Coaching Success Stories

 

Russell's blog of those he has coached as well as his own experiences of international endurance races such as Marathon Des Sables, Leadville 100 miler, Kepler Challenge, Heaphy 50 mile, Coast to Coast, Trans Rockies, Kauri Ultra and Tarawera Ultra.

Grand To Grand Ultra 2017 ( A Competitors Review) + Information

The Race

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This is a  tough (7 days with 6 run legs) multi day self supporting desert race ( you carry a pack with all your food and gear in it for the seven days picking up a water ration at aid stations along the way) in the same style as the famous Marathon Des Sables.  Having completed that race twice in the top fifty I was looking forward to contrasting it with the established race style.  My wife and I  have completed races such as the mountain running extravaganza that is Trans-Alpine in Europe, Trans Rockies Colorado, Leadville Trail 100  miler  (2 times) etc etc so feel well placed to comment.  This race is in the desert area around Kanab, Utah ( a two hour approx drive from Vegas airport) with the smallish field of approximately 200 and has a few differences ... some are good and some I think not so good.  You should prepare yourself well.... it’s not a fun first time stage race!  It’s tough and at altitude and with long distances on harsh terrain.  My wife and I trained well as usual, fully aware that these things have no guarantees.  We are both now in our late fifties but remain quite competitive in Ultra races.  I Coach  people for these things professionally so I was interested in this relative new boy on the block.  You can reach me on my site ‘Action Potential Coaching’.

This race is at altitude, not massive but still needing prep.  We prepared in Colorado immediately prior to joining the event, and I have completed the acclimatisation process previously for my two Leadville trail 100 runs, Trans Rockies and in Chamonix prior to Trans  Alpine ( which is a mother of a tough run).  My wife Denise also has a good background, having done the Trans Alpine with me in a team, Hawaii Ironman, World Duathlon Champs, Trans Rockies etc. The truly lovely starting camp is at 5,344 ft or 1629 metres and nicely positioned on the rim of the Grand Canyon.  This was spectacular and probably a highlight of the entire race for me.  The end is at 8,698 ft / 2651 mtrs, also in a great place at the Grand Staircase, In the middle it’s a variation between those.  So, altitude and it’s effects on your body are definitely an issue, sensible acclimatisation should be a serious part of your prep for a week or three beforehand.  Contact me if you need advice.  Unfortunately I rocked up in good nick but with a nasty injury in the left groin region.  It felt like a pain going around my left iliacus and down to the left testicle.  Oh well, I guess you get injuries- I did my best to shake it with a doctors visit in Colorado and then with the race doctor however looking back they were both pretty hopeless in their assessments.  I have trained well right up into my late fifties and have done loads of these races and overcome the odd injury so thought maybe it would be possible to scrape by.   I have run through some pain and can again if needed but in reality, i don’t think this race spins my dials enough to push it.  

This race is tougher than MDS- it’s longer ( total 273kms), especially in the first days and importantly it’s not as run friendly so even the long day takes a lot longer ( think thirteen to eighteen hours when the MDS long day took me about 11) .  This is a huge difference in race design- it’s not the same type of beast, you can hike this thing and enjoy the long days maybe if well prepared to do that but we went into it to run and be reasonably competitive -neither of us really wanted to hike it.   Basically, instead of starting with a 28 or 35 km leg you start right off the box with 50kms with a full pack, it has a huge effect on the field of athletes.  The terrain is probably too tough to have much fun on a lot of the course really.  My opinion is they need to change the course to allow more run friendly and enjoyable running in more places, I think the first day needs better content and to be shorter.  I like it tough but I also think it’s not the aim to smash people all day everyday and expect them to come back next year.  All this needs to be taken in context of course... others will see it differently.  I still love it though and pushed hard on a couple of days.  I had some great times despite eventually succumbing to the injuries ( which turned out to be completely different to the provisional diagnosis of race Drs) and pulling out quite happy at 60kms on day three.  I knew I could have finished this day but really had no inclination to hobble around, plus as I said the organisers don’t really understand runners, so make a few errors so I was ok to sod off for a beer.  This is the first time I have ever felt like this and ever withdrawn before.  I spoke to others who had major issues with the Organisers attitudes etc.  I guess to be fair many would say they had no such issues, i mention it because I think for the money and the time spent preparing and travelling they can do much better.

