Race Report: KAEM13 - 1st

I wrote an article about my race and the experiences I shared with my family in the Kalahari for iRunFar. This report is a collection of photos from the race and a description of what I thought about and how I ran the race. If you're a runner and interested in my blow-by-blow version of the race then you might enjoy reading this report. If you're not interested in the racing details I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Stage 1: 26km - 2:13:57

I started the stage well and settled behind the fastest two starters of the day, Mahmut Yavuz and Anthony Ginter. I knew that Mahmut had run two good races this year (2nd in the Gobi March and 1st in Runfire Cappadocia) and that Anthony had run MDS a number of times with solid results so it was a good place to be. The pace was relatively quick although it fell into the range of effort that I had been expecting for this first stage. We ran together for the first 4km which were on rolling, hard-packed dirt roads. The first challenge of the race was a sand riverbed, followed by a few kilometers of soft sand road. When we entered the sand I held my effort at the same level (based on heart rate) and unexpectedly I pulled away a little. I held this effort and was running alone for the next 16km through the sand riverbed, on the sand road and back onto the hard-packed park road.

I thought that I was going to win the stage and open a decent time margin, but Mahmut caught back up to me when we were on the hard-packed dirt road. The pace was fast, but the effort was about the same as it had been throughout the stage. After the last checkpoint we headed down to the Orange River on a steep and rocky descent. This was followed by 3km along the banks of the Orange River which was rocky and difficult footing. I was able to run faster than Mahmut so I pushed through the last 3km of the stage, won the stage and gained just under a minute lead by the finish line.

I saw a lot of giraffes during the week.

In the lead on a long and winding road through the park.

About 4kms from the end we descended down to the Orange River.

A tough and short section away from the river up to Camp 1.

Only 1min in the lead heading to the finish of the stage,

Stage 2: 33km - 2:46:27

I expected this stage to be fast and at a similar effort to the first day. When I reviewed the day's route in camp after the first stage I noted that there was a 5km section up a dry, sandy gorge just after the third checkpoint at 20km. Based on how I had performed in the sand on the previous stage I decide to run a hard effort in the sandy gorge and see if I could pull away again.

Mahmut kept the pace high and we worked well together into a strong wind for most of the morning. The pace was right on the upper edge of where I wanted to run so I didn't lift the tempo in anticipation of the river gorge ahead. When we arrived at the river gorge I was happy to see that it was deep sand and difficult running. We both slowed although Mahmut slowed more than me and I opened a gap as I had hoped. I pushed at the high effort (the pace slowed for the tough conditions) and by the end of the river gorge I couldn't see Mahmut behind me.

The final section of the day was rolling hills until we arrived at camp. I held the effort and the pace picked up on the good ground underfoot. At the end of the stage I had a gap of ten minutes over Mahmut and was right on target to achieve my race plan.

We climbed away from the Orange River early in the stage.
After climbing from the river, we descended a gradual set of switchbacks.

I ran with Mahmut for the first 20km of the day.

Stage 3: 39km - 3:29:10

This stage preceded the long day and the general consensus around camp was to take it a little more easily to save some energy for the following day. That was my race plan and the fact that only the last 2km were sand meant that there were not too many places that would suit me to attack. With the lead I had over second, I knew that I could be more conservative on this stage and follow my race plan.

Mahmut, Tiaan and I ran together in a group for the first part of the stage. The pace was easier and it was great to have Tiaan join us in the front of the race as there was a lot of wind and having another runner to take turns in the wind helped. We held this level of effort, easier than the first two days, for the first 25km until Tiaan started to fade a little. I knew that Tiaan had run a very good long stage in 2012 so I worked with Mahmut to push and open a gap on Tiaan. We were running well and it seemed that it had worked well as we approached the final 2km which was a deep sand riverbed descent to camp.

