Cappadocia Ultra Trail 2018 63k Race Report — Part I: Pre Race

This is the first part of my race report for Cappadocia Ultra Trail 2018 — Medium Course (63k). If you want to know the result and how the race went you can continue with the second part.


According to Instagram, my first ever run was on November 30, 2016. I can easily find out the date because I wouldn’t have missed the Instagram selfies of those initial 6 km running attempts. Almost 2 years after, I will be running my first ultra trail race on October 20, 2018. Having this experience in Turkey 🇹🇷 — my home country — with the Turkish running community makes me even more excited. I haven’t met them personally yet but I have been stalking them on social media :)

Short Background Story

In two years, the goal changed from 6k to 63k… Well, I couldn’t resist my competitive side. Every runner has interesting stories. I would like to share mine briefly.

Very first Instagram photo with Mattias testing new Spartan watches. `Like a boss` pose and only 23 likes :(

After getting used to 6k runnings on cold, dark Finnish winter mornings, I was ready for 10k. I joined Suunto field-testing group which involves internal developers and testers. The group tests the watches weekly by running 10k every Thursday morning. They were not like any developers that I met before. It was mainly catching them up although they were already slowing down to keep the group synced. They have been running and racing for years, and to be honest, I was feeling sad about my missing years. I was actually fit and agile in the first years of the university. However, after a while, I was lost in surviving and building a career.

This is `easy run` of our lead tester. 10k with 4:37 pace and 124 bpm… Just to give some idea to the reader :)

Joining the field-test group improved my overall fitness and running level. I was able to run 10k and 15k. On January 28, 2018, I planned a challenge. It was my girlfriend’s birthday and I wanted to write our names on a map by running as much as I could do. I felt the first anxiety for running towards a goal. It had to be done because I didn’t have any backup plan as a gift. In the end, it took 5 h 46 mins to run 40 km. I must say that most of the time passed with finding the correct route because any mistake would ruin all plan :) It worked. She loved the gift and forgave me for disappearing for hours on her birthday (IG Post). I would say, it was a risky gift because she was already overly angry at me before she saw what I did for her all day.

Yeah, it is hard to read. It says: `Dilara ❤ Cagatay`. `D` was the last letter on the run. That’s why it looks weird :)

Then I had my very first race — 21k Bodom Trail on May 2018 (IG post) which was followed by two half road marathons: Helsinki City Run on May 19 (IG post) and Helsinki Half Marathon, on July 9 (IG Post). I was able to run 21k just below 5.00 min/km pace on road and 7.30 min/km on the trail.

The last race was my longest ever distance — 42k Nuuksio Classic Trail Marathon on September 2017. I finished it in almost 6 hours (IG post). I didn’t aim for the duration. My only target was finishing the race but less than 6 hours would have been plus. Therefore it went smoothly although the terrain was quite technical. In the end, it was a good test considering the distance was 2/3 of Cappadocia Ultra Trail. Delicious Turkish snacks and longer recovery times in CPs, together with the amazing nature of Cappadocia gives me some positivism about the remaining 1/3. All I remember from Nuuksio race were slippery rocks, feet-hurting ruthless tree roots, and CPs without food.

30th km of Nuuksio Trail Marathon. I knew that the psychological limit for the race was 30k for me. See the effect of compression socks which I had to change in the middle of the race. Photo by Juha Saastomoinen

Gear

I have been using the advantage of being an Amer Sports employee since the first day I joined Suunto. Amer group supports its employees by giving good deals on its premium brands. Mavic, Arc’teryx, Salomon, and Suunto are the brands that I have been using in my training. The best part of having high-quality equipment is that your training plans are not affected by environmental factors. I have been running at -25 °C, cycling on rainy days. No blockers, excuses but more fun, challenges and cool Instagram photos :)

Of course, it comes with a cost. Believe in me, it is worth it. In the end, you are spending hours outside in the harshest conditions. It is natural that you would want to be as comfortable as possible. Well, still expensive and you might need to justify your expenses to your partner :) My partner still doesn’t understand why I have (only) 3 different running shoes for road, snow, and trail. I am not even talking about the need for shoes with different cushioning levels.

Ok, here is the gear list I am planning for Cappadocia:

I bought Arcteryx Norvan SL Hoody for the race because a waterproof outer shell is listed as mandatory equipment together with a headlamp. Since it will most likely be warm during the race, the shell had to be lightweight and packable so that I can carry on my camel-bag easily. Watch this Youtube review and you will understand what I mean.

I chose Salomon S Lab Sense short and tee considering the previous happy race experiences with them. Having a breathable t-shirt makes a huge difference. When I was running in Nuuksio Trail Marathon, I decided to wear the race t-shirt. It didn’t take long to realize that it was a big mistake. The given race t-shirt was not breathing and becoming heavier due to sweat. Luckily, I had the S Lab Sense t-shirt with me in my camel-bag.

I will be running with S Lab Ultra Shoes which is very popular among running communities. I have been using it during my trail training and found out that it provides good enough stability and comfort for long distances. After reading the race reports, I noticed that many of the participants were complaining about the amount of dust in the shoes. I thought that having gaiters for the shoes would be a good idea. I will be using them on top of SLab Ultra Shoes.

I have had S Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set camel bag for almost a year. I know that it is not big enough to carry all the mandatory equipment and gels but I will do my best. Currently, I can’t afford an extra one. I will see if I really need a bigger one after this race.

I tried compression socks in different races. For short distances and easy terrains it was ok but in challenging cases, I regretted many times. Apparently, they are not for me, or I need more time to get used to them. Anyway, I will be using socks which is lightweight and has good enough moisture management.

