Saturday, June 4, 2022

Somabay Olympic Distance Triathlon

In my last post, I talked about the impact of training volume on my performance. I mentioned that I saw an improvement and compared my performance improvements between 2 consecutive years for the same 2 Cycling events, the Galala challenge, and the same 2 Ultrarunning events, Qarun 66. I also questioned whether I would see a similar improvement on shorter events, specifically at the Somabay Olympic distance triathlon, organized by “The Trifactory” on May 28th, 2022. I have just done this race last weekend and here is my conclusion.

The race went very well. “The Trifactory” has never disappointed in its ability to organize great events. It is great to have them in Egypt. Different to the April race in the year before, the weather did not cause any issues. In 2021, both the swim and the bike legs had to be shortened due to high winds. This year, we were able to complete the whole distance. But, due to the different distance and weather conditions between the 2 years, it is almost impossible to compare and conclude with certainty.

The swim was ok. I never try to be fast on the swim, but my objective is rather to save as much energy as possible. The first 500 meters were somewhat against the current and then we turned around a buoy and had the current with us. I had to stop for a few seconds to adjust my goggles because one side as leaking water in. I finished feeling very well and satisfied with the time when I looked at the watch coming out of the water. Later when I analyzed my result, I saw that I had almost swam 100m longer than the planned race distance of 1500m. I don’t know how that happened, especially when I see that many others had recorded distances that were around 1400m.

Transitioning to the bike, I kept my shoes clipped on the pedals which is not what I usually do. But, I wanted to look a bit more professional. It went fine, but I’ll need to practice that more in the future. It felt like I could have actually been faster just putting my bike shoes on in the transition zone and running out with them. In the 4-lap course we had rather strong wind against us in one direction and with us in the other. I only slowed down slightly before the many road bumps, but was all the time in fear that I’ll suffer a flat tire from one of them anytime. Luckily, that didn’t happen. In the last week before the race, I changed my tri position to be a bit more aggressive. When I look at the results of the bike leg, I think it did help. Compared to the swim and run legs, my rank for the bike leg was 14th overall, which is quite good for me. It wasn’t all due to the position though. I had done more high intensity indoor (zwift) cycling sessions than I used to do before, and I strongly believe this helped.

The transition to the run was very smooth as well. For the first time in an Olympic distance race I took the time to change out of my tri suit into running shorts and shirt. The time investment was probably less than a minute, but it made me feel cleaner, fresher, and simply better on the run. I heard Lionel Sanders arguing similarly when he did the same at the IM world champs in Utah recently. Coming to the race, I had one big concern: Will my knee cause problems? 10 days before the race, I was running on a treadmill during a business trip to Dubai and I had to stop after just 5 minutes due to severe knee pain. I switched to a bike and did not run after that until race day. Luckily, I had no knee pain at all. Sometimes, just doing nothing is the best thing one can do.

Total result: I placed first in my new age group, and I would have been first in my previous age group too, which was my hidden goal. Placing 29th overall and 25th on males was a great result too.

However, back to the initial question: Did I improve versus a year before? The answer is that I cannot say it with certainty. I have definitely not gotten worse, I’m sort of unchanged in the swim, improved on the bike, and unclear in the run. In comparison to others, my run should be the opportunity area. But, doing more running speed work is risky considering my history with knee problems. Without speed work, the only other thing that would help is losing weight. So, it’s a hopeless case.

 A shout-out to Menna and Rana from my Engineering team who raced the sprint distance the following day. Well done!

