Multi-Day Racing – It’s not complicated

It’s Not Complicated…

Let’s get one thing clear, multi-day racing is simple, it is often over complicated and this creates too many questions and too much confusion.

Let’s hark back to Patrick Bauer’s pioneering days and simplify the process, just like he did. Over the years I have interviewed and chatted with many runners in bivouac and after racing who have done just that, they had applied simple logic and worked out what would work for them. 

Yes, they had taken advice, looked at websites, processed information but importantly they had found out what worked for them. They realized early on that they were an individual and as such, they needed a personal approach to multi-day racing and not a generic one. Not all multi-day races are the same, some are completely self-sufficient, some are semi self-sufficient and others are supported where all you need is transported for you.

When you break a race down, particularly a self-sufficient race, key things are really important:

Pack

Must fit and be comfortable when loaded. Have enough room (but not too much) for all your equipment and provide easy access to fluid. You must also make sure that your race number is visible as per race rules. Think about additional pockets, such as a waist belt for snacks.

Sleeping Bag

Lightweight, packs small and warm enough. I would always recommend a sleeping bag and jacket as it offers more flexibility, reduced weight and reduced pack size. Popular sleeping bags year-on-year are PHD, Yeti and OMM. Read HERE on how to choose a sleeping bag.

Clothes

You just need what you will run in. However, a spare pair of socks is often commonplace and many runners have one or all of the following: a warm base layer, a lightweight down jacket or waist coat, buff and maybe long lightweight pants. Remember, you have to carry everything, so, it’s all about getting the pack as close to minimum weight. At MDS that is 6.5kg plus water.

Sleeping Matt

It’s optional but a good nights sleep is important and usually those who do not take one wish they had. It provides comfort and importantly an insulating layer between you and the ground. Two options exist – inflatable and roll out solid foam. The choice is yours. The inflatable ones offer more comfort, more flexibility in packing but with poor admin, you do run the risk of a puncture. I’ve used inflatable for many years with no issue. A solid foam Matt will last the week with no risks of problems but they roll large and need to sit outside the pack.

Shoes and Gaiters

Shoes (more below) are personal, just make sure they have a good fit, appropriate drop for your needs and suit your run/walk style with enough durability for you. I say ‘you’ because someone like Rachid El Morabity can complete the whole of MDS race in say 21-hours whereas most people won’t even do just the long day in that time – his shoe shoe choice will and can be very different to what most of us need!

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TRAINING FOR… with DAN LAWSON

Dan Lawson is a respected runner who resides in Brighton, UK. For many, he became ‘known’ after his incredible run at the ‘Gran Union Canal Race’ in 2015 when he won with a new CR of 22-hours 15-minutes.

Later that same year, Dan went to the iconic ‘Spartathlon’ and placed 2ndin 23:53:32.

The stage was set, and Dan Lawson became the UK’s most prolific and respected long-distance runner. He has run in a GB vest and in 2016 he won the IAU 24hr race with an astounding 261.843km covered.

Dan’s Running CV (HERE) is incredible. Most recently he sat an FKT (Fastest Known Time) with Robbie Britton running ‘The Jordan Trail’ in 9-days 10-hours and 17-minutes.

Passionate about the environment, Dan has started a project called ReRun (here) which extends the life of running clothes… “We looked at ideas on how we could reduce the waste in the running community. The idea of ReRun was born, to try and prolong the life of running clothes and equipment and save them from landfill. Extending the life of clothes by just nine months of active use would reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30% each.”

In 2019, Dan will toe the line of the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa (here) participating in the 4-day event over 170-km.

“Running brings me peace. I feel so grateful to commune with nature each day and spend time in stillness. Being an Ultra Runner I am part of an adventurous and warm community with whom I can enjoy the most breathtaking and awe-inspiring places in the world.”

 

Training for…

A series of new articles brought to you by the multi-stage and ultra-running specialist store, myRaceKit, http://www.myracekit.com

JORDAN FKT

I caught up with Dan in Brighton at his ReRun office. Dan as usual was calm, relaxed and clad head to toe in ‘used’ apparel. Even his shoes had been pieced together to arguably produce something more aesthetically pleasing the original.

With the initial chat and banter over, I asked how the Jordan FKT had come about?

“Originally, it was like Robbie’s adventure… We were planning to go to Lake Baikal in Siberia, which is a frozen lake, the biggest bit of freshwater in the world. That was the plan. Robbie was going to go with another runner, and he asked me if I was willing to go with him, and I was like, “What? It sounds amazing. Yes, I really want to go and do that.” That was our plan to go and set the FKT running Lake Baikal, which was about 600-kilometers. We were working towards that until I got a call from Rob, maybe two months before we were supposed to go and he was like, “Dan, I think I’m going to pull the plug on it. I’m a little bit worried about our safety out there.” I think Robbie’s biggest concern was the fact that I don’t like the cold…”

 

“We spent a week or so searching for trails around the world and we found the one in Jordan. It was 600-km and Robbie said, “Well, let’s go there and let’s try and run this trail out there.” I was super happy because I much prefer the sunshine and now all of a sudden, we’d be running through a desert and the sun will be out. There wasn’t really any inspiration. It was kind of we just found that and let’s go and run out there.”

As it so happens, I was in Israel working on Mike Wardian’s FKT as he ran the length of Israel, south to north. So, Dan and Robbie, at times, were almost just a few miles away as we skirted on the Jordan border.

“We were never down at the Dead Sea, but when we were up on the mountains, we could look across and we could see the Dead Sea. When it got to night time, we could see the lights across the Dead Sea in Palestine or Israel. Yes, there were times when we were shouting out to Mike and yourself.”

I know only too well the challenges of an FKT, and I asked Dan about the undertaking.

“I think our biggest challenge was the route and the lack of marking. We were running the Jordan trail and when something is called ‘Jordan trail,’ you expect there to be trail, but they need to rename it the Jordan GPS track and I think that’s a better description of what it was. I think our biggest challenge was just, not even navigating but just navigating this rough ground just getting across it.”

I asked Dan if they were following a GR route or was it like the Israel National Trail, sometimes we had markers and sometimes we didn’t. Dan has a real sense of humor and his response, in many ways, was what I expected.

“It sounds like the same person that marked the Jordan trail came across and marked your trail, as well. It was loosely marked, I think. I think that you encountered the same thing, but on the bits where you’re on a road, markers were everywhere.”

A GPS and mapping are always a good back-up, but even on the Jordan Trail, this was not fool proof.

“We thought we could rely on a GPS, but it was never exact. It would mark a point here and then a point 500 meters away. You can’t see those little turns in between. When we were following his watch, we were just going straight, that was what the watch was telling us to do but of course, we had to encounter cliff edges and drops. It needed to be used in conjunction with mapping – lesson learned!”

A successful FKT comes down to planning and support crew, Dan was followed by a filmmaker and stills photographer. They doubled up as crew. That in itself can bring many complications.

“The tourist board was really cool. They provided us with a four by four and a driver. Then we had Dave and James who were videoing and taking pictures and would meet, at the start, they were probably meeting us every 15, 20k or something like that. As the trail went on, it got more desolate and much harder to get into. They were probably leaving us I think for like 50k we’d meet then we’d run 50k and then we’d meet them and then we’d do a little bit longer.”

50km without support, that is a real long way. I wondered how they managed that?

“There was a couple of times when we ran out of water. There was one time we came up this hill, we we’re so lucky, we came up this hill and there was a road and I don’t know if it’s like you, but so many of the towns feel post-apocalyptic, they were like something out of a video game. Just like a mosque built out of breeze blocks and then a couple of camels and then just a few that just these just box houses, I don’t know, like weird places, but we came up this hill so thirsty and then all of a sudden there was just this, it was like a group of like 20 people on bikes from the lake district. They saved us! 50 k out there can be 10 hours or more. 10, 12 hours. Very difficult to plan for. I don’t eat much when running but one needs to be prepared.”

Knowing what Dan now knows about the Jordan Trail, the pros and cons, I wondered if he thought that it would be possible to go faster?

“Yes, I think we probably could. It was quite hard to move at night because you really had to look at the navigation and the ground was so rough that as soon as you looked at the navigation, you’d just be falling over. We could take a day off. Some nights we were stopping and literally we were driving like an hour and a half, two hours to get to the hotel where we were staying, it would be so much easier to wild camp.”

