Wednesday 27 February 2013

Marathon des Sables: footcare

Marathon Des Sables 081

Yes you probably will get blisters. But don't panic too much as there is plenty you can do to prevent blisters becoming mincemeat. Here's a past post on prevention and cure for blisters to help allay your fears.

If you haven't started already, I would practice running in shoes with no socks to toughen up your feet. Do this now, as you may get blisters and need them to heal before you go. I also trialled soaking my feet in surgical spirit but this didn't seem to do much for me.

You can use taping as a preventative measure or a fix up method post blisters. I went with fix up method, and just taped post blister, as I worried that messing around with tape on pristine feet may encourage blistering to begin.

I would practice taping your feet a few weeks before you go, to become confident in how to do it. I just googled for a video, watched it, then had a go. They key thing is to make sure there are no bumps and lumps that may worsen your problem. The main areas to practice taping are big toe, little toe, heel and ball of foot. Taping is a fine art - I actually quite enjoyed having a go and getting it right - so sad.

Perhaps more important than learning how to tape is learning how to deal with "hotspots" - sore areas on your feet that you can feel are beginning to develop into blisters. Please don't ignore them. They won't go away. Stop and sort them out. My strategy for dealing with them was to change my socks, give a quick sweep out of my trainers for any sand, compeed the area, cover with zeozorb talc, and pray. When you get back to camp, clean the area completely and leave it to air. Make a decision on whether to tape it before you run the next day. Doing this should help prevent a minor irritation turn into death-by-blister.

The other common problem is black toenails. Many runners suffer from these anyway, but they can feel ten times worse when your foot has swollen to the size of a balloon. I've posted on how to deal with black toenails if blisters aren't your only friend. I personally don't think there is much you can do about black toenails, and they don't hurt as much as blisters. Just trim your toenails before you start to give them a fighting chance.

If you prep your feet (see my past post on how best to do this) and look after them while out there, you really shouldn't suffer too much from blisters. However, you may end up being one of the unlucky ones. If so, take loads of painkillers, keep your feet as clean as you can to prevent any nasty infection, and take a picture to gross everyone out with on your return!

Fixing your feet is a good website with tons of information on taping and blisters.

Monday 25 February 2013

Marathon des Sables: nutrition

You've got to carry all your kit with you so what food should you take? Bearing in mind you have to carry a minimum of 2000 calories a day and it's got to be food that you can stomach for a week, it can leave little imaginative choice.

The majority of shufflers go for high energy freeze dried food. There are a range of companies that make this tasty stuff including Expedition Foods, Mountain House , Be well, Extreme Adventure Food and Fuzion.

If you are not worried about a time, take a stove to heat the freeze dried food up. If you are after a fast time, you'll have to go cold turkey, not take a stove and just eat it cold (or borrow someone else's stove). I personally didn't mind the food. If you are hungry anything tastes ok, and you just want to shovel something quick and easy down your neck before crashing out asleep. I managed to eat my freeze dried meals fine up until marathon day five, when I just did not want to eat anything anymore. But everyone is different. As is my advice for most MDS things - try out a couple of meals before you go, and try them out on your stove, so you know how it will all work before you get there. Trust me, trialling it all after 22 miles when you are knackered and a sandstorm is brewing is not so much fun.

The alternative to freeze-dried meals are things like cous cous or noodles. However these won't contain as many calories in them so you'll need to work out how much weight they'll be.

Freeze dried food will take care of the majority of your calories. You'll also need a range of snack foods to eat while on the shuffle, and to break up the monotony of fairly unappetising meals. Some ideas for this include:-
Geo bars or other fruit/nut type bar
Protein bars
Malt loaf
Banana chips
Dried fruit - I loved dried mango
Variety of nuts
Crisps - salt and vinegar in particular
Pepperami - seems to be very popular
Energy gels or shot blocks
Hot chocolate
Fruit cake
Jelly beans

I separated my daily meals into bags so it was really easy to just take out a bag each day and know what was what. Of course, you can swap your snacks about if you're not feeling like it's a flapjack day! I stored all my snacks in my frontbag so they were easily at hand. Don't forget to keep your hand sanitiser close by too and use it before you eat anything.

I've posted here with my exact menus du jour and total number of calories taken.

Friday 8 February 2013

Marathon des Sables: hydration


Along with testing out your rucksack before you go, it is important to test out your hydration system too to make sure it works for you.

