Fuelling for a Multi-Day like MDS – Marathon des Sables

Marathon des Sables pioneered the multi-day racing format and as such is often a key starting point when discussing a fuelling strategy for a weeklong adventure. For those who do not know, MDS was created by Patrick Bauer after he crossed the Algerian Sahara in a self-sufficient manner in 1984. He carried everything required with the exception of water which was supplied by his brother. The 350km journey took 12-days.

Multi-day adventures require fuelling and how one obtains food can vary greatly. In principle, there are several keyways:

Self-sufficient

Semi-supported

Supported

For many, self-sufficiency poses the greater question marks and worries as there are multiple factors to consider:

  • How many days?
  • Weight?
  • Balance of nutrients and calories?
  • Hot or cold food (or both)?
  • Access to water?
  • Environment?
Loaded up for a week in the Sahara.

Runners are required to carry all they need to survive in a multi-day like MDS. Fuelling is essential to survive and the balance of calories v weight is a prime concern. The only things that are provided are a shelter (bivouac) which is shared with 7 other runners and water which is rationed. Since its creation in the mid 80’s, the MDS format has been copied and used as a template for other races all over the world.

Get your pack as close to 6.5kg (plus water) as possible.

Weight is the enemy of a multi-day runner or fastpacker and therefore balancing equipment, food and water is an art form in itself. Read an article HERE about the equipment required for a race like MDS.

Food will take up most of the weight on any adventure when being self-sufficient. MDS, for example, has a minimum food requirement of 2000 calories per day, a minimum pack weight of 6.5kg and then one must add water, typically a minimum 1.5 litres (1.5kg) which makes the starting pack weight a minimum 8kg.

Food for multiple days will typically be around 4 to 5kg.

Do you need a 12-week and/ or 24-week Multi-Day Training Plan perfect for a multi-day adventure or a race like Marathon des Sables? They are designed to provide you with a structured weekly plan culminating in a target event.  

View a sample week HERE from the 12-week planPurchase HERE.  

View a sample week HERE from the 24-week planPurchase HERE.  

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Quite simply, running or walking, covering 250km over 7-days will leave the runner in a calorie deficit. Therefore, it is essential to optimise the food one takes.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER

How fast one goes does greatly impact on food choice and how calories are not only consumed but chosen. The macronutrient choices will change based on the balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat. In simple terms, a runner will burn more carbohydrates and a walker will burn more fat. Humans store enough fat to survive many days and even weeks. However, carbohydrate stores deplete quickly and need to be replenished.

Body weight, age, individual needs and males may well require more calories than a woman.

Main meals will usually come either freeze dried or dehydrated. Both processes involve removing the water from food to preserve it. Freeze-drying involves freezing the food to a very low temperature and drying it in a vacuum to remove moisture. Dehydration involves passing warm air over the surface of the food to remove moisture. Dehydration creates food that tastes like it should, with plenty of texture and flavour. It is an altogether slower and gentler process than freeze-drying. Please note though, that hydration times take considerably longer with cold water and taste can change. Test meals in advance using hot or cold water.

Firepot are a UK brand who create tasty meal by hand, using fresh ingredients and then dry each meal.

Carbohydrate, Fat and Protein are essential for balance and freeze-dried foods are usually balanced specifically for the needs of an active individual. Typically, 55% carbs, 30% fats and 15% protein are considered balanced. As an indicator in regard to calories, carbohydrates have 4 calories for 1 gram, fat has 9 calories for 1 gram and protein 4 calories for 1 gram.

Remember, we are all individual and although any recommendations here provide a guide and a template, you the individual need to answer very specific questions and ultimately, you may need to seek the advice of a nutrition expert to fine tune a fuelling plan for a multi-day adventure.

As a rough guide, BMR is the number of calories a person burns in normal day-to-day activity.

Example for a 37-year-old, 6ft tall, 170-pound man.

(66+(6.2 x 170) + (12.7 x 72) – (6.76 x 37) x 1.55 = 2663 calories

How to use the equation: (66+(6.2 x weight) + (12.7 x height) – (6.76 x age) x 1.55 = 2663 calories

The ‘Harris-Benedict‘ formula takes into consideration daily activity.

Fat adapted athletes will have specific requirements and the nutritional plan will be different.

Answer the following questions:

  • Age?
  • Male or female?
  • Body weight?
  • Walker?
  • Walk/ runner?
  • Runner?
  • Vegetarian/ Vegan?
  • Am I typically a hungry person?
  • Am I more hungry or less hungry with exercise?
  • Food allergies?
  • Will I use hot water or cold water?