I thought Mahmut was tiring, so I picked up my effort reasoning that going hard for the final 2km wouldn't hurt me too much before the following day. I opened a gap quickly and held the pace as well as I could until the finish. At the finish I was surprised that Tiaan arrived second a few minutes ahead of Mahmut. I had gained 5 minutes in 2km over Mahmut and Tiaan had shown that he was still a contender and strong after the first three stages. It was a good stage and I was well set for the following day.

Lots of long roads and good running during stage 3.


In the last few kilometers we ran down a beautiful sandy canyon.

Stage 4: 75km - 7:14:10

The long stage intimidated me and I was worried about how well I could handle the following stages after this long one. In the Atacama Crossing I ran well during the long stage until about 65km then struggled a lot and faded considerably towards the end of the stage. I also had little energy left for the last stage of the Atacama Crossing and I didn't want to repeat that in KAEM. My plan was to run a consistent effort throughout the day focusing on keeping hydrated, eating regularly and staying cool (I started the stage at 1pm).

The first 14km were on plan and I was running with Mahmut and Tiaan again. After the second checkpoint we arrived at another dry riverbed. I held my effort consistent and again opened a small gap on the others. I didn't increase my effort, but tried to run cleverly by sticking to the edges of the riverbed out of sight and hopefully demoralizing the others. This would be the last time I would see the others until the finish.

The rest of the day I stuck to my plan 100% and I was really pleased that I didn't fade and could run strongly through the entire stage. The stage had a staggered start so all of the field excpet for Mahmut and Tiaan had started in front of me and I worked throughout the day to catch them. It was good for motivation and fun to see everyone in the race through the day. By the end of the stage I had caught the last person in front of me when I had 5km to go and ran into camp first.

I thought that I had increased my lead significantly because I felt I had run a very good stage, and I had, but Mahmut also ran a great stage and arrived 9 minutes after me. Overall my lead was now 25 minutes which was a great margin that I would need to guard carefully in the following days.

It felt like most of the stage was set on soft, sandy jeep tracks.

There were a couple of never-ending sand road sections added in.

No day would pass in the race without at least one sandy riverbed.

More sandy road in the late afternoon.

I ran alone for 60km, but a staggered start meant I saw everyone in the race.

Stage 5: 45km - 4:13:13

With a 25-minute lead my plan for this stage was only to hold my overall position and reduce the distance where Mahmut would have an opportunity to attack and win back time. The stage was relatively uneventful. I ran beside or behind Mahmut the whole day leaving it up to him to take the initiative if he wanted to change the race standings.

I was tired and had a tough day. It was the hottest day of the race and windy with a dry warm wind making me feel dried out and dehydrated. However, with a simple and clear goal for the day I was able to hold on and finish the stage together with Mahmut. There was only one stage left to the race and I felt relieved that my lead was still intact.

The day started with a rocky climb from the overnight camp by the river.

Lots of sand in the early part of the stage.

During the week we crossed into and out of the park under the fences.

Following all day to hold my overall lead.

Stage 6: 26km - 2:06:00

The last stage was 26km and I had a 25 minute lead so I knew that I could hold on. Nonetheless the race is not over until it's over so I stayed alert and made sure I would be ready to run hard and respond to any attacks or surges. The field was again staggered at the start with the intention that the fastest runners would arrive at the finish last where all the other competitors would be waiting. Mahmut, Tiaan and I started together.

The pace on this day was easy and it felt great! I was pleased to be running more slowly than the rest of the week and I tried my best to enjoy the scenery and the fact that I was in a beautiful place and, provided nothing went wrong, I would win. We stayed together all the way until a few kilometers from the end.

My brother had started a few hours earlier than me, but he had got lost in the last part of the course and was taking longer than his anticipated time so I caught up to him before the finish. Tiaan and Mahmut ran ahead and I took my time, enjoying finishing a fantastic race together with Brian. It was amazing to finish together with my brother and meet my dad at the finish line. We had all finished the race and I had achieved my objective and won my second stage race of the year.

Stage 6 started with a smooth road leading out of the park.