They supply hot water at specific times for food prep unlike MDS plus portaloos with bog paper, luxury! This is an excellent addition I think.  Tents are better than mds, you get about seven or eight per tent which zips up nicely and you can stand in it.  They position water barrels outside each tent but it’s an honesty system for how much you take from the barrels.... However, because you can get boiling water for your freeze dry,  water is not too tight.  Aid stations are well positioned for your water stops.  They do not supply cups etc so your bottle choice for refilling is important.  I used two hard 750 ml bottles plus a soft bottle ( only because they make 2 litres capacity compulsory at checkin but I never needed the soft) but my wife being smaller used one hard and a couple of soft flasks.  We find the hard bottles great for easy opening and addition of powders but also my wife likes the soft flasks so she can crush them up into a pocket if not used.  They are also a lot lighter.

Temperature  

Bloody hot ( recommend a legionnaire type hat or add a flap like we did ) in the day like you would expect but again we were fine coming from NZ where the sun is bad and having done 14 days acclimatisation in Boulder and Buena Vista oand Leadville.  It is cold at night. In an effort to get my pack under 7kgs I nearly left a thin polyprop out of my gear list for night... bloody hell, despite the down jacket they make you buy ( a costly gripe for many of us who never use down jackets, newsflash these are useless in the rain or with sweat soaked in them, so we use wool or polyprop in most countries races - I would like organisers to allow people to chose their own clothing ) this first night woke everyone up in our tent at three so they could layer up with everything they had.  A warm shirt, beani, tights maybe and a jacket of sorts is fine.  Take your own sunscreen as theirs was cheap and only about SPF 15.  We in NZ always use 50 or more so we used our own for face but theirs on legs.... it took us two days to understand why people were burnt!  Take quality sunscreen and do not trust theirs.  I would like to meet the person who purchased their supplies.

Equipment

Vital to do your homework here.  Since my MDS races (2003, 2006) there has been an explosion of packs ...... but not an explosion of better packs really.  We tested quite a few like the Ultimate Direction 25 fastpack ( great for hiking but we found the straps cut into the shoulders and it bounced because no waist belt ), the Raidlight ultra light Elizabeth Barnes responsiv 20 vest ( lovely and light but again no belt so bounced and also a sod if you want to use hard bottles, the mesh on the shoulder straps does not really accept big 750ml bottles with comfort), the WAA MDS 20 ( which ended up being my wife’s choice - pretty good pack with waist  belt, easy to customise for decent bottles on the chest ) plus an Innov8 race elite lightweight pack (nice but only built for small softflasks, on these races you need option of hard bottles of 750 mls).  I also kept using my old Karimoor  pack from MDS days.  Sure it’s not quite as light as some but it’s tough, really great with my hard bottle customised attachments, big enough for all kit and durable.... in the end I settled on that.  Nowadays I would replace it with an OMM, simple and pretty hard to beat, or the current WAA pack which is so ubiquitous.  The pack issue is important to test which is a shame as they are expensive.  We usually have one for hiking and the race choice so we can reduce wear and tear.   As a Coach I would say be careful of website claims and descriptions ..... they sound great don’t they at 300gms or lighter but in my opinion you will want hard bottles on the chest straps ( some people can use softflasks but not my choice) and capacity of 20-25 litres ( depends on your choices of kit ).  20 is pretty easy to utilise as long as you can strap  a few items outside for the first day or two ( sleeping mat or sleeping bag maybe outside ).  We chose not to use front add on capacity because we wanted to carry as little kit as possible, did not want the physical bulk there and also wanted to ensure heat buildup in the body is minimised.  My wife used the WAA without the front add on bag but had to strap her sleeping bag outside for the first day.  She started with quite a good pack weight of 7kgs and won her age group.

