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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Survivor Meets Ultra-Marathon: Fuego y Agua - Survival Run

A few weeks ago I conducted a nutritional consult for a new customer and my world was opened up a little further.  I know there is some crazy stuff out there, but after I met up with Paul Kavanagh, I was really intrigued.  So what exactly do you get when you cross Survivor with Ultra-Marathon, well I am not exactly sure, but I think it is close to the Fuego y Agua Survival Run.  It is a 80km+ Ultra Distance Survival Race on the volcanic jungle Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua.  The objective of this race is to strip you of all comforts and to put you in true Survival mode.  The obstacles/challenges are natural and based on the daily survival of the local culture on Isla de Ometepe.

To gain further insight I asked Paul if he would mind doing a mini interview so I could and our readers could learn more about this crazy race and just how you prepare for it.  Here it is:

Infinit: How / when did you decide to take on Fuego y Agua Survival Run, and if you can still walk the Devil's Double?
Paul: I got into the sport a couple of years ago, after doing a smaller trail race where there was also a survival race going on. I thought the people were awesome, had great attitudes, and were having a blast. I started to think, “why can’t I do this”, and began working towards it.

This will be my fourth survival race type event. I was in Nicaragua last year for the Devils Double, and did reasonably well at the Survival race, hitting a time cutoff at about 24 hours or so. But, I went in to the race with a chest cold, and was too sick to start the 100k ultra two days later.

Btw, the Devil’s Double is doing the survival race on the Wednesday, and the 100k Ultra on theSaturday. Given that the survival race goes for 25-30 hours, there is really only about a day to a day and a half for recovery. It is really ambitious given where I am with my training, but I am going to toe the line Saturday, as long as I can run!

Infinit: What have you done to train for this event, what does a typical week of training look like for you?
Paul:  My trainer, X3 Training, has put together a program that has been slowing increasing training volume for the past year, and focused on functional strength before putting in the running distance. Right now it is gym 3 days per week, and I have transitioned from a big compound movement focus (squats, deadlifts, pull ups), to kettlebell.  I will have a couple of days of speed work, and weighted stair climbs, some biking or swimming, and my long runs on the weekends, both Saturday and Sunday.  

I’m sure most people reading this are quite aware, but just getting the scheduling right, what with work, kids, side projects, relationships, and so on.  Maintaining sanity is a challenge, and I am learning that proper nutrition during and after training goes a long way to determining how many training hours I can realistically add on before I crash.  I am seeing some good improvements there with Infinit.

Infinit: Have you set any goals for the run, I have to assume finishing might be it?
Paul:  Official finish is very tough for the survival run.  Typically there are just a few finishers.  For a
Fuego survival race, this means you get all of the in race medals, and there are four of them. I – DID – NOT – FAIL.  You get a medal (in think they are small statues for this year in Nicaragua) for completing a challenge.  A challenge might be carrying gallons of water to the top of a volcano, climbing trees, memory challenges, etc.   First you get the “FAIL”, then the “I” (as in I FAIL), then the “DID” (I DID FAIL”, then finally the “NOT”.

Any particular challenge you might miss, for any number of reasons, which means you do are not an official finisher.  But it is still worth keeping on, because they do track ranking based on what you did complete, how far you got.  It can also be difficult to beat the cut-off times, and a lot of people have either dropped or start to miss cut-offs at about the 20-24 hour mark.  There are a number of cut off points that are for racer and volunteer safety, to ensure that racers do not enter a particularly hazardous area of the course in difficult conditions.  There is an overall 30 hour cut off.

I will be happy to make it to the finish line, with or without all of the medals!

Infinit: We know that you decided to go custom with Infinit, why did you decide to sit down with us and go custom?
Paul:  I am pretty new to endurance racing, and not a young athlete, I am having a ton of fun seeing what I can do, both in racing and in training.  But I am finding that the small things add up when you
add enough time and volume.  So, small differences in nutritional components can make a big difference.  When doing a survival race, you might be required to carry 5 one gallon jugs of water to the top of a volcano, as we did last year.  It was a 3-4 hour trek.  I want to have as much nutrition as I can squeeze in, while making sure I stay hydrated, electrolytes are good, and I have enough protein.  Since I have to carry all my supplies, from the beginning of the race, having my nutrition in powdered from saved weight, and I can get hydration and nutrition at the same time.  Less to think and worry about.  And in a lot of places in this race, it may be a difficult 5-6 hour trek out of the jungle if you run in to problems.


Infinit was able to put together a formula based on my personal needs, and based on my physiology.  I expect it will be a work in progress over the next few races, but in training it has been working really well, and it feels good to have that variable well taken care of.

So if you want to keep track of how Paul and others are doing in the Survival Run - you can find out where to follow along here: Mud Run Guide.  Race starts at 3:00 pm EST, next Wednesday and the race cut off is at 9:00 pm on Thursday.  The 100km run starts on Saturday at 3:00 am EST and the cutoff is 28 hrs later.

Best of luck Paul - will be pulling for you!


- Darcy Haggith, President, Infinit Nutrition Canada

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