Ultimately though, it was easy to see that the FKT had been a hugely memorable and enjoyable experience.

“Amazing. Amazing. It was so nice to spend time with Robbie, Dave and James. I mean 10-days close knit in this kind of environment… You’d think that there might be moments when people got a bit stressed, but it was just a really nice experience. I was talking to my wife and she said, don’t call it a holiday because then it sounds like it wasn’t hard, but it does feel a bit like it’s such a great way to spend 10-days doing something you love and in some of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever been in. I’ve been lucky to run in some amazing places around the world, but some of the places just blew me away. I really like it.I think I do prefer that sort of thing to racing, it has a different feel to it.”

In a way, that segways nicely to the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa. Dan Later in 2019 will take on the 170km 4-stage race that in many ways manages to combine some of the Jordan multi-day running experience and combines it into a race format.

ULTRA TOUR MONTE ROSA

“To be brutally honest, I would have preferred to run the 100-mile race, but it is too close to 24-hour championships. It will be quite enjoyable doing the stage race because it gives me a chance to try and move a little bit quicker over that terrain, and then have a little bit of a rest and then go again.”

Dan, in 2018 attempted to set an FKT for the ‘JOGLE’ in the UK, running John O’Groats to Lands end as quickly as possible. He was running 100-miles a day. Ultra Tour Monte Rosa is a technical mountain race in an absolutely stunning part of the world. It’s going to be a different type of experience to say, running around the track for 24 hours or running along a road. It’s probably going to be more like the Jordan trail. It requires a different type of approach. Living in Brighton I wondered how Dan trained?

“Firstly, I’ve got one more race coming up, a six-day race in Hungary, which will be running around and around a kilometer loop for six days. I suppose that’s my first A race of the year. Once that’s done then I start a big training block for UTMR and for the 24-hour. I’m hoping that it will they’ll compliment themselves quite well because the 24-hour training is mind numbing. I spend a lot of time on Brighton Sea front running around a loop, it is maybe like two and a half kmloop, so, I might spend seven, eight hours just running around that loop. There are not many hills around here, so, I’ll be on the South Downs a little bit but they’re not mountains, they’re not even hills, they just slightly undulating.”

I wondered if that lack of specific terrain that directly relates to the challenges of UTMR worried him?

“No, it doesn’t worry me that much. I’ll go up and down steps a bit. The only thing that worries me is I’m not too fast going down. I need to smash my quads before the race, the is key. Downhill does more damage than going up! I can kind of ride that pain with my quads. I can get to the end of a hundred miler with smashed quads, but in a stage race, I mean it’s going be a bit different because it’s four days.”

“Will you use poles?”

“Probably not. The only time I’ve ever used was when I raced in the UTMB, that was a 100-miler, and that was just before the world championships. Well, maybe two months before the world championships last year, the 24-hour World Championships, and my training was just flat. I hadn’t run up a hill or even a slight gradient for, I don’t know, four months or something and then I went to run the UTMB. But I used the poles to come down, not to go up. My legs were trashed. I don’t think I have time to learn to use them correctly, so, I will go without!”

UTMR will give Dan new challenges, he is going to have to have a pack. He is going to need waterproof trousers, waterproof jacket, thermal layer, a tracker, mobile phone. I wondered, does that play with his head, after all, running around a track for 24-hours requires none of this?

“For me, the best run is when the sun’s out and you just have a pair of trainers and a pair of shorts on, and you can just go mad. I love that. A lot of my training is commuting training, running is my form of transport. I maybe clock up 40/45km a day but most of it’s done running to work, running around, so I always have a backpack. Once a week or twice a week I’ll run without a backpack like a longer run and it feels like a real treat.”

Finding that balance between pace and time is interesting in any event. With something like UTMR, Dan has got a specific distance each day to complete, over 4-days and he will be racing. It’s a completely different dynamic because Dan will not only be racing himself, but he will be racing the other competitors. He will need to balance recovery, sleep time how to get back up the next day and race. What type of approach will Dan have at UTMR?

“I’m going to try and run pretty hard each of the four days because I will have recovery time. I mean each one’s like 40K, each of the stages, so you’d like to think you will finish that under seven hours? I don’t know… I want to try and run each one as hard as I can. There’s no excuse really if you’re only running 40km in a day, you’ve really got to push it. Well, I have!”

Dan is an elite athlete, I wondered, what sort of generic advice could he give to people who are going to toe the line.

  • Should they respect the distance?
  • Should they listen to the body?
  • Should they hold back and save something?

“For me, it’s about what you do in that recovery time and it’s how well you recover in those hours that is really important in a multi-day. How well you eat. How well you rest. Whatever things you do to look after your legs and the pain in your legs. How well you can get yourself feeling fresh and bouncy for the next morning. The most important thing is those hours of recovery rather than the hours of running.”

RERUN

Multi-day races always rely on equipment and a list of mandatory kit is essential. At UTMR Dan is going to have a completely different thought process to equipment because he has created RERUN which is recycling run clothing.

“I made a pledge almost a year ago to not buy anything new including running equipment,trainersand clothes. Everything I have at UTMR will be recycled or secondhand and that includes all the mandatory kit. We run a second-hand online running shop so I’m able to purchase stuff that comes through that if required. I can make do on other things; I’ll just borrow if need be. I feel there’s no need to buy new stuff that I might use once, and you might not even use at all because some of the stuff for the mandatory kit list is there for emergencies.”

I stressed the need for the correct equipment and how mandatory equipment is there for safety…

“I don’t like the cold and that it’s really important for me to be warm. I would prefer to be sweating loads than have the chance of being cold. I’ve seen some of the pictures of UTMR and it’s amazing that in one day, how different the weather can be. So yes, I agree. I may recycle but I will have the correct equipment.”

I was looking at racks of T-shirts, tights, run shoes and many of the elements that one sees in a runner’s kit bag. How did ReRun come about?

“It’s our way of trying to create an awareness around the kind of waste that we do produce as runners. You don’t need that much to run. You just need a pair of shoes and some shorts. We spend so much time running in beautiful places it easy to see how running and the environment go hand-in-hand.It’s crazy the amount of pollution, the amount of waste that’s created from fashion. In all the running community it’s amazing the amount of clothes and stuff that we go through on a yearly basis.Our idea was to create an online second-hand running shop. Where we could use it to spread awareness of practices that would help and enhance running as environmentally friendly.When I run across the Downs and I spend two hours away from all of that kind of consumerism and society it makes me realise how lucky I am and how I do not need new apparel to enjoy the freedom of running. Running is our escape, I was guilty, I was a sponsored athlete because of my success. I was sucked into consumerism. I became an advert…I find it so sad sometimes. Hawking this consumerism and saying, look at all this free kit I’ve got, and now you need to go out and buy this kit because I use it.  A year ago, no, maybe two years ago, and we were speaking my wife, we decided not to seek any sponsorship anymore and to try and promote something that we really wanted to promote. Something that felt good to promote. That’s where ReRun came from.”

So, quite simply, in a world of altruism, sponsorship and the age of the ‘influencer,’ Dan turns his back on sponsorship and in his words, ‘Tries to do the right thing!’

“We’ve never really gone out there and promoted ourselves. We’ve never said to people, come and bring your kit here. People have come to us and people like Rebeca at myRaceKit have got in contact with us and said that they like what we are doing, and they want to help. For example, myRaceKit has become a drop-off point for ReRun.”

I wondered what the long-term objective was for Dan? Did he have a dream, an ambition to expand so that one can go into any town and find a ReRun shop?

“That would be the opposite of our dream and our ambition. Our dream and ambition is to not have any second-hand running clothes, because if there’s no second-hand running clothes it means that everybody has what they need and are not over consuming.As you can see, we’re here in our little workshop, and most of the clothes we get are in really good condition because running clothes, and especially the running clothes that cost a bit more are built to last.Outultimate success is that we put ourselves out of business…”

It really makes one think. Just think of all the races that provide a t-shirt in the goody bag. Often, they are cheap, poorly designed and a waste of time. Who wants them?