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We used short inflatable Klymit Innertia xlite mats ( no regrets but be aware they often get holed so you may wish to consider a bulky but durable  closed cell mat) and picked the Western Mountaineering Summerlite bag.  It’s light at 1 lb  3oz and warm down to 0deg C.  The race stipulates a bag to this cold.  This item is good as it’s light, warm, well made and recognised at check in so no hassle there.  We had to purchase light down jackets as they are stipulated. I got a very light Yeti which also packed down small.  We chose to take  no spare flip flops and just a spare pair of shorts, a spare pair of socks and a very thin long sleeved polypropylene and beani.  I started the race with a pack of 7.4 kgs.  I have no regrets in not taking post run shoes of some type but I think most people do take something as it’s thorny around camp and you will want to care for your feet.  My wife now says she wished she did take some.

Head torch ( you need two for this race of a particular lumen with spare batteries ).  We chose the superb Led Lensor rechargeable model ( but slipped out the rechargeable battery and put in 3 AAAs).  These are tough, simple and light and we have found them excellent in several races now such as the Leadville Trail 100 which takes over 25 hrs at altitude so your light is important.

The race does stipulate a few other items like a reflecting mirror, knife and flashing red dot for the night leg.  We searched around for the lightest and smallest items possible.. strangely the lightest knife was a two dollar plastic box cutter which I snapped down to the required blade length and even drilled holes in to lighten it.

First aid kit is vital and over the years I have it down to betadine liquid antiseptic ( you don’t want sand in an ointment do you ), leukoplast roll of plaster for the blisters plus some non stick sterile pads you can cut up to suit.  Also you will need a sterile scalpel and needle for blisters etc.  

Shoes

Ended up with my Hoka Conquest road shoes with our home made Lycra gaiters sewn into them.  Yet again this was gaiter genius and compared well with all others.  My wife took Hoka Speed Instinct off road shoes also with our gaiters attached.  We were very happy with our shoes.  You could of course purchase some gaiters but I think some of them are poor and I don’t like the extra layer on my feet adding to heat and blisters.  We did have to patch up some bits of mesh on our shoes to keep sand out, this  depends on your shoe choice.  I usually use road shoes but you could equally use off road ..... all depends on your comfort choices.  As usual we did not change the size of our shoes for the race, our experience is that your feet do not swell.

Foods

As usual we chose to make freeze dry  the basis for our cals ( breakfast, lunch and dinner).  This allows balanced meals - lightweight and ‘clean’.  Uncontaminated food in a warm climate is the aim.  We supplemented with nuts and raisins, bars and two sorts of powders ( one a meal replacement powder ) in the running and for recovery.  We took some sachets of medical electrolyte replacement powder.  I have consumed freeze dry  successfully in two MDS races where it’s cold water discipline so it was luxury with hot water provided.  Choices make up about 80% of your pack volume and weight.  We chose NZ brands like Backcountry and Absolute Wilderness, other brands are easily obtained in several other countries.  The only comment I would make on my choices is that Absolute packs are vacuum packed so fit in a smaller space whilst I preferred some of the meals in the Backcountry range for variety.  I put a small hole in the Backcountry at the top, squeezed air out and covered with tape just before the start for packing purposes with no ill effects.  I choose to leave the foods in the wrappers rather than decanting and putting into space saving plastic bags due to a fear that the heat or damp may result in some contamination.  My wife decanted just the first two days as a kind of compromise and had no ill effects.  This type of practice is really for those who are saving space etc but I see no point in people like I saw doing it who are themselves well overweight and carrying a huge  amount of unnecessary kit.

