Monday 22 October 2012

MdS UK Expo - 20 October 2012

Billed as a 'Must Attend Event' for prospective MdS entrants with tickets costing £60. Was it worth it or not?

This is my summary of the event and also some personal views about the day including the freeze dried meal for lunch, as well as details of my ‘sweat test’!

Also, for anyone who wasn’t at the Expo, I have included my relatively extensive notes. Please remember that the advice, suggestions, ideas etc contained in the notes are not mine!

This is an interim, bonus post and the one I previously promised ("Why run the MdS? That's a fair question") will follow soon. Watch this space…

Event overview
Excerpt from the event description: “Hear sports professionals talk ultrarunning and the MdS. Participate in workshops led by MdS veterans and shop from a comprehensive showcase of gear. This is an opportunity to meet fellow competitors past, present and future.”

Did it do what it said on the tin?

Event format
The day consisted of a series of high profile individual speakers (Patrick Bauer - race director, Fred Compagnon - head of Doc Trotters, Dr Mike Stroud OBE and Sir Ranulph Fiennes), smaller workshops and a panel of three former competitors (Tobias Mews, Katherine Hay-Heddle and Graham Kelly).

The speakers were excellent. Dr Mike Stroud and Sir Ranulph Fiennes were both highly entertaining. I was lucky enough to have a 15 minute conversation at the end of the afternoon with Patrick Bauer. He was very down to earth and shared with me (in French!) his philosophy and rationale for keeping the event the size it is and not holding more than one MdS annually.

The workshop subjects included: “Pack weight, Gaiters and other must haves; Nutrition 4 training, Preparing & coping with heat stress, Race Insurance and how to customize your gear...” The speakers at the workshops I attended were each very matter of fact, encouraging and provided good insight in the time available. I would have attended more of the workshops had time allowed.

The panel session was good and provided some useful insight into race preparation and the race itself. The panel were united in their enthusiasm although their respective training approaches and how they selected their race kit differed considerably. This simply proves that what works for one person may not work for another. As an MdS virgin I am keen to amass as much information from former competitors as possible. Choose to ignore their advice if you want but it can’t do any harm to hear it.

Event Exhibitors
There were also a number of exhibitors with stands. Personally I thought that there was insufficient time during the day to browse the stands sufficiently. This may, to an extent, have been my own fault as I chose to spend the breaks catching up with other attendees and as well as talking with the event speakers. I did spend some time (and money) at the Precision Hydration stand having a sweat assessment.

Sweat assessment
A bizarre topic for discussion I know but I was intrigued…As I have suffered from cramp in the two marathons I have run and also during the Wall ultra, I was keen to find out my sweat composition to better understand the electrolyte concentration I need in the water I drink when running. The sweat test result, for anyone who cares, is that my sweat comprises 950mg of sodium per litre which apparently, since you ask (!), is slightly below average. Interesting but so what?! What I wanted to know was how to stop getting cramp. Bear with me…

I have somewhat unscientifically calculated my sweat loss by weighing myself before and after a run and deducting the weight of the water drunk during the run. My net sweat loss per hour running is approximately 0.9 litres per hour which, it seems, is about average. So, my sodium loss per hour is 855mg. Precision Hydration therefore recommended that I use tablets containing 1,000mg of sodium.

So, what the conclusion? Was it worth having the test done? I would say so. For anyone like me who sweats an average amount and has a slightly below average, or average, concentration of sodium in their sweat, off the shelf electrolyte tablets contain insufficient sodium in each tablet to replenish the levels lost during running. The guys at Precision Hydration also gave me some other very useful advice. In my efforts to avoid dehydration during races it seems that I may have been over-hydrating the previous day which would have diluted the electrolyte concentration in my body and have perhaps contributed to the cramp during the races.

I am certainly no scientist so knowledge may be a dangerous thing for me! Let’s see what happens when I put the advice into practice when I do the Dublin marathon a week from today on 29 October. I will drink less the day before the race than I have previously when trying to consciously hydrate and will use tablets delivering 1,000mg of sodium per litre. Fingers crossed!

Event sponsorship (aka snack providers)
GU Energy gave us each a few free samples – a pack of Chomps, an electrolyte tablet and a gel. More impressive, for me at least, was lunch. Fuizion provided a choice of four different freeze-dried meals. I chose chicken jalfrezi. It was delicious and, in my mind, the taste and consistency compared very favourably to other brands that I have tried. After a quick bit of homework I have concluded that Fuizion’s products have a higher kCal per gram concentration than competitor products – an important consideration for pack weight. But, it does not seem that Fuizion produces larger 800kCal portions like some of its competitors. Shame… So, rather than moan about it, I did the sensible thing and have emailed Fuizion asking whether it could produce larger meals. No response yet but it’s probably a little early to expect a response to yesterday’s email!

Good event or not?
I would unanimously agree with the other competitors I spoke to on the day, and the subsequent feedback on Facebook, that the event was a success. It was well organised with some really high profile, excellent speakers.

The Expo was organised as a not-for-profit event with any proceeds to be given to the MdS charity Solidarit├ęs. This was a nice touch and I hope that the organisers share details of the donation in due course.

