Luis Alberto Hernando and Elisabet Barnes head to Nepal – Everest Trail Race #ETR 2017

IAU World Trail Champion and Skyrunning European Champion Luis Alberto Hernando has confirmed he will join the 2017 Marathon des Sables Champion Elisabet Barnes on the start line of the 2017 Everest Trail Race.

Luis Alberto is not new to the ETR (Everest Trail Race), he participated in 2013. After winning the first stage he was unfortunately reduced to a walk but went on to complete the whole race and in the process, he had an incredible experience soaking in the best of what the Himalayas and Nepal must offer. he needs no introduction to the mountain running world, Luis Alberto is the best! His race results, experiences and friendly nature have made the Spaniard one of the most admired and respected runners in the world.

His recent victory at High Trail Vanoise crowned him the Skyrunning European Champion and in the coming weeks he is preparing for the UTMB. Nepal has an impact on a person – the people, the landscape, the scenery, the trails – it really is a magical place and Luis Alberto is obviously keen to return in November to race after his 2013 experience.

Two-time Marathon des Sables Champion Elisabet Barnes is certainly tipping her toe into new experiences and new challenges in 2017. A specialist in multi-day running, the ETR format will suit her.

However, mountains, elevation and technical terrain are all part of a new learning process. In 2017, Elisabet will test her ability at altitude and challenging terrain at Transrockies in the USA. This will be followed with a shorter multi-day race in a colder climate. The two races no doubt providing an excellent base for the 160km journey from Jiri back to Lukla via Tyengboche in November.

Tracing the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hilary, the ETR is wonderful mountain experience that all abilities can embrace. It’s tough for sure – elevation gain, technical terrain and variable temperatures bring a unique challenge. Add to this self-sufficiency (runners must carry all they need for the week but food and a tent is provided) and the race becomes so much more than about wining and times; it’s a journey for the mind and the body. First time participants are changed when they experience Nepal and the Himalayas on foot. The 2017 edition of the race will be no different. Iconic mountains such as Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, Tamseku, and Makalu amongst others provide the most stunning backdrop to the race.

Excellent organization and a small field make the ETR one of ‘THE’ bucket list races in the world. Images tell the story and you can view galleries and read reports from the 2016 edition using the links provided.

2016 Image Gallery HERE

You can also read daily accounts of the 2016 edition

Day 1 HERE

Day 2 HERE

Day 3 HERE

Day 4 HERE

Day 5 HERE

Day 6 HERE

For more information and global entries go to www.eversttrailrace.com

and UK entries to www.everesttrailrace.co.uk

 

ELISABET BARNES and MARCUS SCOTNEY – THE COASTAL CHALLENGE 2018 #TCC2018

2015 and 2017 Marathon des Sables ladies champion Elisabet Barnes will join 2016 Cape Wrath Ultra and 2017 Dragons Back Race champion Marcus Scotney on the start line in Quepos for the 2018, The Coastal Challenge.

TCC as it is affectionately known is a multi-day race starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. It is an ultimate multi-day running experience that offers a new challenge even to the most experienced runner. Taking place over 6-days, the race hugs the coastline of Costa Rica, traveling in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range. Even the strongest competitors are reduced to exhausted shells by the arrival of the finish line due to the combination of technical trails, dense forest, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beach, dusty access roads, high ridges and open expansive plains.

The 14th edition of the race is set to be a classic in the making with the confirmation of Barnes and Scotney. Barnes is a two-time winner of the iconic Marathon des Sables and is a two-time finisher of the TCC – 2015 and 2016.

Bitten by the Costa Rica bug and the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle, Barnes has repeatedly said that the Central American race is her most favourite.

“Costa Rica is a magical place and the TCC is spectacular in so many ways. I work hard in this race because technical running is not my strength, but I love the fact that I get to push my boundaries and challenge myself. The course is just breath taking with great variety, always interesting but not always easy! After a tough day on the trails you are rewarded with yet another stunning campsite, a warm welcome by the dedicated volunteers, and excellent food provided by the hard-working catering team. It’s a race that every runner should add to their bucket list.”

The race looks set to elevate itself to new heights in with the confirmation of Marcus Scotney. Scotney is a highly-respected runner within the UK who has on multiple occasions represented his country on the world ultra-stage. In recent years, he has participated in multi-day races – The Cape Wrath Ultra in Scotland and The Dragons Back Race in Wales. Both races are tough, technical races with many 1000m’s of vertical gain. Scotney won them both and now looks forward to testing himself in the high heat and humidity of Costa Rica.

