been nursing a cold so if I’m honest this shot was more a case of posing for the camera 😂🙈, but the others did work hard! 💪💪 I love this session. Some people just fearlessly bang out the reps and thrive on the technical terrain, but for others it’s a huge challenge and they may need to overcome fear of heights, fear of slipping or falling on the technical trail, step outside their comfort zone, and hopefully they leave a little more confident as a result.”

Elisabet nailed it in her words. It was great to see confidence increase along with speed on loops, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Several even did a 7th and even an 8th loop.

Back at Club La Santa, Shane Benzie was doing some one-to-one coaching sessions using his skills to improve running technique.

An extended break for lunch was followed with an ‘easy’ run for all groups to shake out the legs after what has been an intensive block of running.

2021 Training Camp dates and information will be available HERE soon.

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Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

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Lanzarote Training Camp 2020 – Day 5 and 6

The sun quite literally has been shining on the camp providing us with perfect training days to replicate scenarios that one would find in the Sahara at MDS or technical situations that one would find in races like The Coastal Challenge or Everest Trail Race.

We did a long Coastal Run of 24km on Thursday morning in a self-sufficient manner, the camp attendees broken down in to 4-groups, Gemma Game, Sondre Amdahl, Elisabet Barnes and Ian Corless each leading 4-8 participants at a pace relevant to the group ability.

The coastline here is stunning offering a wonderful views with the smell of the sea in the nose and a wind blowing in from Africa.

There was plenty of climbing too and tough, technical and hard terrain. Of course what goes up, must come down.

In the afternoon, after a relaxing lunch, Jodie Moss who placed 8th at the 2019 MDS did a talk on heat acclimation and how one should prepare for specifically MDS and the differences one needs to consider if going to a humid race like TCC.

The day concluded with a night-skills session with Sondre and Elisabet leading. All about the skills needed and required to run at night and they then did a short 5km run.

Friday was all about the ‘Long Day!’ For the first time on our camp, we did a point-to-point route of almost marathon distance that crossed the island from Uga and back to Club La Santa.

Ironically, the day started with a little light rain as we were transferred to Uga. It soon left us though leaving us with a perfect, if not windy day.

The terrain is constantly mixed in Lanzarote and the volcanic landscape at all times exciting. We managed 1800m vertical in constantly challenging terrain that replicated a day at MDS perfectly.

Many got an opportunity to use poles and test them, vital if they plan to use them in a race. There is a real technique and once mastered, a real benefit can be gained especially if walking will make a up a bulk of your multi-day pace.

We had just one aid station at 22km (Thanks John and Carmen), so, for much of the day, everyone was carrying a pack of 4-5kg, ideal preparation for self-sufficient multi-day.

The ‘Long Day’ proved to be stunning with the fastest group completing in around 4h 15m and the walkers in 6h 40m. They all now have a real confidence boost knowing that a day at MDS, TCC or ETR is completely doable.

The day concluded with Elisabet Barnes leading a talk and practical session on foot care.

It has been a great couple of days!

Info the 2021 Training Camp will be updated soon HERE

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Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

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