A TYPICAL DAY

Breakfast – Ideally slow-release carbohydrate, some fat and quality protein.

Starting the day with breakfast.

Running Food – This will vary on the length of the stage, up to 6-hours and you may prefer easily absorbed carbohydrates, bars and or energy in drink form. For longer stages, the addition of real food, savoury and some protein would be wise. For a very long day, for example, the long day at MDS, you may even need a freeze-dried meal?

Post run food (immediate) – A shake is a great way to start the recovery period as it is easily absorbed, and this should have carbohydrate and protein.

Dinner – A dehydrated meal will form the basis for dinner and think about some small treats for each day, these will give you something to look forward to and help keep your palette fresh.

FOOD PLANNING AND IDEAS

Breakfast:

A freeze-dried breakfast is a good way to start the day. Top tip: Add the water to your breakfast at sleep time (especially if using cold water) as it will rehydrate during the night and be ready for eating in the morning. Of course, make sure it can’t be knocked over, get contaminated or damaged – that would be a disaster! An empty water bottle works, and the lid keeps it all safe. Example: Firepot Baked Apple Porridge is 125g with 500 calories.

Breakfast is essential to fuel the day ahead.

Muesli is popular and provides energy and fibre, it can easily be combined with a freeze-dried dairy product.

An energy bar for some works, but they often are heavy in proportion to the calories provided. However, for some, they are a perfect start to the day.

Top tip: Consider an evening meal as an alternative to breakfast. Sweet tasting food can become boring and sickly, the option to have something savoury with some spice can be a life saver.

During the run:

Runners will need typically more carbohydrate in an easy form so that they can maintain pace. By contrast, walkers will move slower, have more time to eat and easier time digesting, therefore real foods are possible. The balance is always weight v energy.  Don’t rely completely on liquids, some solid food and chewing is good for the body and mind.

Some ‘typical’ run snacks.

Example: Gels are around 32g each. Let’s say you took 1 gel per hour. Rachid El Morabity won the 2019 MDS in 18:31. So, 19 gels would weigh 608 grams. By contrast, if the race takes you 60-hours, 60 gels would be 1920g! Not only is the weight not feasible but also the volume size would just not work.

  • Powders (energy drinks) that one can add to water are an easy way to get calories and nutrients. They are also considerably lighter.
  • Energy bars.
  • Beefy jerky.
  • Dried fruit.
  • Nuts such as almonds are rich in fat and calories.
  • Trail mix.
  • Dried meat.

Post run:

Back in bivouac, first priority is drink and food.

A recovery drink is the quickest way to get balanced calories immediately in the body to start replenishing the body. Have this shake as soon as possible. Then do personal admin such as feet, clothes, bed, etc. One hour post the run, consider a snack like tabbouleh as this is easily hydrated with cold water and add some protein to it – dried meat a good option.

Dinner:

A dehydrated meal will make up the main calories. Depending on the person, the need for more or less calories will vary. Some companies, Firepot a good example, provide meals in two sizes: 135g with 485 calories or 200g with 730 calories for Vegan Chilli Non Carne and Rice.

A post-dinner treat is a good idea, this could be another freeze-dried option or a low-weight and high calorie option. A sweet such as a Lemon Sherbet is a simple way to add some freshness to your mouth and palette and although has little calories, it can be a nice treat.

Top tips:

Experienced runners make a real fire to boil water.
  • Try everything out before any race or event. You need to know what works for you when tired and fatigued. Try to simulate race situations so you have a good understanding of your palette and your body. Test for taste, stomach and brain.
  • Just because you love Spaghetti Bolognese, don’t be tempted to take 7 for a 7-day race. You and your palette become bored quickly.
  • Be careful with spices and anything that may irritate or aggravate a digestive system that will already be under stress.
  • The choice of having hot water can be a deal breaker. For some, a hot coffee or tea is just essential! In addition, food is typically more pleasurable when hot and hydrates quicker with hot water. You cannot use any gas stoves at MDS so you must use fuel tablets and a small stove. However, here are some alternative ideas: 1. If you finish early in the day, leave a bottle in the sun and let it warm naturally. 2. Often, there are lots of shrubs, twigs and branches around bivouac, it is possible to make a fire, but you will still need a pot.
  • Water at the race is provided in 1.5 litre bottles. A bottle cut in half is a perfect bowl for rehydrating food.
  • Consider repackaging all your food to make the volume and weight less, if you do this, be sure to include the nutrition label in your new packaging.
  • Take extra food and options. When in the Sahara, you can make some final food choices when you know the length of the stages from the road book. For example, the long day maybe 70km, equally, it could be closer to 90km – big difference for calories.
  • The ‘Long day’ and following ‘Rest Day’ will require different fuelling strategies, take this into consideration.
  • Rules – Race rules dictate you have a minimum 2000 calories per day, that you have nutrition labels for the food that you take and that on the morning of the last day that you have 2000 calories remaining.
  • Get used to reduced calories when training.
A cut down water bottle is a great food bowl.

