Transgrancanaria 2017 Race Summary and Images

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The island of Gran Canaria once again hosted the Transgrancanaria series of races. Over the years, the races have grown not only in stature and entries but also in quantity. In total, there are now seven races and this year the addition of the TRANS 360 (265km) really has elevated the race portfolio so that TRANSGRANCANARIA now contrasts and compares directly to the UTMB series of races.

Starting with a FAMILY race (17km) you then have PROMO (17km), STARTER (30km), MARATHON (42km), ADVANCED (82km), the TRANS 360 and then the main event of the weekend, TRANSGRANCANARIA at 125km and 8000m of vertical gain.

Over the year’s, TRANSGRANCANARIA has had the world best come to this Canary island and do battle. Ryan Sandes, Sebsatien Chaigneau, Nuria Picas and Caroline Chaverot are amongst the winners and the 2017 edition, like previous years, had a high quality field.

Notably, the 2017 edition is also earlier in the year, in the past, the race has been in March. This is significant, the 125km race is tough at anytime of the year but coming so early means that the end of one season and the beginning of the next becomes increasingly cloudy. If you want to do well here, it’s fair to say that the previous year’s season needs to end in September or October to allow for recovery and then building training once again to be ready in February.

Caroline Chaverot and Didrick Hermansen were 2016 returning champions and without doubt they were pre-race favourites. Didrick most definitely would have a fight on his hands with the final result going anyway. By contrast, Caroline after an incredible 2016 season was almost guaranteed a victory. But this is ultra-running and things don’t always go the way you expect.

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From the off, Pau Capell and Azara Garcia dictated the race from the front and by the time they reached Artenara (approx 30km), the duo had a convincing lead in their respective races. Many had predicted pre-race that 2017 was Pau’s year, however, Azara was stepping up to the 125km distance – she normally races hilly, technical mountain races of marathon distance, so, stepping up to 125km and 8000m of vert was going to be a challenge.

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The Spanish duo most certainly had some highs and lows on an incredible journey to the line but they didn’t falter. Pau looked to be a man on a mission throughout the race and although he went through a bad patch in the last 20km, he rallied and then continued to pull away to take one of the biggest victories of his life.

Azara battled and battled and from Roque Nublio looked tired and maybe a little bit broken. Somehow she managed to find the mental strength to beat and will her body to the line. She finished with a convincing lead over 2nd lady Andrea Huser, but Azara was an empty shell on the line. She was broken and the emotion of the biggest win of her career seemed all too much as she sat lost in her exhaustion. Eventually she was stretchered away to recover.

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Behind two amazing performances were the highs and lows of the ultra world. In the ladies’ race we saw Caroline Chaverot drop from the race at Artenara lacking energy with tired legs. We saw Andrea Huser produce an ever-consistent and well placed performance to place 2nd and gain another high-ranking podium place and Melanie Rousset from France rallied to finish 3rd ahead of Kirstin Berglund. Full ladies’ results HERE.

The men’s race was a cracker, however, everyone was running in the wake of Pau Capell who produced a dominating world-class performance. Vlaidas Zlabys from Lithuania was the revelationn of the race and a name to note for the future. Right from the beginning he was in the mix and he produced a strong, consistent and well paced performance to finish 2nd 14:35 minutes behind Pau. In the final 20km he had closed that gap down to 10-minutes but Pau surged. Didrick Hermansen ran much of the race off the podium but he knows his strength. In the last 3rd of the race he closed hard and moved up through the race to finally finish on the podium in 3rd – a great result!

Behind the top-3 is a story of trials and tribulations, pre-race favourites of Andy Symonds, Diego Pazos and Timothy Olson all finished in the top-10 but it was stories of niggles, sickness, fatigue and fighting a cold and challenging night. Full men’s results HERE.

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The 2017 edition of the race will be remembered for a very cold and windy night that challenged the runners. Even the arrival of daylight did not warm the ambient temperature in the mountains. It was only as the runners descended to the sea in the final 20-30km’s did temperatures rise and of course, this brings it’s own problems. From 4-degrees to 25-degrees is a tough ask. The challenge was clearly seen on each runners face.

Pau Capell and Azara Garcia are the names of 2017, I wonder, who will be the names of 2018?

