Friday, 5 December 2014

Lessons learned from the first DNF

Last October I tried to run the Cappadocia Ultra Trail and it turned out to be the first race that I didn't reach the finish line. 

There were a few reasons behind that and a few lessons to be learned.

Give your body proper rest after a (or a couple of) big races. I ran the Eiger Ultra Trail E101 in July and the Swiss Irontrail T81 in August. Looking at my training diary there is a significant difference between the amount of training I had prior to the Eiger (April, May, June) and before the Cappadocia Ultra Trail (September, October). During summer I had a massive goal of getting all qualification point for UTMB and I trained so hard for it. In late August just after the Irontrail, I was quite week and need a good recovery. I didn't run for a few weeks. Then I start training only a few weeks before the race. But the amount of effort I made was nowhere near what I should have. I should have respected my body more and gave it a good rest. 
Never Underestimate a race. After this DNF, I'd never underestimate a race again. 110 km is not a short distance to be underestimated. What made me thinking it was easy, was the elevation profile. Although it was 9 km longer than the Eiger, the elevation change was almost half of that. So I thought it won't be a problem finishing this race -- and it wouldn't been so if I trained well. There were no massive ascent comparing to the Eiger, but there were  some technical parts with no path and you had to climb the mountains. 
Know where you are racing, get as much information as possible There were also some problems with the course marking and because it was a small race, you could easily get lost. In terms of support it was not quite efficient either. In my previous ultras, there were medical tent next to food stations and there were some volunteers along the way, especially during night to make sure you pass different areas safely. The organizers made a good effort during the Cappadocia Ultra Trail, but given that it was its first year running some issues seems to be inevitable. I might have finished the race and pushed myself further if I was sure about the support along the way. 
DNF hurts. When it happens, do try to accept it. So if you find yourself in a situation that going on might cause severe damage to your health and keep you away from training for a while, it's better to give up and come back stronger next time. It does hurt a lot. It's more difficult to convince yourself to give up than dragging yourself to the finish line. My left ankle hurt a lot after 41 km and I eventually gave up at 77 km when it got worse and I also experiences hypothermia. I could probably endure the pain for the rest of the race, but it could weaken my ligaments badly and I did not want to be away from running for months. As runners we tend to  live outside our comfort zone, but we should know how much is to much.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Runner's World article on 2-hour marathon

This is definitely worth reading. Runner's World article on the possibility of running a marathon under two hours. It says a lot about the course, temperature, age, height and the other important factors.

That reminds me of  The Perfection Point by John Brenkus (Check out the Reading list page). He predicts that the fastest time anyone can ever run a marathon is just under two hours. 

Friday, 28 November 2014

Mauro Prosperi and his inspiring survival story at Marathon des Sables

Just read the story of  Mauro Prosperi who got lost during the Marathon des Sables in 1994 and survived after 10 days. He will be running 7000 km across Sahara next year. This is definitely worth reading.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Istanbul marathon done

Just finished the Istanbul Marathon in 3:59. Not a PR but I'm quite pleased with that.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Istanbul Marathon in three days

I'm heading to Istanbul tomorrow to run the Istanbul Marathon on Sunday. Last year I only managed to drag myself to the finish line and it turned out to be my slowest marathon. That was due to lack of training and running the first half of the race too fast.

I haven't really trained for marathon distance since then and my main focus was running ultra trail races, so a PR sounds too optimistic. But I am in better shape comparing to last year and I hope with pacing myself properly, I will be able to run better this year.

I'm sure no matter what happens this Sunday, I'm going to try my best and enjoy every single stride along the way.

Stay tuned

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Cappadocia ultra trail, the first DNF

Just a quick note on Cappadocia ultra trail. For the first time ever I had to drop out of a race. That happened at 77th km due to severe pain in shin area and dropping the body tempreature and shivering. DNF ( stands for Did Not Finish) really hurts. There are lessons to be learned and I'm going to write a detailed post on this one. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cappadocia Ultratrail in a few days

Heading to Turkey in a few days to run the Cappadocia Ultra Trail on Saturday. A 110-km trail race with 3300 metres of elevation gain. This race is a bit different from my last ultras. It is the longest distance I've ever run, but there is not a massive climb and the elevation gain is significantly less compared to the previous ultras. After the Eiger and the Irontrail, I had a few weeks of almost no training. I started to train for this race in mid August. Had a few long runs and also did a bit of strength training at the gym. I am now tapering and getting ready for the challenge. I might not be in my best shape, but my mind is set. Whatever happens, I'm going to give it my best this Saturday.

Training near Tochal summit, my favourite place. 

The race elevation profile
For my everyday training photos check out my instagram profile: mamad_m and the hashtag #runninginlate20s

Stay tuned

Swiss Irontrail T81: On finishing an ultra under the goal time

This is a long-awaited race report. This delay was due to a few reasons - or better said excuses - I hope that I can provide as much details as I can after a couple of months. 

Last August I went to Davos once again to run another ultramarathon. Davos is where I ran my first marathon (Swissalpine C42, July 2012) and my first ultra (Swissalpine K78, July 2013). And this time I was heading there to run the Swiss Irontrail T81 and get qualified for the UTMB.

UTMB stands for The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, An ultra trail that perhaps everyone who is into ultra running wants to run it.  It is 168 km with 10,000 metres of elevation gain. In order to attend the race, you need to collect 8 qualifying points by completing a number of ultra races. Each race gives you between 1 to 4 qualifying points depending on length and elevation gain. You need to get your 8 points in maximum of 3 races.  