WATER

Water is the only item provided at a race such as MDS and this is rationed. You are provided water for ‘in’ camp and then this is replenished while running; usually 3 litres every 10km (check the race rule book). When you finish the stage, you are then allocated water to last through the night and the following morning. NOTE: This water will need to last till CP1 on the next day’s stage, so make sure you leave enough to run with.

Water is rationed and supplied at every checkpoint on the route, typically every 10km.

Water is obviously used to hydrate but you also need it for your food and if you wish to wash.

Remember you need to replace salts that are lost through sweating. The race provides salt tablets on admin day and they recommend how to use and take them. Follow the advice. The two main reasons for a DNF are feet and dehydration.

SPREADSHEET

Create a spreadsheet so that you can see daily food items, how many calories and what the weight is. Not only is this invaluable for personal admin, but it is also a requirement for the race when at admin check.

Top Tip: Lay a day’s food out on the floor and look at it and analyse (visually) does this look enough for 1-day.

An example of fuelling for one day.
Use a sealed bag for each day and then add a label showing contents and calories.

CONCLUSIONS

Getting fuelling right for any multi-day is really important, so, do the research and test everything. Have a contingency plan and anticipate the need for sweet v savoury will change.

If possible, repackage food to save weight and use clear packaging and relabel adding the name of the food, what day it is for and how many calories are inside.

Make sure you have some treats and something to look forward to.

Real food is good for the brain and the chewing motion helps satisfy our natural human desire to eat and be happy.

Remember, multi-days are only about three things: running/ walking, eating and sleeping, so, make sure you are prepared for each element accordingly.

The long day, many stop and cook a meal during the night to fuel the journey.

SUMMARY

In this article, we have looked at food for a typical desert race like Marathon des Sables that lasts for 7-days. many races follow the same format. However, different race conditions may well dictate food choices, for example, a race in snow/ ice with sub-zero temperatures will require a different strategy and the balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat can be different.

The top Moroccan runners boil water and eat hot food. Here Mohammed El Morabity.

Some races or multi-day are semi-supported, some are supported. In these scenarios, your own food may be carried for you or, it may even be provided for you? Think ahead and plan for what you may need so that you can perform as you wish with the calories you need. Especially important for vegan, vegetarian or those on specific diets. The big advantages of semi or fully supported is the not needing to carry additional weight and in most scenarios, there will be no restriction on quantity or calories. Everest Trail Race and The Coastal Challenge are two perfect examples of semi and fully-supported races,

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Ultra Running, Mountain, Trail and Skyrunning Review 2014

2014

Did that just happen?

Another year draws to a close and with it many races, many experiences and many highlights. I don’t need to tell you but our niche sport is progressing at an alarming rate: more runners, more races and more standout experiences, what a year!

It is no easy task being at the top of your game in our sport anymore. Competition is high at every race and past scenarios where a runner could return to a ‘fave’ race year-after-year and win it are long gone! I don’t think we will ever see a Scott Jurek or Ann Trason dominate the sport as they did in their times.

Runners at the top of the game now need to be specific, peak for races; recover and then re peak if they want to perform. The ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) and the UTWT add to the complexity of the race calendar by adding a ‘series’ element to proceedings. The need to be at your best for a series requires planning, commitment, dedication and patience. It’s way to easy to burn out… a good year, maybe two good years and then boom, gone! We have seen this happen time-and-time again. Ask Geoff Roes, ask Anna Frost, Tony Krupicka and so on. The need to balance racing and recovery is now more than ever a key component of the ultra runners weaponry and so therefore when I review a year, I do it with a sense of hesitation.

For sure, I am going to write about several runners who have excelled, who have repeatedly blown my mind with stunning performances and against all logic have recovered, come back and won again. So as I write this, please keep in mind the above. A long ultra running life must come with balance.

Also, the following summary and notes are my highlights of 2014 so I welcome your thoughts and feedback..

2014 in summary

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Jo Meek followed on 2nd place lady in the 2013 Marathon des Sables (2013) with a course record performance in The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. Showing meticulous preparation and dedication, Jo just gave us all a glimpse of what was about to come!

