On Feb 24th, 2017, Paul and I will embark on the final leg of our journey, putting a stamp on our own mark by completing the 8th desert race in 10months to be in sole possession of the Guinness Book of World Records for The Most Desert Races Ran in One Year. The last race, Ice Ultra, will take place near Gallivare, Sweden (in the province of Lapland), 100km north of the Arctic Circle.
Monumental Challenges Ahead
Flying back home to Toronto after 11 months living in our suitcases, Paul and I felt a tremendous weight off our shoulders. We gave ourselves a self-imposed downtime until New Years to physically and mentally recover from our ordeal, and reconnect with family and friends. It was exceedingly difficult getting back into the swing of things! Sometimes I wondered if it was easier if we had done our last race soon after Oman. To make things even more interesting, I had promised Paul that we will run the 121st edition of Boston Marathon in 2017, after skipping out on his first opportunity to run it in 2016. Boston Marathon will be a celebration of sorts. As such, I will be running alongside Paul with the objective of punctuating our year-long journey by giving him a personal best (PB) time at the race. This is a serious athletic challenge in that multi-stage racing requires a very different type of aerobic fitness than racing a fast marathon.
On paper, we will have about 14 weeks of downtime since our last race in Oman, but the past 7 desert races have taken a toll on our mind and our bodies. Furthermore, IceUltra presents an entirely different set of challenges that we have not encounter before in all our previous races. We will have to resupply and re-equip ourselves with winter gear, run in frigid cold temperatures as low as -30C (-22F), snowshoe in powdered snow up to our knees, and cover 230km (143miles) in a mere span of five days.
Training Strategy and Equipment Selection
As we learn in our preparation for IceUltra, there are many things we need to consider for extreme cold weather running: insulated water bottles to keep water from freezing, ultra lightweight snowshoes for fast snow running, ski goggles for clear vision and fog prevention, proper layering to accommodate for drastic temperature changes, learning to eat frozen snacks between stages, etc. To survive the arctic weather of IceUltra, we will need to be as prepared as we possibly can.
Our plan of attack to succeed in both Ice Ultra and Boston Marathon requires a carefully crafted training regiment and some outside-the-box thinking. Rather than building fitness through conventional training methods, I have designed a program which minimizes wear and tear and leverages the endurance base we had acquired through 7 desert races so that we can peak at the right time. As you may have heard ad nauseam over the interweb, the answer isn’t as simple as “running more” or “quality over quantity” or “run slower so you can run faster”. I have learned over the years that dogma has no place in acquiring results. The is no one solution to every single problem. The trick is to apply correct principles under the right circumstances with the correct timing and duration. Any credible running coach should and will tell you that. It is quintessential that every endurance athlete understands the essence of any endurance training program.
Boston Marathon Prep in Lanzarote, Spain
I won’t get into the details of our training plan in a blog post, but essentially, Paul and I kept most of our workouts short and preppy to bring up our leg speed and VO2Max up to an acceptable level and throw some aerobic work in the mix to maintain our endurance base. After our last race in Sweden, we will be flying to the Canary Islands (Lanzarote) in Spain, where we will be reintroducing some heavy aerobic base work to get the necessary stamina to perform at a high level for the Boston Marathon. Training plans should never be static and incorporating different types of training methods can lead you to breakthroughs that can otherwise allude you.
Training for IceUltra
In preparation for IceUltra, we drove up North East of Toronto to Durham Regional Forest 2-3 times weekly for 2 weeks to practice snowshoeing and test out our winter running gear and everything else in between. Leveraging our knowledge from multi-stage racing and reading up on blogs from prior finishers of IceUltra, we will be as prepared as we can be given the limited time window in which we have to work with.
As the final race of the 8 Deserts Challenge approaches, Paul and I are extremely grateful for the generous donations that people have made over the last 9 months. However, we have yet to reach our goal of $10,000 towards the Rainforest Trust Fund. The rainforest has a special place in our hearts because we have seen its beauty first hand in one of our backpacking trips to Central/South America in 2014. In the pristine Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, we saw oil pipelines being laid out for miles and miles deep into the jungle only to hear about a massive oil leak a year after we left. With your support, we can and will make a difference. We truly believe that. You can read up more about our backstory here.