Tomorrow, July 26th, Charlie Engle will be starting the Ecuador race the Planet 7 days, 6-stage race. He will be running 155 miles self-supported at an elevation up to 12,700ft. Self supported stage races are largely unknown to racers in North America, so we thought we would ask him a couple of quick questions before he gets started. We will also be providing updates throughout the race on his status.
- How are you feeling about starting a six-day stage race in just a few days?
It has been 9 years since my last stage race, which took place in the Gobi Desert. Today, the runners are faster and more experienced but I have trained well and I think that the high altitude in Ecuador suits me well. It will be a tough race, but for me, the harder the better. I am not fast enough to beat the speedy guys in a flat race but in the mountains I have a chance to do well I think.
- Do you have a specific goal for the race such as a time or place?
I try to balance my ambition with the enjoyment of being in a beautiful place. Of course I would like to do well in the race but because it is at high altitude, it is pretty tough to predict. That said, I do believe in having goals, so I would like to be under 30 hours total and place in the top 10.
- The course features some relatively high elevation for sustained periods of time. Do you think this will have an impact on the race and are there any other large obstacles on the course?
The altitude is the great equalizer in this race. Historically I adapt well at altitude but one never really knows until the race starts. The other big obstacle in this race is that all runners have to carry all food and required gear for the entire race so smart packing is essential.
- Carrying all of your food and gear for 7 days seems like a tall order. Recovery and proper nutrition would be very important, do you have any specifics to make sure you get the calories and recovery you need?
I try to eat very soon after the finish of a stage in order to replenish. My secret weapon in Ecuador is that I am carrying a small bottle of olive oil to add to food. It is high calorie and lightweight. In this race, I have to carry all food so I don’t want to bring too much food but I also need enough to fuel me. I am planning for about 2000 calories per day.
- How does the training for a multi day stage race differ from say a 100 miler?
The one very specific difference is that I did some training “blocks”, meaning that I ran 20+ miles on several consecutive days in order to simulate race conditions.
- What are some of the things that you might not think about going into your first multi day race that you would recommend to a first timer?
More than ever, it is crucial to go slowly in the early stages and to take great care of your feet. Too often, racers get overly excited on day 1 and they burn too much fuel. It is better to take 5 minutes to take care of blisters than to create a problem that could end your race.
- Multiday races are not as popular in the United States as in many other parts of the world. What makes self supported multiday races special for you?
Multi day races are amazing because they allow for a huge change of scenery and of performance. One day can be amazing and the next horrendous and that is part of the fun of the event.
- You have spent over a month in Ecuador training for the Race the Planet 6 stage race, what has been your favorite experience in Ecuador?
I love Ecuador; it was the site of my first Raid Gauloises in 1998. The people are some of the friendliest anywhere. Most interestingly, Ecuador is the most bio diverse country in the world. There are more bird species in Ecuador, which is the size of Colorado, than in the entire United States. I have had the chance to train for 2 weeks before the race and I think that has helped with adjustment to altitude.
- What drew you to the WAA brand and what do you think makes their products suitable or superior for ultra marathons and multi day races?
The feature that most intrigued me about the WAA 20 liter pack is the weight distribution. The front loading pack is perfect for placing an entire days food and gear at my fingertips. The pack is small so it actually forces me to be very conscious of every item that I pack. There are plenty of extra pockets and straps for quick access to things that might be needed over and over, like gloves and hats. The comfort of the pack has been a pleasure.
- Do you have any races or running trips planned for later this year?
I have a great project in Death Valley with Dean Karnazes and Nick Hollen. I also plan to run a few long trails in North Carolina. Next year, I will be running nearly 1000k along the Pyrenees in Italy and France. That will be a blast.