Race review: The race formally known as Wadi Rum Ultra

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Photo by Ben Tufnell
I never thought I would complete a race that was longer than a marathon.  (In face it wasn't  too long ago that I thought I would  never run a marathon).  Rather than do things half-ass, I decided my first ultra should be a multi-stage race abroad and be in the desert. For this who don't know, any ultra marathon is anything over 26.2 miles (although some say over 30 miles).  Since I completed the race in October 2018, the Wadi Rum Ultra has re-branded to be Ultra X Jordan as part of the Ultra X Co's strategy to become the World Championship of Ultra running. This year they are hosting races in Sri Lanka, Mexico and Jordan.  Next year, new locations (Bolivia and Azores) will be added.

There is no way my normal race review format can cover the complexity of this race.  I am working on a vblog to show you the landscape and also have lots of kit to tell you about.  To hold you over until then, here is a brief overview of the race.

What you will see along the route
Entries and fees: In 2018, Ultra X Jordan registration fee was £895 for accommodation in Amman and during race, transport to/from race plus Petra and race entry, Jordan visa, a celebratory BBQ and beer on day of finish. In addition, there were three doctors on the team to administer medication and treat wounds (mostly foot blisters) and two osteopaths to offer daily treatments such as massages, assisted stretching and foot wound care.  The 2019 registration fee is £995 for individuals or £890/pp for teams of three or more.

Course and bogs: The course was 250km through Jordan's Wadi Rum valley.  It varied from day to day (and slightly year to year) with multiple campsites along the way.  We ran: 40km, 55km, 70km, 50km and then 37km over the five days.  No toilets along the course but two of the three camps had toilets and showers.  Nights one and two were at the first camp which offered canvas shelters, light bulbs (but no outlets to charge anything) and running water in the bathroom and showers. The next camp was affectionately called 'Rock Camp' because we slept on a giant boulder without electricity, water or toilets.  There were blankets and cushions to sleep on but it was quite windy and therefore chilly.  Camp three was a magical 1980's oasis.  Proper beds (two per canvas cabin), tables, chairs, a cash bar, and running water in toilets and showers.  I have never been so happy to see a can of full fat Coke in my life.

Day 1 start line
Location:  The idea behind Ultra X races is to offer an amazing five day race experience so you only have to take one week off of work.  Jordan's desert valley did not disappointment.  Many of the other runners added a few days to their itinerary to explore the country further.  Temperature were 30 degrees plus during the day.

Atmosphere: Due to the location, there isn't anyone to cheer for you along the course but the crew made up for this. It was ace seeing a friendly face every 10km. You also would occasionally get a 4x4 Toyota truck with tourists shout at you as they drove by.

Kieron, an osteopath from Just One Body, at work on a runner
Race bling and goody bag: Sadly, no medal this year but we did get a branded cotton t-shirt.  I had lots of time to think along the way and will probably get a custom necklace off of Etsy that says "Grit".  Everyone was sad there was no medal and I sure  Ultra X has taken that feedback on board.  No goody bag either but we did get cold beers and dinner after the race.

Sunset stretch class after Day 1

Tips if you want to take part next time:

