Goal Setting for a MULTI-DAY Adventure or RACE

Before you start a multi-day, be that a race or a personal challenge, one thing is for sure, NOW is the time to set a goal and focus, fine-tune everything, including training, so that you can be at the start in the best shape possible.

First and foremost, have a complete understanding of the task ahead and set a goal or target. This is key not only in the physical adaptations that are required, but also the mental adaptations. There is a huge difference in doing something supported and in doing something self-sufficient. Marathon des Sables a prime example, understand the nature of the event and set a realistic but challenging goal.

MDS is an extreme event that takes place in the Sahara. The nature of the event is self-management both physically and mentally to endure the challenge, survive and reach the finish line. The weather (heat) is one of those challenges and surviving the weather is integral to the nature of the event. As is the ‘self-sufficient’ nature. Other than rationed water and a bivouac, be prepared to endure and complete this event with no outside assistance. Of course, help is at hand, but that help is and should be a safety element that is required in emergency. Equally, if undertaking a solo multi-day experience, do the research, plan routes, look at back-up options, can you re-supply with food, is water available?

Plan and prepare.

TRAINING

We are all unique and individual. Some of us are faster, some are mentally tough, some have a capacity to go for hours and hours and even days and yes, some runners combine all those elements.

Therefore, a multi-day training plan must be used as a template and framework to provide a structure for you, the individual, to achieve your goal.

Be sensible and adjust training plans so that they fit your ability, aspirations, training history and time available.

Think about when you place rest days, when you do long runs and when you work on hills and faster running. A training plan is like a jigsaw puzzle and managing the pieces and adding them together sensibly is how you make a successful and complete picture.

Any training plan is designed to progressively build strength, endurance, and confidence with gradual load increases. Rest is an important element of any training plan, so, rest with the same intensity that you train. Ultimately, you have decided to undertake this adventure, so, enjoy the process and make it fun.

Be specific. Make sure the training terrain, as much as possible, simulates your target event.

Always focus on the goal. Training plans for me start with the goal date and I then count back in time to a start point. That start point for you may well be before the 12-weeks but once you start the plan, focus on the target, and always make every session is as specific to the goal as possible.

For example, if participating in Marathon des Sables, you already know some key and important information:

  1. It will be hot.
  2. You will need to deal with hard and rocky plateaus, but you will also need to deal
    with soft sand and dunes.
  3. You will be on rationed food/ calories.
  4. You will only be supplied water to drink, and this is *rationed. In extreme weather such as the October 2021 edition, water rations were increased.
  5. Everything (not the tent) will be carried in a pack, on day 1 this will be at a minimum weight of *8kg. (*Minimum pack weight is 6.5kg but you must carry 1.5 liters of water which equates to 1.5kg.)
  6. You will sleep in an open tent, on the floor using a mat and sleeping bag.
  7. The long day comes on day 4 after approximately 90-100km of running, so, you
    need to be able to run for consecutive days and manage your pace and effort.
  8. The long day is (typically) between 70 and 90km and you have one full day, one night and most of the next day to complete it.
  9. After the ‘rest day’ is a marathon.
  10. You can complete the race by covering just 3km’s per hour.
  11. In 2019, the MDS was won by Rachid El Morabity and Ragna Debats in 18:31:24 and 22:33:36 respectively. The last runner was Ka Chun Chan from China in 69:29:16. For perspective, Rachid could have run the race nearly four times in 69:29! We are all individual.
     

Key elements each runner needs for a multi-day like MDS.

  1. You need to be mentally tough.
  2. Physically strong to endure multiple days of back-to-back exercise.
  3. Strong enough to carry a loaded pack and still move at a good pace.
  4. Adapted to function on restricted calories and food choices.
  5. Able to drink only water.
  6. Adapted to perform and function in heat.
  7. You need to be able to walk.
  8. You need to be able to handle un-planned situations.
  9. Have A, B and C goals.
  10. Be self-sufficient.

Multi-day racing and multi-day adventures are unique and particularly self-sufficient ones when you must carry all you need for the duration of the event. In a race, you will carry clothing, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, essential items and food for the duration of the event. At MDS minimum weight is 6.5kg plus water. Just as you prepare physically and mentally, also be meticulous with equipment and food preparation. You ideally need your pack to be 6.5kg and no more… Additional weight is additional stress.

If fastpacking, you may possibly be as above, but you will need to carry your own tent and you will need to re-supply with water en-route either using natural water supplies or utilizing retail outlets.

Be specific and understand the demands of the event you are undertaking and plan accordingly.
 

WHAT SHOULD A TRAINING PLAN LOOK LIKE?

All plans need to be progressive and geared towards the end goal of a multi-day like Marathon des Sables or a fast-packing adventure.

Remember, we are all individual, so while a generic plan may provide a guide and structure from which to work from, it’s important to adapt and tweak to individual needs. For example, the training plan for someone who is trying to be top 100 at a race will vary greatly to someone who hopes to complete and not compete.

Each week will typically have one or two rest days.