 

‘The Coastal Challenge has been on my bucket list of races since 2014, it looks like an amazing beautiful race with a stunning mixture of trail, beach and jungle running. I can’t wait to visit Costa Rica and experience the culture and run a multi-stage race which has a brilliant reputation. I am sure it will live up to that reputation and all that I expect; I feel very privileged to run the race.’

Unlike races such as the Marathon des Sables, TCC is not self-sufficient. Don’t be fooled though, the racing, terrain, heat and climbing make the stages considerably harder and more challenging than the Moroccan adventure. 

“Not carrying equipment is convenient, as is having access to your gear so you can run in fresh clothes every day and change for camp,” Barnes says. “However, the terrain is at times far more difficult than in MDS, and when adding to that the high humidity, you really have a challenge on your hands. Still, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a week”

Will it be third time lucky for Barnes in Costa Rica, who knows? She certainly has knowledge of the course, an understanding of how to run in the heat and yes, she also knows how to maximize her time to make the most of her racing experience. For Scotney, the challenge will be a new one. He will love all the faster sections of the course where he will be able to unleash his natural running speed. The challenges will come with the technical terrain and of course the heat combined with the humidity.

The 2018 edition of TCC is already looking like a stunning race and in the coming months, several other elite athletes will be announced who will participate in this classic race.

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The Coastal Challenge

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Marathon des Sables 2017 Summary on IRUN4ULTRA

The 2017 Marathon des Sables concluded in April and here on IRUN4ULTRA is a summary of the daily action and a selection of images.

“It must be noted that the Marathon des Sables is so much more than elite runners going fast. The finish line is one full of stories, emotion, tears and laughter. The example of Louis from Luxembourg, Duncan Slater from the UK and so many more cannot go unnoticed.”

Go HERE to read the full post.

2017 IMAGE GALLERIES HERE

Transgrancanaria 125km 2017 Race Preview

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From the heat and humidity of Costa Rica and The Coastal Challenge to the the Canary island of Gran Canaria and the Transgrancanaria 125km.

This is my fourth year working on the flagship 125km race and once again it appears in the UTWT (Ultra Trail World Tour) calendar. The race starts on Friday evening, 24th February at 2300 hours’ local time. If it was ever in doubt, this race is a tough one! With over 8000m of positive gain, each and everyone of those 125km’s will be felt by the the time the runners reach the finish.

Starting on the north-west coast, the race travels south via the mountainous spine of Gran Canaria and then arrives at the finish, close to the sea in Maspalomas. The route is logical and therefore very appealing from a run aesthetic point of view. 

Over the years, the race has had some stellar performances and 2017 will see the return of the 2016 champions, Caroline Chaverot and Didrik Hermansen.

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Male Contenders

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Didrik Hermansen won the race last year with a high quality and well paced performance. He followed Transgrancanaria up with a stunning Western States and world-class 100km races. Didrik can mix running and climbing and therefore goes into the 2017 race as the hot favourite. Fellow Norwegian, Sondre Amdahl, tells me that Didrik is in great shape!

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-2824©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-0660 The UK’s Andy Symonds ran a stunning race in 2016 and placed 5th – I have a felling he will be on the podium this year! His 2016 season was solid one with UTMB being his only blip. A win at Lavaredo, 2nd at Buff Epic behind Luis Alberto Hernando and 4th at Transvulcania confirms that Andy’s stepping stones to longer racing is working – 2017 will be his year and I also hear he will be racing at Marathon des Sables.

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Diego Pazos finished 3rd last year and what followed was a steady growth in the sport. I predicted he was a ‘one-to-watch’ for 2017 and I stand by that. His victory Mont-Blanc 80km confirmed that he is on the up.

©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-2663 Antoine Guillon placed on the podium previously and I have no reason to doubt that he can provide a repeat performance. In real terms, the podium may well be decided by those who pace themselves and come strong in the latter stages. Antoine may well be one of these guys – he will be able to bring the ‘long game’ to the race, something he learned when he won Diagonale des Fous (Raid de la Reunion) in 2015. ©iancorless.com_Transgrancanaria2016-0072

Yeray Duran is Transgrancanaria regular and is very popular within Spain and the Canary Islands. Arguably, it was Transgrancanaria that elevated his profile. He had a tough race last year but that blip is not indicative of how Yeray runs – I think we will see him up there this year.
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Julien Chorier is always a tip for the podium and victory – he is one seriously classy runner. He was 2nd at Transgrancaria in 2014 and 7th last year. Mixing Hardrock and Western States shows that Julien can mix speed and climbing perfectly – one to watch for the top-5 for sure and maybe the podium!