  • Learn about the local culture and what to wear: It is a conservative Muslim country and you need to be aware of that.  When we were in the desert, we were a bit isolated, which allowed the cultural rules to be relaxed but in Amman and Petra, we were Amman, we needed to be respectful.
  • Learn about how the toilets work and carry your own toilet paper: I am still not exactly sure what the 'bum gun' was officially for but I do know not to flush the toilet paper. Be prepared and keep some toilet paper or tissues on your any time you leave the hotel.
  • Make sure to strength train to combat the shifting sand effectively: It was extremely hard to train for running in shifting sand while living in London.  The best thing to do is to strength train and make sure you have strong ankles and supportive shoes.
Photo by Ben Tufnell
  • Wear sweat-proof sunscreen: I was shocked to spend £13 for 77g of sunscreen at My Race Kit (It is special stuff that the sand won't stick to). However, I didn't get a sunburn, nor did I have to carry around a sunscreen bottle to re-apply so it was worth every scent.
  • Book a few extra days if you can: It is a beautiful part of the world and there is lots to see (think Petra and the Red Sea).  It will also get you time to acclimatize or recover.
  • Come with a plan B: Not many of the participant's races seemed to go to plan.  There were injuries, food poisoning, muscle pulls, and blisters galore.  Approach the race with the flexibility of a Plan B in case your situation changes so you won't be too disappointed.
Fueling with Lucho Dillitos (gifted)
  • Pack a variety of food.  Nutella is a good chocolate substitute:  I met Steven via a Whatsapp group as five of us were arriving one night early.  The day before we set off for the desert, Steven and I were discussing our concern for the lack of chocolate in the desert (chocolate and high temps don't mix).  We soon discovered that Nutella is an excellent compromise.
  • Don't drink the water but don't be wasteful either:  If you are not a local, it is not advisable to drink the tap water in Jordan.   During the race, you are provided with bottled water.  There are a lot of resources that goes into bottling the water, transporting it to the race camps, and then disposing of the bottles that I encourage you to drink what you need in a eco-conscious and responsible way.
Photo by Ben Tufnell
The Ultra-X Jordan race wasn't like anything I had every experienced before- either in my travels or in a race.  Registration for 5-13th October 2019 race is now open.  Let me know if you have any additional questions in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.  A short vlog will be up on my YouTube channel soon.

Thanks to Simplyhealth UK for sponsoring my 4x4 Challenge. This race was number three of four. 

Last minute gift guide for Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

So far, February has been all about my 40th birthday. It wasn't until yesterday that I remembered Valentine's Day is this week.  My husband isn't really into all of the V-day hype but we do get each other cards and have a nice meal in.  If you are still looking for ideas on what to get your loved one, check out my Amazon storefront for last minute gift ideas (all available with Prime shipping!).  There is something for everybody with over 30 items to choose from.

If you already know you want to give your Valentine an activity tracker, read my Valentine's Day post from a few years back with tips on how to select one.  There are so many to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming!

Or you can never go wrong with a voucher to Urban Massage (which is now called Urban and offers manicures, osteopathy, and facials in the comfort of your own home).  You can get 20% off your first treatment using my affiliate link.

Here are a few items you will find in my Valentine's day shop.  (Please note that the Amazon links are affiliate and cost the  buyer nothing additional.)

Let me know in the comments below what you think the perfect Valentine's Day gift is if you don't see it below.

How to make a claim with Simplyhealth's Active Plan

Thursday, February 7, 2019

I am not the best at life admin.  Submitting paperwork, such as receipts for my taxes, invoicing for freelance work, and posting things on eBay, tend to get pushed to the side in favour of a workout or episode of Bridezillas.  Actually, the paper gets put into a pile on the kitchen table until my husband forces me to deal with it.

My Simplyhealth UK Active Plan has four different levels of coverage, each with a maximum claim benefit.  I have the premium level, which gives me £350 for muscle and joint care, £100 for podiatry treatments, and £350 for health assessments, in addition to other coverage.  If I utilize just one benefit a month, the plan pays for itself and I can keep exercising without having to worry about being injured.  Because I am so bad at filing paperwork, I was relieved to know that I can either claim with a paper form, which was included in my welcome pack, or submit a claim online.  I spend most of my day sitting at a computer so I figured I would be able to handle method on a regular basis.

Booking an appointment

Before booking any appointments, I make sure to read through the T&C's to ensure my claim will be valid.  For example, physiotherapists have to be registered with Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), as must podiatrists.  Then I also considered how much my benefit was and if I thought I would need multiple treatments. For example, my feet aren't too gnarly so I splurged with my medical pedicure before Wadi Rum.  For my osteopath treatments, I went with my current clinic to allow for a continuity of care.  For my eye doctor, I went to location that was close to home and affordable.

