Friday, January 19, 2018

UltraMarathon Race Preparation

Today Marcus will be talking about some of the preparations we are making to attempt to run a long UltraMarathon (> 100Km) in adverse conditions, possibly rain, snow and very probably dangerously windy conditions

At the Limit

Depending your level of Fitness and athletic ability anybody can enter a Race and be fit for work the next day.   It becomes more problematic when you enter a competition that is above your usual level in which case complications can include

- Injury

- Did Not Finish
- Finish but wrecked for next Week or Longer (and unable to Work/ other)

Our Expectations for our Race

- To not die   (sic)

- To Finish the Ultramarathon, which has time limits at Checkpoints, so for example we can't just walk
- To be injury free and able to function and smile and work the next day
- Marcus of course intends to document the whole event, so he needs extra fitness/coordination for the photography and video shooting during the event, plus a plan to manage the electronics

The Kit List

GPS tracker compulsory supplied and attached to your pack at registration.

Quality waterproof jacket (taped/sealed seams. Minimum 10k HH waterproofing)

Quality waterproof trousers (taped/sealed seams)

Long tights / leg cover

Warm hat

Water resistant peak cap (only needed if no peak on waterproof jacket)


Emergency survival bag (suitable to provide full body cover) (pictured)

1x base layer (minimum)


Mobile phone (fully charged and in a waterproof case)

2x head torches each with spare batteries (minimum 100 lumens each)

Red tail light (to be switched on and worn on back of pack at all times)

2x sets of gloves. Liner and waterproof / Goretex type

Capacity to carry minimum 1.5 litres of water

Food / Nutrition


Outline simple route guide showing checkpoints and cut-offs and safety information (you will be issued a copy of this at registration and your support crew can also have a copy).

Weight and Water

Marcus did one of many test Packs and then a test run to match.  Not all items are quite there yet, notably 2 extra batteries but right now we are looking at 3.6Kg total weight including 2Kg (2 litres of water).

Basically it's all about the water!

In the UltraMarathon we'll undertake the Greatest Distance between checkpoints is 3 times almost 40Km (39.5, 38.6 and 35Km)  and so how much water you need to carry is a function of

- Weather conditions  (Hot means more water)

- General weather (Summer or Winter)
- Exertion  (Hills and Bad terrain or smooth asphalt)
- Your Body Effiency

Marcus tested his steady state requirements in Winter at < 0.5L per 20Km.So Marcus and Agata each need to carry at least 1 Litre of Water, probably 1.5L to be safe, and in case I meet another running who needs assistance.

1.5L of water is 1.5Kg, and this will be about 50% of total rucksack weight.  Nevertheless you just can't skimp on this detail!

Some Testing Huh!

Kit Testing

The initial  training plan was to run with only 4, 500 gram porridge bags.  I use my famous Coop Organic Swiss Porridge.  However it's not as dense as water and I found it did not fit!

Normal running loads ended up with a 1.5L  (1.5Kg) water bladder,  2 x 500g Porridge, + 500ml Front flask + Rucksack + Phone + Emergency Bag + Clothes, coming to about 3.6Kg

Based on the prior water analysis I can cut back the water by 500ml and save 0.5Kg.

Montane Running Jacket, with taped seams and < 150 grams

Fully clothed and ready to go.    Thermal Under Armour trousers, may not use in race, unless the weather will also be 6 degrees and dry   (it could be as low as -ve degrees C and snowing / sleeting and high winds are already expected)

Saucony Pergrine Ice shoes, reviewed favourably here

Ultimate Direction Peter Bakwin vest, excellent, reviewed here

Electronics Testing
On the competition Marcus needs

- Smartphone for photographs and Videos
- 2 Head torches and 4 batteries
- Music Player
- Bluetooth Headphones?

We need to calculate the worst case scenario of lighting required.   Assuming Lights are needed from 18.00 to 06.00 and the race starts at 12.00 and lasts 32 hours.   So we will need 12 hours + 2 hours = 14 hours.

Not all our Electronics will last the distance so during the race the idea is to charge up using a PowerBank.  For this we need to check charging rates on Devices to see if it will work

Petzl Nao Headtorch
4hr battery setting, actually lasted 5 hours.

Charge  rate 5V, 0.51 Ampere
+12% in 30 mins, +35% in 90 mins. 
Full charge Nao battery from powerbank in  260 minutes

Petzl Tikka RXP headtorch 
4 hr battery setting,  actually lasted 4 hours
Charge Rate 5V, 0.54 Ampere
Charge time < than for Nao

Huawei P9 Plus Smartphone
Charge rate 1 Ampere via special USBC charge cable

At time of writing current drain is in excess of 300mA meaning the phone will not even last 12 hours.   Needs analysis to find the problem and then fix it

Garmin 935 Watch
-10% in 66 minutes activity, so should last about 10 hours running
Need 32 especially since this Watch will carry the GPS route.
Charge Rate 0.16 Ampere or less
+10% charge < 10 minutes!

Full charge watch in 100 minutes

Strategy is that I will let it drain to 50% at which point I need to take off watch and place on charger and continue running.  Meanwhile Agata will keep her watch on.   Once rmy Garmin is echarged to 100% I will put my watch on and she will recharge her Garmin.

Mini 7 Bluetooth Headphone
Music time is about 2.5 hours

I am considering using wired headphones.  Whilst they restrict mobility and are annoying they don't need constant recharging.

I am also consider resurrecting my Apple Nano to give an easy 16 hours of music play so that the Smartphone will not be used for that.  I would have liked to use the Mighty Player xN but I can't justify the cost.

Apple Nano and Shuffle (update 20180121)

The rundown tests of the Apple devices gave:  Shuffle 2GB, 4th Gen,  rundown in 14 hours.    Apple iPod Nano, 16GB, 7th Gen, rundown in 12 hours.   Both output to wired headphones.  So it is official, the combined total is shorter than our approximated runtime, thus I need to search for a basic MP3 player as substitute  (and probably take that Shuffle as a backup since it weighs only 12.5 grams ).

Recharging How
This is the current 10400 mAh Powerbank.  It's slightly heavy at 230 grams so a 135gram Anker 6700 mAh Powercore II is on order.

The overall recharging plan is

- Take enough Headtorch batteries so no recharging will be required.  Swap 2 batteries at halfway checkpoint where you can have a prepacked bag waiting.

- Used Wired headphones to avoid headphone swaps every few hours

- Use Powerbank to keep Smartphone charged.  Smartphone will be used for Photography and video and live posting if the weather is dry

Run Testing

For the last two weeks we have been running at load and using the clothing that we intend to use on the day.

And during the last month we have been out running it cold and difficult conditions to hopefully prepare us for adverse weather on the day.

In Summary
When you are attempting a non trivial race, and for Marcus and Agata we rate this forthcoming trivial as very difficult, we need to make our best preparation.

We now have most of the kit bought, and we've tested the kit and our running abilities on a daily basis

Getting the Electronics and Batteries right will be tricky but doable

We think we have planned Water correctly for the Marathon like distances between checkpoints.

We have booked a one week intensive training camp to get our fitness up higher

We make it a priority not to get injured between now and our race!

After the training camp we will be even more ready to race.  Let's hope we succeed.  TBC.