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Timothy Olson has raced on the island before (2014) and placed 3rd. He arrived in advance of this years race to train and prepare, something he has done on many occasions for multiple races. Normally, I would be pushing Timmy for the win but for the past year or so, the form has been missing. So, it’s difficult to predict the outcome here in the Canaries. Can Timmy win? Absolutely! So, lets cross our fingers and hope that we see a return to 2013 when this guy was on fire! 

Pau Capell won the 85km event previously and last year held hands with Diego Pazoz and crossed the line for an equal 3rd place. He will be up there!

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Fabien Antolinus is a runner I first met at Les Templiers and since then he has continually impressed with his ability to mix speed and climbing to great results. Two years ago he was 5th at UTMB but for me, his performances at Ice Trail Tarentaise were stand out. He’s a top-5 contender for sure.

iancorless-com_etr2016-8828 Casey Morgan will keep UK interest high. He’s been up there at Transgrancanaria in the past and currently he is on a roll with a series of top quality victories. I last saw him race at Everest Trail Race and he was in great shape. He followed that race with another race victory in the Spanish mountains and just recently he raced in Hong Kong with great success.

Fulvio Dapit has come close in the past and is often let down with stomach issues. He won’t make the podium but he will be up in the top-10.

Ones to watch: 

  • Freddy Thevenin
  • Daniel Jung
  • Ben Duffus
  • Gerard Morales
  • Fritjof Fagerlund
  • Nicola Bassi
  • Dimity Mityaev

and many more…

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Female Contenders

©iancorless.com_SWC2016-6618This race has Caroline Chaverot’s name written all over it and no disrespect to the other female competitors but I don’t see anyone coming close to this French lady. Caroline was on fire in 2016 and was for me, THE, female ultra-runner of the year. She was unstoppable with a sting of high-profile victories. In summary, anyone who wins UTMB, becomes UTWT champion, becomes Skyrunning World Champion and IAU World Trail Champion all in one-year deserves the upmost respect. I think she will win the race by at least 1-hour!
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I am going to throw a curve ball in and put my neck on the line with a stunning performance expectation from the UK’s Beth Pascall. She will be somewhat of a dark horse over in Gran Canaria but she has all the potential to produce a shock. She has with the UK’s Spine Race and the shorter distance, Challenge Race. She obliterated the ladies’ record at the Lakeland 100 and won the Hoka Highland Fling. One to watch! *Update 21st Feb, Beth will not race due to an injury to her foot.

Andrea Huser never stops. She is like Michael Wardian and each time she runs I am amazed with her ability to recover and race again. She doesn’t have the speed of Caroline and therefore, providing Caroline has no problems. I don’t see the Swiss lady beating her. However, she has a list of results that makes the podium almost guaranteed – victories at Lavaredo, Diagonale des Fous and Swiss Irontrail and let’s not forget 2nd at UTMB behind Caroline!


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Azara Garcia and Gemma Arenas have set their tables out in Skyrunning races and we know that have speed and can climb with the best. However, 125km and 8000m of vertical is a long way and this may well be the downfall for the Spanish duo. Gemma probably has the edge over Azara as she has excelled at Ultra Pirineu with victory. For Gemma, I see 125km possibly being a real learning curve.

Lisa Borzani likes the long and mountainous races such as Tor des Geants and Ronda dels Cims – that will set her up well for this tough and challenging Transgrancanaria course. She may lack the speed but as others fade, she will continue to push strong. 

Manuela Vilaseca was 5th at Transgrancanaria two-years ago and in this line-up, I believe the podium is a possibility – a win would only really come should Andrea and Caroline have bad races.  