A simple strength training structure that can be done at home or in a gym.

Hill sessions and speed sessions (tempo/ intervals/ fartlek) have a place in any training plan, but the quantity and duration will depend on what type of runner you are and what your aspirations are.

Long sessions are essential and most certainly, an element of back-to-back sessions will help adapt the mind and body for the challenge ahead. However, injury risk goes up with any block like this, so, it needs to be placed carefully with adequate rest and recovery.

Learn to walk. There is a huge difference walking with purpose and pace to ‘just’ walking. Except for the top runners, walking is an integral element to a successful completion of a multi-day race or adventure. Many only realise during the event. Get walking dialed in training.

Do some specific work with a pack and weight BUT be careful as it is easy to get injured.

Think of training as blocks of 4-weeks, build for 3-weeks and then rest/ take it easier on the 4th. An example could be as below.

The final phase of a training plan should taper to allow you to be strong and fresh when the start comes, typically this 2 or 3-weeks long. This a perfect time to add specific race adaptations such as heat training, preparing for humidity, preparing for a cold environment and of course fine-tuning equipment and packing.

CONCLUSION

Multi-day running or racing is exciting and adds many more elements to think about than ‘just’ running. Taking time to plan training and working to a goal is a worthwhile and constructive – it gives you something to aim for!

Further reading:

  • MDS 2021 Summary HERE
    The Ultimate Guide to Desert Multi-Day HERE
  • Fuelling for a Multi-Day HERE
  • How to find your Running Shoe size and fit HERE
  • Sleeping Bag for an Adventure HERE
    Ten Top Tips for Multi-Day HERE
  • Top Tips to better Multi-Day Running HERE
  • Multi-Day Running in a Rainforest HERE
  • Fastpacking – A Guide HERE
  • Fastpacking Light – HERE
  • Fastpacking and Camping in Winter HERE
  • Fastpacking in Nepal HERE
  • Poles for Running and Walking HERE
  • Sleeping bags – PHD, Sea to Summit and Rab HERE


Recommended Races:

  • Marathon des Sables, Morocco (self-sufficient)
  • The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica (supported)
  • Everest Trail Race, Nepal (semi self-sufficient)

JOIN OUR MULTI-DAY TRAINING CAMP IN JANUARY – INFO HERE

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Rab Mythic Ultra 180 v Sea to Summit SP1 v PHD Minimus K – Which Sleeping Bag for Summer Adventures?

©iancorless

Choosing a sleeping bag for an adventure can be tedious, especially when the costs are so high. Never fear, this article will answer all the questions you may have re a sleeping bag for a multi-day desert/summer adventure or similar.

First and foremost I recommend you read THIS in-depth article on ‘How to Choose a Sleeping Bag for an Adventure.’

In this article, I will look at three down filled sleeping bags:

Rab Mythic Ultra 180

Sea to Summit SP1

PHD Minimus K

SP1 v Mythic Ultra 180 v Minimus K ©iancorless

WHY DOWN?

Down as a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than synthetic fill. In simple terms, a down bag can achieve the same warmth (or be warmer) than a synthetic bag for less weight. A key consideration when weight is crucial.

Is down warmer? If synthetic insulation was the same weight as the down, down nearly always will be warmer. Down traps warm air, while synthetic fibers pack densely to reduce heat loss. Both offer great warmth, especially when you use high quality products.

Is down always best? No, not always. Down cannot get wet. If it does, the feathers clump together, and all insulating power is lost. Synthetic retains heat, even when wet. So, if you are using a sleeping bag in a wet and humid environment, synthetic will probably be the best choice… BUT, many brands now do hydrophobic down which is treated to be efficient in wet conditions.

Size is extremely important in any adventure and quite simply down compresses considerably more than synthetic.

Cost is always a key consideration and typically, down will be more expensive than synthetic.

SLEEPING BAG KEY QUESTIONS

First and foremost, consider several key things before choosing a bag.

  • Where are you going?
  • Will it be dry and what are the risks of rain?
  • Do I sleep cold or warm?
  • Am I tall or small (sleeping bag length is crucial for comfort)?
  • Do I have wide shoulders?
  • Do I need a zip, if so, half zip or full zip?
  • How light does it need to be?
  • What temperatures can I expect at night?

Quite simply, a sleeping bag needs to be as light as possible without compromising the above if you are carrying it.

Also consider that it is often a wise choice to choose a sleeping bag that has less warmth and lower weight if you are also carrying top/ bottom base layers and a down jacket. These clothing items can be used to layer and add warmth.

Layering adds warmth

WEIGHTS AND PRICE

Rab Mythic Ultra 180 retails at £550.00 and weighs 400g (900 fill down)

Sea to Summit SP1 Retails at £260.00 and weighs 350g (850 fill down)

PHD Minimus K Retails at £484.00 and weighs 330g (this bag has no zip but has 1000 fill down)

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

Rab

©iancorless

The Mythic Ultra utilizes breakthrough technology with TILT (Thermo Ionic Lining) which in simple terms works a little like a space blanket offering exceptional warmth. The down is hydrophobic treated and therefore can be used in wet/ damp conditions. It is offered in regular and long. It has a ⅛ zip by YKK on the left, an excellent hood with baffles and is provided with a dry bag and a drawstring storage bag.

