Thursday, 24 July 2014

Eiger Ultra Trail 2014; 101km of mud, rocks and sweat

"Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must. Just never give up" Dean Karnazas

Last Saturday and Sunday I ran the Eiger Ultra Trail, a 101 km ultramarathon with more than 6700 metres of elevation gain.

I arrived in Grindelwald on Thursday and went to collect my bib number on Friday morning. The race organisation was quite good for a race in this size. There was a strict equipment check at the bib number distribution which I appreciated during the race. They asked every runner to bring all the mandatory gear listed on the website in order to collect the bibs. Apart from the bib numbers we were handed out a plastic cup in order not to use many disposable cups along the way. There was also a reflective band which we had to wear after 9:30 pm.

The mandatory gear that should be carried along the way
Weighs around 4kg (including 1.5L of water)
Pasta was served from 12 to 7 pm and there was a briefing session on Friday evening at congress centre which every runner had to attend. it was an introduction to the race, the profile, number of runners and most importantly the safety precedure.

At the pasta party, staring at the finish line and wondering how I'd feel when I cross it.

The briefing

I got to the starting area at 2:40am on race day. After having breakfast at the congress centre before 3am I went to the starting area, leaving the baggage and checking the gear for the last time. There was a great atmosphere at the start, after playing the  official race soundtrack, the race started at 4:30.

All ready to go
And what a race it was from the very beginning. The first hour spent running uphill in the dark. all you could see were runners and the lights coming from their headlight. Soon after we left the village, there was a steep hill which forced most of us to walk. From then to First it was intervals of walking and running.

The race profile: serious ascent from the begining
When we got to First the routes separated and we took a loop around while the E51 runners continued towards Faulhorn. The first part of the loop was downhill and that was where everyone started running again, then after 5km came another steep uphill. It was only around 30km when I had cramps on my quads. I was given some Magnesium at Oberlager Bussalp aid station and  struggled to get to Faulhorn the highest point of the race. I laid down for a few minutes, stretched my legs and kept on running. I ran the downhill part as fast as I could. my strategy was simple. I'd run the parts that I could as fast as possible and will slow down on steep uphill parts. At the end you never know how your body will respond during an ultra. So you better make the most of it once you still got the power.

The breathtaking scenery

Close to 30km mark

Downhill running was definitely my strength point. Those downhill training really helped me finish this race 
After a quick massage in Schynige Platte which really helped loosening my cramped quads and IT band, I arrived in Burglauenen at km 53. It was the main food station in which we could get our baggage, change clothes, treat any blister or cramp, and eat a plate of pasta.

A well-deserved plate of pasta after ten hours of running

The rest of the route became so quite. You didn't see many runners around you and it seemed that as we cover more distance, there was an increasing gap between the runners. I was feeling great though and ran most of the downhill part relatively fast to Wengen.  drank a couple of cups of water, filled my bottle and the hydration pack and kept going.

This was supposed to be one of the hardest part of the course. 6km of constant steep uphill, It was indeed a vertical kilometre after more than 60km of running. I approached it and have a conversation with a guy who was also planning to run the Swiss Irontrail T81 in 4 weeks time. It was all going well, I was just sweating a lot and because of the humidity, all my clothes were soaked in sweat. It was only 20 minutes to get to Mannlichen that I ran out of water, kept going, and I started to fill dizzy and tired. The fatigue hit me so fast and so hard that I couldn't walk anymore.

A few minutes before getting to the next station and while I was seeing the stands, I sat aside the track, just managed to sit without falling down. And asked other runners if they can kindly give me a sip of water so I can drag myself to the aid station which was now on my sight. There was a guy who I don't even remember his name, he gave me half a bottle of water and I stood up after a few seconds and walked on.

Exhausted and dehydrated just before arriving to Mannlichen. Still 33km to go
When I got to the food station, had a couple of glasses of cola, and asked the guys in the medical tent if I can lay down there for ten minutes to get rid of this fatigue and diziness. The moment i laid down though I started shivering. I was shivering so badly that they came and checked my heart beat and blood pleasure, hopefully it was all fine. I ended up sleeping there for more than an hour. They talked to me about the options, I could give up right there, go to the next station and take the train to Grindelwald, or I could carry on if I wish. I already knew what I would do. So I thanked them, filled my bottles and went on.