 

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Ryan Sandes and Nuria Picas laid out a stall at Transgrancanaria and put on two consummate displays of ultra running prowess. Nuria lead from the front showing all the ladies a clean pair of heals whereas Ryan played the waiting game and moved through the field slowly but surely to grasp the race by the scruff of the neck in the latter stages and take a superb victory.

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Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel did the DrakTraverse and in doing so they showed us that big projects in the mountains are just as exciting as racing. FKT’s love them or hate them are here to stay and I for one love the concept. Ultimately it gets back to why we all run. Ryan and Ryno with considerable help of Red Bull really put South Africa on the map and the fellas at The African Attachment produced a great film called Trevelyan to document the record.

UTMF (Ultra Trail Mt Fuji) confirmed that Nuria Picas was going to be the lady to beat in 2014. Nuria’s strength, powers of recovery and ability to push beyond the norm elevated her to a new level. Equally, Francois d’Haene showed us that he had recovered from Raid de la Reunion in 2013 and when it came to 100-miles in mountainous terrain he would be the man to beat.

Nikki Kimball on her way to victory in the 2014 MDS.

Nikki Kimball on her way to victory in the 2014 MDS.

Nikki Kimball arrived in Morocco and for the 2nd year running put an American on the top of the ladies podium and in doing so she confirmed her status as one of the best female ultra runners in the world.

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I mentioned Anna Frost above and after 12+ months in an ultra wilderness the ever smiling lady from New Zealand returned to the volcanic island of La Palma and produced not only one of the best comebacks in our sport but in the process set a new course record for the Transvulcania La Palma course.

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As Frosty made that comeback, up the trail in La Palma, Luis Alberto Hernando was having one of the best races of his life as he went toe-to-toe with Kilian Jornet. He pulled it off! He beat Kilian and in doing so he achieved something that so few have done. His emotions on the line in Los Llanos provided a special moment in the sport.

©iancorless.comStevie_Zegama

Zegama-Aizkorri had all the excitement and buzz of previous years and Kilian started a winning streak that placed his career on an all time high. By comparison, Pocket Rocket, Stevie Kremer took top honours confirming that her 2013 results were no flook (never in question) and that a repeat performance for the Skyrunning World Series was on the cards

Ellie Greenwood did it… she won Comrades and achieved the ultimate tick for her own bucket list but inspired so many Brits, Canadians and Americans in the process. It was quite a run and one that Ellie will take to the grave as a defining moment of her running. Jo Meek followed up victory in January’s The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica with 5th in South Africa; the ultra community looked on and asked the question: who is Jo Meek?

Kilian Jornet obliterates the record for Denali in Summits of my Life (11:48) – nuff said!

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Luis Alberto Hernando bolstered by his Transvulcania performance laid it all on the line in Chamonix for the Skyrunning World Champions in the 80Km Ultra event. Collapsing on the finish line not only had Luis achieved a lifelong dream but he had relegated the almost unbeatable Francois d’Haene into 2nd place. Emelie Forsberg won the ladies race against Anna Frost and Kilian Jornet proved what an incredible athlete he is by working his craft in the VK and SKY race just days after setting a new Summits of my Life record on Denali. Elisa Desco became ladies SKY world champion in a highly competitive and exciting race and Laura Orgue confirmed her outright climbing ability and was crowned VK world champion.

Steve Birkinshaw

Steve Birkinshaw produced the ultimate FKT and broke a long-standing record for the Wainwrights (518km) in the English Lakes. Summiting 214 tops with an elevation gain/loss of 36,000m Steve set a new record of 6-days and 13-hours.

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Ice Trail Tarentaise in the stunning resort of Val D’Isere allowed Francois d’Haene to once again excel in the snowy and cold mountains of this tough, technical and amazing Skyrunning course. Running head-to-head with Luis Alberto Hernando (again) with less than 20km’s to go, Francois moved ahead and took top honours. Emelie Forsberg took a back-to-back victory at the race and confirmed that her ability at the 80km distance was unmatched.

Kilian ©jordisaragossa

Hardrock 100 will go down in the history books as one of THE runs of all time. It was the most stacked field ever, it was a who’s who of ultra running and the prospect of Kilian Jornet finally getting an opportunity to test himself on what many consider to be the ultimate course was just way too exciting. Like a script from a screenplay, Kilian bided his time, pulled away, hung out waiting for Julien Chorier and then by his estimations ‘wasted’ 55-minutes in aid stations and still smashed the record. KJ’s victory guarantees an entry for next year when the course is run the opposite way; I wonder… could we see Kilian set two CR’s?

Western States was all about Rob Krar doing his thing and coming back for a repeat victory (14:53:22). This quiet unassuming man let his legs do the talking and produced what was the start of a trio of 100-mile successes. Max King in his first 100-miler set a blistering pace early on and eventually placed 5th… more on him later! Stephanie Howe was crowned ladies champion in 18:01:42.