سباق ترياثلون سومة باي الأولمبي

تكلمت في تدوينتي السابقة عن تأثير كمية التمرين على الأداء وقلت أني رأيت تحسناً في أدائي عندما أقارن ما بين عامين متتاليين أدائي في تحدي الجلالة للدراجات وجرية قارون ٦٦ الصحراوية. وتساءلت عمّا إذا كنت سأرى تحسناً مشابهاً في سباقاتٍ قصيرة، وبالذات في سباق ترياثلون سومة باي للمسافة الأولمبية والذي نظمته شركة تراي فاكتوري في ٢٨ مايو ٢٠٢٢. لقد أكملت هذا السباق في الأسبوع الماضي وهاهو ما استنتجه

مضى السباق على ما يرام حيث لم تخذل تراي فاكتوري التوقعات في تنظيمٍ احترافي. وجودهم في مصر أمرٌ جيد. و لقد كان الجو جيداً بخلافٍ عن أبريل في العام الماضي حيث أُجبر المنظمون على تقصير مسافتي السباحة والدراجة بسبب الرياح الشديدة. أكملنا هذا العام المسافة الرسمية. ولكن بسبب اختلاف المسافات والجو يستحيل علي أن أقارن واستنتج بدقة.

مضى جزء السباحة على خير. لا أحاول أن أكون سريعاً في هذا الجزء بل إن هدفي فيه أن أوفر أكبر قدرٍ ممكن من الطاقة. سبحنا ضد التيار في أول ٥٠٠ متر ثم التفينا لنعود في الإتجاه المعاكس في ال ١٠٠٠ متر المتبقية حيث كان التيار معنا. اضطررت للتوقف لعدة ثوانٍ بسبب انسراب الماء إلى داخل نظاراتي. أكملت السباحة مرتاحاً وبوقت مقبول كما شاهدت على ساعتي عند الخروج من الماء. لاحقاً، وعندما كنت أحلل نتائجي، رأيت أنني سبحت ١٦٠٠ متر بدلاً من ١٥٠٠ متر. لا أدري كيف حدث هذا خاصة وأن أغلب المتسابقين الآخرين قد قطعوا مسافاتٍ تتراوح حول ال ١٤٠٠ متر.

لا اترك حذاء الدراجة مركّباً على دواسات الدراجة عادة، بل ارتديهم  وأجري بهم دافعاً دراجتي إلى خارج منطقة الإنتقال. ولكنني فعلت ذلك هذه المرة ربما لكي أبدو أكثر إحترافية. لم أوفر بذلك أي وقت بل ربما حدث العكس لأنني لست متعوداً على غلق الحذاء راكباً الدراجة. كلٌ من الأربعة لفّات على الدراجة كان متكوناً من نصفٍ ضد الريح ونصفٍ معه. كنت أُبطئ قليلاً قبل كلٍّ من المطبات الكثيرة التي جعلتني أتوقع ثقباً في العجل في أية لحظة، الأمر الذي لم يحصل لحسن الحظ. قبل السباق بأسبوع، كنت قد غيرت وضعي على الدراجة لأجعله انسيابياً أكثر مما يبدو أنه ساعد في تحسين نتيجتي حيث كان مركزي على الدراجة الرابع عشر على كل المتسابقين، وذلك أفضل من مركزي في السباحة والجري. ولكن الفضل لا يعود فقط إلى وضعي الإنسيابي بل إلى بعض التمرينات الداخلية العالية الشدة أيضاً مستعملاً برنامج زويفت.

الانتقال إلى الجري حصل بلا صعوبات. أخذت الوقت لأول مرة في سباقٍ على هذه المسافة لأُغيِّر ملابسي من بدلة الترياثلون إلى شورت وقميص للجري. لن يتعدى الوقت الذي استثمرته هنا دقيقة واحدة وأظن أنني استرجعت أغلبها بشعوري بالنظافة والإنتعاش عند الجري. رأيت ليونل ساندز يفعل ذلك في آخر سباق آيرونمان ويبرّر بنفس التبرير وكنت قد فعلت ذلك بنفسي في مسافة الآيرونمان سابقاً. عند مجيئي الى السباق، كان سؤال واحد يراودني طوال الوقت وهو إن كانت ركبتي ستسمح لي بإكمال السباق حيث واجهت مشكلة كبيرة معها قبل السباق بعشرة أيامٍ عندما اضطررت أن أتوقف عن الجري على جهاز الجري الثابت في الفندق الذي كنت فيه خلال رحلة عملٍ إلى دبي. ولم أجري بتاتاً خلال العشرة أيام. ولحسن الحظ فإنني لم أشعر بأي ألم كلياً. عدم التمرين كلياً هو أحياناً أفضل ما يمكن أن تفعله في ظروف كهذه.