Storage bag ©iancorless
©iancorless
©iancorless

Sea To Summit

©iancorless

The SP1 is tiny and provided in a zipper storage bag and a small compression sack is provided. Using ‘ultra-dry’ 850 fill down, the bag has excellent water repellent property and warmth. It has a YKK zipper, available in regular and long with excellent hood and baffles.

©iancorless
©iancorless
©iancorless

PHD

©iancorless

PHD are unique in that they make all the products in their factory in the UK. Therefore, it is possible to purchase any bag ‘off-the-shelf’ as a standard product OR you can order and have a product custom made. For example, you can specify, no zip, half zip or full zip. You can ask for wider shoulders, longer length, warmer toe box and so on. All of this comes at a price, so if bespoke is for you, PHD is the place to go. You can see options HERE.

The Minimus bag has a Drishell outer, no zip, standard length, standard width and 900 fill. Should you require the bag a different length, the price varies, short is no extra charge, long adds 8% and extra-long adds 14%. Equally, if you require extra width, slim is no extra charge, wide is plus 11% and extra-wide adds 20%. Need a zip? Short is £25 extra and full is £41.00 extra.

Quite simply, PHD are the Tesla of the sleeping bag world. Great comfort, weight and warmth. It has a mesh bag for storage and comes with a nylon stuff sack*

*stuff sack replaced with dry bag.

©iancorless
©iancorless
©iancorless

HOW THEY COMPARE

First and foremost, weight is a key consideration, and these three bags are so close in weight, it is hard to say one is better than the other. The Sea to Summit wins though, a full 100g lighter than the PHD.

On my scales:

Rab 397g Rab has a tiny eighth zip.

Sea to Summit 344g *Sea to Summit a half zip.

PHD 445g **The PHD has a full-length zip.

When one considers the PHD has a full zip, the weight is impressive. A full zip offers more flexibility and on a hot night, the bag can be used more like a blanket. Not an option with the other two.

Size can be as crucial as weight and the Sea to Summit is a standout packing to an incredibly small size with the compression sack provided – 38g.

The Rab is supplied with a dry bag and I should point out it would be possible to use a smaller bag and compress the Mythic Ultra 180 smaller – 34g

For the PHD I used a generic 4L dry bag – 31g

It’s worth noting though, often when fast packing, it’s better not to store the sleeping bag in a storage bag as it makes for an odd, sausage like shape that does not utilise the space available.

WARMTH

Remember, a sleeping mat is an essential accessory not only for comfort but warmth. I recommend a Sea to Summit ultra light.

The three bags are very similar in weight, fill and design. However, each brand describes their bags warmth differently. The Comfort Rating indicates the minimum temperature where an individual can sleep in a relaxed position and get a good night’s sleep.

Rab – Sleep limit 0 deg

Sea to Summit – 9 deg comfort

PHD – 5 deg typical.

Based on the above if we take Rab 0 deg minimum rating, Sea to Summits 9 deg comfort and PHD’s 5 deg typical rating, it’s fair to assume that all are good for around 5 deg as a good sleeping temperature. In theory, the Sea to Summit should be the one that ‘may’ struggle at 5 deg but that is not the reality after testing. It is a warm bag and certainly trades blows the Rab and PHD. All three perform exceptionally well at 5 degrees or above.

The Limit of Comfort Rating is the temperature range where an individual sleeping in a curled position and fighting against the cold can still sleep through the night – 0 degrees would apply here. I had several summer nights with temperatures dropping and all three bags performed exceptionally well with the addition of Merino top and bottom layers, a pair of socks and the use of a Buff or hat.

COMFORT and FEEL

All three bags win out on feel and comfort. Each have their own attributes. The PHD wins on full comfort as it has a full zip. The Rab though has the best hood of all three bags and a superb baffle to keep out drafts. The SP1 has a half zip, good hood and no baffle.

All are silky smooth to the touch and comfortable.

The Rab with black outer, silver logos and silver TILT lining feels and looks premium. Equally, the SP1 has a superb look of grey/ yellow and excellent logos/ branding. The PHD is a no fuss bag. If the other too are Tesla and Porsche, the PHD is a Land Rover but you know it will get the job done.

VALUE FOR MONEY

These are three excellent sleeping bags offering the best option in their class. Quite simply, you cannot go wrong with any of them. They have all been used and tested in similar environments, conditions and temperatures whilst camping. However, when looking at weight, pack size, warmth and price, we have a clear winner.

The standout is the Sea to Summit SP1 which offers an unbeatable package of low-weight, small packing size, incredible warmth, and a low price. It is half the price of the competition and does not compromise on any features. It’s a winner. More info HERE.