“It is a great example. They’re cheap technical T-shirts and usually they’re really ugly. They’re plastered in sponsor’s names. I would say 70% of the stuff we’ve got are race T-shirts. We cut them up and make them into half/half T-shirts to give them a new identity. We also started working with local businesses to try to re-brand them for their business but it’s still an issue.”

No goodie bag seems a simple and great way to start. I suggest to Dan; it would be a considerably better option when entering a race to have a set of options. For example:

  • Do you want a T-shirt? Yes? £20
  • Do you want a medal? £5 YES/NO

It becomes much more consumer-led rather than everybody gets a T-shirt.

“We’re happy to see T-shirts. But we want people to actually want them. I still wear and I’m really happy to wear some race T’s because they mean a lot to me. I’d be happy to pay for those T-shirts, but we are just get given them and most throw them away…”

By asking questions on an entry form, one makes a conscious decision. Maybe even race entries can be a little cheaper as there will be no need to subsidize the ‘free’ goodies?

“Ordering a finishers T-shirt takes a bit of time if you really want it, you’ll do it, if you don’t, you won’t do it. Quite simple and immediately we start to reduce waste. Taking plastics and making them into bags or T’s is brilliant but all we are doing is just prolonging the life of that plastic for another two or three years. Taking nets out of the sea and making them into trainers is great, sounds great but all you’re doing is taking that stuff out of the sea for another what? How long do trainers last for? How long are they supposed to last for? Another six months then eventually it’s going to go back into the sea. At ReRun we’re giving clothing another life but it’s still going to be out there as a waste product eventually.”

Brands want us to consume, trainers for example have a ‘life’ that typically is quantified in miles, around 400/500 miles. But Dan is wearing shoes that are pieced together. Are we being manipulated I ask him?

“I haven’t bought into the marketing BS! Running is such a natural, simple movement, why do we need to add technology into it? I know some people say, yes, but we’re running on roads now and impact is greater… I think sometimes we get a little bit too precious with our feet and what we’re supposed to be putting on them. When I was in India, there’s a lot of runners in flip flops. Maybe an extreme point, but you see what I mean!”

ReRun really does make one ask questions. Firstly, better to recycle than throw away. But when purchasing, one should ask, ‘Do I really need it, or am I consuming because I want it?’ So how does one purchase from ReRun?

“Firstly, you have to ask the question, do I really need it? We never ever promote or advertise and try to sell this stuff because we want to make sure that people actually need it. If you really need something, then come have a look at our website.”

And my chat concludes. For the first time in my history, I speak to the businessman who is trying to put himself and wife, out of business.

*****

Training for… A series of new articles brought to you by the multi-stage and ultra-running specialist store, myRaceKit, http://www.myracekit.com

As a footnote, in the words of Dan:

“A T-shirt is nine plastic bottles. It’s made from oil, it’s made from fossil fuel, it’s just exactly the same. Once we win the battle with supermarkets and their plastic waste then we can start focus and the emphasis will come on to clothing. We start to realise that it’s an essential thing. In five years hopefully ReRun won’t be around. The onus is on this, the clothing, the sports companies, and the clothing companies to really find solutions. How difficult can it be? They can take nets out of water, they can turn them into a material they can use in a trainer but then they’re saying they can’t then recycle it back into that raw material so that they can use it again?”

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Episode 171 – Dan Lawson #training for by MyRaceKit. and Eric Senseman

Episode 171 of Talk Ultra is here… We bring you a full and in-depth interview with Dan Lawson talking about his Jordan FKT, his ReRun Project and ’ Training for…’ UTMR in conjunction with MyRaceKit. We also bring you an interview with Eric Senseman and Elisabet Barnes co-hosts.
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NEWS
MDS 2019
Read the full story and view the images HERE
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TRAINING FOR…
In a series of new podcasts and articles, ’TRAINING FOR…’ will bring you discussion with runners on how they will prepare for their next big adventure.
This is brought to you by myRaceKit – the multi-stage and ultra-running specialist store  www.myracekit.com
Interview with DAN LAWSON
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 Interview with ERIC SENSEMAN
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02:38:40
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TRAINING FOR… UTMR with Damian Hall

Damian Hall ran his first half marathon race in 2011. In his own words, “It was  a life-changing race.” Just 1-year later he ran his first marathon and first ultra-marathon. Dedicated to the art of running, Damian became a student of the sport and through his journalism work, he gleamed as much information as possible. He became his own test subject.

In a very short period of time, he completed the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc on four occasions progressing each year to finally place 5th. He has run Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert,the Ice Ultra in Arctic Sweden,The Coastal Challenge in Costa and has excelled at multi-discipline and long distance races in the UK such as The Spine, The Dragons Back and the UK Trail Championships.

His love for the sport has also seen him test himself on multiple challenges and FKT’s such as running ‘The Rounds’ such as Bob Graham, the South West Coast Path and most recently the Cape Wrath Trail with Beth Pascall.

A lover of a good mug of tea and a Tunnock biscuit, Damian, the husband and father of two children, has a popular voice on the UK ultra-run scene.

Leaving his beloved UTMB alone in 2019, Damian will challenge himself in September with the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa.

Training for…, a series of new articles brought to you by the multi-stage and ultra-running specialist store, myRaceKit, http://www.myracekit.com

We are very fortunate to have myRaceKit sponsoring several articles on ‘Training for…’ in this scenario, the UTMR, the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, an epic trail race designed by no less than Lizzy Hawker, who in herself is an absolutely stunning multi-day ultra-runner. Lizzy came up with this beast of a race, or should I say beasts of races because now there is more than one, there is the big one which is a 170 km with 11,300 meters of vertical, there is a four-stagerace which is basically the big one broken down into four days and then there are the Ultra Three Passes which is 100 km with 6420 meters of vertical gain, big statistics. I wondered, what enticed Damian to tackle the UTMR instead of UTMB in 2019?

“I thought if I’m not doing UTMB, I’ll do the race with the closest name,” Damian says with a hint of mischief. “No. I think number one, I love running a hundred miles, I think it’s a really special race distance, I also love running a hundred miles in a lumpy place because it’s just that bit more ‘hurty,’ but I think the number one appeal really for me is Lizzy Hawker actually, I’ve never met her and she’s a huge inspiration to me. When Iwas just getting into the sport, she was winning UTMB every year, and I love her outlook on the sport, I’m sure she probably wouldn’t call it a sport, it’s probably more than that to her and probably to me as well, but I’ve read her book, I love that and she’s just super inspiring. I still have that UTMB obsession to shake off, I did four UTMBs in a row and I’m looking forward to a year without one just to freshen things up and see what that feels like and UTMR, it’s not too far away either, is a similar time of year but in a way it sounds very similar and yet very different. Obviously, the crowds will be a lot smaller, the field’s a lot smaller. It sounds like a tougher course, there’s more climb. From the pictures I’ve seen, it’s possibly more spectacular. I’ve had three good friends do it including Nicky Spinks. They’ve all absolutely raved about it. There’s a whole load of reasons to be attracted to the race. I’m really excited.”

Put like that, it’s self-explanatory why Damian will venture to new ground. After all, the Matterhorn as a backdrop to stunning trails is an easy sell. It’s arguably the most iconic mountain in the world, maybe even more so than Everest. After all, Everest did not make it on to Toblerone packaging!

Damian came to this sport later in life, and in doing so, has inspired a great deal of people to relook at their own running and what they can achieve. I’ve always said, age is just a number, it doesn’t actually really mean anything. Not only are you proving that but there’s countless other people proving that. In 2014, Damian placed fourth in the Spine and second in the Cotswold Way, which was then just about over 100 miles. The following year, I raced at the Dragon’s Back, he placed 29th at UTMB. Then the following year, you came to The Coastal challenging Costa Rica where you placed fifth in a super stacked front field. Second at the Highland Fling which was a UK trail championship, a great result. You moved up from 29th to 19th at UTMB, then 19th to 12th and then 12th to 5th! Actually, 2018 was a great year for you because you won the Ice Ultra, you were sixth at Madeira and you were first at Ultimate Trails and second at Mozart 100.