النتيجة: حصلت على المركز الأول في فئتي العمرية الجديدة وكنت سأحصل على نفس المركز لو بقيت في فئتي السابقة أيضاً. كما كان المركز ال ٢٩ إجمالياً و ٢٥ على الرجال نتيجتان ممتازتان أيضاً.

ولكن، إذا عدت إلى السؤال الأولي وهو إن كنت قد تحسنت بالمقارنة مع العام الماضي في المسافات الأقصر أيضاً، فالإجابة هي أنني لا أستطيع قول ذلك بكل تأكيد. لم أكن أسوأ على كل حال، لم أتغير في السباحة، تحسّنت على الدراجة، والجري غير واضح. بالمقارنة مع المتسابقين الآخرين فإن الجري هو ما يعطي فرصة التحسّن. ولكن ذلك يستوجب تمرينات السرعة التي تشكّل مجازفة بإصابة ركبتي. ودون تمرينات السرعة لا يبقى إلّا تخفيض الوزن. أي أن الأمر شبه مستحيل.

وبالمناسبة، مبروك لكل من رنا و منّة المهندسات في فريقي لإكمالهم سباق السبرينت بعدي بيوم

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Impact of training volume

There are a few factors you can influence to improve your athletic performance. These include training volume and training intensity. Volume is a result of training duration and training frequency. For years I have followed a minimalist approach that allowed me to just make it through some long-distance races like full Ironmans and ultra-marathons. In the 9 years before 2021 in which I tracked my training volume, I ranged between 4.2 and 8.5 hours of training per week (see also 2021/12/31). This would even be considered low, if you spend these hours in one sport, let alone in the THREE disciplines of a triathlon training plan. Somehow, it was sufficient for finishing long events, but for sure not enough if you wanted to do well. I was happy with my performance, and I couldn’t have invested more time anyway. I was comforted by a book I read many years ago about an elite German triathlete who trained even less than I did and excelled in long-distance events. See my posts about this book from January 3rd, 2013 and December 30th, 2019. In 2021, I made a big jump to 10 hours of training per week, most of it was in the second half of the year. So far, I have continued at this average in 2022. So, the big question is: Did it help? Have I gotten better? It is difficult to compare with the past using data from different races. Even when you compare between same races in different years, there is a lot that is still different, such as race course modifications or the temperature on the day, making an exact apples-to-apples comparison impossible. However, there are 2 events I repeated in 2 consecutive years that reveal a lot:

1.      1. Galala Challenge: I joined this cycling event the first time in November 2020 and again a year later, in October 2021. The best improvement indicator in the table below is the average speed that increased by 10% (from 27.0 to 29.7 km/hr).

2. Qarun 66 Ultra trail run: Between February 2021 and March 2022, my average pace improved by 9-10%.

I think these 2 data points illustrate quite convincingly the effect of an increase in training volume in my case. As I continue to learn how my performance reacts to changes in my training, I have a couple of questions I’d like to find the answers for in the future:

1.       1. I don’t think I can increase my volume even further. In fact, I doubt it. So, it will be interesting to see if there is at least any benefit in consistency, i.e. sticking with this volume for another year (… and another, … and another?). If everything goes to plan, I will have 2-4 opportunities to measure any potential improvement. These opportunities could be the Galala cycling challenge and Qarun 66 Ultra trail run again, in addition to the 130 km 2-day Hathor trail run in Sinai which I did in December 2021, and Ironman Egypt 70.3 (half-ironman) which I did in November 2021.

2.       2. How will I perform in shorter events? Will I be better? I don’t expect I’ll have a conclusive answer for this question because I miss the basis for comparison. Firstly, the only short race I joined last year was Trifactory’s Somabay Olympic distance triathlon in April 2021. However, because of high winds, the swim and bike legs were cut short in 2021, which will make it difficult to compare with. I’ll find out in a few weeks. The race is on May 28th. And second, I am also experimenting a bit with the intensity element of my training. I don’t know yet where I’ll go with this, but I know that it has the potential to impact my performance at least as much as volume, if not more, in shorter events. It will be too early to see any effect in Somabay though.

