Meiliä voi lähettää: marko.forsell [a] (Kuva: Marianne Pykäläinen)

sunnuntai 6. toukokuuta 2018

Dolichos 2018 Race Report

(Suomenkielinen raportti on alla, i.e. Finnish report is here.)

Dolichos 2018 race proved to be quite a successful and there was no major problems during the race (web page for the race After my failed attempt in 2016 I was now very well prepared and felt to be in a very good shape. I was aiming for a good time. I got the good time and this also was enough to win the whole race. I value the winning of this race very highly!

Dolichos was organized for the 7th time. The start is in front of ancient Delphi and the finish line is in ancient Olympos. The race is 255 km long and includes 5400 meters of ascend and 5900 meters of descent. The start happens at 17:00 so there is two nights to be run and to be stayed up.

As usually the good races make very dull reports. Everything seems to be working out nicely. All the small problems that are faced during the race fade away from the memory because of the good performance. I secured the win with 19 minute margin. It is not much for this kind of race. Out of 28 runners 10 made it to the finish line. They were:

1. Marko Forsell FIN 37:24:00
2. Ilias Karaiosif GRE 37:43:00
3. Peter Torjussen DEN 42:47:00
4. Dimitrios Besyris GRE 43:41:00
5. Ioannis Papamichail GRE 45:25:00
6. Michail Papadopoulos GRE 46:18:00
7. Martin Ilott GBR 46:25:00
8. Apostolos Chapouras GRE 46:56:00
9. Peter Kirk GBR 47:11:00
10. Dimitrios Parlapanos GRE 47:35:00

Ilias Karaiosif (2nd), Marko Forsell (1st), and Peter Torjussen (3rd)

The race is very Spartathlon like; the distance, time limits and check points, but I think this race is bit more physical than Spartathlon.

From Start to Rio Bridge

The first half (0 -- 111 km) of the race is quite flat and it is run at asphalt roads. The second half from Rio to Olympia (111 -- 255 km) is trail race with most of the ascending and descending.

Race map and descend and ascend from

The start is in front of the Delphi museum and hence in front of the ancient Delphi. There was 28 runner for Dolichos race and 11 for the race to Rio. The race started at 17:00.

Minutes before start

At the start line

Hence the temperature was 29 degrees of Celsius I decided to start with conservative pace and with low heart rate. There would be plenty of time and opportunities to pick up the pace later on. I succeeded with this plan at least moderately well. At 21:00, five hours in race, I arrived Eratini 48,8 km. I was 5th. At this point of time the leader Karaiosif was 35 minutes in front of me. Since I had no support and there were no any info about race in check points I did not have any idea how I was doing.

To Marathias 78,8 km I arrived at 1:36 AM, 8h36min in race. I was at this time 2nd in the race 30 min behind Karaiosif, although I did not know this.

To the Rio bridge I arrived 5:44AM, 12h44min in race time. I did very fast pit stop and took necessary things from my drop bag, one hamburger patty from organizers and two bottles of water with me. I was at the lead of the race without knowing it.

At the Rio bridge

At the Rio Check Point

From Rio to Olympos (111km -- 255 km)

The second part of the race is more or less trail race that includes most of the ascending and descending. There is about 5000 meters to ascend and descend. If you distribute this evenly it would mean approximately either 7% descend or 7% ascend continuously. And so it was!

After Rio starts the climb to the highest point of the race. This means that during following 10+ kilometers we would ascend 1100 meters. Right after Rio there is a crossing of a small river where my shoes and socks became thoroughly wet. I considered that this is OK since next 3 hours would be more or less walking and the day would be very warm. During the ascending temperature started to climb and it started to get very windy.

Heading to the top, there is Rio Bridge behind

Rio Bridge from the mountain

During the day the top temperatures were above 30 degrees of Celsius but because of the wind it did not feel that warm. The ascending and descending started to tax my quads and slowly but surely the downhill running started to feel quite uncomfortable. Soon  I also realized that I was leading the race since I was the first one to arrive at the check points. The organizers' car drove in front of me to make sure that the check points were ready for arrival.

At the end of the day when time was 18:22, 25h22min in race time, I arrived at Kalenzi, 187 km. This was signifigant in a sense that here my race stopped 2016. Now I was almost 6 hours in front of my previous attempt. I was leading the overall race with 50 minutes, which I did not know, I only knew I was leading. If you look the race profile the hardest climbs should be over but this proved to be false belief.

After Kalenzi the second night soon sets in. This is the time that the race truly begins. Now it is all up to just keeping up the pace. The tiredness is getting more intense due to the 200 km and time of been awoke. The trip from Kalenzi to Olympos includes one river crossing, crossing of stony fields, and running through one of the most beautiful forests in Greece, the acorn forest of Foloe. During the second night my pace dropped significantly and the running got quite impossible for me from time to time. My quads were totally out of the game.

Some how the organizers have found very nasty descent for the one but last leg of the race. There is really steep and stony cliff to be climbed down. This has to be done with quads that are screaming for mercy. All the above running from Kalenzi to the last check point was done in total darkness during the second night. The sun started to climb up when I arrived to the last check point and last 6 km were run in asphalt road to ancient Olympia.