Men Results

  1. Pau Capell 13:21:03 (Didrick ran 13:41 in 2016)
  2. Vlaidas Zlabys 13:35:38
  3. Didrick Hermansen 13:50:06
  4. Jordi Baus 13:53:53
  5. Maxime Cazajous 13:53:54

Ladies Results

  1. Azara Garcia 16:25:20 (Caroline ran 15:23 in 2016)
  2. Andrea Huser 17:15:45
  3. Melanie Rousset 17:30:40
  4. Kistin Berglund 18:00:04
  5. Ildo Wermescher 18:17:43

Images will be uploaded to iancorless.photoshelter.com

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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 Multi-Day Training Camp 2016 – Day 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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inov-8 – Race Ultra™ 290 – Shoe Review

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inov-8 release their first ever ultra running shoe and we were lucky enough to get hold of a test pair 3-months ago, albeit in a UK8. That ruled myself out of any run testing but Niandi Carmont stepped up to the mark and gave the new Race Ultra™ 290’s a beating in the build up to Comrades. Here are her thoughts.

The Race Ultra™ 290’s is a first for UK shoe manufacturer, inov-8 but definitely not the last based on my testing of them. I picked up these shoes in the middle of March, so, I have had them for exactly 3-months; a perfect test period for any shoe!

In preparation for the 2014 Comrades I was reluctant to do all my training on road. Funny really, I used to be a ‘roadie.’ However, like so many others, after finding trail I have been reluctant to go back to the hard stuff… Road running was going to require a lot of motivation so I decided to alternate between trail and road just to get the miles in and to keep my motivation going. The Race Ultra™ 290’s proved to be the perfect shoe when mixing things up.

Usually it takes me a while to get used to new shoe models never mind new brands. I was a little anxious this time as this was my first experience of inov-8 footwear. I was pleasantly surprised – I required no adaptation or transition. The shoe has a slipper-like feel and is a perfect compromise in terms of cushioning and weight (290g/UK8). The gusseted tongue is padded, holds the foot firm and the thin laces pull tight, stay tight and provide reassuring security to my foot irrespective of the conditions. The toe box is wide, spacious and certainly has room for swelling feet should the need arise from multiple hours of running. Toe protection comes from a reinforced area that actually extends all the way around the shoe.

Prone to foot injuries I need cushioning but usually find it hard to get a trail shoe that is able to offer:

  • Cushioning.
  • Lightweight.
  • Good grip.

The Race Ultra™ 290 ticks all these boxes. Yes I know you can get lighter shoes. Yes I know you can get more cushioning and yes I know I can get a shoe with more grip. The secret of the Race Ultra™ 290 is that it has averaged all these elements and comes up with a great all round package. So much so, that I would say if you were looking for one shoe to do all things, you wouldn’t go wrong with a pair of these!

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Injected with EVA, the footbed is 6mm with 10mm at the front and 18mm at the rear offering a heel to toe drop of 8mm. Inov-8 as a brand have pioneered the transition to a lower drop shoes for 11-years and the Race Ultra™ 290 may well provide ultra-runners seeking to transition say from 12/13mm drop shoes towards a more minimalist drop a perfect opportunity. Equally, if you run in 6/4/3 or zero drop shoes, the 8mm may well provide you with a more ‘relaxed’ day on the trails. After all, this is the purpose of the Race Ultra™ 290. It’s all about making hours on trail and/ or road more pleasurable and less tiresome but this depends on your own run style and preferences. For me 8mm sits very well for longer runs. The flatter outsole ensures a stable ride without the loss of proprioception and as the hour’s pass and fatigue sets in, the 8mm drop and added cushioning are welcome.

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Transitioning from road to trail is not an issue as obviously this shoe has been designed specifically for this purpose. It’s without doubt an all round shoe that excels on hard pack trail events that may include road and rocky sections. Tested on dry sun baked French trail that incorporated a mixture of hard clay, stones and rocks the Ultra 290 excelled, in softer / grassy sections the ‘Tri Endurance’ compound provided confidence. Should the trail become very boggy and/or muddy, grip is compromised. This is to be expected in a shoe that is trying to be all things in one package. However, if these sections are short and provide a very small percentage of your run (say 10-20%) this is a compromise worth making for the comfort and security the shoe will provide for the remainder of your run.

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On UK trail it proved to be a good all-weather shoe offering good grip for a multitude of conditions. Door-to-Trail is a term that is being used quite considerably at the moment and I do feel that the Race Ultra™ 290 fits well in this bracket.

A nice little non-negligible feature for the runner with smelly feet is the patented X-STATIC® foot bed, ensuring that the bacteria feeding on sweat will be kept at bay! I’ve had these shoes for a while, they have been through mud, wet and grass and I guarantee they are completely odourless!