I’ll keep you posted.

تأثير حجم التدريب

هناك بعض العوامل التي يمكنك التأثير عليها لتحسين أدائك الرياضي. تشمل هذه العوامل حجم التدريب وكثافة/قوة التدريب. الحجم هو نتيجة طول/مدة التدريب من ناحية ووتيرة التدريب أي عدد التمرينات في الأسبوع من ناحية أُخرى. لسنوات عديدة، كنت أتبع نهج الحد الأدنى الذي يسمح لي بالخوض في سباقات المسافات الطويلة مثل الرجل الحديدي الكامل والأتراماراثون باغياً إكمالها فقط. في التسعة سنوات التي سبقت 2021 والتي أحصيت فيها حجم تمريني، تراوح الحجم ما بين 4.2 و 8.5 ساعة تدريب في الأسبوع (انظر أيضًا 2021/12/31). قد يعتبر هذا الحجم منخفضًا إذا كنت تقضي هذه الساعات في رياضة واحدة، فما بالك إن كان عليك تقسيمها على تخصصات الترياثلون الثلاثة. ومع أنّ ذلك كان كافيًا لإنهاء السباقات الطويلة، إلّا إنه بالتأكيد ليس كافيًا إذا كنت ترغب في أداءٍ جيد. كنت سعيدًا بأدائي ولم يكن بإمكاني استثمار المزيد من الوقت على أي حال. كنت قد شعرت بالارتياح بعد قراءة كتاب منذ سنوات عديدة عن أحد نخبة الرياضيين الألمان الذين تدربوا حتى أقل مما فعلت أنا وتفوق في المسافات الطويلة. راجع منشوراتي حول هذا الكتاب من 3 يناير 2013 و 30 ديسمبر 2019.

في عام 2021، قفزت حجم تمريناتي بشكل كبير إلى 10 ساعات من التدريب في الأسبوع، وأتى القدر الأكبر من الزيادة في النصف الثاني من العام. وما زلت مواصلٌ بهذا المعدل في عام 2022 حتى الآن. لذا، فإن السؤال الكبير هو: هل ساعدني رفع حجم تمريني؟ هل تحسنت؟

من الصعب المقارنة مع الماضي باستخدام بيانات من سباقات مختلفة. حتى عند المقارنة بين نفس السباقات في سنوات مختلفة، لا يزال هناك الكثير الذي يختلف، مثل تعديلات مسار السباق أو درجة الحرارة في ذلك اليوم وغيرهم، مما يجعل المقارنة الدقيقة أمرًا مستحيلًا. إلّا أنّ هناك حدثان كررتهما في عامين متتاليين و يكشفان الكثير:

1. تحدي الجلالة: لقد شاركت في فعالية الدراجات هذا للمرة الأولى في نوفمبر 2020 ومرة أخرى بعد عام في أكتوبر 2021. أفضل مؤشر للتحسن في الجدول الأدنى هو متوسط السرعة الذي زاد بنسبة 10٪ (من 27.0 إلى 29.7 كم في الساعة).

2. قارون 66 ألتراماراثون: بين فبراير 2021 ومارس 2022، تحسن معدل سرعتي بنسبة 9-10٪.

أعتقد أن نقطتي البيانات هاتين توضحان بشكل مقنع في حالتي تأثير زيادة حجم التدريب.