Filing the paperwork

For each appointment I have attended so far, I received a paper or electronic invoice.  If I received paper, I scanned the document on my printer at work or took a photo.  Then I logged into my Simplyhealth account and took the following steps:

  1. On my Simplyhealth account home page, there is a section that says 'make a claim'.  Click on the button to make a claim online, but there is also an option to request a paper form via the post.
  2. On the next screen, you agree to a declaration that the info you are providing is true.  It also reminds you that the receipt has to have the following information on it:
    • The full name of the person who received the treatment.
    • The name, address and contact details of the practitioner or establishment who provided the treatment.
    • The date and cost of the treatment.
  3. You specify who the claim is for from a dropdown menu (as you many have partners or children on your policy) and the date of the treatment.
  4. Then specify the type of treatment and cost.
  5. Upload the receipt (either photo or pdf).
  6. Then you confirm all of the details, including bank details.

There is also a screen where you can check your benefit balances, which make it very easy to see if you are using you plan to it's full potential.  My payments are always processed within a few days.  I decided to have the money go into my savings account so I could pay for a race abroad at the end of the year (Valencia anyone?). 

Thanks to Simplyhealth for sponsoring my 4x4 challenge.  All opinions are honest and my own.

Last chance to donate to Tanzanian special needs classroom

Friday, February 1, 2019

It is nearly a year since I summitted Mount Kilimanjaro.  The trip is something I will never forget.  Not only did I climb the world's tallest freestanding mountain, but I also was able to meet people in the local community.  You can read all about my trip here, including how we sat down and talked to Maasai women and visited two local primary schools.

One of the schools (which lacks electricity and running water) had a special needs classroom.  Unfortunately, the students have to sit on the floor as there are no tables and chairs.  I committed to raise £420 and am currently at £250.  I have held bake sales, sold crafts and solicited donations from friends and family to reach this point.  With a month to go until International Women's Day, I am having one more push to hit £420 (£1 for every kilometer to the top of Kilimanjaro).  The head teacher estimated it would cost £95 for a desk and chair set.  With your help, we can make a difference in the lives of the children.

Here is a link to donate through PayPal.  To be clear, this is not through an official charity.  I will be sending the money to Eco-Africa Climbing, with whom I traveled with last year.  They focus on sustainable tourism and supporting the local community (for example, part of our fees for our trip went towards buying cement to complete the installation of toilets at the primary school).

Thanks from myself and the children for your support!  I will post again when the school has purchased the desks and chairs so we can see the difference this small gesture has made.

My relationships with brands as an influencer

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Earlier this month, the UK government shared guidelines to help the general public understand when influencers are being paid to mention a brand or specifc item.  This is to help people recognize any advertisement or endorsement that the influencer was paid to share, mention, or attend.  While I realize my reach is much smaller than the cast of Love Island or a single Kardashian, I wanted to explain the current relationship I have with brands and how I indicate this on blog posts and social media.

In no particular order:

Decathlon Bloggers Community: Occasionally, I receive complimentary items to review.  This has been a big help in managing the expenses for my adventures in 2018.  With each product I receive, I test it out in various conditions, photograph it, and write an honest review here on my blog.  I may also share the photos on social media while testing them to let people know a full review is coming.  I will use #gifted on social media to indicate items given in exchange for a honest review.

Simplyhealth: We have worked together in the past when I was given a complimentary race entry.  Simplyhealth was kind enough to sponsor my 4x4 challenge by covering one flight and race registration in exchange for ten blog posts about the Active Plan over six months, social media shares and a few workout videos.  I also have received one year premier level plan of their new active plan.  The link I share to their active plan is to help Simplyhealth monitor how many people I am referring to their site.  I do not receive any monetary compensation for sign ups.  You can read about my experiences with the plan so far here, here and here.  These posts will be tagged with #ad.