“Yes, I think I’ve realized that UTMB and similar are the races I like.  Long climbs and some technical aspects and fun. I suppose fun, long technical descents. I’ll be honest, I like a hiking race. I like a long climb that’s so long, you can’t really run it. I like the change in rhythm that that brings. I am not full-time but am dedicated. My progression has been gradual, and I am happy. UTMR in a way is perfect because it’s some of the similar format big mountains, similar distance that kind of thing but it feels quite fresh and that’s a new course.”

Running well for any race usually requires very specific preparation and ideally on opportunity to go and run on some of the race route.

“I’m still undecided whether I’ll be able to go on recce or not. Traditionally, I haven’t really recced races because I’m in the sport for the adventure really. Obviously, I love the athletic, the competitive element of it too. I love the adventure element where you’re not really sure what the course looks like and you’re not sure what’s of the next horizon, the next mountain, the next valley.”

A family man who works, how does Damian plan his training? How does he fit in training? What does his research look like when going into a race? So many questions come to mind! It’s very easy with the Ultra Monte Rosa course I guess, look at a map and it’s a nice big circular loop and you suddenly start to see really key statistics like Zermatt and Saas-Fee and then you start to look at everything else and then suddenly you realise there’s lots of 4,000 meter mountains in this area. It’s going to be quite a hard race. How does Damian start to approach the training process for a race like this?

“I guess the distances is a key statistic and you’d hope people would know the distance before they sign up but then it’s also how much vert as the Americans call it, how much ascent is in the race overall. What I learned from my first UTMBis actually the descending is going to hurt than the climbing. It’s always important to know roughly what that figure is and that’s going to dictate probably the latter block of my training.”

You need to be strong for a race like a long distance ultra, particularly when in the mountains, I wondered on Damian’s approach to strength and conditioning?

“I do additional strength work making sure my legs are strong enough for that. I suppose how technical is the course is something that people think about a lot and quite rightly. UTMB for example has got a couple of short technical sections, I suppose, but mostly it’s good terrain, good hard trails. I must admit I haven’t looked in detail yet at UTMR about how technical it is compared to UTMB.I have heard more technical. Strength is key and another thing I’ve done over the time is I’ve worked with Shane Benzie who’s a movement specialist on having good technique for descending, especially for the technical terrain. I still don’t always get it right. I’ve just seen some of my photos from my recent race and they’re a bit disappointing. My technique was out of step. As you get tired sometimes, old habits slip in.”

I am sure that Damian’s training is more than just going for a run, but what about speed?

“There’s volume of course, ultra-runners need volume and miles. But I’ll be going to the track as well because last year for the first time, I started doing track work. I hate it but know it’s effective. I’m 43, I’m trying to squeeze every… I guess people would call it marginal gains, but I make sure I’m as fast as can be as well legs being as strong as can be and so on. I will be going to the track.”

Vertical climbing is a key element to a race like UTMR, as well as the descending as Damian has mentioned. Breaking training down into blocks, ‘periodization’ is important, I asked Damian how he approaches these elements.

“A good plan is all about periodizing, for now, I am in a good spell of getting fast. Vertical training will come a bit later nearer the race, which thankfully is in the summer when it’s a bit more pleasant getting to mountainous places. Also, what’s changed for me over the couple of years also is that I really look forward to runningraces. Now, I think I’m more sensible in picking three or four key ones for a year. Actually, I really enjoy the training. I love training for the sake of training, which is a nice feeling, a nice place to be, I suppose.”

Adding races in to training can be difficult, especially if one of those ‘other’ races can be as important as another ‘A’ race. For example, Damian hopes to run Western States which is close to UTMR and the courses are very different.

“Yeah, at the moment, I’ve still got this outside hope or outside wish of doing Western States in late June. Obviously, some of the Western States training would benefit UTMR, but some of it would be quite different. I don’t know if I’ll be doing it yet. In a way, I can’t plan too much of that, but I know that July and August will be all about UTMR for me. That probably means a big amount of days and trying to get a lot mountain running.”

Equipment for Western States is pretty straightforward. You need a pair of running shoes, shorts, and a top, and a hydration vest, whereas UTMR is going to be something that is completely different. Variables in terrain, extremes of hot and cold, mandatory kit, poles, etcetera. I asked Damian what are some of the specifics in a mountain race in terms of equipment that he needs, must have, and then the optional extras that he takes?

“There is something special about doing a mountain race where you have a pack, where you’re feeling self-reliant, where you know you can be okay for 6, 8, 10, 12 hours with everything in your pack, maybe even 24 hours if you get off-course. I do like that. That’s mostly why I got into the sport really is to have those mini mountain ventures. I do love agonizing over what kit to take and checking the weight of everything and checking the weather and all that aspect in the few weeks beforehand. I love all that, the anticipation.”

So, what equipment does Damian take?

“I’ll take two if not three waterproof jackets because probably the last weather forecast, the day before the race, will probably determine which one I take. With UTMB, I learned in the past that the weather can do anything and you’re not really sure. You need to be prepared for bad weather in high mountains. Any jacket should have taped seams and of course one needs appropriate trousers to go with the jacket.”

 

“I’ll probably, depending on the time of year, take a Protec-Shell which is probably a winter jacket. I wouldn’t expect to use that, but you never know, the weather really might come in and you don’t want to be caught out. I don’t expect to race in that, but I’ll take that out with me just in case.”

 

“Base layers, I use merino wool because that just gives you a little bit of extra warmth. For the last two years at UTMB I’ve worn merino gloves. I’m pretty sure they’ll be on mandatory kit list. If the weather is rough, I might be taking two, I might be taking a pair of mitts to go over the top of the gloves. I imagine there’ll be some mid layer. Again, that’s a tricky one. Sometimes if you go the lightest possible then you might get caught out. Again, I’ll probably go two different options maybe a merino one and maybe a PrimaLoft. I’ll probably take a light pair of tights as well if it’s on the mandatory kit.”

 

“Headlamp and spare batteries are essential, I really like the Petzl NAO+ which you can program in an app. You can decide exactly how many hours you want it to last for. It’s really bright. It’s been dependable so far. Poles, I like the Black Diamond Z Pole.”

Poles have become increasingly popular in ultra-races, particularly in mountain races. Certainly, in America, you wouldn’t see anybody using poles. I think that’s primarily because the terrain out there is probably more runnable. I’m not saying that they don’t have plenty of vert. For example, Hard Rock has got plenty of vert. Hard Rock is a good example because now if you look at the elite field in Hard Rock, they’re pretty much all using poles. Poles have become almost the ‘go to’ in races like UTMB and all these other mountain races but a lot of people think that they can just pick up a pair of poles the day before a race and use them. There is absolutely a real skill to using poles. Damian has used poles on many occasions, I wondered about his thought process?

Read about using poles HERE

“Poles still causing some debate definitely in some British circles where I think they still get called cheat sticks. About whether they’re really useful or not, in the last couple years I’ve seen definitely even people like Jim Mann and Nicky Spinks, Jasmin Paris and so on use them. Personally, I think they help me with long climbs. I can’t prove they do really unless I suppose I did a huge climb without them and then a huge climb with them to compare. I suppose I’ve never actually done that. Some of it may be psychological. You might feel you’re climbing better with them, but I really believe in this sport the mental side is so important. If you think you’re climbing well, then chances are it will help, positive mindsetis key and think. I really feel they helped with climbing. It’s not just spreading the load of the muscles. It keeps you more upright as well which can aid your breathing. It also means your muscles, especially your quads, get less stress because there’s always a temptation to bend. Practice in training is essential, especially on your long runs. Also, press-ups are excellent to tone the required muscles.”

 

“Also, the better your arms are moving your legs tend to follow your arms. If your arms are keeping a decent cadence your legs are hopefully not being too lazy and keeping a decent smaller cadence. A bigger cadence but a smaller gap, smaller stride. That’s what I found. I also try hard to tuck them away for any flats or downhills because I think they seem to slow me up. I think that’s a cadence thing where if you’re holding poles your arms move less and therefore your legs can move less. Poles also aid travelling down hill,  sometimes I’ve been so wrecked that my quads have needed the extra help on the downhill.”

Safety is a key element in mountain races, the need for minimum calories, minimum liquid, a mobile phone and so on. I wondered if Damian had witnessed key changes?

