• Q&A With Dan Lawson Team GB Ultra Runner

    Dan Lawson Ultra Marathon Runner

    Dan Lawson is an ulta runner who has some incredible achievements to his name. From winning 1st place in a 400km (250 miles) race through the Gobi desert to achieving the fastest British time in the notorious Badwater Ultra marathon through California's Death Valley, he has done some amazing things. Sundried got the chance to chat with Dan about his love for running and what life is like running such extreme races.

    What drew you to Sundried?

    I'm so grateful to spend a few hours a day running through trails and communing with nature. As runners I feel we have a duty to protect and enhance this environment we gain so much happiness from. Running ethically and championing such brands as Sundried are important to the essence of our sport.

    What's been your favourite race to date and why?

    I recently ran across the Gobi Desert and to date this has to be my favourite. The race was 412km across the most beautiful but also gruelling terrain I have ever experienced. It stands out because I really got to see the places my body is able to take itself but most interestingly also the limits I am able to push my mind to. I slept only 45 minutes in over 70 hours and during the end of the race my mind was mush! 

    Dan Lawson Ultra Gobi Winner

    How does preparing for an ultra marathon across the desert differ from preparing for a regular city marathon?

    Both require a lot of discipline and hard work in training. That's the same for both. In the marathon, because it's a lot shorter, you can get away with not really looking after yourself. You can hold on without taking in too much water or energy, but the ultra requires a lot more planning in this department and if you don't get your hydration and nutrition right you are going to pay after around 20 hours or so and possibly not be able to finish the race. 

    What are some of the biggest challenges you face during ultra running? What happens to your body? 

    After a few hours and a few hundred km your body - especially your legs - are always going to start to ache. The biggest challenge is to master the mind; not to let it focus on the pain and to take your attention away from those thoughts of stopping that all runners have regardless of a 5k distance or 500k. Physically, we are pretty much capable of anything as long as the mind is willing too.

    What big races do you have planned for 2018?  

    I'm hoping to be picked to represent Team GB again at the 24hr European Championships where I will defend my title. This will be in Romania in May. In my build up to that I will race a few half and full marathons as well as a 100k. After May, I will switch my attention to the trails and build up to the Run Rabbit Run 100 miler in the USA. 

    Considering the incredible achievements you've already accomplished, what would be the ultimate challenge for you?

    I'm really set on trying to beat the current British record for the 24hr race. It's stood for around 30 years now. It's a tough ask but if you manage to get a near perfect race it's achievable. Other than that I do enjoy the longer, non-stop races I would like to test myself again like I did in the Gobi Desert. Maybe a John O' Groats to Lands End record attempt could be on the cards.

    What do you think about when you're out there running for 70+ hours?

    It's a lot of thinking time 70 hours right! Sometimes you can solve all sorts of problems or make some amazing future plans. I think the key is to let the mind float away thinking about the nice things, because as soon as you start to think negatively such as "my body hurts", "I want to stop" or you start contemplating how many more hours or km you have left to run, that's when you need to direct the mind in a different direction. To either try and clear the mind of any thought whatsoever or steer it down another route. In difficult times, I like to pretend I'm running alongside members of my family or much loved friends. 

    How do you stay hydrated and nourished during such epic races?

    This is one of the hardest things to get right. As the race moves on, hydration and fuelling become so much more important as it becomes harder for your body to absorb food and water. What seems to work for me is making sure I get as much in as possible in the front half of the race. Eating and drinking little and often seems to work best. I tend to drink an energy drink called Tailwind and I munch on the most wonderful flapjacks and energy bombs from a company called Oatopia.

    Do you feel like you're pushing yourself hard during an ultra run or are you jogging at a comfortable pace?

    The first two-thirds of an ultra run feels quite comfy in anything over 100k, most of it is at a pretty comfy pace, unless you are slogging it up a mountain! After a number of hours that comfy pace often starts to feel pretty uncomfortable and takes a lot more effort. 

    Who is your biggest inspiration?

    I'm inspired by anyone who works hard to achieve their dreams. Anyone who is strong enough to listen to themselves and not to follow the norm. I'm lucky to have an excellent coach, Allison, and a superb mentor Richard Brown, who is a legendary ultra runner. These two inspire me to work hard.

    What advice would you give someone looking to complete an ultra marathon for the first time?

    No ultra marathon is easy. You must understand that there will be some dark moments in your mind and plan for these. Visualise yourself overcoming these tough periods; lows are always followed by highs. And look around and smile as much as possible and enjoy it. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • What Are The Performance Differences Between Training At High Altitude vs Sea Level?