The shoe also has the option to take custom Race Ultra™ Gaiters (available separately). They clip onto inov-8’s unique on-the-shoe attachment system. This is very cool. The shoe has attachment points built in and thus allows the gaiter to be added or removed as required with minimum fuss. I don’t use gaiters very often, however, having tried these I think I will use them more. They stopped mud and stones entering the shoe from the top and to be honest, once on, I didn’t even know I was using them. I can see this feature being added to more shoes in the inov-8 range. Should you wish to use the gaiter with other shoes, a fastener is supplied to make this possible.

A feature I would have liked is a more trail-friendly lacing system that offers a place to secure or store excess lace when the shoes are tied. It’s a minor quibble and may very well have been an omission as this would be redundant if the gaiter was worn.

In conclusion, inov-8’s new Race Ultra™ 290 shoe will be a hit. I am sure of it. If you are already an inov-8 user this may well be your new ‘go to’ shoe for your daily runs when an ‘all rounder’ is just what you need. If you are new to ultra running and only want one shoe, this will be perfect place to start. I really can’t find any negatives about this shoe other than the obvious…. If it’s really muddy you won’t have enough grip but that isn’t a criticism of the shoe, it’s more about having the wrong shoe for the job.

Check out inov-8 HERE

Shoe will be available from July 2014

 

Niandi Carmont

Niandi Carmont – Niandi is South African born, a former resident of Paris, she now lives in the UK. A runner for over 20-years; Niandi has completed Comrades Marathon 13-times, Washie 100 2-times and has finished well over 100 marathons and ultras  all over the world. Currently residing in the UK, Niandi splits her work life between the UK and France.

 ******

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MDS to TCC – Jo Meek Interview

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Who would have thought it, the 2013 Marathon des Sables turned out to be a great year for British performances. Danny Kendall placed the highest ever overall placing with 10th and Jo Meek placed 2nd lady overall. It was a stunning performance by a relatively unknown. Armed with a new belief in her ability, Jo will has now planned to switch from the heat of the Sahara and test herself in the heat and humidity of a Costa Rican rainforest at The Coastal Challenge. I caught up with Jo at the end of August and we had a chat about MDS and her expectations for TCC.

IC I bet April and the Marathon des Sable (MDS) seems such a long time ago?

JM Yes, it does seem ages ago. Considering I am walking now in late August in the pouring rain. It’s wet and miserable… it doesn’t seem that long ago in regard to memories. I just watched the video that was available for download and it brought it all back.

IC So sitting at home, watching everyone running in the sand with a tear in your eye?

JM Definitely no tear, I think I am happy not be running in the sand. I am still surprised how I adapted especially considering I am now at home running on the road again.

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IC Amazing eh that you can be in that environment, the sand, the wind, the bivouac, no washing, you are eating dried food and you adapt and then post race when we got in a luxury hotel, you said, you wished you could go back, you loved it didn’t you! You loved being in that environment. It was preferable to the clean hotel.

JM I did. Yes, I actually think I could be quite a ‘skanky’ person really. I am far happier roughing it than in luxury. I guess it sounds romantic but I like being at one with nature, eating, running and sleeping. Perfect. But I guess the other memory is the one from those clean white cotton sheets; that was quite special.

IC I have to say, the first shower, all that fresh hot water and then all the sand starts to escape from all the nooks and crannies. As you say, no more sleeping bags and a lovely comfy bed, it is quite a pleasure.

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JM My roll matt was about the size of A4 to keep it light and small, so my hip was pretty sore after a week in the bivouac. I have to say the cushioning of a bed was welcome.

IC The Bristh performed really well at MDS. No disrespect to you but we had no idea who Jo Meek was before MDS. We knew Laurence Klein was outright favorite and we knew Meghan Hicks was back, she had performed well previously but outside of that it was all unknown. On the first day you were up at the front and then continued to perform at the front of the race for the whole race. You had this great battle with Meghan. Laurence had a convincing lead but it all fell apart on the long day when she had to drop with dehydration. This opened it up for you and Meghan. Meghan had a great long day but I remember standing on the finish of the final day, it was the marathon distance, you nailed it. You said the marathon was your distance and you wanted to stamp your authority on it. You placed second overall, many look at MDS as one of those iconic mult- day races, how did you go from a relatively unknown to getting second. What was it in you that enabled you to focus and become so efficient in the sand?

JM A few things really. I am very good at setting a training plan and sticking to it. When I race, I always race. I don’t just enter to complete it. So, looking at the conditions I set myself up in a heat chamber and did training that was specific. I didn’t want heat to be an issue so I acclimatized. What was interesting over the six days was that I became less scared of what the heat could do. On the last day I thought, what have I got to loose. I do think back now and wonder could I have gone harder but it was an unknown. I didn’t know what would happen so I played cautious. Meghan taught me a lot without her realizing it. I followed her on a couple of stages and I watched how she tracked across the sand looking for the hard sand, even if it was out of the way. She would deviate and look for the harder and faster sand. Also her style, it’s a definite technique to sand running. You don’t want to be a toe runner.