Ildiko Wermescher would be a long shot for the podium but a top-5 and certainly a top-10 is a distinct possibility. 2016 seemed to be a below par year but 2014 saw the German lady place 4th at Transgrancanaria.
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Debbie Martin-Consani is my dark horse for a shake up in the ladies’ rankings. Like Beth Pascall, she is a Lakeland 100 winner and she has excelled at other 100-milers and races like Spartathlon, she ha s also raced in a GB vest. Word on the street (or the hills) is that Debbie has been going up and down those Scottish mountains to prepare for this 125km race. 

Ones to watch:

  • Yulia Baykova
  • Jen Benna
  • Laura Barrera
  • Caroline Rohrl
  • Laia Diez

and many more…

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Fred Streatfield – The Community Of Running

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Fred Streatfield has been running all his life. You could say that running defines him. However, Fred is so much more than a runner, he’s a husband, a father, a grandfather, great grandfather a builder and in April 2017, he has set himself the challenge of running the Marathon des Sables.

‘MDS’ as it is known within the running community, is for many a dream goal. It’s been billed as the ‘Toughest Race on Earth’ and while we all know that it’s not, the multi-day Saharan adventure does bring its own set of unique problems and difficulties to encounter.

The race is over 30-years old and has without doubt paved the way for all modern day, multi-stage races. It’s format of self-sufficiency has been copied time and time again. In the early days, it was tens of runners who toed the line. Now it’s 100’s of runners and in recent years, with the growth of ultra-running, more than 1000 stand within the dunes of Morocco every April for what will be, for them, the ultimate experience

When you’ve been running for as long as Fred, you’d think this Moroccan adventure would be a walk in the park, or should I say, the dunes for him. But no, despite 49-years of running, Fred is intimidated for this new venture in his life.

A race like this is intimidating, it should be, after all it’s why you do it, no? Fred is no different than any other when signing on the line and paying the deposit. He wanted his run experience to be made whole, with something alien to him, something that would completely take him out of his comfort zone. Little did he know that when he signed up, his challenge would become something so much more than running…

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Niandi Carmont caught up with Fred after a training camp in Lanzarote. It was a camp specifically tailored for those undertaking a multi-day race of any type. Among the 40-participants on the camp, Fred became somewhat of hero.

It’s a simple way to start any conversation about a future race, direct is best sometimes, “Do you feel prepared Fred?’

“Well, yes. Yes and no really. I feel I now need to do more training but in all honesty, I don’t stop – I do need to do more long runs though.”

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Fred had arrived in Lanzarote feeling a little worried that he would be isolated, little did he know that he was leaving one family behind to be joined by another.

“The training camp was absolutely just beyond belief really. The volume of running we did and the guys I ran with… It was amazing, they were all young whippersnappers, and me, I’m an old boy! But I did keep up with them.”

Keep up with them Fred did. He’s an old-school road runner, a little obsessed with running fast. Too fast at times, particularly when you consider his 65-years. We had a phrase when I was younger and you’d see an older runner, ‘fit as a butcher’s dog’ and yes, Fred is as fit as a butcher’s dog. On day 1 it was a shakeout run of just 60-minutes, Fred by his own admission says that he’s not used to technical terrain – too many years running on the road! Forty minutes into the run he hit the deck, it looked a bad fall. His arm was bruised, is elbow bleeding and he was holding his ribs. We imagined the worst. He bounced up, brushed himself off and pushed on. The next day, the first day of the camp was a long run, Fred didn’t hold back and placed himself in the fast group.

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”Yes. I went with the first group, with the fast group. Last year I ran The Great North Run with Mark Scott (also on the camp) and I beat him by about three minutes. We were running for Macmillan charity. In the race, Mark came in after me, we exchanged niceties, shook hands and then we met again on the camp. As I was waiting for the run to start, Mark came and said, “Come on, Fred. Come on. Come on. You belong in this group.” which was the fast group. I said, “No, no, Mark, I’ll go with a slower group”. He went, “No, no. You go into this fast group.” Anyway, I stuck with him for 40-minutes, the run was going to be about a 20 to 23 plus miles. I thought to myself, if I continued at this pace I may not finish. It would have done me in. Ian was with me at the time so we eased off with another runner, Paul Allum and then joined your group Niandi.”

Niandi was of course flattered, it was just 1-day into the camp and already Fred was getting a fan club. Niandi’s group was pretty much running all the time but it was a slightly slower pace than the group up front lead by Elisabet Barnes, 2015 Marathon des Sables ladies champion.