Neil Thubron (NRG)
·         When training think about the 'why?' i.e. the motivation.
·         Multi day running is a must.
·         When going is tough think about the why.
·         Training with kit including. Front and back packs gets you used to required running position.
·         Multi day events very important. These mental 'references' enable belief to know the day that lies ahead is achievable.
·         Very difficult to train for heat in UK.
·         Four elements to success - physical, mental, kit and nutrition.
·         Pace discipline imperative. 5mph top 100 pace.
·         NRG organises two event aimed at MdS runners: Druids in Nov (3 days, 84 miles) and Pilgrim in Feb (2 days, 66 miles).

Peter McCrory - mental skills
·         Former Royal Air Force survival expert in Arctic and Desert.
·         Fail to plan, plan to fail.
·         Beliefs affect performance. To build mental toughness external experiences including past performances are key. Can simulate the MdS just by thinking about similar situations.
·         Thoughts determine feelings which determine emotions which determine self-talk. Impacts performance.
·         How we cope with difficult moments depends on how we plan for them.
·         Can manipulate thoughts/strategies. Think positively in moments of doubt/pain. Can be done anywhere.
·         How can we deal with anxiety? With sleep deprivation? Think about things you can control. Don't worry about those that you can't - e.g. the weather and other competitors.
·         The ' why?' motivates and assists performance.
·         Self evaluation is fine but can't change what happened so don't be too self critical.
·         We have a finite amount of concentration. For much of the race can switch off e.g. on the flat can zone out - picture pleasant things like crossing the finish line. At other times must focus e.g. for navigation, when terrain uneven etc.
·         Goal setting - 3 types of goals:
  1. Process (Strategy)
  2. Performance (Tasks to achieve objective)
  3. Outcome (Evaluation can impact ego. Think about what works well and what could be better?)
·         When setting goals think about pathway to outcome.

Fred Compagnon (head of Doc Trotters)
·         Tips to assist preparation:
·         Kit, training, shoes (use at least monthly for running and walking, 1-2 sizes larger than usual), state of mind, medical file, acclimatisation (forget it!).
·         Rucksack weight is your enemy.
·         Train with fully laden pack.
·         Some runners tape area where rucksack straps cover shoulders as well as over top of shoulder blades.
·         Sandstorm - use glasses and buff.
·         Feet are most important part of preparation and problems are main cause of dropping out.
·         Wash shops and let socks dry on rucksack next day.
·         Prep feet. Goal is to make feet tough not hard. e.g. use Nok  - a French product - see this link:
·         [According to the internet it seems that Nok is a cream if for anti chaffing and may assist feet from over-heating...]
·         Podiatrist visit a few weeks before race.
·         Always remove sand from shoes and socks.
·         Dry feet in eve and let dry in wind.
·         Climate - use water sensibly.
·         Slow down when temp highest. Temp difference between 8am-4pm may be nothing. But temps may vary from 17-31 degrees at 8am to 30-41 degrees at 4pm.
·         2 salt tablets (1g) recommended per bottle of water.
·         Rest in shade when possible.
·         Medical team of 50 doctors and nurses.
·         Medical certificate and resting ECG dates within one month of start of MdS.
·         For men over 40, and women over 50, stress test ECG recommended.
·         Doc Trotters at CPs and in cars on the course.
·         Max pack weight before water, distress flare etc is 10kg

Dr Mike Stroud
·         To do the MdS "you need to have a defective short term memory".
·         Acclimatisation: onset 2 days - 2 weeks. Decline 30 days. HR and salt sweating improves with acclimatisation. Can be achieved by wearing too many clothes. Will acclimatise best by not taking too much salt immediately before race.
·         Typical sweat rates 0.5 - 1.5 litres per hour. Cannot though absorb more than about 1 litre per hour from stomach = gastric emptying.
·         You have the evolutionary capacity to ignore pain
·         There are low and high end sweaters.
·         MS's book: "Survival of the Fittest"

Rory Coleman
·         168 days until the start of the 2013 MdS!
·         Think about what can be done now to make face easier
·         RC's MdS run speed: 12.5 minutes per mile, walk speed: 14.5 minutes per mile. Equates to approximately finishing position of 225.
·         Walking training really important.
·         Fastest person 19 hours, slowest person 76 hours.
·         RC's pack weight 6.5kg.
·         Don't forget weight of flare, salt tablets and road book. [About 400g combined weight?]
·         Average GB pack weight before water is 11kg. Important to have pack weight as low as possible.
·         Don't need: walking poles, orthotics.
·         Calories: minimum 14k (weighs about 3.5kg) although organisers do not check. Pack weight reduces by about 0.5kg per day as food eaten.
·         Food variety important. Palate becomes very savoury.
·         Every kilo in pack adds about 25 minutes to marathon time.
·         Important to be weight lean as you cook if fat! Cut out carbs to lose weight.
·         Do some training!
·         Dunes - try 200m Big Dipper near Bridge End in Wales. RC can organise a 20+ mile training session in the Dunes - on demand.
·         Gym. Daily press ups help carrying rucksack.
·         Core work very important. E.g. plank - starting at 1 minute increasing over time to 3 minutes.
·         Amount of exercise per week? RC did 17 hours last week!
·         Race it, don't just get around.
·         Taping for toes - Hapla Band with tincture of benzoin.
·         In race stop to sort out hot spots.

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