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IC For sure, you need a flat foot.

JM Yes, you also want to shuffle. You don’t want big strides. A little like being in the army again. I learnt lots. I learnt also from training. I had done some awful ultras that were definitely worse than MDS. One race, a 40-mile race across Exmoor and the weather was awful… they said 40 but it was 43-miles I am sure. The last 3-miles were awful.

IC That can be good, a bad training experience. If you have had some tough and hard training and the race works out easier then that has to be a good thing. It’s a real positive.

JM I had no doubt that I wouldn’t finish the race. I had said that I wanted the podium at MDS but I had no idea what I based that on.

IC To put things in perspective you are a 2:46 marathon runner. Ability and speed are there. Many would die for a 2:46 marathon but also you are in the army. Does the combination of those two things make a good MDS runner?

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JM I think the marathon pace and training was key in terms of the speed. I didn’t have the same endurance as Meghan over the ultra distance. Many of the days were shorter in terms of ultra distance so I knew I had that potential. In terms of tent life and conditions, maybe the army helped but that is me… I like that. The army helped with discipline; eating, drinking and so on… it was feet first, food and then wash. You need to look after yourself.

IC Give us an insight into your background, you are a roadrunner really?

JM Yes, but I do like cross-country. I came second in the Nationals. Essentially I have done road running. I started in my teens to loose weight and then just kept going. I wouldn’t say I have natural talent in terms of speed but I have something that works, particularly over distance.

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IC How long have you been running?

JM 18 years, maybe 20!

IC So you have a great base of running and plenty of experience?

JM Yes. I always thought that maybe I should do ultra earlier and I thought, no rush! Particularly with how you develop with age and aerobic capacity. It seemed like the correct time for MDS. As you know, you don’t just enter MDS you have to enter years in advance.

IC Post MDS you really wanted to improve your marathon time. You put yourself on that path and recently you run a half marathon but you were disappointed with the performance. Many factors can affect a race, a conclusion you have arrived at is that you are now going to pursue trail and ultra running. So, you are going to another multi stage in early 2014 but this time you are going to a Rainforest. It’s a race that I was at earlier in 2013, The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. Also known as the Rainforest Run. What’s the attraction?

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

JM I am always very attracted to a country that is hotter than the UK. That is a no brainer! It’s the challenge, the opportunity to compete in something so different. This race I don’t need to carry all my kit, so, unlike the MDS I will be able to just run but admittedly for repeated days. It will be interesting and it should mean I can go faster.

IC The race is very different to MDS. Some things carry over such as the multi day. As you say, you don’t need to carry all your kit but you do need safety kit, food, water and just essentials. But you are correct, all your clothing, tent etc is moved for you and then food is provided. It’s a hot and very humid environment and even when it rains it is not a problem, it is so warm. All the daily campsites are in beautiful idyllic places. It’s such a wonderful environment. It’s a great combination of providing daily challenging runs but with just a touch of comfort. It’s perfect for those who may want an introduction to multi day racing.

Costa Rice, The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

JM In some ways it will feel easier but in an evening you will be able to eat as much as you like and so will the competition, in theory you are all the same come the following day. But at MDS it is about survival and balance. It is more about balancing and economy and how you ration your food and water.

IC The race has so much more elevation than MDS and in particular, the terrain is much more varied. You have single track, double track, rocky sections, forest, dense forest, beautiful beaches and then some tough climbs and descents. The next edition of the TCC celebrates its tenth year so it may have a little more climbing than normal, we shall see? The variety is amazing. If you are lucky, you’ll see wildlife. You hear it but don’t always get to see it.

Costa Rica, The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

JM I’m so excited. I can’t wait. I have some road races to do in the coming months and then I will start my TCC training three months out. I will use a heat chamber again. The heat chamber I used for MDS prep was stuck on 80% humidity so I have an idea of what conditions will feel like and I know what my sweat rate is like.

IC Costa Rica is very humid. It is almost 100% but it is not unpleasant. You really do sweat all the time, particularly when running. You need to be on the ball and balance your hydration.

JM I like it harsh and hard conditions. In some ways, the harder the better.

Costa Rica, The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

IC How do you prepare for a multi day race? In some ways you had to guess for MDS and that worked! So, what do you take away from that experience and what will you do in preparation for TCC. The longest stage is around 50k and not 80k so that will make a difference. As we have said humidity and terrain are the key differences and you won’t need to carry a heavy pack.

JM I will do far hillier off road training. For MDS I had to train with the weight too, however for TCC I will just use essential kit and I will do plenty of back-to-back training at a faster pace. I will try to replicate the race really. In some respects it won’t be too different from my marathon training. The key will be the back-to-back runs..

IC We have so many different ways to look at training. Some runner’s just head out of the door and run on feel. No time set, no distance set. It all goes on feel. Are you like this or do you have a plan that has everything planned out?

JM I work full time so I must have a plan. I don’t have the luxury to say go out and run for three hours when I feel like it. I have commitments. I get up at 05:30 and I do what I can and then I add to this at lunchtime or the evening if required. I make every session count so I fit in threshold running, speed work and so on. I need to be very specific. At weekends I have more time and if I need three days consecutive I take a day off work.

IC Do you do core stability, stretching, strength and core.

JM Oh yes, I am a proper geek when it comes to this. I am a physio too so I have no excuse. I stretch everyday, I do two strength sessions and I do two core sessions per week.

Costa Rica, The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

IC Wow, you are the perfect example for all of us. So often I ask this question and I get a blank answer. We all know we should do it but few of us apply it!

JM I am disciplined and I see the benefits. You have to be disciplined but it still doesn’t stop me getting injuries.

IC Ah well, injury can be caused with so many factors.

JM For me it is usually over doing it or being tired.

IC Yes, distance and speed increase injury risk. Slower and longer has more impact but you don’t overstretch muscles or tendons. Listen to your body and all will be good.

JM I never listen to my own advice… I am lucky, we have a gym at work so it makes strength work easy. If I didn’t have that available it would maybe be harder. I have been strict with this for four to five months and I can feel the difference.

IC TCC is still months away, are you planning on doing any trail races for late season in the build up?

Costa Rica, The Coastal Challenge ©iancorless.com

JM Yes, I love to race. I will enter races, from experience, if I enter races too far in advance I get injured, so I have entered a couple of marathons on the road for training and speed. In December and January I will look for options. Of course, options are reduced and conditions will be a little different to Costa Rica.

IC Late and early season events do crop up specifically designed to help people get ready for MDS so you will have some choice. Final question, many may be reading this and they are going to MDS or they may be tempted by TCC. What advice would you give to these people?

JM It very much depends on what you want to get out of it? I shared a tent at MDS with people who wanted to just complete, they wanted to enjoy the race and that is what they did. Set an objective and train accordingly. Ultimately it is all about fun and enjoyment.

IC If you had to give three tips. Three lessons you learnt at MDS that you would take to any race.

JM Good question. I learnt specifics like running in the sand but I guess the need to watch and keep on top of nutrition. Start eating early and don’t wait. Also, keep any eye on hydration and drink to thirst and then finally enjoyment is key! You must enjoy it.

IC I am sure you’re going to really enjoy TCC and Costa Rica. Many thanks for the time and insight into your progression and have fun in the Rainforest.

JM Thanks, as you say, really looking forward to it. It will be a real adventure.

 Links and information:

  • Marathon Des Sables images available HERE
  • The Coastal Challenge images HERE
  • Entry for the Marathon des Sables is available through the UK agent HERE
  • The Coastal Challenge website HERE

WANT TO RUN THE 2014 COASTAL CHALLENGE?

5% discount available using the form below for followers of iancorless.com

*Please note I will be at the 2014 TCC reporting on the race and capturing images at the invite of the race organisation.

The Coastal Challenge – Oxygen

TCC RAINFOREST ROUTE V1

December 20th, 2012

Question“Ian, are you free the first 10 days of February?”

Answer “I leave Spain today and I am back in the UK late tonight. I have a busy morning on Saturday and I have some interviews to do Saturday afternoon but I will be free around midday to chat if you are? Alternatively drop me an email. Hope you are well? February should be okay, lets discuss.”

Reply “Great, so you can go to Costa Rica for the multistage ‘Coastal Challenge'”

Answer“Erm, yes! of course”

So, with just 4 weeks to prepare I was suddenly thrust into a week in the jungle. A whole new experience for me but one that I am so excited about! The Coastal Challenge.

I would normally be thinking to myself this is awesome. I get to go to Costa Rica, take part in a 6 day multistage, take photos, write an article and of course get some interviews. Unfortunately my long term knee injury is going to stop that… 225km over 6 days will just be too much and of course, I am not fit! Well, not race fit.