I arrived to the gates of the ancient Olympia at 6:24AM, when race time was 37 hours 24 minutes and 26 seconds. The second Ilias Kiriasoif arrived 19 minutes later.

Now I'm feeling a bit better for a change...

...and the feeling gets overwhelming. 

The award ceremony was held at the local Town Hall at 19:30.

Award Ceremony at the Town Hall

The certificate, the medal and the cup

What did I learn?

During the second night I did three big mistakes that I got away with. All of them could have led to significant time losses in the race. Two of the mistakes are because of the tired mind and one is due to negligence in the preparation of the drop bags.

First mistake. For the second night I put spare light and batteries to the drop bags in Kalenzi. For some reason I only took spare battery and left my spare light to the check point. Fortunately I did not break my only lamp during the night. If I had done so, that would have meant that I had to wait for another runner or the daylight before I could continue my race.

Second mistake. After the river crossing in the Check Point 23 I was supposed to have spare socks. I did not. But because of this false belief I crossed the river with my socks on. So I had to wash my socks and dry my feet as carefully as I can so that there wouldn't be too much sand to grind the sole of my feet. Fortunately I got away with this too.

Third mistake. I had sent forward to the Check Point 26, Persena 232 km, my rain jacket since whether forecast promised some rain near Olympia. Somehow I decided not to take it with me from the check point. Fortunately the rain showers were light and short. If there would have been harder rain the running would have been much more uncomfortable and hard.


As a last point I'll cover somewhat controversial topic about nutrition. I've been on #LowCarbHighFat #LCHF diet for 1,5 years now. This translates to the fact that I'll consume 20-50 grams of carbs on daily basis. Missing calories are taken from fat, not protein. Previous year's three successful races (221 km/24 hours, triple triathlon 678 km and Spartathlon 245 km) were done with moderately low carb intake with 20-30 grams per hour. For this race I had different plans

I contacted professor Tim Noakes, the author of Lore of Running, last November. Noakes is #LCHF diet supporter and ultrarunner himself. I asked is there any medical reasons that would prohibit trying to run a ultramarathon without any calories, meaning only with water. Noake's answer was NO. If you liver cannot produce enough ketones for running only thing you get is hypoglycemia which is easily corrected with 20-40 grams of carbs. I could get adapted to running without any nutrition during my training season slowly running longer and longer distances only with water.

So for this race I prepared to take only fat and protein during the race and that first 111 km I would run basically with water. During the Delphi -- Rio (111 km) leg I only took one cup of home made chicken soup broth and I estimate it included 165 cKal (fat: 2g, carbs: 13g, protein: 23g, fiber: 2g). Apart of this one cup of soup I only drank water. Every now and then I added some electrolytes to the water (0 kcal).

After Rio my stomach started to react to hunger and had to start eating something to keep my hunger in check. I stopped to adding electrolytes since the taste of them started to annoy me. Below is the listing of food I took from Rio -- Olympia (144 km)

  • 3 * 80 g cans of tuna in oil.  One can includes: 293 kcal (fat: 26g, carbs: 0g, protein13,5 g). TOTAL: 879 kcal (fat 78g, carbs 0g, protein 40,5g). 
  • 2 * 90 cans of chicken breast in brine. One can includes: 119 kcal (fat 2g, carbs 0g, protein 25g) TOTAL 238 kcal (fat 4g, carbs 0g, protein 50g)
  • Hamburger patty 200 kcal (fat 10g, carbs 0g, protein 12g)
  • half boiled egg 40 kcal (fat 3g, carbs 0g, protein 3g)
  • 30 g salted peanuts 180 kcal (fat 15g, carbs 4g, protein 8g)
  • 80 g peanut butter (crunchy) 480 kcal (fat 40g, carbs 10g, protein 20g)

Grand total for whole trip from Delphi to Olympia was

  • 2182 kcal (fat 152g, carbs  27g, protein 156,5g)

I took salt every now and then but it tasted quite bitter in mouth. This is a sign of that salt balance is OK. All together I think I ate salt as pure salt about 5 g.

Energy was mainly took from body's own fat reserves. I would estimate that small 67 kg runner with slow pace consumes about 450 kcal per 10 km. This sums up to 11 475 kcals for 255 km trip. If you add basic consumption of 1600 kcal * 1,5 day the sum for the whole race is about 13 875. This translates that during the race about 11 700 kcals were taken from fat reserves and this is about 1300 grams of fat. Of course these are very coarse estimates and give only hint what is going on, but it is interesting to try to get some kind of overall picture about energy consumption.

I have managed to get my race performances to be quite satisfactory with #LCHF diet. It fits for my body. My 5 races during 2015 and 2016 were all hampered down because of stomach problems. At the moment I have no issues with stomach or fueling during races. Also, I think it is noteworthy that one probably does not need so much salt if one relies on something else than carbs for main energy source during the race.

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