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The Skyrunning Dolomites Skyrace was remarkable for two reasons. Laura Orgue progressed from a VK specialist to a SKY victor and remarkably Kilian Jornet, just 7-days after Hardrock ran the VK on Friday (placing top-10) and then won the SKY race on Sunday against the best in the world; ridiculous.

Sierre-Zinal, the epic mountain race in Switzerland was finally won by Pocket Rocket herself, Stevie Kremer after placing top-3 on two previous attempts. It was a defining moment for the little lady from Crested Butte and post race she said if she could only win one race, Sierre-Zinal would be it. A pattern is forming… yes, those two words: Kilian Jornet. Yes, he did it again!

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Trofeo Kima (Italy) only happens every 2-years and is arguably the jewel in the Skyrunning crown. It’s a kick-ass race of epic proportions and if I could only ever cover one race as a photographer, Kima would be it. Combining running, climbing, descending, chains, ropes, ladders and vertical drops it is a course that is made for Kilian Jornet. Needless to say the Catalan won and in doing so, he set a new course record. Emelie Forsberg look set to take the ladies crown but a lapse of concentration mid race took Emelie of course and loose approximately 1-hour. Despite chasing like a demon, Emelie could not pull back the time on ladies winner, Kasie Enman.

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The British Ultra Trail Championships crowned Jo Meek and Kim Collison as respective champions in two exciting races on the Lakeland 50 course.

Iker Karrera and Nura Picas won Buff Epic Trail in ‘testing’ conditions.

UTMB provided confirmation that Rory Bosio is one of the best female mountain runners in the world. Her 2013 course record performance was epic but as we all know, to come back and win again confirms the accolades. Nuria Picas placed 2nd and gets a nod here as her list of performances and results (on the UTWT) are off the scale. If anyone questioned who is the best 100-mile mountain runner in the world at the moment – Francois d’Haene backed up his incredible UTMF performance with an outstanding UTMB run against a stellar field.

Rob Krar backed up victory at WSER with a stunning Leadville 100 victory and set the stage for a repeat ‘Ultra Runner of the Year’ award.

Run Rabbit Run came pretty close after Leadville and to my surprise we saw Rob Krar toe the line. I was a little surprised. Rob has always been one of the more savvy runners on the circuit in that he peaks, recovers, trains and then re peaks. For Rob to run 100-miles so soon after Leadville was a surprise! Maybe the big prize bucks were a motivating factor? Anyway, what do I know… he took the win and the bucks! Nikki Kimball followed up 5th at WSER with the biggest payday victory of her career and she shed a few tears to show how much it meant.

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Skyrunning Limone Extreme confirmed Stevie Kremer as Skyrunner® Word Series Champion for the 2nd consecutive year but the big news came via Kilian Jornet. His victory in the VK confirmed him as Skyrunner® World Series Champion in all 3 Skyrunning disciplines – VK, SKY and ULTRA. If any of us needed confirmation of the Catalans all around ability, this was it!

Ultra Pirineu (Cavalls del Vent in the past) had Nuria Picas and Luis Alberto Hernando take top honours – unstoppable!

USA’s The Rut set the benchmark for Skyrunning in the USA with universal accolades about the course. It may come as no surprise that Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg took top honours and respective Skyrunner® World Series titles.

Raid de la Reunion became the Francois d’Haene show. He followed up his 2013 victory with a repeat consummate performance. Dare I say, ‘he makes 100-miles in the mountains look easy!’ Nathalie Mauclair also produced a quality back-to-back victory and along with great runs on the UTWT circuit set herself firmly at the top of the best female ultra runners in the world.

Doha finally became the venue for the 100km world championships and Ellie Greenwood backed up an incredible Comrades victory and placed herself on top of the world with a stunning performance. Big shout here too for the British ladies, Joasia Zakrzewski and Jo Meek who both placed in the top-5 ad took home team gold. Max King showed amazing depth of ability, speed and performance in taking the male victory ahead of some of the fastest men in the world.

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Iain Don Wauchope smashes the Salomon SkyRun record in South Africa and Landie Greyling tops the ladies podium.

Rounding out the year, Sage Canaday and Magdalena Boulet took top honours at San Francisco 50.

Phew…

Wait a minute! Kilian Jornet gets the last word. As I write this Mr Jornet is attempting another summit, Aconcagua. Only appropriate that we should end a year on a real high… Just below 7000m to be exact.