There are five different race distances to choose from in Swiss Irontrail. T21, T41, T81, T141 and the massive T201. I chose the T81, I'd love to go for a longer race and face a whole new challenge but considering my current experience, fitness level and  the fact that I ran the Eiger E101 only four weeks prior to this race, I believe that was a wise decision.

We did collect the bib numbers on Friday in Davos  an hour before the T201 start. All the runners in ultra distance get a GPS device that is used for tracking and also emergency contact. For T81 you get one drop bag that you can leave your stuff and collect it at the finish line. You don't have the access to your bag along the way which is a bit of shame of a 89-km race.

The race started at 10:30 in Savognin. There were around 150 runners at the start line. There was a 23-km loop before arriving to Savognin again. Although the race was very well organised, there was a big problem with course marking. That along with the bad weather and fatigue caused me getting lost few times. Shortly after the race started and after covering 6 km we didn't see a turning mark and kept on running on a road. It took us a few minutes to get back on track. The trail was muddy and slippery and it did rain for a while before returning to Savognin. I had a short break there, had a cup of hot soup and a piece of bread, changed my shirt and kept running.
The next stop was Tiefencastel on 34th km were my girlfriend was waiting for me. Shortly before arriving in Tiefencastel, there was a muddy downhill single-track part and I was running down quite fast. I passed a guy called Michael, and a few seconds before I overtook him, he stepped on the side of the path, looked back and as I was passing him, he shouted the words of encouragement. This is one reason I love ultrarunning, the crowd. In Tiefencastle I had another short break, and ran and walked almost 500 metres with my girlfriend, then she went to catch the bus back to Davos and get a proper rest before her race the day after. I passed Michael again, he was walking. So I stopped and walked with him for a few seconds and thanked him for his good vibe and words of encouragement. But he asked me to run with my own pace.

It is absolutely important during an ultra to pay attention to every details at all time. Every time you pass a refreshment station, you need to check if you've got enough water and food to get to the next one. Shortly after I passed Tiefencastel, I realized that I forgot to fill my hydration pack and I have only half a litre of water until the next station Lenzerheide 15 km away. I decided not to come back and carry on with the little water I had. Luckily I found a water fountain half an hour later.
"Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must. But never give up" Dean Karnazes

 I had my longest stop at Lenzerheide where I had a plate of pasta and changed to warm clothes. From there it was long ascent to Urdenf├╝rggli. That was one of the hardest part of the race, it was cold, dark, there was an intense fog and the route was poorly marked. So you could not see farther than a few metres. When I got to Urdenf├╝rggli, I could not see the flags, then I saw a big red light on the top and I supposed that's where I have to go. I climbed up there, but I couldn't see any route marks. I walked all along the cable car station, couldn't see anyone. Neither I could see a sign or a mark. I could barely see the runners behind me walking up that hill. I tried to contact the emergency number with the GPS device, but there were no signal. Then I decided to wait, after several minutes I saw a runner 200 metres below. I asked him for the direction and went back and followed him. Then I realized that I didn't need to get to the top and I had to turn downhill 200 meters below the cable car station.

T81 has a very long time limit of 43.5 hours. So I decided to set my own time limit before the race and try to get to the finish line in 20 hours. I got to Arosa in 14:46. I had only 19 km to go and more than five hours to reach my goal. But there were more than 1000 metres of elevation to cover, and it was the fatigue. In Arosa I asked the medical staff to tape my right shin. There was the same pain that started in the last 20km of the Eiger race. In front of my shin, just above the wrist, was inflated and painful when I was running downhill. After the kinesio tape and a half a plate of pasta I kept on running.

Running feels so different during the night. There are long hours of solitude. You somehow lose the sense of space, You are absolutely awake thogh. You might not see much but you can feel the terrain with your feet. You can feel the ascent and descent in your burning quads, calves and hamstrings.

The last ascent of the course was brutal. It was 500 meter of climb between Jaltz and Strelapass. I eventually got to Strelapass, spent a couple of minutes to change the headlight batteries and then looked at my watch. It was 18 hours 57 minutes into the race. I was absolutely tired and could feel that sharp pain in my shin on every single stride. Then I thought there is only one way to get to Davos in my goal time, and that was ignoring the pain and running absolutely flat-out. So I did. And despite the pain I ran as fast as I could and crossed the finish line in 19:34:19.
Just after finishing the race, on the train to T21 Start in Arosa
Running with me the last 200 metres of the course, was Sara who needed to get ready for her own race in a few hours. She did a great job that day and ran - to my surprise - the T21 course in 4:12:38. T21 was her first half-marathon and her first ever trail race.

By finishing this race, I have now enough qualifying points for the UTMB. I only need to register for the race on December and wish that I am lucky enough to run the UTMB in 2015. I will be running a number of ultras as part of my training. The first of  which is the Cappadocia Ultratrail next Saturday.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Swiss Irontrail T81 done!

The race report comes in a few days. Just a quick note to let you know I crossed the finish line in 19 hours 34 minutes.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Second ultra in a month: Yet another new experience

This Friday I'll be running the Swiss Irontrail T81. 88 km  run with 5000 metres of elevation gain four weeks after the Eiger Ultra Trail.

After the Eiger trail, I spent a few days recovering. I was suffering from shin splints for the first time since I started running. When the pain faded away, I went for a 15k run and the day after my shins were sore again. So I had a couple of weeks of recovery and only went for a couple of easy runs. After a few physiotherapy session, my leg is now pain free and I cannot wait to face the next challenge.

It's not gonna be easy, but I will give all I've got to finish this race and get enough qualifying points for the UTMB 2015.

Stay tuned

Thursday, 31 July 2014

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.