We ran over Moon Rock in the last few kilometers of the stage.

Slowing down as I catch my brother almost at the finish.

Finishing the last day with my brother.

A very happy family at the finish together.

Overall - 22:02:57

I was extremely happy to win this race and perform better than I had done in the Atacama Crossing earlier in the year. I managed to run my race plan and the plan was good enough for the win. At the finish I learnt that I had run a course record which was a great surprise and awesome bonus.

Vulcano Ultra Trail 30km - 3rd

In preparation for the Sahara Race in Jordan my coach Ian and I agreed that it would be useful to do some shorter races to work on my speed and to get a feel for competition. The first race in my plan was the Vulcano Ultra Trail (VUT) 30km race in Puerto Varas. This race fits perfectly into my preparation calendar, it is in a beautiful place, my sponsor assisted in organizing the race, my Lafuma teammates would be running and my friends from BossJogging would also be running. That's about as good as it gets!

Puerto Varas and Lago Llanquehue.

The bosses before the race.

My goal for the race was to run hard, but not to run at full race effort as my main objective is the Sahara Race and VUT was a stepping stone towards that. I wanted to enjoy myself in the mountains (climbing and technical descents are not a strength of mine yet), test myself in a race and see what my physical condition was. With this plan, I ran a controlled race sticking at a pace in between a tempo effort and a race effort.

Before the race with Lafuma teammate Ale in front of Volcano Osorno.

A spectacular location for the start and finish of the race.

On the first climb, which was a 1,000m gain over 9km up the side of Volcano Osorno, I held a steady pace. This meant the fast starters ran away from me, but over the course of the climb I slowly caught up again and was in 6th place at the top of the climb. I was really pleased with this effort as I don't do a lot of climbing in my training and I was in a better position than expected. The view was spectacular and the ascent was a fun mix of black volcano sand and smooth rock.

Climbing up Volcano Osorno.

The final section of the climb was very steep.

On the descent from 9km to about 17km I ran a conservative pace as I didn't want to fall and hurt myself and I didn't want to pound my legs too much. I lost a place here and admit that I have a significant opportunity to improve during technical descents. I think that I could reasonably expect to run this section ten minutes faster with some skill improvement and more bravery on the descents. After the descent, the steep climbing and descending of the race were done and it was mostly level terrain all the way to the finish.

The whole race had spectacular views of the volcanoes and mountains.

I stuck to my plan and cruised along, keeping cool, eating and hydrating well and not dropping off the pace. By a turnaround at 23km I was in 5th place and the volunteers in the checkpoint told me I was looking stronger than the few runners ahead of me. Encouraged, I kept the pace even and made sure that the final 10km (the race was actually 34km) were strong and consistent with the rest of the race. I caught 4th and then 3rd place and thoroughly enjoyed the sandy, volcanic terrain in this section that was just like the deserts I love! I finished 3rd with a good time and a respectable race.

At the finish with Pat, Jason and Max - does it get more "ultra" than this?

I was third in the 30km event.

I would really like to come back and do this race next year, maybe the 60km option, or perhaps the 30km option again with the goal of running full out. Without a doubt this was the best race I have run in Chile. An impressive achievement for a race in its first year and organized by a team of Puerto Varas locals who haven't put on a race before. This praise was unanimous amongst all the runners (Max for Trail Running Argentina, Matias, Moises for TrailChile). I highly recommend the race to anyone wants to run a challenging route in possibly the most beautiful place in Chile.

Here's my strava file from the race for those who would like to see the profile and race details:

Thanks to my sponsors for the support during this race:

Lafuma Chile - clothing, race entry, and support over the whole weekend.
32Gi - endurance chewable tabs, foodbar and chews.
Canuto Errazuriz - Hoka One One Mafate shoes.