Get involved:

I am going to have missed races, missed performances and no doubt you will remind me of what they are. I welcome that. I’d love you all to comment (below) on what 2014 has meant to you and what/ who in your opinion deserves a tip of the hat.

MY 2014 AWARDS

  • Male ultra runner of the yearFRANCOIS D”HAENE (Rob Krar came close)
  • Female ultra runner of the yearNURIA PICAS
  • Best male performanceKILIAN JORNET for Hardrock 100
  • Best female performanceANNA FROST for Transvulcania La Palma and ELLIE GREENWOOD at Comrades
  • Best single stage raceTROFEO KIMA
  • Best multi day raceEVEREST TRAIL RACE
  • Best FKTSTEVE BIRKINSHAW, The Wainwrights
  • Biggest surprises of 2014ZACH MILLER and the rise of JO MEEK. The AUSSIES at the Skyrunning World Championships.
  • Stand out athlete of the year – KILIAN JORNET
  • Best cinematography – The African Attachment and Seb Montaz
  • Best film – Dejame Vivir

Anything else worthy of a mention?

Personal message:

On a personal note, 2014 has been an incredible year! I have travelled the world and in the process I have attended and worked on 31-races. From the humidity of Costa Rica, to the heat of the Sahara and the cold of the Himalayas, my job has afforded me the privilege to watch, observe and photograph the best runners in the world work their craft.

 

I am eternally grateful to each and every race, race director and of course I must give huge thanks to Lauri van Houten and Marino Giacometti from the ISF for the continued support and opportunities they have afforded me in allowing me the opportunity to work on and cover the Skyrunner® World Series.

 

I must also give a huge thanks to every single person who listens to my podcast, Talk Ultra, reads this website and ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ my respective Facebook and Twitter feeds.

I am eternally thankful.

 

Now roll on 2015 and lets do it all again!

The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica celebrates its 10th anniversary with an incredible line up.

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The 2014 edition of The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica gets underway in less than 1-week. Runners from all over the world will arrive in San Jose in preparation for the journey down to the coast to Quepos and the 10th edition of the “TCC”.

“It’s a decade of exploring, adventuring and discovering Costa Rica and the beginning of a bright new decade to come!” Rodrigo Carazo

Rodrigo Carazo (Costa Rican architect and adventure racer) and Tim Holmstrom (race director and Lost Worlds Racing founder) have pulled together an incredible field for the race and without doubt it will arguably be one of the most competitive multi-day races of 2014.

“Reaching the 10th edition is a milestone that is both humbling and gratifying. It is a privilege and not to one to be taken lightly.  It represents a massive amount of work over those 10-years by all those involved.  As it transformed from concept to a fully realized dream, we had no idea it might weather all storms and remain 10-years later as a race that could attract runners from all over the world.  We are happy and grateful to have made it this far, accomplishing much with little more than hard work, persistence and vision. We look forward to many more years to come and making many more new friends from around the globe.” Tim Holmstrom

Elite runners will toe the line in Quepos with everyday runners, they will all have one purpose in mind, to embrace the tough and technical challenge that lies ahead of them and enjoy every moment. For many, to be on the start is already a victory; the journey will provide the icing on the cake.

Steve Diederich (http://www.thecoastalchallenge.co.uk) the UK agent for the TCC had this to say, “The Coastal Challenge has come of age and has joined the exclusive club of iconic multi-day ultras – with the added twist of a backdrop of some of the most breathtaking rainforest and coast on the planet and accompanied with now legendary catering that outclasses any other event. The TCC in 2014 is a vintage race in the making.”

Known locally as the Rainforest Run, the TCC is a 236km stage race over 6-days that weaves in and out of a lush and tropical Pacific coastline. The Talamancas – a coastal mountain range spread across the southwest corner of the country – provides not only a stunning backdrop but also many of the tough and technical challenges that the runners will face on a day-to-day basis.

Beaches that last km after km are interspersed with dirt tracks, mountain paths, dense jungle, ridges, water crossings, open plains and highland; Costa Rica is bursting with variety. In addition, add 40deg temperatures and high humidity, the TCC is no easy challenge.

Unlike other multi day races, the TCC is supported. Each day camp is moved ahead and awaits the runner’s arrival at the finish. Running light and fast, runners are able to keep equipment to a minimum and as such, racing is extremely competitive. The 2014 edition of the race is proving to be extremely exciting, particularly when one looks at the line up of runners.