    Lucy Charles Ironman Kona Sundried Running

    If you spend a lot of time training at high altitude in a mountainous region, would your performance be better racing at sea level? How do you train to race at high altitude? These questions and more will be answered as we explore the performance differences between training at high altitude vs sea level.

    How does altitude training work?

    Altitude training works because the air is thinner. As the air is thinner at high altitude, with every breath you take you are delivering less than usual amounts of oxygen to your muscles. Your muscles need oxygen to work optimally, so less oxygen means your body needs to work harder to get the same results. There have been many studies done to try to determine if altitude training works, and if so, how high an athlete would need to train, but research is ongoing.

    So what is considered 'high altitude'? There are many differing opinions, but the most common is that any altitude above sea level beyond 3000m (9840 feet) is considered “high” altitude, with 500-2000m being “low” altitude and 2000-3000m being “moderate” altitude. Anything above 5500m (think Mount Kilimanjaro) is considered “extreme” altitude!

    There are cities in South America, like La Paz in Bolivia, which are situated at this 'extreme altitude' where the air is much thinner than at sea level and the locals have adapted to the conditions. So, if an athlete were to train consistently in a city like La Paz, would they be faster when racing at sea level because of their better conditioned lungs and muscles? Well, in order to imitate the conditions found in such extreme altitudes, many athletes train with altitude masks. So, do they work?

    running high altitude mountains

    Do high altitude training masks work?

    Altitude training masks work by reducing the airflow to the lungs. In reality, they don't actually simulate high altitude because they do not reduce the atmospheric pressure, and instead simply reduce the oxygen intake in the same way running with a straw in your mouth would (definitely don't do this!) 

    It would take months or even years of training in a high altitude city like La Paz to notice the benefits of high altitude training. Unfortunately, training in a high altitude mask would not have these effects. There actually isn't any evidence whatsoever that training in an altitude mask benefits your athletic performance. However, actually training at high altitude can.

    bicycle riding cycling triathlon mountains training

    How long do the effects of high altitude training last?

    Experts have agreed that training at 2200m for 4 weeks is optimal altitude training. Once you finish your training, the effects of the reduced oxygen on your blood and muscular endurance can last up to 2 weeks. So, is it worth it? Well, if you're a serious athlete looking to push your own boundaries and are looking for any way to improve your training, finding a training camp in the Alps or other mountainous regions could be beneficial, but the effects will wear off eventually. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • James Eastwood Athlete Ambassador

    Sundried ambassador running ultra marathon James Eastwood

    James is an ultra runner who first started running to raise money for his dad who was battling cancer. He tells us about life as a long distance runner.

    Have you always been into sport?

    Yes I’ve always loved sport. Before running, I was very much into cycling doing 10/25/50 mile time trials.

    What made you decide to enter the world of running?

    I started running to lose weight but took it seriously when my dad was diagnosed with cancer and to raise money I signed up for my first marathon in Brighton.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    The Thetford marathon; it took place on my birthday and at each check point they sang happy birthday to me.

    And your proudest achievement?

    Completing my first ultra marathon.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters / your toughest race yet?

    My second marathon ended up taking almost 6 hours due to the trail and mud and rain; I wasn’t aware it was a trail run. Now I read the course reviews first before I start!

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    Take time out and think about my options.

    What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?

    Do more speed work.

    What are your goals for 2018?

    The Boston Lincolnshire marathon is my primary goal. I want to get as close to a 4 hour marathon as possible. My second goal is to take an hour off my ultra time in the Monster ultra marathon.

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    The memory of my dad and the way he handled the pain during his fight with cancer. 

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    I love the quality of the kit. My favourite bit of kit is my gloves as I suffer from Raynaud's so they are essential.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • How Often Should I Take A Complete Rest Day?

    How often should I take a rest day

    We all know it's important to rest, but sometimes you just want to move! So, how often should I take a complete rest day? We take a look at the best advice.

    It's personal

    Some professional athletes can train up to 40 hours a week without over-exerting themselves. However, someone who is just getting into fitness should take it easy and listen to their body. Think about how long you've been training and how often you usually train. If you are pushing yourself harder than usual, make sure you're not going over your limit. Everyone is different and should follow training plans designed specifically for them; what works for one person might not work for you. If you know that you can train for a week straight without taking a rest day, you should be fine. However, as soon as your results start to suffer and your training is not as efficient as usual, this is when you need to take a complete rest day.

    cycling rest day how often should i take a complete rest day

    How do your legs feel?