18 hours into the race I got to Kleine Scheidegg and after a few minutes I started walking the second the last ascent of the course. Then it was downhill to Alpiglen. a few minutes after I left Alpiglen km 88, I started to fill dizzy and a few moments after that I experienced vertigo and was about to fall down. I sat there, I was only 12 km away from the finish line. But I couldn't walk. That was the moment - I have to regret - I seriously thought about giving up. I managed to hold my mobile phone and dialled the emergency line. He told me I can either go back to the last station, walk down for two kilometres when they'd pick me up or stay there and someone would come along for help. I thanked him and said I'd think about it and if I couldn't carry on I'd call him again. I closed my eyes for a few second and sat there for five minutes. Then I got up and made my way to the last station. I wanted to get there, just take a short nap and see how I'd feel after that. I went up for 100 metres or so, but then I couldn't convince myself to do so. Then I head down again and ran towards the finish line in silence and solitude. There was only me, the light from the headlight and the track.

Descent to Alpiglen. The course was marked quite well and it was fairly easy to follow the path even in the dark
Less than 10km to the finish line, just before the final ascent
I walked the last ascent with a few other runners and when we got to the last food station in Pfingstegg I started running and walking downhill and finally crossed the finish line in 25:12:38.

Here I am, once again standing at the finish line, achieved what seemed impossible. 
Do follow your dreams guys. We only live once.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Eiger Ultra Trail Done.

Just a quick note to let you guys know I've finished the Eiger Ultra Trail in 25:12:38

Full report will be posted in a few days.

Stay tuned

Friday, 18 July 2014

Notes before the first 100k

There is only a few hours left to start my first 100k, to challege my body and mind in another level.
Sitting a few meters away from the finish line, eating a plate of pasta and chatting with the other runners.
Everyone's got an inspirational story to tell. All are enjoying what they're doing. Nobody's been forced to put themselves into this kind of torture. Nobody says it'd be easy, but we are all sure that it's gonna worth the pain. We know It's well worth the struggle. 
"The eye of the tiger" is playing and I'm thinking of the time that I was not a runner. I don't know what happened if I never started running. But I am absolutely pleased with what I'm doing now. 
No matter what, I'm going to give it all I've got tomorrow to achieve - once more - what I thought was impossible. 
Staring at the finish line, I know for sure something is gonna change inside me when I cross it. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

If your dreams don't scare you, they are not big enough. Eiger Ultra Trail in a few days!

It's been quite a while since my last post here. This is a short one just to say what I'll been doing in a few days.  The race report will be posted shortly after the race. 

This Saturday I will be running The Eiger Ultra Trail, a 101 km race for which I've been training almost as hard as I could in the last few months. I said almost because you can never train enough for these kind of challenges. I can say that I am now in the best shape I've ever been and I am going to give it my best effort.

The race elevation profile, 6700 metres of elevation gain is not gonna be easy!

Stay tuned guys

Saturday, 26 April 2014


Instagram is my favourite social network. I've been using it for more than a year now.
Searching the username mamad_m and the hashtag #runninginlate20s should take you through my photos.

So let's keep in touch and inspire one another.

Unbreakable: The Western States 100

Just watched this film last night. A documentary of 2010 Western States when four of the greatest runners compete with each other to win the one of the most prestigious ultra races in the world. It also features Gordy Ainseligh who was the first human to run the western states course - which was a 100-mile horse race - in just under 24 hours in 1974.