The Rab is a great bag, which offers a little more warmth, larger pack size and just a fraction more weight. The black colour is a plus for me and the hood/ baffles are the best of the three. The zip is of no real use and for me I would prefer either no zip to save on weight or prefer the additional weight and half a zip that offers more practical use. The treated down offers incredible flexibility and certainly if I planned on using one bag for different conditions and environments, the Mythic Ultra 180 would be a great choice. More info HERE.

PHD are always a winner, and they make incredible products. But ‘off-the-shelf’ it’s difficult to justify the cost in comparison to the excellent Sea to Summit SP1. However, long, tall, short, wide, large, small, zip or no zip, PHD will make a bag just for you and it will be perfect. That comes at a price though and it will be arguably, the best sleeping bag you have ever had. More info HERE

The winner – Sea to Summit SP1.

©iancorless

Other to consider: Nordisk (was Yeti) Passion One

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Episode 223 – A 36th Marathon des Sables Special

Episode 223 of Talk Ultra is a 36th MDS special co-hosted by Steve Diederich (MDS UK) and guest interviews with, James Hazeldene, Liz Anderson, Patrick Kennedy, Richard Bysouth and Tamsin Dobson.

Rachid El Morabity leads Aziz and Mohamed.

The 36th Marathon des Sables came just 6-months after the 35th edition which was re-scheduled to October 2021 due to the ongoing pandemic situation. The two races could not have been more different. The 35th edition had intense heat and D&V which swept through the camp. A summary of the experience is HERE. There is also a 35th edition special podcast, HERE.

This special podcast is a follow on from the 35th and provides an insight from the MDS UK agent, Steve Diederich.

We also speak with James Hazeldene, Liz Anderson, Patrick Kennedy, Richard Bysouth and Tamsin Dobson.

You can follow the 36th edition daily summaries below.

Stage 1 HERE

Stage 2 HERE

Stage 3 HERE

Stage 4 (part one) HERE

Stage 4 (part two) HERE

Stage 5 HERE

SUMMARY HERE

PHOTO GALLERY HERE

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

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Instagram – HERE

Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patreon at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage. 

Spotify HERE

ITunes HERE

Stitcher You can listen on iOS HERE, Android HERE or via a web player HERE

Libsyn – HERE 

Tunein – HERE 

Website – talkultra.com

Marathon des Sables 2022 #MDS2022 – Stage 3 32.1km

Anna Comet Pascua

The relentless wind and sand storms eased during the night to reveal a clear day that was considerably Warmer than those that had gone before. Another windy day was forecast and of course sand would be blown about, hopefully the full-on no visibility conditions of the previous day would not reappear – everyone hoped! As afternoon came the wind constantly increased making conditions challenging!

Julien Chorier climbing to the second ridge

Stage 3 at 32km is a beautiful stage with two exposed ridges split by Cp1, a flat plateaux crossing, the climb of Jebel El Otfal from the normal side and the descent using the gully which the runners climbed on stage 2. At the bottom, a small section of dunes and then flat terrain all the way to the finish. For some, me included, one of THE best stages in all of MDS history. The two ridges and Otfal provide more climb, exposure and challenge and if you like the mountains and vertical, this is a Sahara dream.

Vertical and technical terrain – a dream
Rachid leading from the start

Rachid, once again, went off from the front and set the pace. Three days in a row he has done this – most unusual. I chatted with him in camp before the stage. He was having breakfast with his brother. I asked how he was, his reply simple, he winked and said, “I am very good my friend!”

A brotherly shared breakfast

I am convinced he and his brother have a plan!

Rachid controlled the front of the race for an hour or more and then relinquished the lead to Mohamed and Aziz. The duo pulled away and crossed the line together in 2:36:43.

Aziz behind Julien in the opening km’s

Rachid, once again for the 2nd day finished 3rd and lost more time, his finish coming in 2:38:21.

Rachid formulating a plan

For those in the know, Rachid never concedes time and does not not finish 1st often. To allow his brother and Aziz to pull away only confirms for me that he has a big plan ready for the long day… It’s risky, he is now nearly 9-minutes behind the race leader, Aziz. My thoughts are that he wants Aziz to believe that he is not in good form, that he is struggling and then on the long day, he will unleash a ferocious pace, take back the lost time and gain time to take the lead. Of course, Mohamed will be used as a distraction and a game maker to make this happen. It’s exciting to see how this will play out.

Mohamed El Morabity

Of course, the other scenario is that Rachid really is tired and not on form? I don’t believe that.

Anna Comet Pascua

Anna Comet Pascua once again delivered a solid performance and with her skyrunning background, I am sure she will have revelled on the ridges and climbs. She won the stage in 3:26:49 ahead of Sylvaine Cussot in 3:35:51. A smaller margin than yesterday but no doubt Anna was conserving energy for the 85km long day.

Sylvaine Clussot

Aziza Elamrany once again finished 3rd in 3:49:11 ensuring that the Moroccan home ground will be happy with a podium ranking.