بينما أستمر في مراقبة ودراسة تفاعل أدائي مع التغييرات التي أُجريها في تدريبي، لدي سؤالان أرغب في العثور على إجابات عليهما في المستقبل:

1. لا أعتقد أنه يمكنني زيادة التمرين أكثر مما فعلت. لذا، سيكون من المثير للاهتمام معرفة ما إذا كان هناك على الأقل أي فائدة في المداومة على هذا المستوى، أي الالتزام والثبات لمدة عام آخر (... وآخر ، ... وآخر؟). إذا سار كل شيء كما هو مخطط له ، فستتاح لي فرصتين إلى أربع فرص لقياس أي تحسن محتمل. تحدي الجلالة لركوب الدراجات وجرية قارون 66 مرة أخرى هما أول فرصتين بالطبع، بالإضافة إلى جري حتحور في سيناء والذي تبلغ مسافته 130 كيلومتر خلال يومين والذي أكملته في ديسمبر 2021 . ثم هناك آيرونمان مصر 70.3 (نصف الحديدي) وهو ما قمت به في نوفمبر 2021.

2. ماذا عن أدائي في الفعاليات القصيرة؟ هل سيكون هناك أي تحسّن؟ لا أتوقع أن يكون لدي إجابة قاطعة عن هذا السؤال لأنني أفتقد أساس المقارنة. أولاً، كان السباق القصير الوحيد الذي انضممت إليه العام الماضي هو سباق ترايثلون أولمبي في سوماباي والذي نظّمته شركة ترايفاكتوري في أبريل 2021. إلّا أنه تم تقصير مسافتي السباحة والدراجات في عام 2021 بسبب الرياح العاتية، مما يجعل المقارنة به صعبةً. سأكتشف ذلك في غضون أسابيع قليلة. السباق يوم 27 مايو. وثم ثانيًا، فإني أقوم حالياً أيضًا بتجربة تغييرات على عامل كثافة/قوة التدريب. لا أعرف حتى الآن إلى أين ستقودني هذه التغييرات، لكن الإحتمال وراد أن تأثيرها قد يكون بنفس قدر تأثير حجم التدريب على الأقل، إن لم يكن أكثر خاصة في الأحداث القصيرة. وقد يكون من السابق للأوان أن أتوقع رؤية أي تأثير في سوماباي.

سأبقيكم على الإطّلاع.

Friday, December 31, 2021

2021, Ironman 70.3 Egypt, Hathor100, ..

2021 was a breakthrough year with respect to the amount of training I have done. For the first time ever, I have reached an average weekly training volume of 10 hours. This might still be relatively low for the type of events I usually join, especially for Ultra marathon runs, but it is an increase of more than 17.5% versus last year and I’m not sure I will be able to repeat this in 2022, or ever for that matter.

Most of the training hours that I’ve added went into cycling and resulted in an annual kilometer increase of close to 50%. This wasn’t by choice but by necessity. I had suffered from knee pain that increased steadily after each run until one day, I had just arrived in Germany for a few days off from work, I went out running and had to end the run abruptly after 3 and a half kilometers only, with so much pain that I could barely walk back home. An MRI revealed a meniscus tear that should have required surgery. I stopped running (and exercising) completely for 2 weeks, then I started again with reduced volume and speed for quite a long time. I was planning to undergo surgery, but didn’t know when to do it, especially since I had already signed up for 3 challenges I would have really hated to forgo. I remembered that I had a similar situation with my other knee a few years back. The pain was very similar and the MRI as well. It took one and a half years back then before the pain disappeared completely to the point that I wasn’t even sure anymore on which side it had been. Based on that experience, I decided to at least delay the surgery and see.

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a positive impact on the amount of training I’m able to do. For one, there is virtually no business travel at all. The virtual connects with remote team members and colleagues all over the world have become very efficient and our new normality that will remain post covid. Eliminating interruptions by business trips to my training plan meant more consistency which is crucial for performance improvements. Secondly, the 80% work-from-home arrangement that I have been following for about one and a half years has also helped to save commuting time and re-invest it into training. Very often, I would finish my last virtual meeting or conference call of the day and 10 minutes later I’d be running outside or sitting on my bike in the basement to start a Zwift ride. While, like everyone else, I hope that the pandemic will end soon, I sure hope also that some of the new approaches of doing things will remain and enable us to integrate personal interests with work appropriately.

