Backyard Ultra proves to be the ultimate test of endurance

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While most people were sunning themselves on beaches around the UAE last weekend, a gruelling race of attrition was taking place at Al Qudra in Dubai.

The Backyard Ultra is a form of ultramarathon where competitors must run 6.7km on the hour every hour, until only one runner is left standing.

When each lap is completed, the remaining time within the hour is typically used to recover and re-hydrate for the next hour’s race.

Irishman Mark Haigney won the race with 25 loops (167.5km) over a mammoth 25 hour period, while second place went to Dubai-based Rob Jones who ran a stunning 24 laps (161km) over 24 hours.

Belfast-born Jones, who has been living in the UAE since 2010, is no stranger to endurance races having won the Wadi Bih Hatta 70km in November and followed it up with a formidable finish at the arduous UTMB Oman 137km in December.

“The race at the weekend was brutal. I knew it was going to be hard. You think you can run 6.7km on the hour every hour. But it’s tough trying to get the food in between with the remaining time you have until you have to run on the hour again,” said Jones.

“It was a serious challenging but really enjoyable to be part of a race of its calibre.”

While Jones’ long-term focus for 2019 will be the UTMB Chamonix – a stunning 171km single-stage race through France, Italy and Switzerland – he is set to compete in the Urban-Ultra Hajar 100km on February 15 as well as the Mount Sana 60km on Mach 22.

Two events that will give him ideal preparation before tackling one of the world’s most extraordinary races in France at the end of August.

“The Alps is one of my favourite places in the world to visit. UTMB Chamonix is the high point of racing in Europe with tough qualification criteria so I’m super excited to train and get ready to show the world what a runner in a country with ‘no hills’ can do,” said the 33-year-old.

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Our reporter gears up for Ironman challenge with help from ILSS Dubai

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Sport360°’s Chris Bailey has signed up for the challenge of his life – an Ironman. Follow his 10-month adventure as he prepares his body for a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and a marathon to finish …

For a long, long time I felt mild horror at the prospect of going to the gym. Not for the pain, but for the sheer mundanity of it all.

Whether it was listlessly grinding out 5km after 5km on the treadmill, or pumping out deadlifts until I dropped dead from sheer boredom, I figured that going through the motions was an unavoidable truth of healthiness.

I didn’t even know I needed a challenge until it dropped into my inbox – an invite to the ITU World Triathlon in Abu Dhabi last March.

My swimming needed work. My running needed heavy repairs. And my cycling … I had barely picked up a bike for 15 years. But I entered and after four or five weeks of extremely spotty training, I lumbered around the sprint course at Yas Marina.

It was exhausting, and uncomfortable teetering on painful. The feeling of crossing the line, though, was exhilarating. Having been sedentary for much of my life, it felt like a real accomplishment.

ChrisBaileyStill_2

So naturally, I sought out my next challenge – an Ironman in Tempe, Arizona. Just like a sprint triathlon, but 200km longer.

Facetiousness aside, during the rest of 2018 it slowly sunk in that scouring a few websites and loosely following a random plan would slap a ‘DNF’ next to my name.

November 2019 suddenly felt close. If I had a diary there’d be no excuse to not jot it down. So I enlisted the help of I Love Supersport Dubai (ILSS), the organisers of the Ironstar SwimRun on JBR in November that I worryingly wheezed around.

Thankfully, these guys know what they’re doing. You only have to look at the curriculum vitae of Dmitriy Firsov, an elite endurance athlete who will also be a familiar face (particularly on Wednesday mornings at the seafront to anyone involved with TriDubai).

Dmitriy was a national team triathlete for his native Ukraine and, while a full-time coach with ILSS, recently completed the Ironman 70.3 in Bahrain in a stonking time of 4:08:20 – good enough for second in his category.

When he sat me down and explained what it’d take – every ounce of effort and then some more – I felt strangely reassured.

He regaled me with a story of when he broke a bone in his hand a few days before an Ironman in Mallorca and told the aghast doctor not to wrap it up in a cast as he wouldn’t be able to compete properly. Did it affect his time? Well, maybe by a few minutes. Completion was never a doubt.

For now – at least – my body is whole. And having witnessed young and old, weighty and thin, all finish Friday’s Ironman 70.3 in Dubai, the last wisps of any excuse melted away.

As Dmitriy explains below, the first part of the training programme is called the dragging-in phase. So, feeling a little like Michael Corleone, I’ve allowed myself to be pulled in. Keep a life raft handy.

COACH’S CORNER

Dmitriy Firsov

The first thing you have to do – with any long-term goal – is to find someone who will give you understanding of the basic timeframe for completing the competitions. When you’ve understood how much time it takes, go ahead and buy a slot and find yourself a coach.

The preparation time for an Ironman, depending on the level of the athlete, is nine to 12 months – so 10 months for Chris should be more than enough as well.

I have been preparing a few students for an Ironman and make no mistake, this is a hard endurance programme. First and foremost you have to be prepared mentally – you have to be tough and understand from the very beginning what goes into it and what you have to pay attention to.

The mental part is the most important thing – if you are strong mentally, you are capable of doing any workout, any training, and you will be successful in competing and reaching your goals.

Schedule a training session so the coach has to assess you, and prepare a structured training plan. Concentrate on the nutrition basis as well to understand the midterm realistic goals in order to get through an Ironman. Discipline will guide you to success.

Chris has started with the dragging in period. This is a phase at the first weeks of the training programme, to prepare the body for the loading and understanding its capability and limits for now. That prepares the body for the testing period to come – to make sure and understand what those limits are, and how to properly load it.

I Love Supersport Dubai is the premier international endurance sports school. No matter your age or ability, achieve your goals as a swimmer, runner, cyclist and triathlete under the tutelage of some of the region’s best coaches. Visit dubai.ilovesupersport.com for more details.

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Nike React Land: The new immersive, innovative running experience in Dubai

David Cooper 31/01/2019
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Nike's innovative React Land

The Nike Epic React Flyknit 2.0 has landed at the Nike Dubai store and wants to take runners on an immersive running journey to somewhere they’ve never been before – React Land.

Through an interactive test run you can blaze a trail around the world to experience Nike React’s latest cushioning and responsive technology whilst racing across iconic landmarks, be it Pyramids of Giza, the Statue of Liberty and even by the Burj Khalifa.

The process is simple, runners will be invited to lace up the Nike Epic React Flyknit 2.0, create their own avatars through a face scan and enter the digital world of React Land. Once runners are on the treadmill they have to navigate skipping on clouds, running through forests, jumping on top of moving trains, and off slate rooftops.

The world of Nike React is embedded with elements of its responsive foam technology and is populated with clouds, springs and bouncy pillows. Once the runner completes 3 minutes of digital world domination, they receive a 10 second clip to share on social media and can even customize a T-shirt with their avatar.

Register here to experience React Land starting from January 31.The Nike Epic React 2.0 retails starting AED799 at select Nike stores.

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