“When I started out in the sport, I think I’d usually go with a bladder, that seemed to make more sense but the last few years I’ve been using soft flasks. I think it’s easier to see how much water you’ve got and to monitor how much you’re drinking. For example, at Station A, you might just fill them both up and try and drink them both by the time you get to the next one. I think if I need to carry one and a half, I’d probably just take three soft flasks. One might stay in the back of my pack depending on how hot it is. If it’s getting hot I’ll maybe bring that into play, but what I’ve learned as well as sometimes you have a third one that’s full of water and you use that for tipping over your head if it’s really hot rather than drinking because it can be more important to bring the body temperature down, definitely what I learned at Costa Rica! In regard to nutrition, it goes in waves and it constantly changes, I usually go with one gel and some nuts to be honest because nuts are high calorie per weight. If you are in trouble or you found someone else is in trouble, the sugar from a gel is going to help them quicker. Emergency food is very personal. In addition to a phone, often a space blanket or even a form of bivvy bag is required along with a whistle and compass. It all makes sense. Now I even would consider a GPS like a Garmin inReach as a really useful safety addition.”

Most mandatory kit lists include whistle and compass, that’s pretty normal. Some sort of elastic bandage or strapping is also useful should you have a bad ankle or a knee that you can strap it up is useful. Also, your own cup just makes sense.

“Yes, definitely, it is kind of horrifying especially in road running. I’m not trying to beat up on road running necessarily but when you see a city half marathon or marathon. Then you just see the debris left behind afterwards of water bottles. I don’t know how practical it is to turn that to road races and stuff but obviously, this is the way forward. We’re all in the last year or two become really aware of plastic wastage and yes it’s horrifying some of the stuff we’ve seen in the oceans.”

Finally, I asked Damian for a top-tip to get ready for UTMR.

“There are a few things. An obvious thing is a bit more strength work which obviously has other benefits and should help prevent injury and stuff. I must credit Ian Sharman who used to coach me, his signature session is probably the weight vest hike which I’ve become a fan of, and a weight vest is only probably only about £30 or £40 online, maybe eight to 10 kilograms and you wear for half an hour at a time, one or two miles, ideally a little bit of hill involved. Not running and just hiking you definitely don’t run downhill because that’s a hell of a lot of weight to go through your knees. If you just get in the habit of doing a short walk, often for people it’s a dog walk maybe, that can grow a bit of strength quite safely.Ultimately if you live somewhere flat it’s probably a good idea if you can sometimes get away to somewhere lumpier and do some specific training. Personally, I live near Bath in the bottom of the Cotswold’s, I go to the Brecon Beacons quite regularly, which is a three-hour round trip for me. The longest climb there still is just only 400 meters, that’s not even half of what it will be in the Alps, but one can do repeats.”

One thing is for sure, in any running adventure, if you want to progress and perform, you need to be specific. Damian has applied these principles and year-on-year, as he has learnt and has progressed. It’s not just the ‘running’ part but the planning, the equipment, the strength, core, nutrition and importantly the mind. To achieve one must address all those aspects to perform.

Training for…A series of new articles brought to you by the multi-stage and ultra-running specialist store myRaceKit, http://www.myracekits.com.

MANDATORY EQUIPMENT for UTMR

Mobile Phone HERE

Head Torch and batteriesHERE

Bottles x2 or bladder (1.5ltr)  HEREor HERE

Emergency food (400 cal)HERE

Bivvy bagHERE

Whistle

Elastic bandageHERE

Drinking cupHERE

Waterproof jacket w/ hoodHERE

Waterproof trousers HERE

3/4 or full run tightsHERE

Warm hatHERE

GlovesHERE

GPS tracker (provided)

Identity papers– Passport is required in a waterproof bag

Rear lightHERE

Thermal warm layerHERE

Run packHERE

PolesHERE

Dry BagHERE

LINKS:

myRaceKit – HERE

UTMR – HERE

Damian Hall – HERE

 

Listen to the ‘Training for…’ article on Talk Ultra Podcast HERE

Join Ian Corless in London with Lizzy Hawker ‪@lizzihawker in June for a special @myRaceKit ‬#Tailsfromthetrails couple of days!

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Episode 169 – Michael Wardian #fktisrael and Damian Hall #training for by myRaceKit

Episode 169 of Talk Ultra is here… We bring you an interview with Michael Wardian ahead of his 631-mile #fktisrael – We also introduce a new segment to Talk Ultra ’Training for…’ brought to you by myRaceKit – this week we chat with Damian Hall and Ultra Tour Monte Rosa
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Talk Ultra is now on Tunein- just another way to make the show available for those who prefer not to use iTunes – HERE  You can download the Tunein APP HERE
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We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create!
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Donate HERE
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NEWS
THE COASTAL CHALLENGE
Well we discussed on the last episode how The Coastal Challenge would be an epic race and wow, it was! Pere Aurell from Spain won the race outright but the real drama came from the women with Ida Nilsson winning two stages outright, setting 4 female stage records, obliterating the old CR by 3-hours and placing 2nd overall! We also need to shout out to Holly Page who set 2 female stage records… It was an incredible edition of the race. Read the race reports 1 HERE 2 HERE 3 HERE 4 HERE 5 HERE 6 HERE and Photographs HERE
WAY TOO COOL 50km
Anthony Costales (3:17) and Clare Gallagher (3:53) topped the podium for a very muddy 50k!
TRANSGRANCANARIA
Pau Capell produced a masterclass performance to dominate the race ahead of Pablo Villa and Cristofer Clemente12:42, 13:31 and 13:42.
The women’s race was much closer with an interesting dynamic at the front, last-year’s winner Magdalena Laczak triumphed in 16:22 ahead of Kaytlyn Gerbin and Fernanda Maciel, 16:35 and 17:03.
Read HERE
BLACK CANYON 100KM
Matt Daniels took top honours ahead of Chris Mocko and Eric Senseman. The top 2 obtaining WSER Golden Tickets but Mocko already had a ticket from Bandera 100km and therefore Senseman benefited.
Kaci Lickteig is back and now back at WSER after her victory ahead of YiOu Wang and Mallory Richard.
FKT ISRAEL
Michael Wardian on March 11th (tbc) plans to take on the Israel National Trail running the approximate 631-miles in a target window of 10-days. Read HERE. 
I will be along to document the attempt in words and images with daily updates on this website and of course on all the relevant social media. Follow #fktisrael
READ HERE
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00:10:45 Interview with MICHAEL WARDIAN
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TRAINING FOR…
In a series of new podcasts and articles, ’TRAINING FOR…’ will bring you discussion with runners on how they will prepare for their next big adventure.
This is brought to you by myRaceKit – the multi-stage and ultra-running specialist store  www.myracekit.com
 
01:00:23 TRAINING FOR… with DAMIAN HALL
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Importantly, go to iTunes and subscribe so that you automatically get our show when it’s released we are also available on Stitcher for iOS, Android and Web Player and now Tunein.
Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patron at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage.
Keep running
01:47:30
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Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE
Website- talkultra.com
UP & COMING RACESgo to https://marathons.ahotu.com

Lanzarote Training Camp 2018 Day 5 and 6

Day 5 is bivouac day! Arguably, it is the day of the Lanzarote Training Camp that the runners dread but learn the most.

It’s quite simple – we simulate many of the feelings and experiences that you will encounter in your chosen multi-day self-sufficient race.

Runners leave with their race packs including sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food for the dinner, snacks, food for breakfast, a minimum 1.5ltr of water and clothes such as down jacket!

The attendees run or walk in guided groups to the bivouac taking a minimum of 2.5 hours. They then pitch a tent (transported for them) and then they are rationed water. Our bivouac is extra special – it is inside a volcano!

We provide hot water but many runners test and try their own cooking skills using Esbit and then they eat a dehydrated meal. It happens every year… “Oh wow, I love this meal!” to the opposite, “Oh my word, that is disgusting!”

It’s invaluable what can be learnt with a simulation night.

We get a roaring fire going and chat into the night – it is special!

The following morning, our camp attendees are welcomed to ‘rise’ with crow of a cockerel around 0630/ 0645. They then must prepare their own breakfast and prepare for another run; again, a minimum 2-hours.

