Tag Archives: ultra

42 km training run, anyone?

Long back-to-back training runs are an obvious part of ultra-training, but for me it was not till I ran my first longest ever 42 km training run this Monday that I realized that I am on my way to ultra. All my previous training runs before never exceeded 35-36 km, though I would do something like 36 km on day 1 and 20 km on the second day.

This week called for a 40+ monstrosity… I was supposed to do it on Sunday, but unfortunately Middle East weather gods decided to send us a nasty sand storm which made even a 5 km run impossible, leave alone a 4-5 hour adventure. This is really frustrating when you are mentally prepared to do something this challenging and you have to postpone it because of weather. I woke up at around 4: 30 am on Monday morning with a very strong desire to stay in bed and not go anywhere. I had a secret hope that when I look out of the window it will be windy and sandy and totally inappropriate for running. Unfortunately it was not and I had to literally drag myself out. Banana and almond butter for breakfast and off I go.

The plan was to practice a run-walk strategy, taking a walking break every 40 – 45 min. I decided to do so every 8 km as I like having a sort of a structure and a kilometer mark ahead to run to. Unfortunately the route was alongside not a very pretty road from Al Hamra Village to Dreamland water park in Umm Al Quwain, but I had to stick with it for the sake of just finishing the run and be done with it. Training mental toughness, you see lol.

Kilometer 1 to 8: “Gosh, I don’t want to do this. Its too early and dark, my legs are not listening to me. And I have to do this for another 4 hours? Seriously, why did I even sign up for this race! Like there is nothing else exciting in my life!”

First 2 min walking break: “Walking already? I don’t want to walk now, I have just started running!. It will slow me down!”

Kilometer 8 to 16: “Its not too bad actually, feeling good. Could do that for hours! Bring on a break, time for some chomps!”

Second walking break: “Chomps are so much better than Gu gel. Like candy. If another idiot in a passing car honks or flashes at me I’m gonna do something crazy! Like ….. nothing…. What can you do to them?”

Kilometer 16 to 24: “Hmmm… Its still cool, looks like I will be be lucky this time and won’t fry myself on the tarmac. I have just actually run from one emirate to another – how cool is that. Wondering if t qualifies for Guinness book of records! Probably not 😦 Now turning back and its just a stretch home”

Third walking break: “Too lazy to get a banana out of the back pack, better stick with Gu. Yuk, this one is chocolate  mint flavor. Hate it! Not even close to real chocolate. Wish I had a peanut butter gel though, its awesome!”

Kilometer 24 to 32: “My feet are tired. Can I walk a little earlier, no one will see anyways! No, I will see, don’t be such a girl, just run. One foot in front of the other – come on, stop wining. You can have nice eggs with salad for breakfast. And nuts. apples and even some chocolate – just run!”

Fourth walking break: “Jeez, walking hurts more than running. Calves are tight. Can’t run any more… I’m hungry”

Kilometer 32 to 42: “Last 10 km… Sip some water. 9 and a half… 9 to go. Gosh, only one kilometer covered? You joking? I was running for like 10 minutes after the last break! There is something wrong with GPS! Its definitely the aliens! They attacked our planet and destroyed all the satellites and GPS is not working! 7 km to go – aliens, definitely aliens. This stupid Garmin! 5 to go – come on, you know you’ve got it! 3…. 2…. 1 – just count down in hundreds, almost there, there is the gate. Eggs are waiting. And chocolate.”

The rest of the day was aimlessly spent on the couch, cuddling with the dogs and the cat and feeling proud of the achievement. The irony of the whole thing? – It looks like I am not running the 100 km ultra in June because of some life getting in the way…

Gear review – Ultimate Direction Signature Series SJ Vest

Since starting my training for a 100 km ultra in June I’ve been having a pleasure of spending ridiculous amount of time … no, not running, though I do that occasionally too…  researching all the awesome trail running gear! Apart from the obvious shoes, clothes and head torches, the next most important thing is of course your backpack!

I find that women have been really deprived in the backpack department, it is a sort of trail running discrimination going on here. Every backpack that I have tried and tested just does not fit. Yes, you guessed it right, it does not fit because of boobs. You see, unlike all the awesomely fast and lean female ultra-runners that do 100 milers for breakfast, I am not that lean and pretty gifted in the boob department which becomes a problem when choosing a backpack. Gosh, I think I am talking too much about boobs now and I will surely get some requests to prove my words with photos.

Anyhow, after some research and loads of deliberation I had a choice between Salomon SLab 5 and Ultimate Direction Signature Series SJ vest. My dearest BF has got himself a Salomon and absolutely swears by it, but being a rebel that I am I decided to be different and get SJ vest. It has absolutely nothing to do with me thinking that Scott Jurek is awesome (despite being vegan) and is my ultra-running hero. So very well-calculated and informed decision was made here.

I was finally able to order it online on Amazon and it arrived a couple of weeks back.  I took it out on quite a few road and trail runs of up to 4-5 hours as well as a 36 km race I ran last weekend.