Gemma Slaughter ©iancorless.com

Gemma Slaughter ©iancorless.com

Gemma Slaughter from Canada is returning as defending champion of the race. By her own admission she is a newbie to ultra running. One year on, Gemma has embraced the challenge to return to coastline of Costa Rica for what she calls, “the opportunity of a lifetime”. However, Gemma will have her hands full. Julia Bottger (Germany), Anna Frost (New Zealand) and Jo Meek will create a stunning spectacle and highly competitive race. To put this in perspective, we only need to look at some of the career highlights of these incredible ladies:

Julia Bottger ©iancorless.com

Julia Bottger ©iancorless.com

Julia Bottger

Julia is a strong and fierce runner. By her own admissions, she may not be the fastest runner on a course but she brings great strength, endurance and grit. Julia loves tough and challenging courses, without doubt she will embrace the TCC. Career highlights: TranMatinique winner 2013, Ultra Trail Atlas Tarabouki winner 2013, 2nd Sardona Ultra Trail 2013, 2nd Grand Raid des Pyrenees 2013 and in addition to these incredible results, Julia has placed 2nd at the super tough Tor des Geants in 2010 and placed 3rd at Diagonale des Fous in 2012.

“My training is going very well. As our winter is not really a winter this year I could run a lot in the mountains and do some cross training. But I noticed that my winter break was a bit too short. Last race in Martinique is not long ago. As well as I would like to focus on the Transgrancanaria race in march I have a bit of a problem on what kind of training to focus on.. But I feel great and healthy – that’s the best. I am really looking forward to the warm temperatures, beaches, new country and new people. And I am excited about doing a stage race again – has been a while. It is different from Ultratrails and very challenging. I love sleeping in a tent, having a very simple life out in the nature – so the Costa Rica Coast Challenge sounds like great fun.”

Anna Frost ©iancorless.com

Anna Frost ©iancorless.com

Anna Frost

Anna has had a tough 2013 fighting recurring injuries but the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 has allowed Anna to find a great place, not only physically but mentally. It’s going to be a pleasure to have ‘Frosty’ on the trails of Costa Rica. Career highlights:  Transvulcania La Palma winner and course record holder 2012, winner Speedgoat 50k 2012, winner La Maxi Race du Lac d’Annecy 2012 and 2nd Cavalls del Vent 2012.

“I am just super excited to be in a new and wonderfully exciting place – Costa Rica – with new and old friends. got my bikini and snorkel packed, oh and I guess some running gear would be good too!

Jo Meek ©iancorless.com

Jo Meek ©iancorless.com

Jo Meek 

Jo Meek comes to the TCC as a relatively unknown runner, however, a stunning and strong performance at MDS in 2013 confirms that Jo will be pushing hard at this race and for me, she is a hot favourite for victory! Career highlight: 2nd overall 2013 Marathon des Sables.

“I am busy packing my bag ready for this amazing experience that lies ahead of me. I am a little nervous because I want to race the best I can but more excited than anything else. As I reflect back on my training I  am pleased. It has gone really well and because of it I qualified to represent my County (Devon) and then the South West Region which was a privilege with these ageing pins of mine.”

On a final note, we have just had news that Veronica Bravo (Chile) will attend the race. This adds a new and exciting element. Veronica is famous or should I say infamous for suffering frostbite in 2006 and then returning to running after fourteen operations. After 19-months of recuperation she returned to racing.

The men’s race is looking to be a classic in the making, defending champion and multiple TCC winner Dave James is not returning to Costa Rica, this therefore leads the door open for not only a new winner of the TCC but maybe a course record… who knows.

Philipp Reiter (Germany), Nick Clark (UK), Martin Gaffuri (France), Mike Wardian (USA), Carlos Sa (Portugal) and Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito (Spain)

It’s a top quality field!

Philipp Reiter ©iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter ©iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter 

Philipp is an incredible talent. His growth in the professional ranks for such a young age has had many look twice and draw comparisons with his Salomon teammate, Kilian Journey. Philipp races hard but knows how to relax and enjoy the experience too. Costa Rica is going to be a dream come true for young German. Career highlights: Winner Salomon 4-trails, multiple winner of Zugspitz, winner of the TransAlpine and many more.

“I am very excited – in exactly ONE week I am sitting in the plane to central America! This year the winter here in Bavaria (south Germany) is unusual warm and almost no snow, which is very bad for skiing but good for trail running. As I usually barely run in winter time (1-2 times a month) I have done more km’s than the years before and it feels much better (if my feeling is right). I am worried about the climate change and the jet-lag of the long travel (27 hours from door to door) as I have only ONE day to make my body adapt to the 30°C and the high humidity. But I am so looking forward to explore jungle trails, see the beauty of the rainforest and to get to know new runners from all over the world! The tropical plants and wildlife is said to be unique, no need to mention the beaches of the Pacific ocean. Another thing I am afraid are snakes (brrrr) and I don’t hope to see any of them.”