Finally, sports watches… I will be using two Suunto 9 watches during the race: one for following the route, the other for monitoring pace and heart rate. I will not wear the HR belt because according to my tests, Suunto 9 does a really good job on measuring HR at the wrist (Explained below). Furthermore, I want to eliminate possible pressure on my chest caused by the belt. Since Suunto 9 has amazing battery performance I won’t need a power bank. I still have to decide which strap I should have with my black s9. The options are as in the picture: black, lime, dark green, and amber). I will most probably go with the lime. For the other one, I will use the white-grey fabric strap which is really comfortable.

Preparation

One of the first things you learn about ultra distance run is that there are two types of preparations: one is physical, the other is psychological. I had enough time to prepare for both.

I trained physically as much as I can, but we will see if it was enough. From the psychological point of view, I didn’t need to do much. Throughout my life, I have been in situations where patience and hard work brought good results. All I needed to do was searching and reading more and more about the experiences and suggestions.

I have been very lucky to get a signed copy of the book — Ultra Kitap (means “Ultra Book” in Turkish) from Aykut Celikbas who is one of the leading ultra distance runners in Turkey. The book is a guide for long distance runs and ultra marathons. It is about how to train, choosing correct gear, injury risks, and strategies. The best part is that it is written in Turkish🇹🇷 I believe it is a big opportunity for the growing community in Turkey. He has just finished the Spartathlon for the fourth time in 27h 51 min. After reading his 250 km race reports which include all horror and joy stories, you start thinking that 63 km is not that long actually :)

After reading Ultra Kitap you not only learn about running ultra distance but also the amazing personality of a top athlete.

Expensive public transportation in Helsinki (106 euros/month) led to me to find alternative solutions. I was already envying my colleagues commuting by bike. I decided to invest in a beginner level cyclocross bike. During summer, I was commuting 32 km a day. After a while, I decided to alternate between running and cycling.

In August, I was vacationing at home with my parents in Turkey. It was a good opportunity for vertical training in nearby mountain since in Finland it is too difficult to find terrain with high altitude profile. As Aykut Celikbas says in his book, the best way of learning uphill/downhill running is actually experiencing it. Knowing the fact that 2000 m ascent is waiting for me in the race, I had to be familiar with the technics. I also realized that training downhill caused pain on my right heel which I still feel and hoping that it won’t cause any trouble during the race. I haven’t had a chance to visit a doctor yet.

Salomon Cappadocia Medium Trail Altitude profile

September was the most active month for me. It started with Nuuksio Ultra Race where I tested myself 42k in Nuuksio National Park. Then until the tapering time I was either cycling or running between home and office.

Here is my activity summary during September and October according to Sports Tracker:

All of these workouts were recorded by Suunto 9 and exported to Sports Tracker via Suunto App. Yes, there are plans of improving monthly diary user interface.

In short 37 hours, 477 kms during September, and 19h, 218 kms during October until the tapering starts. I am sure it could have been better. However, the main difficulty here was balancing life with your. I really wanted to spend time with my partner for out-of-office times. As a result, I used daily commute and Thursday field-test days for my trainings. Unfortunately I couldn’t do training longer than 24k. For the next race season, I am planning to ecnourage my partner for running so that I would create extra training hours spent with her :)

Below is the weight diagrams tracked with Withings smart scale starting from last year. I personally don’t believe that fat percentage value provided by Withings is precise. However, I focus on the trend. The good news is that my body has learnt burning fat which is crucial for long distance runs in the absence of carbs to be burnt.

No, I am not 12% fat, but the trend has been promising recently.

Strategy

Naturally, in my first ultra run tryout my goal is finishing the race in less than 12h30min which is cut off time. Considering my timing at Nuuksio Trail Marathon was 6h10min, I am expecting to arrive to finish line in 9-10h.

During my trainings I focused on low heart rate, and pace. Unfortunately I have nose problem which makes breathing too difficult for me. Hence, the avg heart rate has always been high during the races, especially while eating and drinking. See the Helsinki Half Marathon Race result below. The average Heart Rate was 180 bpm for 1h46min! It is crazy and obviously not sustainable for long distances.

Helsinki City Race. 180 bpm avg Heart Rate 😱 and my first under 5 min/km pace 💪

In the last month, I wanted to be sure that Suunto 9 wrist HR performance was good enough, because I really wanted to get rid of HR belt. Below are the HR, Altitude, and Pace diagrams belonging to Suunto 9 Baro and Suunto 9 Baroless watches on two wrists. The consistency is amazing. Keep in mind that Suunto devs and testers are continously improving and testing the products.

Suunto 9 Baro Vs Suunto 9 Baroless

My learnings from the latest training:

  1. My avg Heart Rate target will be between 140–150 bpm throughout the race. I have to set my pace accordingly.
  2. Using mobile phone and Instagram while running increases my HR instantly and I lose control. Hence, I should minimalize it. Considering I will take over Sports Tracker Instagram account during race, I should choose those times wisely.
  3. During downhill runs, the arm move a lot. I need to make sure that the watch is worn tight enough to receive correct HR readings.
  4. Stopping for couple seconds while moving uphill prevents HR value increasing
  5. 20 steps walk, 20 steps run and repeat recommendation for uphills by Aykut Celikbas works well, and I shall apply it

Last Words

Setting the bar high has always given me good results in life. I am not sure if I will finish 63k ultra trail run. What I know is that I learnt a lot during the journey about running and living healthy. DNF (Did Not Finish) is the last thing I will think about before and during the race. I am now only hoping to stay healthy until the race and having a perfect tapering time.

In his book, Aykut Celikbas suggests that having own mantra helps runners keep motivation high during the races. I chose my mantra which I will remind myself throughout the race: “Yes, this race is hard one, but which goal was easy in my life?”


I hope you liked reading this 11 min article. If you want to know more about my Cappadocia experience, the result and how the race went you can continue with the second part.