The 3 challenges I had committed myself to were Ironman 70.3 Egypt (November 2021), Hathor100 Ultra Trail run in Sinai (December 2021) and Qarun66 Ultra Trail run (coming up in February 2022). My knee had to work for these. I had also signed up for the Galala 140k cycling challenge (October 2021), but that was not impacted by my knee pain. Cycling somehow even helped alleviate the pain, even after a run.

Galala Challenge:

The Galala challenge motivated me to do several long bike rides ranging from 100 km to 130 km in the weeks leading to the event. Given that Ironman 70.3 Egypt was exactly 4 weeks after Galala, I took it as a nice long training ride. As the elevation profile shows, the first 90 kilometers were pretty smooth and easy, especially when you’re working together in a group. Then the challenge starts with the strong incline between 90 and 120 kilometers, where you’re mostly on your own. I was indeed literally on my own as I had suffered 2 consecutive punctures at around 87 kilometers and had to ride and finish on my own as of that point. I was faster than last year, and it felt easier. Higher training volume seems to have had a positive impact, though not as much as I had hoped.

Ironman 70.3 Egypt:

Four weeks later, I was with my long-term support crew, my wife, in Sahl el Hasheesh for the half-ironman event. A lot of hype and publicity was created around that event as it was the first one organized under the global Ironman Brand name, while past events were organized by local “Trifactory”. While I liked the professional level of organization, I would always prefer to support a local company over any near monopolist. I do not understand the excitement of participants who didn’t care to join Half-ironman events when they were organized by Trifactory, nor do I understand why officials from the ministry of sports seemed to give this branded event preferential treatment over locally (and also professionally) organized events. Anyway, the event was very nice.

 I usually try to compete with and beat my previous self, but in Triathlon, it is difficult to compare with previous events. The courses, weather, and other conditions are usually different and have a greater impact on results than the slight physical improvement (or the opposite) that one hopes to see based on training. Indications come from how one feels and from references to other participants you know from similar previous events. Both were pointing in the right direction. I did feel stronger, although on the first 45 kilometers or so on the bike, heading out from Sahl el Hasheesh to Hurghada, fighting headwinds of 36 km/hr, almost caused me to cramp. Race officials driving back and forth on motorcycles and warning cyclists very frequently to abide by the non-drafting rules made me worry continuously whether I was too close to the rider in front or not. I think I never was, but I was often reluctant to overtake in an unclear situation. I still appreciate the rigor of the officials though. Some participants honestly need to be disciplined. I started the run strong; stronger than I should have. It made me slow down later, but it wasn’t too bad. The run course along the beach of the Red Sea was enjoyable and I was engaging with volunteers and other runners. When you follow people on social media for a while, you develop a feeling of knowing them at least if not even one of friendship, due to your similar interests, potentially compounded by the fact that they liked a post or comment of yours here or there. I always need to remind myself that this is not necessarily the case. I passed by a Saudi runner, whom I know from social media. He had slowed down for some reason, so I said: “good Job, Ali”. Ali was written on his tri-suit. When he picked up speed again and was going to pass me, he cheered me too. Then I asked: “You’re Ali Magboul, right?” He confirmed. I had read that he had recently been appointed Head of the Saudi Triathlon federation, so I congratulated him for that, wished him success and expressed my hope to hear good news and see great activities coming soon from their side. Then I told him to feel free to follow his own pace, and he sped away. I finished the last 1 kilometer of the run walking, not because I couldn’t run, but I felt I needed to soak in the enjoyable atmosphere, which I did.


Just 3 weeks later, Hathor100 was on the agenda; the hardest challenge for the year. I had joined the first 2 editions of this 2-day 100 km desert trail run in Sinai in the last 2 years. This year, Ultraegypt offered 3 different formats: a 1-day 50k run, a 2-day 100k (50+50), and a 2-day 130k (50+80). I signed up for 130k, because … ummm … why not? Shortly after registering, my knee problem worsened extremely as mentioned and I was not sure for a long time whether I would be able to join or not. Luckily, things improved just enough to allow me to join.