Fascinated by stories and people, Niandi knew Fred had a story, we all have a story, but Niandi had that intuition, that sixth sense that told her that there was more than meets the eye. It started simply, ”Tell us a little about what motivated and inspired you to decide to do MDS and how it all started?”

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“Well, it goes back quite a way. There is a nice little story attached to this. I saw the race on the internet and how it posed the question of challenging one’s self. I was attracted to it but I dismissed it and moved on. Then a few weeks later, I went on to a website and it popped up again. My initial thoughts were about it looking really tough and I wondered if I could do it, after all, I am getting on!”

Niandi laughed, she’d heard rumors that there was more to the story. She probed, “Tell my how your wife was involved the entry process?”

“I went off into town with my wife. I left her and went to get some information on the desert running. I hadn’t told her though. I bumped into a friend of mine and he said, “What are you doing?”  I was on the spot so I told him that I was thinking that I may be tempted to run in the Sahara and I was getting some information. I told him though, whatever you do, don’t tell the wife!”

I am sure you can fill the gaps but the inevitable happened. The following day they bumped into each other once again and how did the friend great Fred?

“How’s the desert coming on?”

“Have you entered?” my wife said. “No, but I’ve been considering it”

The ice was broken. Fred entered the race and never looked back. His wife supported him every step of the way. But elation and excitement turned to loss, sadness and questions if the race would ever happen.

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“I think it was December 10th, it was the registration day. That was 2015. We waited for the entry for 2017 to open. I am not computer savvy and she had offered to help me fill out the forms. Technology and me don’t go together. Anyway, we checked in and we paid the deposit and that was the start. At the same time, we were in the process of moving house, always a big thing. The move happened and then 5-weeks later she passed away.”

It’s a moment like this that a life can fall apart, imagine it, married for so many years and then suddenly a void. Fred was all set for throwing in the towel but this is the power of running and the community connected with the sport.

”There was a closed website group just for the people who are running the MDS in 2017,” Fred continued. “They all said, “No, no, no. Don’t give up. She wouldn’t want you to.” So, I decided to carry on. It’s been difficult and it’s still difficult now. That’s one of the reasons I’m running. II am also running for Macmillan Cancer Charity. It’s important to help the charity too.”

No words needed. What feels like minutes is only seconds and Niandi picks up the conversation. “That’s a very noble cause, Fred. You’ve had a lot of support from the running community and from the people at the Lanzarote Training Camp, but it’s also due to your personality because you’re very outgoing. You’re very positive. You’re very bubbly. You’re very communicative and you’re really fun to be around.”

There’s silence and then a, “Thank you.”

******

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“I can’t remember my first race. But I was running at school. That’s where it all started but a key moment was when I had started work. Some guy just walked up to me. He went, “You look fit. In the car park, over here, every Saturday morning, be there. You will want to bring some running stuff.” I didn’t get any backing from my parents or anything like that and I really appreciated it so I started to go, I still have those old plimsoles.”

Simple beginnings and picture starts to form of Fred, his background, his history, his dedication to work hard and graft.

“I got some old shoes and some old shorts and then just went running. It just went from strength-to-strength really. I was about 15 or 16 and I have never looked back – I have met some amazing people. Obviously, they were not with us anymore, but they kept me going and helped me and nurtured me through. Even in the early days, the running community helped me.”

Community, bonds, friendship, values, Fred found all these in Lanzarote and it confirmed to him all that is good about running and although the decision to continue after the passing of his wife was a tough one, he now knows it was the correct one.

”Words fail me really, everyone on the training camp has been so incredible. It’s been tough. they’re so nice. It was really tough, II didn’t say anything on the camp but while I was there it coincided with the anniversary of my wife’s funeral.”

“I think there was a very strong bond between everybody and people knew what you’d gone through and I think that they felt the vibes,” Niandi responded. “Family is also very important to you. I also got that impression because you come from a very close family. Well, maybe you could tell about your family, about your daughters.”

”Yes, my daughters have been strong for me. Also, I don’t know how they’ve coped losing their mom. But anything I want, anything, they are there for me. They cook me my food and they take turns to have me as a guest at weekends – just so that I don’t starve. I’ve got four children myself and each of my four children have got four children.”

”That is 16 grandchildren?”

”Yes, 16 grandchildren and one of my granddaughters who is now 20, she’s not the oldest, she’s just had a little baby girl, six months ago!”

“You’re a great-grandfather?”