But as I said to my client and the RD, I think it is important to go these events and see it from both sides. If I am taking part, I wont see what is happening at the front of the race. I wont see ‘the race’ for the win. I also wont see the logistics and planning that go into a race like this. My trip is all about understanding every aspect of this race. So I am happy. I plan to dip in and dip out of stages but ultimately report on and bring back a whole series of images and stories that I can relate back to readers and listeners worldwide.

The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica

The first question I had was, can I die?

Heat Illness and Dehydration

Individuals who are not well conditioned traveling in hot, humid environments are susceptible to both heat illness and dehydration. Heat illness includes both very benign conditions such as heat rash as well as life threatening conditions including heat stroke. Participants should carry enough liquids to ensure hydration during the event. It is important to eat and drink appropriate amounts of liquids with electrolytes during the event to reduce the incidence of hyponatremia. Water has not been an issue in previous Coastal Challenge’s, however, this year portions of the race will be through agricultural areas that will require purification before drinking.

Plants and Animals

There are 135 species of snakes in Costa Rica with 17 being considered dangerous. Mostly these are members of the Viper, Coral and Boa families. The best prevention is watching your path and being aware.

Water Safety

While the water in Costa Rica is generally considered among the safest in Central America, traveler’s diarrhea does occur. It is advised that any water be treated prior to drinking unless its safety can be guaranteed. Speak to your Family Physician about treatment issues (Pepto Bismol, Antibiotics, etc.)

Sun

February is considered the dry season so expect warm temperatures with average highs of 20-25C/70-85C depending on altitude. Furthermore the race will be going through some of the driest areas of Costa Rica. Proper sunscreen is essential (SPF 15 or greater) with enough to last multiple daily applications for the entire race.

Okay okay, that sounds okay… the chances of survival are pretty good. So then, what is The Coastal Challenge?

  • 225km
  • Costa Rica
  • Supported stage race
  • 6 stages
  • February 2013

The “Rainforest Run” promises to be spectacular and challenging. The course has been designed to emphasize point-to-point racing, which will put the “finish line” at or near camp at the end of each day’s race. The course is measured and will be marked. You will be given accurate course measurements and maps (Google Maps, Nat Geo maps) with route profiles for terrain, approximate distances and elevation gain or loss.

Set along Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coastline and weaving into the Talamancas, a coastal mountain range in the southwest corner of Costa Rica. The race finishes near the border of Panama in a small and serene fishing village that until recently was only accessible by fishing boat.

Mountain, trail, rainforest, single track, across ridges, highlands and coastal ranges. We will run along beaches, rocky outcrops, reefs, river estuaries and the race finishes in the Corcovado National Park, one of the premier rainforest experiences in the world. A Unesco World Heritage site it defies description.

The course has a total elevation gain of more than 34,000 feet.

What is a Rainforest?

Rainforests are forests characterized by high rainfall, with definitions based on a minimum normal annual rainfall of 1750–2000 mm (68-78 inches). The monsoon trough, alternatively known as the intertropical convergence zone, plays a significant role in creating the climatic conditions necessary for the Earth‘s tropical rainforests.

Around 40% to 75% of all biotic species are indigenous to the rainforests.[1] It has been estimated that there may be many millions of species of plants, insects and microorganisms still undiscovered in tropical rainforests. Tropical rainforests have been called the “jewels of the Earth” and the “world’s largest pharmacy“, because over one quarter of natural medicines have been discovered there.[2] Rainforests are also responsible for 28% of the world’s oxygen turnover, sometimes misnamed oxygen production,[3] processing it through photosynthesis from carbon dioxide and consuming it through respiration.

The undergrowth in a rainforest is restricted in many areas by the poor penetration of sunlight to ground level. This makes it easy to walk through undisturbed, mature rainforest. If the leaf canopy is destroyed or thinned, the ground beneath is soon colonized by a dense, tangled growth ofvinesshrubs and small trees, called a jungle. There are two types of rainforest, tropical rainforest and temperate rainforest.

Logistics

The race is supported. This makes a big big difference. Although the race has a similar format to the Marathon des Sables, the big difference is that you do not need to carry your kit whilst running. This multistage is very much a race from the sense that the runners can race light and fast. The top runners will keep it minimal, hand bottles or a small pack. However, for most participants they will carry a pack with some ‘essentials’ and of course a bladder or bottles.

Base camp is set up by the race team. They transport the participants baggage to the finish of each day. Runners can sleep in a hammock or tent.They provide food (apparently excellent) and they also provide a series of check points and feed stations during the race.