Highly recommended for everyone interested in ultra trail running.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Yet another injury, missing one race and planning another

Since I started running, I have been injured a couple of times a year. It was about six weeks ago that I twisted my left ankle. For a couple of weeks before then I couldn't run quite often due to the air pollution in Tehran. And I decided to sneak a couple of long runs while I was away in mid February. We were in Qeshm Island - the largest island in the Persian Gulf - and it was a great day for running. I started running at 6am and after almost 200 metres my left ankle twisted. I stopped, walked for a few seconds and started running again. I knew that it might get worse after this run, but I couldn't help running. after a few minutes the pain faded away. I ran 14 km and when I finished my run the pain came back. It wasn't the worst ankle sprain I had, but it took me longest to recover. I am just about to recover now, but I missed so many training sessions that I decided - only 12 days before the race - not to run the Iznik Ultramarathon. 

My next race will be Eiger Ultra Trail in July. That is going to be the hardest race I have ever run. I am not in the best shape now and need to train really hard for this monster (101 km and 6700 meters of elevation gain) I will start my training in a few days and might attend a shorter ultra before then to earn enough qualifying points for UTMB 2015. 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Running and alcohol, not the best combination!

The other night I went for a 10k run on snow, slush and ice. Didn't drink before and during the run. After running I had a banana and a small bottle of water. Up to this point it was going all right. That was when I started drinking with friends and had several drinks during the night. And as a result came the worst hangover I've ever had that lasts for more than 24 hours. I missed one training session and was feeling absolutely fatigue the day after. 

If you are a runner you are likely to have low alcohol tolerance. There is a few reasons to that. You probably only drink occasionally, so your body hasn't built up the same alcohol tolerance as someone who drinks regularly. Because you run regularly your metabolism rate is higher and you get the effects of alcohol faster than someone who doesn't exercise regularly. And because you are likely to have less body fat alcohol remains in your body longer. 

Alcohol affects your training in different ways. In short term it slows down your recovery process as drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration if you don't drink enough water. It ruins your workout the day after as it increases the risk of unusual heart rhythm so you cannot have an intense training session for a day or two after heavy drinking. In long term it can affect your weight as you get a lot of empty calories from alcohol. 

Drinking in moderation doesn't affect your health. But if you are a runner, give it a second thought the next time you head out for a few drinks. I will.

Read more about the matter here

Sunday, 5 January 2014

2014 km in 2014

Happy new year everyone!

In 2013 I ran 1468 km. Considering a couple of injuries and the time I dedicated to hiking, It wasn't a bad year at all. Now that I have planned a couple of marathons and ultras for 2014, I will try to run more than 2014 km this year. That's 5.5 km a day on average. Let's see how it goes.

Wish you all the best in 2014.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Dr Jack Daniels on types of training

I only got to know Dr Jack Daniels yesterday. I reckon these videos are quite useful and worth sharing. He introduces four types of training and describes the benefits of each type.

Yeah! We are indeed different

"Runners, Yeah we're different" is an advertising campaign by adidas back in 2000. Each ad reveals a part of runner's life. It shows the commitment, dedication and obsession of runners. If you are a runner you have probably experienced most of these situations and you do remember how everyone stares at you.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Istanbul Marathon; On running my slowest marathon

“I always start these events with very lofty goals, like I’m going to do something special.And after a point of body deterioration, the goals get evaluated down to basically where I am now – where the best I can hope for is to avoid throwing up on my shoes.” Nuclear Engineer and ultrarunner, Ephraim Romesberg, 65 miles into the Badwater Ultramarathon

Three weeks ago I ran the Istanbul marathon. And that happened to be my slowest marathon yet. I was not expecting a PR as I didn't train properly for a few weeks. I didn't think that it would go so badly either. 

The race started on Sunday morning in a great vibe. The start line is located in Asian part of the Istanbul just next to the Bosphorus Bridge. It was a bit hard to pass the other runners on the bridge as the road was relatively narrow and there was only one starting group. But the scenery was  great and the weather could hardly be any better. 

As I passed the 2 km mark, I started to pick up my pace. I was probably going too fast and I knew it but I was feeling great and could not convince myself to slow down. My average pace was 5 min/km for the first half of the race. Given that my best time in marathon was 3:49 with a pace around 5:20, I knew I was going too fast. I knew I might hit the wall and won't be able to keep up with this pace. But I also knew that I was not in the best shape and I might hit the wall anyway. So I decided to run in this pace as far as I can and if something went wrong I would try to manage it.