“I think that shocked some of the guys in Lanzarote. They looked at me and said, “How many grandchildren you got?” I said, “I’ve got one great-granddaughter.” I don’t think they could believe it.”

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Married for 44-years, his wife was 18 and he 19. Through thick and thin, as Fred quite rightly says, “It wasn’t all roses.” But who’s story is. They battled the tough times, enjoyed the good times. “She was my best friend. She helped me, she made me who I was and she was a very strong person and a really nice person as well.”

Part man, part robot, Fred has held back some other vital information. “You also have to keep a check on your health,” Niandi asks. “Because you’ve had a few health issues?”

“Yes. I’ve got a pacemaker. It’s all checked, it’s all monitored, and it’s good to go. In 2012, when I had a problem, they said I would never run again. At the time, I was looking at the MDS and I thought my chance had gone. But since then, everything is working out and I am fine. I’ve done just over 200 runs and races. I’m pretty fit.”

The finish line of the 2017 Marathon des Sables will be a special one. Red ribbon will pass through the fingers of race director Patrick Bauer. Attached to the ribbon will be a large disc of gold. As Fred crosses the line and the prize is placed around his neck, I have a real feeling that there will be more than just Fred’s tears shed on the finish line. This simple man embodies the race. He is a personification of the values the race holds true.

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*****

 

Fred’s typical training week:

  • Monday – Swimming
  • Tuesday – Run club night which is usually a sat 8km-10km.
  • Wednesday – Cycling 2-hours indoors.
  • Thursday – Run club hill sessions or fartlek. Followed by 1-hour swimming.
  • Friday – Rest.
  • Saturday – Park Run in the morning and then a 10km to half-marathon run.
  • Sunday – Usually 9 to 15-miles.

On MDS:

I’m sure I’ve got everything that I need. The Lanzarote trip helped with this, there might be a couple of little bits that I need, but nothing really. I think I need to slow down a little bit when running, think about the long game. I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be tough. Believe it or not, I’ve joined a sauna club. I’m hoping to spend a few hours in the sauna. I don’t know if I’ll be able to take my running stuff, though. I run in Lanzarote with my pack and that worked, I didn’t have full weight in it but it was good. I need to test out my food now and I am good to go.

Would you like to join our 2018 Multi-Day Training Camp, if so, go HERE

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Lanzarote Training Camp 2017 – Day 7

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Day 7 started with two sessions – a tempo/ fartlek run of 5 to 8-miles or a technique session on using poles. Both were valuable sessions. Sondre Amdahl (9th overall at the 2016 Marathon des Sables) lead the fast men in a hard tempo session, Elisabet Barnes (2015 MDS ladies champion) pushed the pace for the second group and then Niandi Carmont lead group three with Marie-Paule leading the walkers. At the run track, Ian Corless provided a technique session on using poles. Many had the question answered, ‘should I take poles?’ Yes! was the unanimous answer. The awkward 20-30minutes of adapting to the technique required was rewarded with a faster pace for less effort.

At 1100, Marie-Paule talked, ‘Zero to Atacama’ where she told the story of how she went from little interest in endurance sport to completing the 2016 Atacama without running a step! The power of walking!

Lunch was followed with arguably one of the highlights of the #multidaytrainingcamp – a walk, run/ walk or run of 20-30km to an overnight bivouac inside a volcano.

It’s this ‘real’ experience that provides everyone on the camp a true understanding of what will lie ahead at future multi-day race. For many, it was the first time running with a pack that had food, sleeping bag, mat, clothing etc. A learning curve. For some the experience was rewarding and a confirmation they had made the correct choice of items. For others, alarm bells were ringing… the wrong pack, the wrong sleeping bag, the wrong sleeping mat, the wrong food and so on! This experience is invaluable in making sure that all the questions marks, all the potential problems are eradicated now so that the race experience is a good one!

A windy but relatively warm night under the stars and it was a self-sufficient breakfast before another 20+km run that included dunes.

As everyone arrived back at Club La Santa, there was a buzz. The last 24-hours had made the future ‘race’ a reality.

Interested in joining out Multi-Day Training Camp in 2018? Go HERE

Lanzarote Training Camp 2017 – Day 6

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It was another great day in Lanzarote. The sun shone, the sky was blue and the temperatures were in the 20’s.