As usual we used only cheap hr monitor watches not GPS type units.  As a  Coach I am fully aware of their functions / benefits,  but also, once familiar with your body you don’t really need them.  We did feel  hr info may help but sometimes I have run with just a watch.  Personal choice really but they are heavy and run out of power etc...  I think some people are embracing some of this technology a little too readily.  They can be useful of course but they are complicated and heavy and really suck the power.  Understanding how to train rather than analysing stuff you don’t really understand for hours is the issue.

For me the odd treat like a jelly snake or barley sugar is nice but I am amused when people pull out whole packets of ginger nuts or big bars of chocolate .... only to give it away or throw it out as they realise the weight of poor food is killing them.  I can go through kit and food for people and throw out half of it very often or at least raise questions about it’s worth.  Question every item.... in one MDs I saw a lady in my tent pull out a glass roll on underarm deodorant and a full size big multi tool while I had a tiny blade!  

Most of the course is sand really.  Not big romantic dunes but scrubby Cactus, rocky and especially on the long day deep sandy tracks and trails - both over fields with cattle seeking out a meal and Jeep trails.  I found the long days course pretty uninspiring really -it’s just tough to run much.  On MDS they have long sections of extremely runnable plains and trail, sure it’s pretty gravelly or dusty but here there isn’t much which is enjoyably runnable.  They do have some dirt road sections and even a bit of real road.  The dunes are mostly hit at night so you don’t get to really appreciate them plus bizarrely you follow markers over the top of every dune when you could navigate around a few... this kind of silliness is annoying ‘let’s take you over every dune we can find just because it’s harder’.  You can run some days without gaiters but you will definitely need them for the race.  We make ours from lycra but you can buy some ( see pics for our homemade gaiters).  This thing / race I found awkward because I am a strong runner and this is a bit more of a strength based rocky, sand course where it’s not always easy to run freely and enjoyably.  Big strong people who would struggle to run many many non stop kms in MDS were doing well here I noted.  It actually suited me but I do miss the long sections of even paced and economical heart rate running you get in other races.  Scenery was very nice in places but also not so nice in others like day one over the fields and following a rusty barbed wire fence forever.  Crossing a road on the long day and following the side of the road for a few kms was also not lovely.  Organisers need to be better at thinking of us, the customer in this race.  Shame, because locals were very keen to improve the race and I hope they do.

 

Medical

Not as good as MDS or other races I have done.  The junior staff are wonderfully keen and dedicated but the med tent is poorly equipped and with no system, a bit leaderless.   I thought they struggled but perhaps it’s the American system, they are limited in diagnosis and treatment advice etc unlike most other countries I have raced in.  Again the young Drs were excellent and did their best, as did the volunteers.  These races require particular Specialist experience in Sports so I think the young Drs were ER trained which is different... this is a blisters for Africa ultra race - they need someone who is very used to setting up and organising for these things and I think they can do better.  MDS for example had superb well drilled systems in the med tent and nurses ( who were experienced in this type of race not just nurses) took on the heavy lifting for blister treatment while Drs did blister draining, some nail removal and the more serious issues.  Again, these races need specific background and experience and I think this one lacks skills and equipment.  It should not be chaotic in the tent after the day with athletes left to help with order of Dr attention or Drs wandering up and down emptying various plastic bins looking for items.  Athletes are mature, helpful and very capable but order and experience is required.

Blisters were once agin the main issue for racers each day.  We did not have any issues at all here beyond some minor rubbing points.  This was due to conditioning, but many did.  Some people had appalling blistered feet.  I would say you should condition your feet by correct prep on correct terrain well in advance.  I do not subscribe to any product to avoid this etc etc, the secret is to do the miles on the right terrain and prepare yourself by being trim and carrying little extra weight.  If you are not well trained these type of races will result in massive foot trauma which is entertaining for me but painful.  We had some lovely people in our tent who were destroyed by huge blisters inside two days.  In reality they had not prepared for the race.