Fresh out of the box!

Fresh out of the box!

Now you must be telling me, Tania, STFU and finally get down to the actual review. Ok ok, here is goes.

Positives:

  1. It FITS AMAZING! I got a small size as this is the one according to measurements on Ultimate Direction site and it is just like a glove! I didn’t even have to adjust anything. No bouncing, no chafing – you basically do not notice the damn thing when running. It has stretchy straps on the front that you can slide up or down to adjust the fit so should not be a problem for anyone.
  2.  Separate word on front bottles. My initial fear was that mounting water bottles on the front over my boobs will make me look like Pamela Anderson impersonator, however surprisingly enough the bottles feel comfortable and do not annoy me at all.
  3. The Vest comes with 2 bottles and I absolutely love them, especially their kicker valve, and it also comes with a whistle that is normally a mandatory requirement for the majority of trail races.
  4. The vest is extremely light and well-made – craftsmanship and materials are pretty impressive. Cuben fiber that they are using for the vest is extremely strong and light as well as moisture resistant – simply perfect. The vest dries very quickly and is super-breathable. Side and back compartments are made of stretchy material and can accommodate a tonne of stuff! It is actually surprising how much fits into the back pocket and how expandable it is – according to the site the total capacity of the back-pack is 9.2 liters. I didn’t measure it, so I believe them.
  5. The vest design is well thought through. It has so many pockets and compartment for everything – ipod, phone, money, gels, bars, valuables – you name it.  One of the back compartments can accommodate a bladder as well. It also has holders for trekking poles and Ice Axe – which is an absolute necessity for me as I use an ice axe on my runs in a desert in 30+ degree heat like.. all the time!
  6. I read in some reviews that people find it difficult to access mesh side-pockets because they are positioned somewhat towards the back. It was not a problem for me, but could probably be related to how flexible you are.
  7. Last but not least is the price. 125 $ for a vest of this quality, including 2 bottles – not too shabby!
Me wearing the vest during last weekend Big Stinker

Me wearing the vest during last weekend Big Stinker

Negatives (yeah, there are some):

  1.  Hydration pack does not come with the vest and is not easy to find one that fits into the very short back pocket. I am using some cheap Quechua bladder that seems to be fitting well, but most of the bladders that I see around, something like Camelbak or North Face, seem to be too long.
  2.  If you keep your full bottles on the front and do not carry anything equally heavy in the back compartment (like a hydration bladder) the vest tends to pull forward. Not a big problem for me as I drink like a camel and always have a bladder at the back, but it could be for someone who wants to run with only 2 bottles.

Verdict: I’d give it 9 out of 10 – super comfortable, practical, lightweight and very reasonably priced (stingy 9 only because the vest does not include a hydration bladder). Definitely my choice for an upcoming ultra!

Ultramarathon? Ultramarathon!

Finally, after weeks and weeks of talking and planning I have signed up for my first Ultramarathon – Ultra Trail South West 60 miler. We (me and my dearest BF, who has just successfully smashed his first ultra race this weekend- Wadi Bih 72 km) have been planning for this for quite some time. Planning included research of the training plans and thinking “Gosh, I cannot possibly run this much”, shopping for gear (come on, you need all those latest trail shoes before you even hit the trails, don’t you?), generally dreaming of crossing the finish line after running for 100 km and feeling badass…. Planning didn’t really include any real training, at least for me lol. And now it begins. The race is end of June. It is almost mid Feb now. I better get my ass off the couch and start running some serious miles…

There are however a few things that I need to consider:

1. The race is hilly – last year’s race vertical ascent was around 3000 m. The problem is that I live in the UAE. UAE, in its majority, is as flat as a pancake and for us, desert runners, going up and down the bridge or a flyover is considered “hill training” and jumping over speedbumps poses a significant threat to legs. However I am lucky enough to live in Ras Al Khaimah right now, which is pretty close to Hajar Mountains, and this means some long trail runs on the weekends to learn running up and downhill.

2. The race is in UK. UK is rainy, wet and cold and chances are it will be exactly that – rainy, wet and cold on race day and there is absolutely nothing here that will prepare me for these kind of conditions.  But I have already got myself a nice waterproof Northface running jacket, so I presume I am ready to handle rain, mud and dirt!

3. Feb and March are the months when it is becoming hot in the sandpit. By hot I mean easily +35-37 degrees Celsius in day time. What does that mean for me? It means that my alarm clock will be permanently set for somewhere between 3 to 4 am.  Lovely, isn’t it? As they say “early to bed and early to rise and you are guaranteed no social or sex life”.

4. It is quite obvious that I have never run a distance longer than a marathon. Marathon is 42.2 km, the ultra I am running in June is 100km. Just plain attempts to imagine what it feels like to run for 100 km makes my feet ache and blister and my legs cramp.

5. I have no idea how I will manage to combine this amount of running with my other fitness activities and goals. I am yet to figure that out I guess…

I think I need to go run now…