A night under the stars and an opportunity to test sleeping bag, sleeping mat and all other aspects of self-sufficiency makes everyone realise what is good and what is bad.

Back at Club La Santa we have a 2-hour debrief talk and discussion, from here, all our attendees go away armed with the knowledge that will help them achieve the finish line of their next multi-day race.

Why not join our 2019 Training Camp?

More information HERE

Top Tips To Better Multi-Day Running

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Is the last edition of the Marathon des Sables always the toughest? It would appear so? You always hear as the race concludes, ‘Wow, that was the toughest race ever!’

Of course many variables come into play when one says it’s the toughest. First and foremost, you most certainly need to have done at least one other edition to be able to compare, but in truth, multiple editions or experiences must count to be able to claim any edition of a race as a toughest. Also, age, fitness, condition, state of mind and so many other variables impact on a decision. It’s not always easy to be ©iancorless.com_MDS2016-2441objective. I have often considered myself to be fit going into a race, only to find that my fitness is not where I thought it was and therefore a race has appeared harder! Truth is, the race was the same, it’s just that I wasn’t up for it. Let’s be clear, I’m not providing excuses, on the contrary, I am trying to provide perspective.

I’ve been at the MDS for the past 4-years, not as a runner (although I have 30-years of experience) but as a photographer and journalist. I like being on this side of the camera, for sure, there are days when I look at the race (or any race) and I wish that were me, once again fighting the terrain and fatigue to achieve a goal. My goals have now changed and as my good friend and photographer (who sadly has passed away) Mark Gillet used to say, ‘I sometimes think it’s harder working on the race than running it! Perspective once again…

I actually don’t agree with Mark, working on the MDS or any multi-day race is hard, stressful and the long 18-20 hour days do have an impact. Yes, I get out on the course and cover the terrain on foot but I get to change my clothes, I get to eat two times a day and although I sleep in a bivouac, it does usually have sides to it which blocks out the wind.

So with the 31st MDS in the bag, I wanted to reflect on the race and provide an objective overview from the outside looking in of what I consider worked and what didn’t work at MDS and provide some key pointers that anyone can take away and apply for a future MDS or other multi-day race. I must stress, these are my thoughts and on some points you will agree and on other points you won’t. That’s ok! It’s called opinion and we are all entitled to one.

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First of all though, lets answer that burning question, ‘Was the 2016 Marathon des Sables ever?’

No!

It was a tough one for sure, it ranks with the toughest but I don’t really think anyone can hand on heart say that any one edition is the toughest.

Each year, Patrick Bauer and his team work a little Sahara magic and as many MDS runners who have participated in previous editions will tell you, the race always covers some familiar terrain. It’s the nature of the Sahara and the complex route of access trails dictate where the race can go and where it can’t due to the huge convoy of vehicles that daily move the ‘circus’ from one place to the next. For example, the 2016 route had much of the 2014 route but in a nod to the tough course, the 2014 route was also considered a tough one with a very big drop out rate on day one.

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Having said all of the above, the 31st edition was a serious toughie and here is why:

Day 1 kicked of with the huge Mezouga dunes that are tough for any runner, even experienced ones. The day also concluded with a tough section of dunes but to add to the difficulty and complexity, midway during the stage winds increased and increased causing severe sandstorms that hampered navigation, onward progress and resulted with a chunk of DNF’s and those who finished were left exhausted.
At 257km, the race was the longest edition ever making all stages close to marathon distance. This impacts greatly on every runner as recovery time is reduced. The long day was not as long as many anticipated at 84km, especially after the 30th edition 90+km day. However, the long day was a tough one with plenty of climbing and loads of soft sand. The final charity day is usually a jog to the line and a way to exit the Sahara and get back to the buses, this year, the charity stage was 17km – too long!
Sand, sand and more sand. I know it’s the Sahara and therefore one would expect sand to be everywhere but in reality, MDS usually only has around about 30% soft sand. This year it was considerably more and that impacted on everyone.
Wind came and went but it’s impact on the racing and bivouac life was notable.
Temperatures rose just in time for the long day and then stayed very high for the remainder of the race.
Day 2 dropout rate was very high which reflected a tough stage but also the knock-on effects from a very tough day 1.
The overall drop out race once the race concluded was over 10%, a sure sign of a tough edition of the MDS.

There you have it, some solid points on why the 31st edition was a tough one and of the many runners who completed the race, I am sure they could add so many more points to my brief synopsis above.

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OVERVIEW©iancorless.com_MDS2016-8488

It’s funny how everyone is now looking to 2017 and the 32nd edition of the race. Questions are being asked – what, how, why, should I, can I, will I and so on…

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MDS is not complicated:
Let’s get one thing clear, Marathon des Sables is a simple race that is over complicated by too much information and too many people saying WHAT SHOULD be done. Let’s hark back to Patrick Bauer’s pioneering days and simplify the process of running the MDS. I interviewed and chatted with many runners in bivouac who had done just that, they had applied simple logic and worked out what would work for them. Yes, they had taken advice, looked at websites, processed information but importantly they had found out what worked for them. They realised early on that they were an individual and as such, they needed a personal approach to MDS and not a generic one. When you break the race down, key things are really important:

Pack – must fit, have enough room (but not too much) for all your equipment and provide easy access to fluid and you must make sure that your numbers are visible as per race rules.
Sleeping bag – lightweight, packs small and warm enough. I would always recommend a sleeping bag and jacket as opposed to a ‘combi’ as it offers more flexibility, reduced weight and reduced pack size. Popular sleeping bags this year were PHD, Yeti and OMM. There is a review on my website that compares all three. The Raidlight Combi was also popular, certainly with a small selection of the British contingent; it worked well and those who used it were happy – all about what works for you!
Clothes – you just need what you will run in. However, a spare pair of socks was commonplace and many runners had one or all of the following: a warm base layer, a lightweight down jacket or waist coat, buff and many had lightweight pants.
Sleeping Matt – It’s an optional one but a good nights sleep is important and those who hadn’t taken one were wishing they had in most scenarios. Two options exist – inflatable and roll out solid foam. The choice is yours. The inflatable ones offer more comfort, more flexibility in packing but with poor admin, you do run the risk of a puncture. I’ve used inflatable for the past 4-years with no issue. A solid foam Matt will last the week with no risks of problems but they roll large and need to sit outside the pack.

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Shoes and Gaiters – Shoes (more below) are personal, just make sure they have a good fit, appropriate drop for your needs and and suit your run style with enough durability for you. I say ‘you’ because Rachid El Morabity will complete the whole race in 21-hours whereas most people won’t even do just the long day in that time – his shoe shoe choice will and can be very different to what most of us need! Get your Velcro sewn on your shoes and make sure that when you get the shoes back the fit has not been altered. Plan in advance, don’t leave this to the last few weeks.

©iancorless.com_MDS2016-2288Food – You need a minimum amount of calories per day specified in the race rules and how those calories are made up are up to you. This for many is a difficult one. It raises many questions and yes, it’s good to find out what other people do and use but ultimately, YOU have to eat it. The decision to use a stove is another question mark but it would appear that most runners like that hot water option. Remember though, you can make a fire from twigs, shrub and branches that surround bivouac. Also note here that food choices and what you eat during running varies greatly depending on how fast you run. For example, the top runners are done and dusted on the marathon stage in 3-4 hours and they are using carbohydrate as a fuel, they therefore can get away with 1-2 gels. If however, a typical day for you will be 6, 7, 8, 9 or even longer, gels are not going to be a good choice. Fat and real food are going to be essential. Understand this now and you can start making the necessary adaptations in training so that food choices will work for you. Training on limited calories and getting fat adapted is a key element for a successful MDS for many runners. Food is also the heaviest and most bulky thing you will carry, think about repacking in smaller packs and making everything as small as possible.

©iancorless.com_MDS2016_Day0_0003Water and Salt Tablets – These are provided by the race and it’s easy really, take the tablets as recommended and drink the water. Dehydration in 2016 once again was a huge issue.

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Feet – Look after them, along with dehydration, blistered and damaged feet are a key reason for failure in any multi-day race.