Aziza Elamrany

Tomorrow is the long day and as always it will be a key day that will dictate the potential outcome of the 36th MDS. Nothing is guaranteed, anything can happen on a day of this length and in these conditions. Each runner will need their ‘A’ game to run to their potential and dreams.

Stage 3 of the 36th Marathon des Sables has Anna Comet Pasciu and Aziz Yachou secure their leads ahead of the stage 4 long day.
Mds ants heading to Jebel El Oftal

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Marathon des Sables 2022 #MDS2022 – Stage 2 38.5km

Anna Comet Pascua

Rachid went off like a shot again… Pushing the pace and behind everyone pursued. Then suddenly, in the space of a couple of km’s he relinquished the lead and hovered somewhere around 10th. I am not sure if there had been a ‘natural break’ requirement or if this had been an intentional move? Certainly it wasn’t blowing up!

Rachid leading early on

His brother, Mohamed took over the lead and on a climb before Cp1 was pushing the pace with Aziz following.

Mohamed El Morabity
Aziz Yachou

Rachid was now further back. It all made sense, in my opinion, the brothers were playing a tactical game on Aziz. I guess my cycling background is at work and my conclusion is Rachid has sent Mohamed out as a decoy, to allow Aziz to take over the lead in the race and placing Mohamed in second. This is a great move potentially. It would take pressure of Rachid to defend and force Aziz and Mohamed to control the front of the race and thus allowing Rachid to pounce… Rachid will need to feel very confident for this move, if not, his 9th victory may not happen!

Rachid moved back in the field

After Cp2 and climbing the stoney side of Jebel Otfal, Mohamed descended first and he continually looked over his shoulder for Aziz. Aziz followed not long later, within 60-seconds. It was however 4-minutes before Rachid appeared, now in 3rd. Was Rachid tired, or was he playing the tactic as mentioned above?

Aziz descending Jebel Otfal to take 2nd on the stage and overall lead

At the line, Mohamed crossed in 3:07:40, Aziz in 3:08:52 and Rachid 3:16:22 for the 38.5km stage. You don’t usually see a result like this in the early stages of MDS for Rachid!

The overall placing Aziz in first, Mohamed in 2nd and Rachid in 3rd, 5:13:29, 5:17:56 and 5:20:38 respectively.

The 36th Marathon des Sables is now Aziz’s to defend and the brothers to pursue. What an exciting 36th edition this is going to be.

Anna controlled from the front

The women’s race was strung out with Anna Comet Pascua dictating from the front with an incredibly strong performance. I said yesterday, she came her to win and this is being proven with her result in stage 2, crossing the line in 4:06:17.

Anna on Oftal

Sylvaine Cussot as on stage 1 pursued and always with a smile, she finished a strong and convincing second in 4:18:46.

Sylvaine Cussot

Aziza Elamrany had showed promise on stage 1 for a podium place and today that came true finishing ahead of the 2021 MDS champion and fellow Moroccan, Aziza Raji, her time 4:39:38.

Aziza Elamrany
Aziza Raji

The overall podium after 2 stages placing Anna and Sylvaine 1 and 2 ahead of Aziza Raji in 3rd, 6:58:37, 7:15:11 and 7:45:03 respectively.

It’s all to fight for on stage 3!

Stage 2 was marked by extremely strong wind and sandstorms that battered the runners. There was also an increase in temperatures recorded at cp2 of +10deg in 1 hour. At the time of writing there have been 49 drop outs today.

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Marathon des Sables 2022 #MDS2022 – Stage 1 30.3km

Stage 1 36th edition start

The 2022 Marathon des Sables got underway today, the 36th edition coming quickly after the 35th which took place in October 2021.

Conditions in March are very different to those encountered in 2021 with cool nights and relatively mild daily temperatures for the Sahara.

Patrick Bauer

Of course, anticipation was high in bivouac, a mixture of excitement and nerves. However, Patrick Bauer, as per usual, calmed everyone from the roof of his Land Rover with his daily morning introduction to the day. The race was underway at 0900 as planned.

The march forward

Unusually, Rachid El Morabity went to the front and set the pace. He meant business! He was followed by Julien Chorier and within 400m they had already opened a gap… This was a very unusual Rachid tactic. He usually bides his time, eases in to the day and the slowly speeds up; not today.

Rachid and Julien

Rachid started as he meant to go on and won the day! But why did he start so hard? Quite simply, in my opinion, he knows he has a race on his hands this year with Aziz Yachou who pushed him last year and had he not had a time penalty, the result just may have been different?

Aziz Yachou

After the fast start, Aziz pursued and at the line had closed the gap, Rachid 2:04:16 and Aziz 2:04:37. So close!

Mohammed El Morabity

Julien Chorier faded to 5th in 2:16:12 and Mohammed El Morabity after a slow start moved in to 3rd 2:10:16 with Cédric Fleureton 4th in 2:14:40.

One thing is for sure, Rachid will need to work his year and it is clear that he knew this before the start. He looked leaner and fitter, not that he has ever looked any different. But pre-race there was a different look. It’s subtle. The cheeks just a little gaunt and his legs more defined.

