A long run protocol

I do a long run once a week during an average training week. The long run is a vital part of any distance runner's training plan as it builds endurance, stresses the body over a long period and helps to improve running efficiency. In training for ultras and multi-day events the long run is even more important to me as it is the training day that is closest to a race in duration and it is a great opportunity to test race gear and strategies. I take these runs seriously and have built up a routine to ensure that I get the most out of each long run.

Today's schedule from my coach Ian called for 4 hours "time on the legs". This means that the focus of the session is on running the full four hours with the distance and speed of the run of lower importance. The idea is for my body to get used to running for that length of time; we'll work on the strength and speed I need to race well in other training sessions during the week. As I'm preparing for a self-supported race, I carry my race backpack with me to get used to it and to start adapting to the load I'll have to carry in the race.

The first thing I do before a long run is to have a good breakfast and get some calories in me. I like to eat between 300 and 500 calories about three hours before the run. This amount sits well in my stomach and doesn't seem to give me any problems on the run. I usually have Cerelac as that's what I'll eat before each stage in a multi-day race, but today I had some potato salad (potato, red onion, cilantro, anchovies, balsamic vinegar). I try to stop drinking about two hours before running and then start hydrating according to my thirst as soon as I start running. Today I had some green tea just after my breakfast. This routine works quite well for me as seldom have any stomach problems or need to stop during long runs if I follow it.

Potato salad for breakfast.

Green tea.

After some food and something to drink I start to get ready. There's not too much of a rush as I have between two and three hours to do this (yet I somehow always have to rush towards the end). I'll do some exercises on my foam roller and with a tennis ball to loosen up my legs and feet and to check if there are any niggles or sore spots that I need to be conscious of while running. Next up I'll prepare my gear for the day. Today I was training with my pack, so I used my potential race pack. The current load I'm working with is 4kg, so I had four bags of rice that came along for the run with me. I also took two water bottles with me which I can fill along the way, 7 Apitop gels so I can take one ever 30 minutes, my Garmin, iPod, sunglasses and hat. This is not exactly a light and fast set-up, but it's close to what I'll race with and therefore a good arrangement for a long run.

Foam rolling and using a tennis ball to loosen up my legs.

My pack and gear for today's run.

It was pretty cold today so the trails were mostly deserted and quiet. I had a great run, enjoyed a cooler day out and could run a good pace as there wasn't any traffic out there.

Beautiful and quiet trails on Cerro San Cristobal.

I'm still smiling in this easy first half of the outing.

Here's how the day turned out: a little over 4 hours, 40km on the legs with 4kgs. I like all the 4s!

4 hours completed as planned.

After a run I like to begin my recovery routine as quickly as possible. I try to drink a smoothie or eat a meal within 30 minutes of getting home. Today I had a delicious smoothie (egg, carrot, banana, mint, yoghurt).

A big smoothie to recover after that run.

That's how a long run goes for me. Now I've got some compression tights on, my legs are up and I'm thinking about a nap...

REMINDER: Running in the Family

My dad has been posting new articles every Monday morning for the last four weeks. If you haven't been following our journey to Augrabies have a look at the Running in the Family page as there is lots of great reading there.

Multi-stage race backpacks (part 4)

This is the fourth part of a four-part review of packs for multi-stage races (part 1part 2, part 3).

Last year I prepared a series of posts reviewing the options for multi-stage race backpacks as I have been trying to figure out the best options and features that we need to look for in a backpack. Everyone has their own ideas on what to use and most packs receive a few modifications before arriving at the start line. This is another post in the series with two new packs.

The two packs were used by my friends Kyle and Fernando during this year's Atacama Crossing. Kyle has run in the Marathon des Sables before so he has refined his equipment strategy and used the Inov-8 Elite 25l in the Atacama. Fernando raced in his first multi-stage race in the Atacama and chose to use the Lafuma Raid 30l.

With these additional options the backpack reviews cover packs from 17l up to 30l across multiple brands so there are lots of options to consider.

Kyle McCoy and the Inov-8 Elite 25l

1. What pack did you use during the race?
I used the Inov-8 Race Elite 25l for the Atacama Crossing and the Race Elite 20l for the Marathon des Sables.

2. Did the pack have enough capacity for all your gear?
Yes. I would have used the 20l version for the Atacama and the 15l version for the Marathon des Sables. I was worried I would be cold and hence the extra 5l for the Atacama.

3. What was the final weight of your pack and hydration system (without water)?
The final weight with water was 17.5lbs. This is 7.9kg so about 6.5kg without water.

4. How did the pack fit and ride while you were running?
The pack fits extremely well, riding comfortably against my back.

5. What did you use for hydration (front bottle, bladder, etc)?
I used two front water bottles and a platypus that I carried on the long sections.

6. Did you use the external pockets on the pack? What for?
I didn't use any external pockets - in fact, I cut them all off and really trimmed down the pack to make it extremely light.

7. Did anything break on your pack during the race?
Nothing has ever broken on my Inov-8 packs - they are extremely durable.

8. Would you recommend the pack and would you use it again?

Fernando Valdivieso and the Lafuma Raid 30l

1. What pack did you use during the race?
Lafuma Raid 30 - light, great capacity and adjustable. Additionally it's adjustable.

2. Did the pack have enough capacity for all your gear?
Absolutely. The capacity was sufficient to carry my equipment, food and a few things that after the race I realized I shouldn't have carried! Still, every load felt light and comfortable.

3. What was the final weight of your pack and hydration system (without water)?
According to the official scale at weigh-in it was 10kg, but with an electronic scale it weighed 8.9kg. I think that was the real weight without water.

4. How did the pack fit and ride while you were running?
Very comfortable. It adjusted to my body which prevented any skin damage to my back or shoulders.

5. What did you use for hydration (front bottle, bladder, etc)?
Two front bottles of 500cc each.

6. Did you use the external pockets on the pack? What for?
Yes. In the large rear pocket I carried my sleeping bag and in the side pockets a few things that I needed quick access to.

7. Did anything break on your pack during the race?

8. Was there any specific feature that you particularly liked?
The large rear pocket was a perfect size. In this pocket I carried my sleeping bag and some clothes. Also the strap adjustment system that allows you to increase or decrease the size of the backpack to the needs of the race or load.

9. Was there anything that you would change about the pack?
Include a pocket that closes with a zip on the right of the waistbelt the same as the one on the lefthand side. There is a perfect space for it there.

10. Would you recommend the pack and would you use it again?
Absolutely! I'm already recommending it for the brave runners who are getting excited for the 2014 Atacama Crossing.

Salomon 4 Trails 21km - 10th

I ran the Salomon 21km race in Limache on the weekend to get in a bit of a speed session and to run harder than I have been doing in training. I thought I would be closer to the front of the race, but it didn't turn out that way and my lack of speed in training showed up over the shorter distance. However, my time was the same as I ran for last year's race and my effort level was a little easier so I'm taking away from the race that I'm much more efficient a year later!

Right at the start and standing out in my bright orange Lafuma kit.

There were some great smooth and fast dirt road sections.

The race was mostly rolling single track for a beautiful course.

About 3km from the end with no one in sight in front or behind.

It was a perfect day and an amazing route.

Happy to be done although a few more kms might have helped my position!

Pat came to stay with us for the weekend and to run the race. He had a great day and took 5th place. He was running smooth and strong so all the time in the Vilches mountains seems to be helping.

With Pat after the race.

Matias and Max were also there to support and take footage for TrailChile. Max took some epic photos (the ones with the TrailChile logo) and Matias took the video on bossjogging while cheering me on and helping me through the last part of the race.

As always, Vanessa was there to support me and help me be my best.