What hydration system should I take?
You have a number of choices;
Bottles on the front
bottles on the side

Side bottles fit to the sides of your rucksack. You will have to buy (if you haven't got) side pockets that fit onto your rucksack. Similarly bottle(s) that you carry on your front fit into a front pack that you will have to fit onto your rucksack.

I don't think I saw anyone with a hydration bladder. They are not that hygienic at the best of times, so add 50 degrees of heat and you could have a recipe for tummy troubles. Bottles are also easier to fill up at the checkpoints and easier to monitor how much you are drinking. Plus you can carry one with electrolytes in, and one just plain water.

I went with Raidlight bottles in side pockets, but I wouldn't recommend them. The long straw got clogged up with sand and wouldn't open, so resulted in me just taking the straw off and using it a a normal bottle. I've had a quick look to see what else is out there, and I can't find any new bottle products with long straws (so you don't have to keep removing your bottle from your side pocket). However the new WAA MDS bag complete with side bottles has now been launched and Laurence Klein (3x female winner) endorses it so could be worth a punt.

However I did prefer carrying bottles at the side rather than in the front though. It takes a bit of time to get used to running with then there. I felt a bit like a robot with zapper guns at my side!

Suggestions welcome as to other thoughts and ideas.

How much should I drink?
I drank around 150ml every 15-20 minutes, and usually alternated between my electrolyte and plain water bottle. This worked well for me. The best plan is to drink little and often as I'm sure you already know.

What else should I drink apart from water?
Electrolytes are vital in Marathon des Sables because they replace the minerals and salts lost in sweating that water cannot. It's important to decide what electrolytes you plan to use and use them before you go, as you need to get used to them. I trialled Nuun, elete, Zero and Go and ended up using elete as they were very light and didn't taste of anything, so I could stomach them better than fruit-based ones.

I used one side bottle for electrolytes and one for plain water.

Likeys stock a great range of electrolytes.

As well as electrolytes you are given a bag of salt tablets for the week. It's important to pop these like sweets as well throughout the day. One of the main reasons people don't complete MDS is not down to a lack of fitness, it's dehydration. And what a crap thing to happen to you after all those months or years of training and planning.

I also drank a recovery shake within 30 minutes of finishing a stage. These were also a nice treat to look forward to as they tasted like milkshake which was heaven out there.

How do you get your water supply?
You get given 1.5 litres at every checkpoint (roughly) and each checkpoint is around 10km. Sometimes you will be given double rations if it is a particularly hot day or strenuous section. You present your punch card at each checkpoint. It gets punched and a smiley MDS volunteer will give you your supply of water.

You also get rations back at camp to be used for washing and cooking as well as drinking.

I had plenty of water for the week. Too much sometimes.

A good tip is to mark your water somehow when you are back in camp. There will be tons of bottles sitting around so it's useful to know which is yours to lessen any problems with upset stomachs from drinking someone else's water.

Friday 1 February 2013

Marathon des Sables training: speed work

I didn't do any.....

Do you need to do any speed training for Marathon des Sables? Good question. I would hesitantly say no, if your aim is to "just" get round. If you want a top 200 place then you probably need to incorporate some speed work into your training sessions.

But what on earth does speed training mean in the context of something like the Marathon des Sables? You can't tackle it like you would a 10km or even a marathon where the aim may be to get a pb.

I'm open to suggestions on this one, but here's what a bit of research told me:

It helps improve your running economy
This means how much oxygen you use during exercise. If you are economical, you will need less oxygen. Speed work helps improve your running economy.

It increases your maximal aerobic capacity (VO2 max)
Your VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise. So the higher yours is, the faster you can go without your body feeling stressed.

It helps you use lactate more effectively
Lactate is part of lactate acid. With speed training, it can be used as energy rather than converting to lactate acid.

It helps increase your flexibility
Done jointly with stretching exercises, speed work can help improve your flexibility as it works your muscles and joints through a greater range of motion.

So ultimately, speed work helps ultra runners run faster and more efficiently for longer. It helps improve your cardiovascular efficiency, muscle strength, flexibility and biomechanics. It also helps break up ultra training, which, lets be honest, can get dull plodding out those endless miles week after week.

How to include speed work into your ultra training?
Plan a speed workout the day before a long run. Your legs will be fatigued already, so training on already-tired legs will help you maintain form during multiday ultras where you will be doing this during the race.

Speed sessions should be centred on quality shorter runs (up to 10 miles), nothing longer. Start with fartlek workouts.

Then introduce speed drills e.g. 10s sprint up a hill. Rest 30s. Repeat 10 times.

High intensity training sessions are also recommended.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...