Anna Comet Pascua

The women’s race was a different story with a more gradual start to the day with a clear strategy forming. Anna Comet Pascua came here to with the race and although she had run with others in the opening km’s, by Cp1 she had taken the lead and she went on to win the stage in 2:52:20.

Sylvaine Cussot

Sylvaine Cussot finished 2nd in 2:56:25 and the 2021 champion, Aziza Raji finished 3rd in 2:59:41. Amelia Culshaw from the UK was 4th ahead of multi MDS champion, Laurence Klein, 3:06:10 and 3:13:01 respectively. The women’s race is set for an exciting battle as the terrain becomes more challenging and the distances increase.

Anna and Aziza
Aziza 2021 champion

The stage one route was just over 30km’s, flat but had plenty of soft sand and several small hills and dunes but nothing substantial to make the day difficult. It was a good day 1 for all to ease in and for the top men and women, a fast one! Rachid’s time was incredible… We are in for a fast men’s race.

The impressive MDS!

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Heat Acclimation – Dr Jodie Moss

Heat is often debilitating for a runner. Heat cramp, heat exhaustion, dehydration, heat stroke, headaches and the desire just to stop are all very real problems.

As the summer season approaches, running in a hot climate is sometimes unavoidable, however, racing in a hot climate is relatively controllable as you will understand in advance the race, the environment and the expected temperatures one can expect.

Understanding the conditions of ones running and racing environment is crucial to make the best of all the hard training you have done. So, one needs to adapt and plan.

Heat acclimatisation takes place in a natural environment where one can specifically prepare in advance of a chosen race or project, ideally for 7-14 days before the event. For most of us though, the luxury of travelling for 14-days and having an acclimatisation holiday is not a realistic proposition.

This is where Heat Acclimation comes in. In simple terms, this is about providing heat stress in a controlled environment, typically a heat chamber, over a set period of time and sessions.

Dr Jodie Moss has specialised in heat acclimation and in the process, put her learning to real time use at the 2019 Marathon des Sables where she placed 8th woman.

Jodie at MDS

With Marathon des Sables approaching, it is timely to re-visit and gain a full understanding of what is required to acclimate to heat with an interview with Dr Jodie from July 2020.

Podcast HERE.

What is it about heat that makes running so difficult?

You are imposed upon by a different challenge. What happens is you create this metabolic heat by contracting your muscles. When one runs, you use muscle mass and this generates heat. When you then exercise in a hot environment, particularly if it is greater than skin temperature, then this makes it very difficult to get rid of heat. Humans are not the most efficient mechanically, so this energy from contracting muscles, potentially around 20 to 30% of the mechanical energy being made is converted to chemical energy, that means 70%, maybe even more, needs to be eradicated in the environment. If the environment is hot, for example, the Sahara, a challenge is imposed to eradicate the heat and what often happens is is that the heat is stored and one feels hotter and this then has a cascade effect of issues and problems, physiologically and perceptually.

Physiologically:

An increase in skin temperature is likely the one which is noticed first as it is directly impacted upon by the environment. There will be an increased demand for blood flow that needs to go to muscle to provide it with oxygen/ energy to run, but also there is a competition for blood flow to the skin. In order to thermo regulate, blood is competing with muscles and skin and that creates an impact on one’s cardiovascular system. Typically, heart rate will increase due to the increased workload sending blood to muscles and skin.

Body core temperature will increase.

Sweet rate will also increase and therefore the percentage of water loss will increase and the consequence of this is dehydration – a deficit in body water with onward complications.

Perceptually:

We thermally perceive it to be a lot hotter.

You are more uncomfortable.

The feeling of needing to slow down and therefore performance is impacted.

Is heat acclimation as valid for the runner at the front, as well as the runner at the back?

In principal, yes. However, if we take Marathon des Sables as an example and the winner, Rachid El Morabity, he is a Moroccan, he lives in the environment in which the race takes place, therefore he is naturally acclimatising on all his training runs. Therefore, he has no need to acclimate artificially.

Highly trained individuals though, through training, can gain thermal adaptations, irrespective of environment. For example, if you are training everyday, particularly at a high percentage of VO2max, one will create heat this will require a higher sweat rate and therefore adaptation takes place. But, interventions should be in place both acute and chronic, to minimise the effect of environment on performance. Environment, will always have an impact on performance, no matter which athlete.

Acclimate for the heat.

When is a good time to start adapting to heat and how?

It is a consideration for close to competition, typically in a period of 7 to 21-days. Adaptation from exposure diminishes rapidly, so, there is no need to do this too far away from the chosen event. 

Now of course, if one is fortunate with time, the best scenario is to travel to the race location and adapt naturally in the environment of the race. However, very few have such a luxury and this is where acclimating as opposed to acclimatising steps in.

However, budget can be an issue, so it is possible to adapt via some simple home methods. Keep one’s training as planned, say by a coach, and then add layers of clothing while training. Have a hot bath after training. One can also consider Bikram Yoga and say saunas. But, and this is a big but, while some of these interventions will have some benefit, it is not something that can be recommended completely as it is harder to prescribe and measure.