After asking several questions, I was told by Rodrigo Carazo the following:

‘In regards to the race, it is a VERY HUMID race, plus it is also VERY HOT, if you have been to MDS, our conditions feel worse in terms o humidity, it rarely gets above 35 degrees but he humidity factor makes it feel hotter. But dont worry the sights and race course and race atmosphere really make the heat a minor issue in regards to the experience, but nonetheless it makes for a very demanding race and it is very rewarding once the race  is finshed!!!!
 
Once the race begins we provide everything you need for the next seven days except your specific racing food. We provide all meals, a highlight of our race you will see, and on course we provide water gatorade, fruits , nuts, sandwiches and cookies, but we dont provide energy bars or similar. At night you will be staying in campsites so bring your tent-with rainfly just in case ( its the tropics!) and a sleeping mattress. Some people bring sleeping hammocks.
Also bring plenty of running and beach clothes, you will need them as after every stage you will end up full of mud and bathed in sweat!! Do not bring shoes or socks you haven’t tried or raced with, this is because your feet will be constantly wet and humid, and blisters could be your worse enemy! Also bring a lot of sun protection, we see a lot of people coming from winter in their home countries leaving back with very sexy ruby red tans!!!!
 
We transport all you gear daily in a duffel bag or action packer plus your tent.”
 
Simple!
Okay, loads of run kit, loads of beach clothes, mattress, tent etc etc etc… I have 4 weeks!
I make a couple of calls and send a few emails and BIG thanks need to be expressed here to The North Face and Arc’teryx.
Both companies have stepped in at the 11th hour and have provided me with a selection of kit that will help me on the trip.
The North Face have provided a tent, luggage and a selection of run clothing. Arc’teryx have provided travel and relaxation clothing.
The North Face
TNF Mica 1 Tent

TNF Mica 1 Tent

The Mica 1 tent will be excellent as I can pitch just the ‘inner’ allowing me to potentially remain a little cooler in the ridiculously hot and humid climate.

The North Face

  • Single Track Hayasa Shoes
  • GTD shorts
  • GTD LS top and SS top
  • Waterproof Pack
  • Enduro 13 Pack w/ bottles
  • Mica 1 Tent

Arc’teryx 

Arcteryx

  • Incendo Short
  • Motus Shirt
  • Neutro Vizor

Race Schedule

TCC stg 1

TCC stg 2

TCC stg 3

TCC stg 4

TCC stg 5

TCC stg 6

One’s to watch

  • Dave James from US – interview with Dave James on episode 27 of Talk Ultra HERE
  • Jen Segger from CA
  • Roiny Villegas from CR
  • Ligia Madrigal from CR
  • Ismael Dris from Spain

Footnotes

FEET CARE by John Vonhof

Conditioning Your Feet

In the same way you train your legs and cardiovascular system, you need to condition your feet for the rigors 150 miles of The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. In short, that means training your feet in simulated race conditions. Train on somewhat similar terrain—sand, rocks, trails, hills, and in water. Knowing in advance how your feet will respond to these conditions will help you anticipate problems before they occur. Strengthening your ankles will help prevent sprained ankles common to uneven terrain and trails. Add in some walks or runs of longer amounts and vary your distance. The more miles you can get on your feet the stronger your feet will be.

Shoes

When selecting shoes, make sure your toes have wiggle room and your heels are snug with little up and down movement. Shoes with mesh may be cooler but tend to allow trail debris and sand into the shoe. Don’t start the race with worn out shoes. Make sure the shoes fit well and have space for swollen feet and toes.

Socks

Athletes should wear moisture-wicking socks. Try a few types of socks and decide whether a single sock, a thin liner with an outer sock, or two socks are the best for your feet. Remember if wearing more than one pair, more space is required inside your shoes so be sure your shoes are sized big enough. Plan on several changes of socks. The Injinji toe socks place each toe into its own little sock and might be a good move if you are prone to toe blisters.

Gaiters

Gaiters keep sand, grit and gravel, and trail debris out of your shoes and socks. There are many commercially made gaiters available to purchase or make your own. Those with a breathable material are preferred. Styles which attach to the shoe’s upper are preferred over those with the strap under the shoe since they make it easier to change socks.

Skin Preparation

The most beneficial step you can take to prevent problems is to reduce your calluses. Treating blisters under calluses is difficult and sometimes impossible. Use a callus file after showering or use callus remover creams to soften the skin.