Upcoming races

My two goals for 2013 were the Atacama Crossing in March and the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon in October. I hardly did any other racing during the year as my training focus was on the specific preparation needed to run well in multi-stage races. I did six different race simulation blocks, two of which were in the desert in San Pedro, and the rest of the year followed a very structured approach building to the races. Fortunately this approach worked and I achieved my goals and built a solid base of structured work to develop further.

My next goal is a desert stage race in February 2014. While I will be continuing with the same structured training approach, my coach has asked that we include some additional races along the way to work on my ability to race and to adapt to race conditions. These races will be training races so I won't be tapering into them or taking significant time afterwards to recover. This means my results won't be as good as they would be if the races were priorities, but that I'll face the stimulus of race conditions that we're looking for. My expectation is that these added races make me a better runner and racer.

My calendar for the next few months will include the following races.

Volcano Ultra Trail 30km - 7 December

This is a new race that will be held near Puerto Varas and is being sponsored by my sponsor, Lafuma. It takes place on a beautiful and challenging course and it's going to be in a region of Chile that I love. The main event is a 60km race, but I will be taking on the 30km distance as I won't be ready for the ultra after KAEM and the time I need to recover fully from that. The Lafuma team will all be getting together to take part in the various distances over the race weekend and it should be an excellent team environment.

Licanray to Villarica 70km - 5 January

I ran this race in 2012 and enjoyed the fast route. It is another race in the Lake District of Chile, near Pucon, so Vanessa and I will be traveling to the race together and taking some time to relax and enjoy the area as it will be during the summer holidays. I'd like to run a consistent effort during this race and my expectation is to test my race nutrition and hydration plan under race conditions. It will also be interesting to compare my performance here to how I did in the same race in 2012 which was during my build-up to my first stage race.

The Sahara Race - 16 February

This is my first goal race of 2014. It is a desert stage race to be held in Jordan and following a similar format to the Atacama Crossing (they're both organized by RacingThePlanet). I have been improving at stage racing and I'm looking to take a step up in this race to run faster and also to challenge myself against some very good competition (this will be the most impressive field I have faced yet). I'll be posting updates regularly about my preparations for the Sahara Race along the way so there will be a lot more detail on this in the future.

Updates on this blog

There are new items posted on various pages and a new page added to the blog that I'd like to bring to your attention.

The first is the Running in the Family page. My dad has posted his first in a series of reports on the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon and he'll be adding further reports over the next couple of weeks.

The second is the News and media page. I've added a couple of articles and podcasts that were published after KAEM and I'll gradually add more links as other reports and articles come out.

Finally, I've added a new page called Presentations. I did a presentation on my preparation process for multi-stage races while I was in South Africa and I've posted a description of the content and outcomes of that talk. I have also included a link to contact me if you're interested in a similar presentation.

In the next few weeks I'll post a KAEM race report and some reports on the gear used by me and other competitors during the race.

KAEM13 - 1st + course record

This week I won the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon in a course record time of 22:02:57. It was a fantastic race and amazing experience to run with my dad and brother in a South African National Park.

Running hard during Stage 4.

On the finish line with my brother right behind.

Follow me during the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon 2013

It's a few days until the race (I start on Saturday 19 October) and again I find myself with that pre-race feeling of a mix of nervous energy and excitement. I'm looking forward to running hard in a new place that I've never been to before with some great competitors.

During the race I'll have limited communication and the race organization will also face the difficulty of trying to provide updates on the competitors from the middle of the desert. However, there are a few ways to follow the race and message me during the week.

Follow the race
The KAEM team will be putting updates on their website, updating the Facebook group and posting videos each night. Their official communication promises that "The website will be updated daily with article, results, photos and video".

Follow me
Vanessa will be taking over my twitter account @dwrowland and posting updates to my Facebook page each day. So that you know it's her, any tweets or updates she writes will be followed by (VW).

Message me
Each day you can send me an email which I should receive (delayed) at camp the following night. To email me you need to use the runners' email address and put my name and bib number in the subject line.