We want heat adaptation and these adaptations only occur when there is sufficient thermal strain.

As an example, one could run for an hour with layers and build heat. Then immediately have a hot bath. Water has a greater density than air and the heat inside the body would be retained and most likely increase, this would stress the system. But, the issues arise with how long does one do this… Ultimately though, this is considerably better than nothing!

By far the best way, is environmental heat chamber.

Environmental Heat Chamber

The jury is still out on what is the optimal sessions for performance gain, however, five sessions would be considered fundamental over a period of 7 to 14-days. This period has shown results of a much more fulfilled adaptation. The pseudo motor function (sweat rate) takes a little longer to occur, but all the other measurements, cardiovascular and lowering core body temp occurs quite rapidly. So, based on sweat rate, a longer period of time provides the best results.

 In regard to the sessions, they could be performed every 2-days, every other day, every day and some even do 2 sessions per day. But obviously time and budget is a huge factor.

It is also important to remember that these sessions take place close to competition, so, monitoring stress and recovery is equally important. 

In regard to session length, 60-minutes is usually adequate and this allows the body to get hot enough.

I get asked about adding a run pack and weight, for example, MDS is a self-sufficient race and a pack is required. On the start line, the minimum weight will be 8kg. But training with this in the heat is not necessary, but some insist as it provides security, comfort and a greater understanding of what the Sahara, as an example, may feel like. But this adds additional stress and the sessions are about heat adaptation.

The Protocol

Isothermic heat acclimation intervention is typical. We get you to exercise so that your core reaches a certain temperature. For this we use a rectal thermistor. This ensures that you meet the thermal stimulus, crucial for sessions like this.  

We measure body weight naked and this allows us to monitor fluid intake and sweat rate. We can test urine to look at hydration status too. This is all about making the client aware of hydration and levels. We also want the client to leave a session re-hydrated!

A treadmill or bicycle is used. Personally, I prefer the bike as it adds less impact to the body. It’s important to remember, these sessions are about heat adaptation, they are not training sessions. A 5-minute check will include hear rate, core temperature, skin temperature, perception of thermal environment, how hot does the client think it is? And finally, I will ask how comfortable the client is. Then, the exercise will begin.

We aim for a core of 38.5 degrees in each session. This is ideal for pseudo motor and thermo functions to be maximised. It ensures that we are always controlling and meeting a fixed criteria. Measuring the thermal strain is key. It usually takes about 30-minutes to get to 38.5 degrees depending on the individual. But external factors do have an impact. 

We typically see improvements by session 3. But it is important to have, say 10-minutes of each session fixed, that way we can monitor improvement and adaptation. We can gain the data here and then report back. Day 5 to day 7 will show the most improvement. So, 7-sessions.

Time can be an issue and some may prefer to squeeze two sessions per day and compress 7-days, say, into 3 or 4. This is possible and literature confirms this. Total exposure is more important than days.

Ideally, the last session would be 1 or 2-days before departure for the chosen race.

What problems can occur without acclimation and how does one mitigate it?

A runner will be faced with a physical and perceptual challenge that will have negative effects. They will be slower, frustrated, dehydrated and have a potential of heat stroke and ultimately they may not finish the race. If any of these elements are experienced, try to cool as much as possible, seek shade at aid stations, rest and allow the core to lower. Hydrate and use spare water to provide a perceptual cooling. Water on face, head, forearms and neck will help a little.  

On a personal note:

I did not have the perfect race and that is what makes me keep signing up to race. My heat protocols were great but I compromised my training and I was surprised with 8th place. I had an amazing support system and I do have chronic heat exposure, I am also very good at getting rid of heat. I also sweat high. But I need to be careful on dehydration. I made a mistake with my pack trying to make it as light as possible but I compromised my pack integrity and this hurt my back. I look forward to going back, I hope in 2021.

Jodie with her medal.

Top 3 tips to get ready in regard to heat and training.

1. Have a heat protocol as outlined above.

2. Test all kit and nutrition, leave nothing to chance.

3. Do not panic. Trust the training you have done. Do not increase mileage and training in the light stages. Do not risk injury or illness. Be healthy.

Seeking shade at the 2021 MDS.

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Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2023 – Nearly sold out!

We announced earlier this week that the Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2023 would have two ’Special Guests’ and this has resulted in a surge of entries for 2023.


Rachid El Morabity the 8x MDS champion will join us Friday to Monday for run sessions and a 2-hour talk/ workshop on MDS, Multi-Day running and ‘What goes in the pack?’ of a champion.
‘Dead Man Running,’ 

Kevin Webber will join us for the whole week looking after a walking group and providing a 2-hour talk and workshop telling his incredible story of his Prostrate Cancer diagnosis and how he has embraced running and adventure to not only inspire others but to raise money for charity and raise the bar of what is possible as a human.