Organisation Plus Some Grizzles

 I think race directors could be more athlete tuned - I, and many others I spoke to, found the two people concerned difficult and unhelpful.  Even email contact was mentioned to me by some as a little testy.  I am used to Organisers chatting briefly as they move around camp or the course or offering a joke or being generally helpful to people as these things are tough... but these two people just are not people who understand this, I believe they try but to them it’s a business and they just do not relate.  No point going into this as athletes do these things for fun but it’s one of the few races I have done where it would stop me returning.  The local community were fully behind the race and many of them excellent, helpful and lovely.  One small point.... when athletes have raced seven days, are starving hungry and can hardly stand please don’t invite a VIP table ( who have not raced) to eat first at the finishing buffet.  Plus, would the female volunteer who caused the bus ( an hour from Vegas airport and that was after it was an hour late originally ) to turn back for her when she could have got a bus the next day please have some consideration for others and either plan a better plane connection or get a motel and get the next bus.  We got there from all over the world ( for the fifteen minute window ordered by Organisers though it was an hour late!) and then it turned back for her.  Plus, maybe don’t announce you are running an eco race then sit in your truck running the engine at night for over an hour at an aid station, you are either well enough to run this race or please do your best from a motel but don’t sit in your truck like that.  Eco is not a bit of greenwash you can pull over our eyes, you actually have to do it.

So, some good some bad.  When I run in on day two in the top fifteen and see tents not ready ( and have not been for two hrs) for athletes in that kind of heat I wonder.  The race start location was great on the edge of the Grand Canyon, excellent.  However the meal there was very poor as was the final meal at prizegiving.  An Italian racer at the race start said they would not let him back into Italy if he ate it.  The buffet at the end... well we should have skipped it but my wife won her age group so of course we went.  The food at MDS was infinitely superior and they are catering for a thousand people.  Who does line dancing for athletes who cannot stand?  

Anyway, we enjoyed our race because we are experienced and have done loads of them so we went keen to enjoy ourselves, probably like many.  Hell I enjoyed it despite getting injured both before and during the race and pulling out.  However this was due to other athletes and helpers really not the Organisation.  Tent life though was, as usual, good fun and we enjoyed our tent mates from UK and Brazil a great deal.  Despite tough circumstances I thought the Competitors were great fun.  It’s mostly French, British, Japanese with some Sth Americans, Swiss and us from NZ etc.  As usual we really enjoyed ourselves, making the most of the lovely people and some great scenery in places with a few useful innovations as well.  You have to do many kms of pretty sodding tough slogging though for the lovely bits so I think the route could be reworked a bit. It’s a bit of a Foreign Legion selection race at present. 

The Days!

D1-49.6 kms ( a very tough introduction and not terribly enjoyable terrain, apart from the start on the Grand Canyon edge ) with long sections along a rusty fence line in scrub and cactus - kept on going 90 degrees away from the finish following the fence line).  Bloody cold in the night and I think they could make this day shorter and really improve the terrain.  The cactus spines can run straight through your shoes here and lodge in your feet.  No gripes on that but lordy I feel we can find a nicer route!  You start out on the dirt road then it goes following that bloody rusty fence on dirt that’s been overgrazed and full of holes.  A bit odd clambering over and through rusty barbed wire but some nice chit chat amongst some others.  I actually, for the first ever time, went off course.  Cost me forty mins and my own fault, no grizzles and I was not worried at all.  I was back in a decent spot by the end of the day.  I ran nice and easy all day, consuming my drinks and solids as per schedule, enjoying the lovely sunshine and the body responding as per training.  The odd bit of chit chat with others was lovely and I started to see the people who would be around me all week.  I was well keen to run into camp after a bit of a disappointing first days course which goes on a bit too long but I got the feeling that was going to be the style.  I drank my recovery powder, had a quick wash and ate a lovely freeze dry meal.  By the time my wife rolled in I was nicely laid out on my mat, pleased to be out of the heat.  Good atmosphere amongst the runners getting this long day done.  I pulled out the cactus spine from my big toe which had caused me a lot of pain with five kms to go.  I did not want to stop and take my shoe off in the race to pull it out so it was a great relief to pull it out all in one piece!  My injured groin etc really hurt today but I would push on for the next day.