It was around kilometre 28 (Just before the turn around point) That I felt the sharp pain under the arch of my right foot. I did ignore that for a couple of minutes but the pain grew and I could hardly run. The pain was quite similar to ankle sprain. I stopped, walked for a little while, stretched my calves and started to run again. But the longest distance I could cover by running was about 300-400 metres. 

I did hit the wall during the Frankfurt marathon last year when I was down due to quad cramps and fatigue. In Frankfurt I was not sure if I could finish the race, I had pain all over my body but I could at least walk comfortably. This time it was different though. I was not feeling tired, If only I could get rid of that pain in my foot I would finish it in quite a good time. But the pain was growing up and after 35km I was limping and taking care of my right leg. I was grabbing my right leg with my hand and pull it forward in every single steps. It was not the question of getting to the finish line, I was sure I can make it there. It was that I wanted to get there in a good time and in a good shape. I could see that it is not possible with this physical condition. 

Because I was running in really bad form, there were more pressure on my knees. So the closer I got to the finish line the more difficult it became to run. Finally I dragged myself to the end and when I saw the time on the official race clock, I felt sad. I could not believe that I finished a marathon in 4:16. When I reached the halfway mark, I was 7 minutes ahead of my PR. And now I was finishing the race almost half an hour behind it. It was the first time ever that I crossed the finish line and was not chuffed.

Another marathon finished and I would consider it as a great experience. I could finish the race easier and faster if I paced myself better and did not start too fast. But as strange as sounds I don't regret that. What I found is that I could keep the 5 min/km pace for 25 kilometres even though I did not train properly for that pace. So If I train harder and If I can keep up that pace along the course, a 3:30 marathon is achievable. 

I would not run another race until I am absolutely ready for that. Having said that it would not give me an excuse to cancel any planned race, but to train harder and get into the best shape I can be. I would run more often and put some serious strength workout into my training routine. I would get leaner and faster and become a better runner. Istanbul marathon was not the easiest one but it did for sure make me stronger. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Resolutions, Once again

Last Friday I turned 31. And it is time to think about the resolutions. Last year in early December I posted my resolutions here and I am quite pleased that I achieved them all. This year I will try to be more precise in my goals.

So if I miss any of these by the end of November 2014, Please feel free to question me.

- Running a couple of ultras and get enough qualifying points for UTMB 2015. 
In case you are not familiar with UTMB, Ultra Trail Mont-Blanc is one of the greatest mountain ultras in the world. It's a race every ultra runner would like to run.  To run this race you require qualifying points which you can earn by running a number of ultras. For the main race you need 7 points and for shorter distances (Short is quite relative here as a couple of short races are over 100km!) you need 2 points. I've already got 2 points by finishing the K78 last July. I am planning to run another couple of ultras to get all the qualifying points for 2015. The first one is Iznik Ultra in April and I will probably run the CCC race in August.

- A 3:20 Marathon
After running a few marathons, I can say that I am more into trail running and will run more trail marathons. However I do have a time target for a road marathon.  I'd try to cut 30 minutes from my PR. That's going to be a marathon in 3:20!

- Losing more weight, get leaner and faster
 When I started running, I did so to lose weight. Now I want to lose weight to be a better runner. That's going to be achieved by healthy diet, Strength training, Plyometrics, Speed work and off course running!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Istanbul Marathon Done!

Istanbul marathon done in an embarrassing time of 4:16:58. I will post the full details in a few days. Not every marathon goes as well as you expect. There were important lessons to be learned from this marathon.

Stay tuned

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Istanbul Marathon in a week

I am now tapering for my fifth marathon. As I said before mental preparation is an essential part of training for a marathon. I was planning to set a PR in Istanbul, but given that I've missed quite a few training sessions and was not able to run properly for a few weeks, a PR now sounds far too optimistic. I know Istanbul is going to be a tough one but that doesn't stop me from trying my best. It might hurt a lot, but I will embrace the pain and go on. I might not be in the best shape but I am ready for the challenge.