RECENT NEWS


It has been great to confirm Tom Evans will once again join us. Tom guided on the 2018 Training Camp after placing 3rd at the 2017 Marathon des Sables. It was the start of an incredible story that has resulted in victory at CCC, Tarawera Ultra, and a 3rd place at the iconic, Western States 100-mile race in the USA. 


Rab athlete Abelone Lyng should have joined the camp in 2022 but unfortunately had to withdraw late in 2021 due to the pandemic situation and her role in the medical profession. We are pleased to confirm that Abelone will join us for 2023. Abelone has won the Ice Ultra and placed 4th at The Coastal Challenge. An adventurer, ultra, trail and mountain runner, Abelone is a specialist fastpacker who loves to travel solo or with friends.


Pierre Meslet, a physiotherapist, placed 9th at the 2021 Marathon des Sables and joined us in Lanzarote Jan 2022. Pierre provided excellent guiding, a superb talk and the added bonus of offering the 2022 attendees with the option of treatment. A huge success, Pierre returns in 2023.


LATEST INFO
Currently, we only have 4-apartments remaining for 2023 which will sold on a first come, first served basis. If you’d like to join us, don’t wait too long…


Latest deal (2 available) – We do have the option to add 3 adults in a 1-Bed apartment (2 single beds and 1 sofa bed) at the price of £875 pp making a saving of £170 pp on the normal ’shared’ occupancy price. Please email if this is an option you are interested in.


WEBSITE HERE

BOOKING FORM HERE

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Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2022 – Day 4 and 5

Day 4 of the Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp was after a sleepless night in bivouac. The wind started at midnight and built through the night making for a ‘perfect’ test scenario for a multi-day race, particularly one in a desert.

Tents were broken, clothing items were lost, tents (those that survived) were full of sand and all the participants had a great learning curve that ultimately was a priceless experience.

After a dehydrated breakfast, we split in to four groups, Inge taking a walking group, Sondre taking a run/walk group and Ian and Pierre taking run groups. Distances varied for the groups but Ian and Pierre took on a new route for the Lanzarote camp which totalled 18/ 20-miles and over 1000m vert with El Castillejo (615m) and Peñas del Chache (673m) the two high points. The wind made the challenge all the harder.

From the summit, you have great views of the ocean, Famara, and off in the distance, La Santa.

Back in Club La Santa, Elisabet and Pierre hosted a talk, Elisabet addressing foot care/ taping and Pierre bringing his physio skills to great use with a talk and practical on how to look after your body.

At 1730, Ian did a practical demonstration on compass and how to follow a bearing. An often neglected but required skill for races such as Marathon des Sables.

As day 4 concluded, the winds and ‘*Calima’ raged on. While the winds and sand bring a challenge, they are perfect for a training camp providing the clients with a great opportunity to really experience and learn.

*Calima – Link

Day 5

The winds raged on and the Calima intensified. Day 5 started with a soft sand/ dune run and we warned all participants to be mindful of the Calima and suggested wearing Buff (or similar) to protect nose and mouth. The reality was we had perfect sand storm conditions to run in.

After 10km of running in a strong headwind, battered by sand, we eventually settled in a soft-sand and small dune area to practice skills.

While many may consider strong winds and sand make for miserable running, we were all thankful of the opportunity that these conditions brought. Running in a sand storm takes skill, patience and a required mental approach.

With 20km done, it was a great morning of running and learning.

The afternoon talk by Elisabet and Sondre was about equipment, packing and how to ensure you choose the correct equipment for your desired race and how to get as light as possible without compromising what you need to race safely and effectively.

At 1730, the final session of the day was done by Ian who discussed poles and how to use them.

Day 6 tomorrow is a big day… A marathon over a point-to-point route starting in Uga and concluding at Club La Santa.

Interested in our 2023 Training Camp? Info HERE

Photo Galleries HERE

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Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp 2022 – Day 1

After missing the 2021 edition of the Lanzarote Multi-Day Training Camp due to the global pandemic, it was a wonderful day to welcome 32-clients at Club La Santa for the 2022 edition.

Needless to say, the last 6 to 8-weeks have been a trying time with no guarantee that travel would be possible. However, travel has happened and the blue skies of Lanzarote and glowing sun welcomed everyone.

Day 1 is all about relaxing after travel, making new friends and then a 1-hour run to settle any nerves before the camp really starts.

With just 1-hour of running, day-1 is an easy day to settle nerves. Starting at 1700hrs though, does allow everyone to experience the best light of the day as the sun slowly drops and disappears on the horizon.

With 4-coaches, all paces are accommodated, from walking all the way through to running. There is no pressure, there is a group for everyone and the initial 1-hour run allows everyone to access which group they will go in come the first full day which starts with a 15-mile coastal run.

A group briefing at 1900 was then followed with a dinner and gladly, the 2022 Lanzarote Multi-Day Training camp was underway…!

With two-times Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes and top-10 finishers, Sondre Amdahl and Pierre Meslet, the clients of the 2022 camp have never been in better hands.

Now the anticipation for the first full day!

Interested on the 2023 camp? Go HERE

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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