We left Cairo on Thursday morning by van and arrived at Serabit El Khadem camp in Sinai early afternoon. The Bedouin tribe that owns the place seemed to have made further slight improvements compared to the last 2 years. But, otherwise, it was still basically the same. Like last year, I had brought my own tent with me and set it up next to the only other tent which was Samuel’s whom I knew from last year. All others stayed in the 2 big common quarters; one for women only and the other mixed. We were 27 participants in total; 5 were signed up for the 50k distance, 13 for 100k, and 9 for 130k including me.

Day 1 was a common course for all of us. We started at dawn and I ran different parts of the route with different people. At some point, I found myself running with Ra’id. We were joined by Ben for some part, who shot a nice video of his race (100k). I recommend to everyone contemplating to join Hathor100 in the future to watch it for an excellent impression of what one could expect to see and go through (Hathor 100 - YouTube). I think it was just after CP2 (20k) when Ra’id and I caught up with Khames and ran together for a while before he slowed down. CP3 (30k) was at the site of the temple of Hathor, namesake of the race and one of the highlights. Heading towards it, Melissa from Colorado joined us for a while. I would’ve got lost there, but Ra’id led the way to the temple. There, we caught up with Omar. When Omar left CP3 I followed him and we ran a steep section down on steps and rocks. Ra’id seemed to be doing very well running down after he caught up and overtook us. I lost sight of him for a while. Omar started slowing down, so I went on my own and caught up with Ra’id again. From there on, we stayed together till the end of day 1, arriving hand in hand at the finish line.

Day 2 was going to be my longest single day run distance yet. Nominally, it was supposed to be 80k, however, the downloaded GPS route showed 76k. It ended up being 74 km on my watch; still my longest run ever. We started with head torches in pre-dawn darkness, an hour earlier than the previous day. Ra’id was going to do the 100k version, so I was expecting a lonely run for most of the day. I ran with Amr from Dubai until CP1 (10k) where we had to separate as he was doing the 100k version. Approaching CP2 (20k) I saw a runner had already left and I barely recognized him as Nawasany. I took my time at CP2 as I felt tension in my right calf. The physiotherapists from Physique, who have been supporting Ultraegypt races since their inception, did a great job making me feel refreshed. I had met Yahia from Physique on day 1 at the temple of Hathor and learned that he’s from Syria.

Yahia took good care of me at 3 different CPs on day 2 when a real professional deep tissue massage was badly needed. Already in previous races, Physique had proven to be real life savers. Shortly after I departed CP2, I started seeing Nawasany far away. I couldn’t hope to catch him, but after a few kilometers of following the Orange dot, i.e. Nawasany in his orange color Wadi Ibex team t-shirt, he stopped for some reason. I reached him and signaled to continue together. It must have been around kilometer 25 when we started running shoulder to shoulder for the next 50 km until the finish line.

Finding one out of nine 130k runners with a similar pace on that day was not an obvious expectation. Here and there, I felt I could go faster. But, then again at some CPs, Nawasany was the one pulling. When we left CP7, sunset was getting closer and it was clear that we would have to run for the last hour or so in the dark. When I stopped being able to recognize the data on my watch, I decided to get my head torch out of the backpack. A couple of minutes after I switched it on, it went off again. It kept doing that for a few times until it stopped working completely. It had run out of charge. It must have been on while in the backpack. Complete darkness covered us. Without the head torch of Nawasany, I would not have been able to continue. Light of head torches is relatively focused and the illuminated area relatively small. I followed Nawasany as closely as I could, often not even seeing where my feet were landing in the sandy, rocky, and steep areas. Twisting an ankle seemed to be more likely than not, and I was mentally getting ready for it. After a last turn to the right, we started seeing the lights of the camp. We made it together to the finish line where we were received by a few people including Tamer, race director, and Omar Samra, head of Ultraegypt.

What an experience! When Ultra runners are asked about the reason they run extreme distances, they often reply with explanations related to discovering their physical or mental limits. Honestly, I haven’t yet discovered my reason. But, on that day, I know I got pretty close to discovering my limits.

I will leave my thoughts about plans for 2022 for a future post. Do you have any recommendations? Also, let me know if you have any questions or would like to join some of the events.

Happy New Year, everyone!