It was a long day with a coastal run, some technical trail and stunning views. The walkers covered 24km with Marie-Paule, the ‘mid-pack’ runners covered 28km with Niandi and the faster runners covered 36km with Elisabet.

Lots of smiles, lots of laughs and as this camp progresses, the confidence of each runner is growing; it’s on view to see! One-by-one, they are slowly but surely understanding what it’s going to take to complete, their next multi-day adventure.

The arrival of Sondre Amdahl on the camp (9th at MDS, 6th at Oman Desert Marathon) was a real boost and within hours, Sondre was proactive in a talk/ demonstration of what goes in a typical multi-day pack. This talk was very much directed to Marathon des Sables. Niandi, Elisabet and Sondre all discussed what to, and what not to take to the race. Of course, all three had unique ways of looking at the race and what was and what is and what is not important.

An early evening run of just 20 or 40-minutes with a disappearing sun concluded the day. Tomorrow is a full-on day and tomorrow, the participants of the 2017 training camp will bivouac inside a (dormant) volcano.

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Interested in our 2018 training camp? Go HERE

Lanzarote Training Camp 2017 – Day 5

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Now THAT was a stunning day!

0700 and meeting at the run track at Club La Santa was not, in the majority, most peoples idea of fun. However, the glow of head torches and an easy run of around 1-hours around the trails and lagoon of CLS, very much set everyone up for a perfect day in Lanzarote.

Breakfast was followed by two talks. Rich Carpenter discussed his first Marathon des Sables in 2016 and talked us through his whole preparation and race. He pointed out what worked and what didn’t and he also provided some invaluable personal ‘tips’ that many could take away to improve their own future multi-day experience.

Ian and Niandi then discussed the travel to Morocco, what everyone could expect and they provided invaluable hints-and-tips to make the bivouac experience more pleasurable until the race started.

Lunch and an afternoon break was followed by a run run to a volcano and a series of hill reps. I guess it was a session many feared… But, by unanimous feedback, the session has been the most exciting, the most welcomed and the most inspiring. Everyone loved it!

It was inspirational to see some runners push themselves to their physical limit, while others conquered a fear of climbing, exposed ridges and technical terrain. It was a real winning session and one that set everyone up perfectly for evening drinks in the bar and a relaxing and casual dinner.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is a big day with a long run out and back along the coast.

Interested in our 2018 Training Camp? Go HERE

Lanzarote Training Camp 2017 – Day 1

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The snow, the ice, the rain and the cold arrived in the UK. Temperatures plummeted. Lanzarote was the only place to be and thank goodness our multi-day training camp is now an annual fixture.

Elisabet Barnes, Niandi Carmont and myself arrived on this majestic Canary island of Lanzarote, two days ahead of our 2017 camp to put logistics in place and do a final check of some of the run routes we will use.

Blue skies and 20 degree temperatures greeted us. The bright blue sky, the warm rays immediately rejuvenating us from the cold and dark of the UK. No confirmation is needed but within seconds we know only too well why we do this camp at this time of year.

Today was all about settling in but it would be rude not to get out on the trails as the day came to a close. Using one of our training run routes, we ran, climbed and scrambled one of the many volcanoes that are located on this island. It was a magical way to end the day.

Wednesday, we will do a full long run route recce and then on Thursday, our clients will arrive from all over the world to start a full-on week learning how best to train, prepare and plan for a multi-day race. Lanzarote is the perfect environment for this.

Out 2017 #multidaytrainingcamp is underway!

Long Term Goal Setting and Planning for Ultra Running

The Long Term Goal

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

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

Recently I was involved in a series of discussions about the Marathon des Sables, not the 2016 edition of the race but the 2017 and 2018 editions of the race. One thing that became very clear is the panic and apprehension many runners feel about a goal that may well be a ‘one-off’ or lifetime goal.

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

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

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

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Why set a long term goal?

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

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

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

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

STRUCTURE

A macrocycle is one training year and this is broken down into mesocycles. It may sound like a fancy word but a mesocycle is a series of blocks of training that make up one macrocycle. For purposes of explanation, let’s assume that you are running the Marathon des Sables which takes place in April 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase 5: Feb, Mar.

Phase 6: Apr – A race.

Phase 1

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

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

How many days can I train?

How many hours a week can I train?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase 2

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

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

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

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

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

A week may look like this:

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

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

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

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

Phase 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Phase 6 is race time.

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

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

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

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

Good luck.

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