Toenail Preparation

Untrimmed nails catch on socks putting pressure on the nail, causing blisters and black toenails, and cut into other toes. Toenails should be trimmed regularly, straight across the nail. Leave an extra bit of nail on the outside corner of the big toe to avoid an ingrown toenail. After trimming, use a nail file to smooth the top of the nail down toward the front of the toe and remove any rough edges. If you draw your finger from the skin in front of the toe up across the nail and can feel a rough edge, the nail can be filed smoother or trimmed a bit shorter.

Blister Prevention

If stopping to rest on the trail, take your shoes and socks off to air your feet, elevating them if possible. If near water, cool your feet with a quick soak. Use a silicone-based lubricant, like Hydropel or Sportslick which helps drive moisture away from your skin and reduces friction between your feet and shoes. Empty your socks of rocks and debris that can cause blisters, sores, abrasions, and cuts. If prone to blisters, consider taping your feet before problems develop.

Blister Treatment

Attend to hot spots when they develop to prevent them from turning into blisters. Cover these with tape to eliminate friction. Blisters should be drained and covered with Spenco 2nd Skin, Blister Block, or Compeed, and then tape. Your feet must be cleaned of all lubricant and oils for the patch to stick. If using a pin to drain the blister make several holes. If using a small scissors, make two small “V” cuts. Make the holes or cuts at a

point where foot pressure will expel any additional fluid build-up. Try to keep the skin on the roof of the blister. After applying a patch, roll your socks on and off to avoid disturbing the patch. Practice applying blister patches on areas of your feet most prone to problems.

Your Foot Care Kit

Wise competitors carry a small foot care kit in their packs. It doesn’t have to be big but it has to be right for your feet and small enough to fit in a Ziplock bag. I’d recommend a small container of Zeasorb powder or BodyGlide lubricant, alcohol wipes to clean oils off the skin before applying a blister patch, tincture of benzoin wipes, a small Ziplock bag with 1-inch Spenco 2nd Skin patches, a sewing needle and thread to drain blisters, and at least two yards of Leukotape wrapped around a small pencil. Duct tape can be substituted for Leukotape if you prefer. Of course it goes without saying that carrying a blister kit is useless if you don’t know how to use the materials. Use the time between now and the race to learn how to patch blisters and tape your feet before an event.

Foot Care at the End of the Day

After each day’s segment, proper care of your feet can help prepare you for the next day.

Using lightweight flip-flops around camp will allow your feet time to air and heal. If possible, soak your feet in cool water. Elevate your feet when resting. Rotate your socks to keep your feet as dry as possible and wash dirty socks. If your feet swell, you may have to remove your insoles. Use Super Salve, Bag Balm, Brave Soldier Antiseptic Healing Ointment, or a similar ointment to keep your feet as healthy as possible.

John Vonhof – Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes, 3rd edition, June 2004
www.footworkpub.com

Essential Medical Kit

  • Alcohol hand rub or equivalent. Have 2 X 100ml bottles available.
Take one with you on run or event.
Use on every occasion that you use the toilet/ wash room. Use before and after eating food.
  • Use often Moist toilet tissues or baby wipes
  • Friars Balsam (Tinc Benz Co) 100mls in leak proof bottle.
  • Cotton buds around 20 kept in a plastic zip bag
  • Fleecy web in rolls or sheets
  • Zinc oxide tape or duct tape.
  • Compeed
  • Antiseptic liquid 100ml in leak proof bottle
  • Antiseptic dry spray 200ml
  • Sterile large bore needles x 10
  • Alcohol wipes, small x 20
  • Zinc oxide tape x 1 roll 5cm wide
  • Steristrip various sizes
  • Vasaline or Sudacrem
  • Adhesive remover or Zoff
  • Zeasorb powder or talcum powder
  • Small pair of dressing sicissors
  • Latex gloves
  • Gauze swabs
  • Sun screen and lip balm
  • Rehydrate salts or equivalent
  • Antibiotic cover
  • Just to clarify a point about running shoes, running shoes should be good fitting and not too big. You can bring a size bigger just in case your feet swell but do not start with them. Bring sandles/ flip flops for around camp in the evening.

Finally….

Spiral

The Coastal Challenge chose the spiral symbol because of its simple and transcendent beauty. Many of the most universally recognized meanings attached to the spiral seem relevant to the adventure in which you are about the take part. To many cultures the circular motif signifies centeredness, tranquility and balance.

Also a basic element in Western ideography, the clockwise spiral is strongly associated with water, power, life, the earth or sun, time, a journey, independent movement, and migrations of tribes, all things that will most definitely shape your life over The Coastal Challenge

 Visit the race website HERE

I will be updating my blog daily with a report and photos. Also check the Talk Ultra Facebook page and Twitter feed for any updates as they happen…..

Providing I can get a signal in the rainforest.