Extras – Mandatory kit is as one would expect, mandatory! So purchase what is on the list. You can save weight by shopping around. Simple rule; the lighter and smaller, the more expensive it will be! Optional extras are very personal and my advice would be take nothing extra other than a MP3 player and earphones. The Apple iPod Shuffle is super small, super lightweight and holds plenty of music for MDS (you can even take two). They cost about £40 and music may well just pull you through when the going gets tough. Anything else is a waste in my opinion. Embrace the isolation, embrace a simple life and you will find you have a new perspective at the end of the race.

Hints and Tips to make your race better

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You:
You signed up for the challenge, you wanted to be on the start line and therefore you are responsible for the outcome. Believe me, the you that leaves the Sahara is not the same you that entered. Arguably, you change the moment you pay the deposit, the transformation process begins. Embrace the journey and apply yourself. Most of us can loose a little weight and believe me, pounds shed in training make the race easier. Pointless striving for a 6.5kg pack and then to be carrying an extra 2, 3, 4 or more kg on your body. But keep perspective, the MDS journey is an enhancement of you as a person. It’s easy to become obsessed, ultimately the majority of runners at MDS are enthusiasts, if you keep that in mind the journey will be a complete one.

Training:
Plan ahead, formulate a long term plan and don’t rush. The sooner you start this process, the greater your chance of success and the less chance of injury. Plan stepping stone races and don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to run marathons day-in and day-out. You don’t! Training is about ALL the training you do and not about anyone run.

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Walking:
If we exclude the top 50-100 runners (who also walked) the majority of the 1000 strong field spend a huge amount of time walking. Learn to walk! Believe me, it’s a huge tick in the MDS box and rest assured that if you are able to walk at a good consistent pace (barring injury or dehydration) you will finish MDS. The 31st edition at times (from my perspective) seemed almost like a walking race and this can directly be attributed to more soft sand and longer days. Countless runners I spoke to said, ‘If only I had walked more. I trained to run and now I am here, I am finding that running is a luxury.’

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Poles:
If you are looking to race MDS, figure in the top 100 and are able to run in ‘most’ scenarios, poles will not help your MDS experience. However, once we get out of the top-100 and in particular, once you start to look at the mid to back of the pack, poles may well provide a huge advantage. They provide stability, momentum, drive and in soft sand, they are a little like 4-wheel drive. My recommendation would be try training sessions with and without poles and see what works for you. Don’t get poles 3-4 weeks before a race and think it will be okay… Poles require technique and yes, they will impact on your shoulder, arms and neck. In 31st edition with so much soft sand, poles were a god send for many. They are like Marmite though, some love them, others hate them. For me, they are something I would take. Just make sure you get good ones that are light and that will fold small so that you can pack them when not needed. A good example of this is the big Jebel climb with ropes at the top, some participants struggled up with poles when in reality they needed both hands free for the terrain.

Shoes:
Dare I open this can of worms? Shoes are personal and first and foremost you must consider your own run style – gait, pronation, width, drop and so on. NEVER take advice from anyone online that tells you that ‘X’ is the shoe to wear for MDS unless they know you and your run style. Having said that, certain considerations come into play which help narrow the selection process down. In previous editions of MDS I have seen Hoka One One shoes almost melt with the soft sand, this year, Hoka were one of the most popular shoes and during the race I photographed multiple pairs and saw none of the horror stories from previous year. Brooks have been a popular MDS shoe in recent years and I saw three pairs with horrendous soles that had started to fall apart, however, many runners have commented how well the Cascadia version of Brooks shoes performed. Altra with very low drop and a super wide toe box worked excellently for those who required a minimalist shoe and the re-vamped inov-8 270 (4mm) and 290’s (8mm) had rave reviews from those who used them. Mizuno, adidas and Scott also featured in MDS bivouac amongst others and what was reassuring is how well they all performed. The key here is that runners had found the shoe that worked for them. Make sure you do the same. It’s good to ask for thoughts but ultimately, ask 10-people, you will get 10 view points. Despite all this, there were plenty of foot horror stories. There always will be horror stories and certainly considerable more soft sand added to people’s issues this year. Notably, going back to the walking point, MDS participants often come to MDS prepared to run with shoes that work for running, in some scenarios, these shoes don’t work as well for walking. Think about this and walk in your run shoes! Also shoe size, forget the advice about going up a size or two sizes. It’s a recipe for disaster unless you know that your feet swell? A shoe that is too big will allow your foot to move, a moving for causes friction, friction causes blisters and the rest of the story speaks for itself. General advice is that if you have a ‘thumb nail’ of room at the front of the shoe above the big toe, this generally works. Notice I say ‘generally’ – there are exceptions. One thing that may happen, is your foot may get wider (rarely or never longer) with the heat and additional time on feet, therefore a shoe with a wider toe box often works well for many runners.

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Equipment:
Minimum pack weight is 6.5kg plus water, get as close to this as you can. Additional weight is additional stress and just makes the journey harder. Luxuries are ok if they improve the journey and make it easier, music is a good example of an additional extra. I can’t really think of anything else…

Friends:
You are going to share bivouac with 7 other people and you are going to have some serious highs and lows. These tent mates will pull you through and motivate you. They will become friends for life. Ideally find tent mates before you head out to the Sahara.

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The Mind:
The legs, lungs, heart and feet will only get you so far. The mind is what will get you to the finish. On the long day I was at CP5 with 54km covered and 30km to go. I stayed there all night from 9pm till the early hours of the morning when the last person left with the camels. I saw broken individuals with bodies in tatters but mentally strong. It was amazing to watch people leave with a smile, hobbling at a snails pace and then to see them cross the line later in the day. Despite the hardships and pain, they embraced the journey and mentally where superior in strength. It was the mind that got them to the line.

Laugh:
If you laugh, you are having fun. Laugh when you hit rock bottom, why not. Laugh when you are going the toilet in a brown plastic bag and most of all laugh with and at your tent mates and fellow runners. The comradeship of MDS is quite unique, embrace it.

Admin and preparation that you may not think of:

  • Take essentials on the plane and wear your run apparel and shoes. That way, should a baggage disaster happen your chances of racing improve.
  • Take food with you for the travel and on the plane. If I were running, I wouldn’t eat plane food!
  • The journey from the airport to bivouac 1 is always lengthy, MDS will provide a picnic and water but I would still have my own supplies.
  • Night 1 and night 2 in bivouac are NOT self-sufficient so take extras such as an inflatable bed, food and luxuries that you are happy to give away to the berbers. May as well have 2 comfortable nights and a comfortable day before the racing starts.
  • Food before the race starts in recent editions has been provided by a French catering team. It has always been excellent. For the 31st edition, Moroccan caterers were used for the first 2 nights to provide an ‘authentic’ Moroccan feel and experience. It was potentially food that could increase the chances of going to the toilet. Personally, I’d take food with me that would at least allow me a ‘safe’ option. This is food in addition to your ‘mandatory’ requirement so it can be as much as you require and it can weigh as much as you like.
  • Admin day was a lengthy multi-hour experience in previous editions, in the 31st it was slick and streamlined and seemed to take most people 30-45mins which was great. Just make sure you take some water and a little snack food.
  • Keep sun screen on and keep hydrated. No need to drink vast volumes – drink to thirst before the racing starts.
  • Have additional items such as a base layer, sleeping bag liner and other items that may be on a ‘question’ list for the race. On night 1 and before you go to admin, you can make final decisions of what to and what not to take. Particularly important if you think you may be cold at night.
  • Remember that after bag drop and check-in you have no access to any additional items, however, you only become completely self-sufficient when you start the race. With that in mind, you can have additional food and luxuries with you until day 1 kick-off, it’s a useful tip and does mean that you can have additional comfort for a good 12-hours.

Conclusions:

Marathon des Sables is a magical and life changing journey as are most if not all multi-day races. It really is a true challenge of mind and body to race over many days, irrespective if you complete the race in just over 20-hours or 60+ hours. It’s a hark back to a more primitive time, a time without clutter and modern technology. Embrace this. Embrace the silence of the surroundings and the simplicity of placing one foot in front of the other, eating, resting and sleeping and then doing it all again.

As I said previously, MDS and other multi-day races are all relatively simple in process, you need a minimum of kit, some food, regular water and a level of fitness to complete the challenge. Yes, it is THAT simple.