D2- 43.3 kms.   Dry, hot and big climbs and descents.  Some lovely views today after the big rocky climbs and some lovely open bush running but a bit of a boring hot leg to the finish after we dropped down to the plains.  That was a great view by the way over those plains!  I ran for a few hrs with the eventual first and second ladies which was enjoyable.  The drop down on that zig zag popped something in my knee which was agony and forced me out the next day.  The Drs thought maybe a lateral ligament but upon return to my Sports Dr she diagnosed in five mins a strained Popliteas.  Probably in all honesty five kms too long really today.  Unbelievably mentally tough flat section which goes on forever on a hot dusty road to camp.... like running in an oven.  I loved the challenge and ran to a top 15.  After my knee went bang I felt like a Lancaster limping back to blighty with holes all over and one engine running!  Long wait to get into our tents.  I asked the Organiser if I could run next day with my wife instead of with the top fifteen.  I knew I had an injury issue and wanted to keep my wife company on the long day.  He said ‘no’... very odd so I asked the Commissar and he said yes ( and explained I could not win my age group if I did that- completely understand, no driving aim to win my age group anyway, I am trying to enjoy this one despite my two injuries).

D3-84.7 kms ( the long day which takes longer than MDS for example because it’s tougher terrain).  Sand all day really,  not dunes ( there are some later in the dark) but just deep sandy tracks.  Day off next day if you finish in the day / night.  Course late in the day goes over some dunes, beautiful but they set the course right over the top of every dune.... perhaps they could show people a more logical route.

It’s a bit of a long slog this one and you need to prepare for the significant difference here of doing the long one with a heavier pack than you normally do in these races.  Some long hot rolling sandy Jeep trails and also some beautiful sections as well.  The field soon spreads out big time and I enjoyed chatting with several different people.  My knee was killing me and I had to hop with it quite a lot as I could not bend it.  It began to dawn on me that continuing might be a bit silly but I pressed on.  We did a bit of time on roads and went through the sponsors ‘pet charity’ land for a while as well.  In reality many people must have been hiking for quite a while on this terrain.  I am strong and ran in the deep sand up until the sixty km mark but decided it was not worth continuing at that point.  I helped my wife on her way and wished her well then helped out at the aid station for three hrs or more.  The Dr had indicated I probably had a strained epidydymis and a damaged lateral collateral ligament.  Five mins of talking to my Sports Dr at home got me 1.  Strained popliteas and 2)left side L4 L5 back issue ( the back had several issues actually) which resulted in getting a fluoroscopy guided corticosteroid injection into the area.  What I was feeling was a nerve pain which tracks down into that region.  My own Dr zeroed in on these two things like a homing missile and dismissed the two previously mentioned issues very quickly.  This happened within a week of getting back and the pain has reduced markedly.  The popliteas strain was just a few stretches and resolved quickly.  I mention this to assist the race Dr concerned.  

After finishing the long day my wife later said the finish line was only a few (2) metres from the tents so her tent and others were continually disturbed by yahoo and bells etc for finishers.  For goodness sake put that line and all the noise well away from exhausted athletes please.  It really lacks respect.  In MDS and other races you finish then go another 100 metres at least to your tents for just that reason.  Small things that athletes tell you about show me you actually don’t know about how we think or what we require.

D4- Rest ( Denise comments on these days as I had headed off to Kanab for beer and steak and to ruminate on my first ever pull out).