    We've all suffered the dreaded DOMS at one point in our lives. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is the result of strenuous activity and the leg muscles being torn through exertion and then repairing themselves to become bigger and stronger. Whether you've got DOMS from a tough gym session or a big bike ride, it is never advisable to train again on sore legs. If you are really itching to get back out there, read our article on how to reduce DOMS in the legs. It is possible to injure yourself if you overtrain when you have DOMS, so this is usually a sign that you need a complete rest day.

    Are you sleeping well?

    A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that 150 minutes of exercise per week (30 minutes per day over 5 days) is all it takes to improve the quality of your sleep. However, one of the first signs that you need a rest day is if you are not sleeping well. If you have been exercising consistently without a rest day for more than 5 days and you find you are not sleeping well, you should take a complete rest day to let your body properly recover.

    stretching legs running recovery rest day

    Do you feel like you have the energy you need?

    Whatever your motivations to train, forcing yourself to get out there when energy levels are low can be a real blow to morale. There are ways you can eat to boost your energy or, if you feel like you have plenty of energy at the start of the day but then soon become lacklustre, here are 4 ways to boost your energy from the experts at Harvard. If you are feeling very sluggish, this may well be a sign that you need a complete rest day. Never force yourself to do a training session that you really don't want to do, so long as the rest of the time your training is consistent. 

    What are the signs of overtraining?

    Do you know what the signs of overtraining are? If not, read our article on overtraining. If you're still unsure on why rest days are important, read our article on fitness recovery and the importance of rest days. 

    If you do feel like you might be getting injured, here are our tips for dealing with running injuries.


    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Jodie Gauld Ultramarathon Runner

    Jodie runs ultramarathons and trail runs. She tells Sundried about some of the amazing races she's completed, including 64 miles along the Cornish coastal path.

    Have you always been into sport?

    I have. Growing up on a small holding in Cornwall and having an outdoorsy family who are into all sorts from sailing to skiing and horse riding, I have grown up conditioned to embrace what sports can offer you.

    What made you decide to enter the world of running?

    I have always run, everywhere! My parents have always told me to slow down and stop running around the house. I would never be able to sit down for a meal, I'd run back and forth to pick at my plate but had so much to explore. My running was rewarded through my years at school, where I proved fairly good on the athletics field and would be entered into every race going. But it was when I was 20 that I was training with a group who introduced me to the world of ultramarathon and this passion has grown since.

    What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

    This is tough, I love so many for different reasons and also there are more and more of which I want to attempt. However, I think my first ever race (besides athletics/school events) The Lakeland 50, is a beauty, it is obviously how I came to love the trails and where I came to the realisation that I can keep going over these extreme distances. The atmosphere is incredible for the entire weekend and you get to know so many regulars. I have done the 50 miles 3 times and have finally signed up for the 100 (which is actually 104 miles). The sign-up process is half of the excitement as it sells out in about 5 minutes.

    And your proudest achievement?

    This year I ran with Tribe as part of Run For Love II. I completed all 230 miles of the running. We did this over 6 days, running back to back ultra marathons in extreme heat and with little sleep. There was a simple focus, complete the distance to raise money and awareness for anti-trafficking. However, the week proved so much more - what the body/mind can overcome, camaraderie and we've created some lifelong memories and friends.

    Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

    A lot of races have been tough for different reasons, but I forget the pain quite quickly and somehow remember loving it, despite my suffering during. RFL 2 was seriously tough but I remember this year I pushed myself to run the furthest I ever had in one go, 64 miles along the Cornish coastal path. This race was just 4 weeks after Run For Love, with a 20 mile run and a 50 mile ultra race in between, so I didn't rest. We started at midnight and there were 3 points where I thought I'd faint, but it was the final 5 miles that were so tough, we had to climb and descend hundreds of steps and I was physically lifting my legs with my hands as my groin had blown up. I did finally cross the finish line in tears of pain, exhaustion and joy! Even got 2nd lady and an awesome trophy.

    How do you overcome setbacks?

    I am stubborn but also look at the bigger picture and can assess the situation. Focus on the ultimate goal and weigh up what needs to be done to achieve it.

    What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?

    "Aim for the finish and enjoy"

    What are your goals for 2018?

    To keep injuries at bay - always

    To complete a 100-mile race

    Who do you take your inspiration from?

    I obviously look at the running heroes but I'm aware that their achievements are out of my league. My real inspiration comes from friends who I surround myself with.

    What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

    What drew me to Sundried is its ethics and care for the environment. I admire and want to support good quality brands that are promoting these positive acts. I love the Sundried Ruinette 2.0 leggings, they look great and are super comfortable.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren