12-WEEKS to a MULTI-DAY Adventure or RACE

It’s 12-weeks before you start a multi-day, be that a race or a personal challenge, one thing is for sure, NOW is the time to focus and fine-tune training to be at the start in the best shape possible.

First and foremost, have a complete understanding of the task ahead. 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…

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 personal goals and targets.

Be sensible and adjust training plans so that they fit your ability, goals, 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 racing is exciting and adds many more elements to think about than ‘just’ running. Taking time to plan training and work to a goal is worthwhile and of course, any 12-week plan would assume that you already well training and adapted so that you can start a specific phase like this. If not, your training plan may need to be 24-weeks or even longer.

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


Recommended Races:

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

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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Marathon des Sables 2021 #MDS – Stage 3

The 3rd stage of the 2021 Marathon des Sables started with a minutes silence and then, en-mass, the remaining runners started the day with a walk and clapping to honour a fallen friend of the MDS family.

Yesterday, sadly, a French male runner passed away after a cardiac arrest. The MDS is in mourning and our condolence and love go to the family and friends of a fallen comrade.

The 2021 MDS is experiencing unprecedented temperatures and the safety of each competitor is paramount. The combined forces of Doc Trotters, the MDS team, countless 4×4 vehicles, 2 helicopters, spot trackers for each runner and checkpoints every 10km mean that the MDS is truly a safe event. However, extreme events do have incidents, after all, the extreme element is the attraction. The man in question, who will currently remain anonymous in respect for the family was in his early fifties and had fulfilled all the medical requirements for the race, Notably, he had successfully completed the first stage without the need for medical assistance. After he collapsed, he was immediately rescued by two other competitors who are also doctors, who triggered the SOS button on his beacon and started the heart massage protocol. The event’s Medical Director arrived on the scene within minutes by helicopter and took over from the participants. After forty-five minutes of resuscitation, the medical team had to pronounce him dead. This is the third time that such an event has occurred on the MARATHON DES SABLES in 35 editions.

Stage 3.

The race continues and and today was 37.1km day with an 11-hour cut off over mixed terrain that would challenge the runners once again. Early morning temperatures were already warm and as the day started, the heat built. 

With just 7km covered, a dune section to CP1 at 10.7km was already causing many of the runners to slow and gently move through the terrain as efficiently as possible.

CP1 to CP2 at 22.7km had more runnable and arguably, easier terrain. However, the heat and tiredness from two already long days was challenging every participant.

In a first for the MDS a tunnel provided an underpass for a newly built road, no doubt it was utilised later in the race as a haven of shade.

The village of Taouz provided some visual variety with children, locals and mud buildings.

Flanked by mountains to the left, the runners passed through Oued Ziz (dried river) which was white. It reflected the heat back from the ground and the runners felt like they were in a sandwich press of intense heat.

CP3 provided shade and water before the final 6km push that concluded with a small section of dunes before the finish.

At the time of writing, the current (provisional, not confirmed) dropouts are 150+ (tbc) which is roughly 20-25% of the race. This is an unprecedented number and shows the severity of the 2021 edition.

Day 3 standings:

The day was full of action with Rachid and Mohamed once again starting steady and slowly moving through the gears to not only catch ebvery other runner but then pass them and finish strongly. Again, 1st and 2nd. Mathieu Blanchard who placed 3rd at UTMB had a great day and has now moved to the 3rd podium position no doubt relishing tomorrows long stage.

For the women, Aziza and Aicha ran together for much of the day but before CP3, Aziza made a move and opened a gap. Aicha and Hassana hold 2nd and 3rd places on the female podium.

  • Rachid El Morabity 11;57:56
  • Mohamed El Morabity 11:55:15
  • Mathieu Blanchard 12:00:11

  • Aziza Raji 13:25:17
  • Aicha Omrani 13:34:39
  • Hassana Hamdouch 14:04:11

Important news, the currently ‘unknown’ long stage will be 82.5km.

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.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

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