D5- 41.9kms.  A long and exhausting day over a variety of terrain - endless soft sand again.  To date, we have averaged about 65% of the course made up of soft sand - except for the longest day - which was 75% sand.  We were taken over dry, barren farm land and rocky river beds - and then through the red rock slot canyons.  When you look at the course details the slot canyons are very much highlighted however, in reality,it makes up only about 15km of the days course.  Beautiful to run through but only a small portion of the course.  Difficult running over rugged river beds made doubly hard by the fact that you were continually taken up and down the side of a valley when the natural course would have taken you in a line through the naturally formed valley.  It wears you down after a while when it appears that the course has been purposefully set just to make it hard for the sake of it.

D6-41.9 kms.  A day of torture over dry and arid farmland and along exposed gravel roads.  A very very hot day.  Difficult mentally today- you can see the road you need to run for miles..... probably the worse day for me... really tired and the environment did nothing to lift my spirits.

D7-12.3 kms.  Lovely finish location and bus to Kanab.   Be quick because there is no coke, as organisers only buy exactly enough for one each and of course people are thirsty!  Maybe be realistic, break the budget and get some more.  Zion is a beautiful location though and was a great place to finish and leave from - thank you for that.  Athletes were pretty smashed by this point of course.

I thought this was the most beautiful stage of the entire race.  A longish climb, steep in some areas, over well-formed tracks flattening out for periods allowing you to run easy.  I decided to run this particular day easy and enjoy everything.  There were expansive views across rolling mountains with a spectacular back drop of rugged red mountain rock.  I wish the rest of the race had had more of this type of scenery - this is why I love to run these races.

Cost

Quite an expensive race at $3,300 paid to a Hong Kong account.  However, includes a couple of hotel nights in Kanab ( Utah - race hometown), tent nights and ‘  meal’ before race and celebration afterwards.  Bus transport from Vegas airport and back to Kanab is laid on but additional cost.  The logistics for overseas athletes make this a bit of a challenge with flights to Vegas, bus to Kanab, bus back and most probably you will want an additional couple of nights in Kanab at your own cost before the race to get organised and acclimatise a little.  Medical care during the race is also included together with a t shirt, and medal for finishers.  I think they can do a better quality shirt or at least give us a buff ( available for purchase ) but that’s only me, small point.  Seven day races like this are extremely expensive to train for, get kitted up for then enter and travel etc so they do need to try hard to give athletes a good time where possible.  I enjoyed MDS the first time so much I quickly decided to go back again.  I would not do it now because it’s changed a bit but I also would not do this one either.  Other people will feel differently of course.  

Check In

Pickup of your number and T shirt is easy and smooth from a local Community building opposite one of the hotels.  Shirt provided here and very very easy to swap for a suitable size the next day at checkin.

Race checkin for your pack is outside with some tents etc.  Small hassle as we realised they wanted every ( each pill packet, each battery, each earplug) to have your number on it.  Apart from that it was smooth as we have done it many times.  Why did you weigh our packs?  We went back to the hotel and both added and subtracted things so how accurate are your numbers?  If you want race weight then just weigh them quick on a hook before race start.  I reckon my pack was about eight kgs there but 7.4 kgs at race start.  There is always a bit of stress as people check in for these things as they are naturally concerned with the race and their choices but it soon dissipates once checked in and your choices are made.  You also begin to meet other people which is always great as we have gone through so much to get there.... lots of miles in winter for us, injuries dealt with etc etc.  A few hotels are mentioned by organisers.  They are the more expensive ones, we found one a bit older and cheaper.  Your call, I just mention there are others.

Checkin was great and the local people involved were lovely people as you often get in such places in the USA.  Nice town to base the race I think despite the logistics of getting there and back.  Awards dinner etc is a short bus ride only a few hrs after finishers get back to town.  It’s a lovely venue under canvas but personally I would have it in town ( there are suitable places ) so people can walk over and leave as they wish and a good steak etc with salads and suitable vegetarian options would be easy rather than the meal provided which we thought poor.  Anyway, it was lovely to see everyone all scrubbed up and determined to enjoy themselves.  Some superb performances as usual, congratulations!

 

Russell Maylin