Plan ahead, do some research on kit but it’s not rocket science. Just find out what works for you and then pray the the multi-day gods are on your side. Drop out rates are relatively low considering the challenge, however, shit happens that you just can’t plan for.

Ultimately get the mind in the right place and the body will follow. A plan ‘A’ is great but have a plan ‘B’ and ‘C.’

Finally, set yourself a realistic goal (that may just be to finish) so that you manage not only your expectations but pace. Way too many start off too quick and most dropouts come on days 1 and 2.

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Join our MULTI-DAY TRAINING CAMP IN LANZAROTE with 2015 Marathon des Sables champion, ELISABET BARNES info HERE

If you need any specialist equipment, Iancorless.com partners and recommends MyRaceKit for expert advice on an multi-day racing equipment requirements.

BARNES is BACK! The Coastal Challenge 2017 #TCC2017

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2017 UK registrations now open HERE

The Coastal Challenge are pleased to announce that Elisabet Barnes (Sweden/UK)), female winner of the 2015 Marathon des Sables, Oman Desert Marathon and runner up in the 2016, The Coastal Challenge will return once again to Costa Rica in 2017.

“TCC is a magical race and this has been echoed by so many participants after the 2016 edition. I loved the variety of the course, the challenges in terms of heat, humidity and terrain and the friendly atmosphere. I am really looking forward to returning in 2017 already!”

A multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula, The Coastal Challenge is an ultimate multi-day running experience that offers new challenge even to the most experienced runner.

“I now know what aspects of the course and the terrain I coped well with and what aspects I can improve on.” Elisabet said after the 2016 edition. “The good thing is that I have quite a few improvement areas on this type of terrain so if I manage to do specific enough preparations there is certainly potential to do better next time around. I think this is encouraging and it will help me develop as a trail runner, broadening my skill set.”

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Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm, exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida! Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, ‘TCC’ is not self-sufficient, but don’t be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.

“Not carrying equipment makes the running easier and that is nice of course. However, if I look at my strengths I like the completely self-sufficient races too. I am tall and strong and I run well with a backpack. In many cases this means I can get a relative advantage over runners who are less experienced running with a pack or who have a smaller frame than me. I still felt that the TCC was a tough race due to the humidity and terrain and if it was self-sufficient it would be incredibly hard.”

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Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line.

“You always have an advantage when you have done a race once. I know the course and the challenges better now. In terms of the heat and humidity I found it tough but not a major problem. Time was a limiting factor before the race but ideally I would have spent a bit more time acclimatizing to the conditions.”

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2017 will signify the ‘lucky for some’ 13th edition and building on the success of the 2016 edition, Central America’s most important multi-day race looks set to elevate itself to new heights. The race has already announced that Anna Comet, winner of the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Everest Trail Race will participate in 2017. Anna Comet in recent years has shot to fame as a trail and mountain runner after a very successful career as an Alpine skier and ski mountaineer. Her 2014 victory at the Everest Trail Race (also a multi-day race) paved the way for a strong and consistent Skyrunning year in 2015.

But Elisabet Barnes is a multi-day expert and before 2017 comes around, a very busy calendar awaits:

“First I am going back to Marathon des Sables in April and it will be my third race. I am looking forward to it and I predict a very competitive women’s race this year with several top runners coming back from previous years and also some new, extremely competent runners participating. It should be interesting. After this I am going to Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun in South Africa in June, followed closely (1 week!) by the Big Red Run in Australia. Later in the year I am going to the US for Grand to Grand. I am very excited about all of these races and the year ahead.”

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The 2016 edition of TCC tested Elisabet and unlike the MDS, the race is not self-sufficient. In many respects it was a learning curve but 2017 will be very different.

“The TCC is not self-sufficient so you can afford to take some more luxuries like a fresh set of running gear for every day, a few pairs of shoes etc. Also not having to cook reduces admin time in camp and means you can spend more time relaxing. From the perspective of the terrain it is completely different with a lot more ascent and descent and technical parts of trail. It requires a different skill set than running in sand and over flat hard packed desert terrain. Finally, the humidity makes it a different beast. Heat is always tough but when you add humidity you have another element to deal with and possibly have to monitor your body even more closely. The same is true with all the water you run through which means that your feet are wet pretty much 100% of the time.”

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Anna Comet will no doubt push Elisabet every step of the way on the 2017 TCC journey and of course, at this stage, other female elite racers may decide to enter the race. The TCC has a long history of top female competition – Anna Frost, Jo Meek, Julia Better and Nikki Kimball to name just a few. Of course, Elisabet’s main concern may well be the possibility that 2016 champion Ester Alves from Portugal may return?

“It was great to race against Ester in 2016. She is a lovely girl and a genuinely nice person. I am very happy for her that she won the race. I now know more about her strengths relative mine and how I can improve to reduce the gaps that led her to victory. I know that Ester is very focused though, so should she decide to return I am sure she will work very hard to keep improving too. If our paths don’t cross in TCC next year, I am sure we will see each other in another race before long.”

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In a very short space of time Elisabet has rose through the ranks to be one of the most respected multi-day races in the world. A very busy 2016 will only add to that reputation! The 2017 TCC is already looking like an incredibly exciting race.

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Contact Information

Email: HERE

Website: HERE

Facebook: HERE

Twitter: @tcccostarica

Global Contacts: HERE

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More information:

Read the full 2016 TCC race story HERE

View and purchase images from the 2016 TCC race HERE

You can read daily reports from the 2016 TCC edition HERE

 

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 6 and 7

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For the participants of the 2016 Lanzarote multi-day training camp, it all got ‘real’ on day 6 and 7 of the camp.

It all started of with blue skies, sun and a 2 hour run without packs so that everyone had an opportunity to work on a little faster running. In most cases it was a great tempo 10-12 miles in the bag.

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Following this we had a 2-hour talk, demo and an opportunity to test packs from WAA, OMM, Raidlight and Aarn with a very informative and enlightening discussion on bag packing from Elisabet Barnes. It really raised the question; what is and is not an essential item?

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Ultimately the day (and night) was all about a medium length run of 2-3 hours and an overnight bivouac.

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Heading out along the course, the runners departed in three groups: walking, run/ walking and ‘mostly’ running to a pre-arranged rendezvous on the coast.

Ian Corless moved ahead and set up camp inside an incredible and dormant volcano. Rendezvous time was 1900 and right on cue, the three groups all arrived from different directions within 15-minutes of each other.

Running with packs, the runners carried all essentials less the additional days food. Food requirements were snack for the run on both days, evening meal and snacks plus breakfast.

At the overnight bivouac we operated self-sufficiency, water was provided but rationed. The only treat came from 24 beers (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) transported in as a special treat.

A clear starry sky, camp fire and the illumination of head torches within the stunning setting of an amphitheatre of rock made everyone suddenly realise that it was one of the special moments.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though. One or two runners realised on the run that their chosen pack just wasn’t the one for them. This is the whole reason behind providing a real scenario such as this on a training camp. It’s invaluable to find out these issues before your chosen must-day race.

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It was lights out, well, head torches out around 9pm and as the warm night drifted past midnight, the temperatures dropped. Unlike races such as Marathon des Sables, the night was damp lowering temperatures even more. One common thread with 0700 wake up call, a cockerel crow by Niandi, was, ‘My sleeping bag is not warm enough!’

Yes, it had been a rough night for some.

Elinor Evans said, “This experience has been incredibly invaluable. I have learnt my packs not right for, my sleeping bag is not warm enough and I need a warmer jacket. Last night was beautiful but also a little harrowing as I got so cold. Better here though than at my race!”

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It was a sentiment echoed by Leon Clarance, “I was just cold last night. Despite additional layers, my sleeping bag was not warm enough. I also made the mistake of removing my socks. I woke up with feet of ice.”

In general though, freeze dried food and peoples selections seemed to hit the spot, apple pieces with custard proving to be a hit with those lucky enough to be carrying it.

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The bivouac provided everyone with a very real and practical scenario and valuable lessons were learnt. A bivouac debrief back at Club La Santa will allow everyone to discuss this.

Leaving camp, the sun was getting higher in the sky, a new day and more valuable experiences to follow. But before that debrief, there was another 2-3 hours of running.

It’s been a great two days and night.

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

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