Address: runners@extrememarathons.com
Subject: Daniel Rowland 256

[You can also email my dad - Jonathan Rowland 263 - and my brother - Brian Rowland 255].

Thank you to everyone who is following the race and trying to keep up with my progress. I know that it's difficult when the updates are sparse, but I appreciate the support and knowing that you're out there trying.

My gear choices for KAEM13

It's almost race time so that means it's time to put together my race pack and food. I love this side of the preparation process and it's always fun for me to think about and optimize my gear. I feel very confident that I have a great set of gear that is both light, functional and sufficient to support a good race.

This is my third multi-stage race so it has been easier to decide what to take based on my previous experiences and the testing that I did in my blocks. To see the evolution of my gear you can go through my previous posts showing what I took with me in the Atacama Crossing in 2012 and 2013.

First up, a look at my race clothing and the non-food contents of my pack.

My race clothing is shown in the photo below and followed by a list with all the details of what I'll be wearing. Anything with an "(R)" after it means that the item is included on the mandatory required gear list.

My clothing for when I'm running each day.
  • BV Sport socks
  • Raidlight gaiters
  • Hoka One One Mafate 2 shoes
  • Compression shorts
  • Lafuma SpeedTrail tee shirt T Zip
  • Garmin 310Xt, Heart Rate Strap, Footpod
  • Desert hat (R)
  • Oakley Pro-M Sunglasses (R)

In my pack is the following gear. A lot of it is shown compressed into ziploc bags to keep it clean and small for packing.

My pack and the non-food contents.
  • PHDesign Sleeping bag (R)
  • Thermarest NeoAir sleeping mat
  • Overnight clothing (R) - Lafuma Speedtrail Tee, Shorts, Compression socks
  • Buff (R)
  • Earplugs
  • Raidlight Olmo 20l pack (R)
  • Waterbottles of at least 1.5l capacity (R)
  • Blister kit (R) - elastic tape, paper tape, needles, alcohol wipes
  • Spoon (R)
  • Toilet paper (R)
  • Wet wipes 
  • Alcohol gel
  • Cooking pot (R)
  • Jacket (R) - Lafuma SpeedTrail JKT
  • Emergency gear (R) - mirror, whistle, space blanket, spare batteries
  • Headlamp (R)
  • Sunscreen (R)

Here's my food for the race. It's not all packaged for the race as this video is before I travel, but there aren't too many changes needed. The Ensure will go into ziplocs, my bars will be wrapped individually and I'll look to see if there is any other trimming or repacking I can do to reduce weight and volume. The race requirement is for a minimum of 2,000 kCal a day for a total of 14,000kCal during the race.

My food is about 3.6kg and close to 15,000 kCal for the week. It's made up of the following items.

Food for seven days in the desert.

My pack weight will be a little over 6kg (before water) when everything is packed and ready for the race. I'm pleased with that weight as it is close to what I took to the Atacama Crossing this year, yet I managed to include a greater total number of calories. My pack comes close to 10-12% of my body weight which is the general guideline for seven-day multi-stage race packs.

If you have any questions or want any additional detail, please feel free to ask in the comments.

Despedida Run before leaving for KAEM13

Yesterday I ran my final group run in Santiago before I leave on Tuesday for South Africa for the KAEM. It was great to receive support from Lafuma and my fellow runners and friends. We ran into the hills from Mall Sport, and afterwards held a short presentation at the Lafuma store. The trail community in Santiago is fantastic and I'm grateful to be a part of it.

#bosses from the BossJogging team.

A pre-run photo in the Lafuma store.

About to depart.

Happy to be running with a great group.

Pre took us on a route with a lot of climbing (photo: TrailChile)

On an old road to Santiago (photo: TrailChile).

After the run I gave a presentation on the KAEM race and an overview of my training for it. It was fun to share my journey with the group and I hope I gave them some useful insight on what it takes for me to prepare for a multi-stage race.

Sharing some thoughts on training for multi-stage races.