Nick Clark ©iancorless.com

Nick Clark ©iancorless.com

Nick Clark 

‘Clarky’ comes to Costa Rica and the TCC as one of the most respected 100-mile runners in the world. His 2013 performance in the Grand Slam of ultra running (4 100-mile races) was nothing short of spectacular. His consistent performance at Western States 100, Hardrock 100 and other tough and challenging events places him at the ‘to-watch’ list irrespective of the race or the distance. TCC will be no different. Career highlights: Wasatch 100 winner, 2nd Leadville 100, 3rd Vermont 100, 1st Fuego Y Agua and that is just 2013

“I am very much in base-building mode for the summer season right now, and really only starting get back after it in late December after a long break post Grand Slam. That said, I have been trying to put together a few longer back-to-back runs the past few weeks to try and replicate a bit the daily grind of a stage race. Other than that I’ve been logging lots of easy paced mileage with a focus on vertical gain. I feel like I’m in decent shape, if not particularly sharp, which should be just fine for a longer stage race like the Coastal Challenge.”

Martin Gaffuri ©iancorless.com

Martin Gaffuri ©iancorless.com

Martin Gaffuri 

Martin had a breakthrough in 2013 participating on the ISF Skyrunner® World Series. Without doubt, Martin will add a surprise element to the racing and who knows, he may just turn a few heads. Career highlights: 7th Ice Trail Tarentaise, 8th UROC, 13th TNF50 and 21st Transvulcania La Palma

“So, one week to go… training only just started again after a 3 weeks break in December and all my long runs have been performed in the snow. I’m just coming home from a night out so at this very moment I’m feeling pretty… drunk. I’m most looking forward to catching up with good friends and make new ones and I’d say my only concern about this week will be to deal with mosquitos!”

Mike Wardian ©iancorless.com

Mike Wardian ©iancorless.com

Mike Wardian

What can you say about ‘Wardian. He is a prolific runner from anything from a 5k to the 135m Badwater Marathon. He is unstoppable; racing week in and week out he will often race 2-3 times a week. He has speed and endurance and in addition knows how to race over multiple days as he showed by placing 2nd overall in a previous edition of the Marathon des Sables. Career highlights: 3rd JFK50 2013, 2nd UROC 2011, 2nd IAU 100km 2011, 3rd Badwater, 11th Comrades and 3rd Marathon Des Sables plus many, many, more.

I am most looking forward to pushing my body for a week straight and to see how it does with the terrain, heat, climbs, descents, and for course the recovery…that is always interesting me.  I am also looking forward to exploring the countryside, mountains and Rain forests of Costa Rica, I have been to Costa Rica a few times but never for very long and each time I go I know I am missing a lot so this time I hope to get an even fuller and more robust experience.”

Carlos Sa ©iancorless.com

Carlos Sa ©iancorless.com

Carlos Sa

Started running ultras in 2008. In a relatively short period of time, Carlos has established himself not only as one of the top multi-day racers in the world but also as great runner in the mountains. Repeated top-10 performances at Marathon des Sables and TNFUTMB will without doubt mean that his presence will be felt a the front of the 2014 TCC. Career highlights: 4th UTMB 2012, 5th UTMB 2011, 8th Marathon des Sables 2011 and 1st Grand Raid des Pyrenees.

“I haven’t done any special preparation for the TCC. I am currently doing my normal day-to-day training for a mountain race. My objective is to enjoy this hard race, and have an adventure in a different environment. I have been told Costa Rica is unique. I would like to be in the first 5, but we shall see, I have not run any race since the last UTMB and I’m far away from my optimum capacity.”

Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito ©iancorless.com

Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito ©iancorless.com

Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito

Vicente may well not be a runner you know… however, you should! Coming into the TCC he is arguably the most prolific and successful multi-day racer around. Just recently he was the winner of the Grand To Grand Ultra in Utah and winner of Ultra India Race 2014. He has raced in Chile before and I can’t help but think he will make his presence felt each day as the racing unfolds at the 10th edition of The Coastal Challenge. Career highlights: Winner of the 4 Desert Races in 2012 – Atacama (CETRhile), Gobi (China), Sahara (Egypt) and Antartica. NB* Ryan Sandes is the only other under to achieve this but Vicente is the only person to do this in one year!

The stage is set for the 2014 The Coastal Challenge. The action starts on Sunday February 2nd and culminates at the incredible Drakes Bay 6-days later.

Daily updates will be available on via iancorless.com website and on twitter @talkultra

In addition, the TCC Facebook page HERE will have updates.

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