Article in El Mercurio

Today (Wednesday 27 March) I appeared in El Mercurio, the major Chilean newspaper. I'm really excited about this as it means a lot of exposure for me and my sponsors here in Chile. I did an interview with Claudio Herrera from El Mercurio who joined us for a group run, the Post-Atacama Corrida, on Sunday.

Interview in El Mercurio.

3 questions for Daniel Rowland

Born in Zimbabwe, but living in Chile, this 28 year-old ultra-marathoner left his work in an international mining company to dedicate himself to the "dream of being a runner". A member of the Lafuma team, Rowland achieved a win in flawless fashion in the Atacama Crossing, a stage race of 250 kilometers, in a time of 26h17:51. "I can't make a living from this yet, but it would be ideal to be able to dedicate myself to this 100%," he says.

1 - In 2012 you were 9th, and now you won. What's changed?
"More time to train. In September I resigned from my job, and decided to take a year's sabbatical to be able to do what I love most: run. Having more time allowed me to prepare well. I visited the desert twice before the race and I trained in the desert conditions of altitude and heat. I reduced my time by almost two hours".

2 - How do you train for a stage race?
"I did three blocks of four days, running three, four and six hours, to simulate the race. I trained at 2pm in the heat of the day with a 6kg backpack. My training weeks comprise of between 10 and 15 hours, with a volume between 80 and 150 kilometers. I also arrived at the race better prepared mentally, which was important as I only had a one-minute lead over second place by the third stage (he had a final advantage of 37 minutes), which is something that is atypical in these types of races".

3 - How do you see the development of these types of races in Chile?
"There are still few Chileans competing in stage races. There were only three in the Atacama, but in the country the phenomenon of running is growing. There are many great trail races here - I've raced in some (Endurance Challenge, K42) - and there are many people who want to train and learn about the sport. For my next personal goal, I want to race in October in the Kalahari Augrabies (250km), in South Africa".


Recovery is vital for preparing for key races, for performing each day during a multi-stage race and for reducing the time to returning to training after a tough race. I've been working on my recovery routines and trying to optimize the level of performance I can achieve. The idea is to ensure I'm getting the most out of the hard work I do in training.

I believe that the basis for good recovery is a healthy lifestyle first and then to load training on top of that. Following a good diet, sleeping at least eight hours a night and taking regular naps are the fundamental basis for good recovery. However, there are other complementary and interesting recovery modalities that are worth testing and experimenting with.

Recovery during training

To get the most out of training it's important that the quality of each training session is high, especially key sessions such as intervals or tempo runs. I like to feel rested, ready and focused before I start each important training session. If I don't feel good I would rather delay the session until I know that I can deliver on that session's objectives. There are times when I have to train when I'm tired, such as race simulation training blocks, but in general I prefer not to train when I'm not going to receive the full benefit of a hard session because I can't run at the intensity that is planned.

As I mentioned in the introduction, some keys to consistent weekly training are regular sleep and good nutrition. Additionally, a training program that is designed to account for the current condition of an athlete is vital. Don't train as if you have the condition to win a race when you are not ready for it, and do not train for the level of condition you wish you had. For me that means including two rest days a week. I'd love to train more, but my body is not yet ready to handle more work.

In addition to these principles, compression clothing can help recovery after strenuous training sessions. I use compression garments to aid recovery during or after tough workouts. I find that wearing calf and quad sleeves (or compression shorts) during long runs helps me to feel better the next day. However, the most benefit for me comes from using compression after long or tough sessions. I typically wear my compression leggings for about four hours after each hard run.

Recovering after a tough session in San Pedro.

Another useful tool for recovery or general body maintenance is a foam roller. A foam roller allows for self-myofascial release (rather than going to a physiotherapist or masseuse) and can improve flexibility and range of motion. This tool is particularly useful for resolving any ITB-related pain or issues. I try to use my foam roller a few times a week, but if I feel any niggles or issues I will diligently use it twice a day until my legs feel back to normal. I like the roller because it allows me to treat minor issues quickly therefore keeping my training consistent.

Recovery during races

In a multi-stage race the highest recovery priority should be eating and drinking within a two-hour window of finishing the day's stage. This time period is when the body most rapidly absorbs carbohydrates and converts them to glycogen to fuel the following day's stage. In desert races (and most races) it's likely that an athlete will be mildly dehydrated. The meal immediately after the stage is the optimal time to drink to thirst and re-balance the body's water content. These principles apply to recovering from all training, but the focus during a stage race is important as most athletes have restricted calories (due to not wanting to carry too much weight) and therefore it's worthwhile to consume the calories they do have in the two-hour window.

I have a well-defined post-stage routine. I drink a 1.5l solution with approximately 250 calories, I drink another 1l protein and carbohydrate drink with 500 calories, and I eat a small meal of couscous and parmesan cheese with about 200 calories. This provides enough water to rehydrate and enough calories to start the refueling process.

Recovery post races

This is an area of recovery that I'm still learning about. I don't have any hard and fast rules to share yet, only my current experience and what I'm trying out. After the Atacama Crossing I was tired and sore. My coach prepared a four-week "taper out" so that I would have enough time to recover before starting training for my next goal race. In this period I have been doing a low volume and low intensity of training. I have been sleeping as much as possible and eating a lot to cover the massive calorie deficit I built up during the race.

I also worked with Jose from RecoveryPump to try their recovery boots to complement my taper out training and resting. I used the boots for 45 minutes once a day for a week after the race, gradually building up the pressure of the boots from 60mmHg to 80mmHg as my legs felt better each day. Using the boots is similar to getting a massage and I enjoyed the sensations in my legs during and after each session. I'm definitely going to test the boots some more during hard weeks in my next race preparation cycle.

Setting up the RecoveryBoots for a session.

Adjusting the pressure. The boots are very easy to use.

Enjoying my recovery period!

Atacama Crossing - 1st

Last week I won the Atacama Crossing 2013! It was a really close race to start and I only held the lead by seconds after stage 3, but my knowledge of the course and great preparation paid off and I managed to open up a lead on stages 4 and 5. I'm really pleased with my performance and it was fantastic to cross the finish line on Saturday at the Plaza de San Pedro as the overall winner.

Running at the front of the pack on Stage 6.

The leader's number and my trophy.

As usual there'll be a race report, gear review and more general feedback coming soon.

Follow me during the Atacama Crossing 2013

It's 2 days until the start of the Atacama Crossing! I'm very excited, but also quite nervous about running this epic race again.

During the race I'll have limited access and communication, but there are a number of ways that you can follow my progress and send me a message during the race.

Follow the race
RacingThePlanet will post regular updates – known as Breaking News – to their website during each stage. Updates will also be posted to their Facebook and Twitter pages several times per day. At the end of each day, a Stage Update will be posted summarizing the day, as well as video clips and photographs.

Follow me
After each stage I'll be posting an update on my RacingThePlanet blog. These posts will probably be slightly delayed as the campsites are offline and the blogs only uploaded when the staff are back in San Pedro. You can comment on any of my blog posts and I'll receive the comments together with any emails I'm sent after each stage.

Sending me a message
You can send me email during the event by going to Atacama Crossing website and selecting Email a Competitor from the Race Coverage drop-down list (emails are not private as they can be seen on the spreadsheet by other competitors).