Function360 Physiotherapy: I receive two off-peak appointments a month in exchange for social media shares and blog posts documenting my treatment plan and progress.  I also take pictures during each appointment and send them to Function360 to use as they see fit.  To help monitor Function360's ROI with me, I have a custom referral code that gives people 15% off their first apppointment (F360MM15).  I do not receive any monetary compensation for each person I refer.  I genuinely love the team at Function360 and would recommend them to anyone who will listen.  For this, I will use #gifted.

Run Hungary: I was introduced to this new company by mutual friend who works at ON Running.  They are offered me a complimentary trip for the Budapest half in April if I am able to refer a certain number of runners to the trip. I will be going on the trip no matter what, so please join me!  (I will buy dinner for those who sign up as my referral as a thank you).  I will tags these social media posts as #affiliate.

Run Bulgaria: I applied to be an ambassador for this company after seeing an advert on Facebook.  It is so exciting to have been chosen! This summer I will attend their five day running camp on a gifted basis.  I will be promoting the brand by tagging them on social media and wearing their branded t-shirt on some runs when it arrives to help build brand awareness.  I also receive a monetary reward for each person who uses my referral code (AMB19MOL) which gives the user £75 off summer camp registration.   I will tags these social media posts as #affiliate.

Photo by Will Patrick

Product reviews: I am often sent product samples to try out and then review on my website.  As I am more pressed for time these days (and now there is all this #ad tagging confusion), I tend to choose kit I will genuinely use or am very curious about.  I will always be honest with my feedback.  If I have nothing nice to say, I will let the brand know and offer to return the item rather than write about it (this has only happened once).  If I product isn't necessarily my cup of tea, I will still post about it and suggest people who might be interested or other uses.  I always declare at the bottom of the post of an idea was gifted.  I will now include this info in social media shares too with #gifted or #ad.

Future Fit Training: Offered me a complimentary nutrition diploma program in exchange for blog posts and social media shares.  I have been working on it for over a year and am determined to finish before 30 June 2019.  I considered this to be #gifted.

MyCrewApp This is a new free app which aims to connect runners in their local area.  I receive a very small fee for each new sign up of their app using my referral link.  They also offer incentives depending on how many people attend your runs and how many runs you host.  Unfortunately, no one has attended my run club this year, but I am actively promoting my runs and the app in the hopes of helping new runners.  It also ensures I am running more often too and meeting new people in London.  Social media shares that include my sign up link will be labelled #affiliate.

Amazon affiliate link:  I will sometimes include links to specific products available on Amazon in my blog posts.  A disclaimer about these links is always included in the post letting readers know that if a purchase is made through the link, I receive a small fee which helps cover the costs of running this site.  Amazon now has influencer stores and you can visit mine here.  I will curate different themes throughout the year so keep checking back.  As previously mentioned, these are #affiliate links.

I wrote a post sponsored by Sunnto to highlight their new Spartan watch.

Sponsored posts:  Very rarely will I accept sponsored posts.  However, if the content in inline with my brand and the message I am sharing, I will occasionally allow for them (they help pay my bills a lot better than exposure).  I always declare these as sponsored and will tag as #ad if I am sharing links on social media.

As you can see, I end up having to do a lot of work for the items or experiences I am gifted.  Let's call it a labor of love as I acknowledge how blessed I am to be able to experience all of these things.  I also pay for a lot of my own stuff but may tag the brand to help my readers identify kit and to let the brand know I am a fan.  In these cases, I will not tag with #gifted or #ad.  Maybe #iboughtit will start trending too?

If I am not being paid, I don't think #ad is appropriate.  To me #ad means I received money for something and #gifted meant I was given a product or service.  IN addition, the recommendation is also to tag a post with #gifted, #ad, #affiliate if I am wearing/mentioning something that I was gifted within the last year.  I will put these at the top of my hashtags but at the bottom of my blog posts.  Feel free to scroll down before reading my articles to get the appropriate context.

Do you think #gifted is transparent enough?  How do you think I have done so far in making my brand relationships clear?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

Please note, none of the brands mentioned paid me to mention them in this post, but I have included links to their site.  The only affiliate links included in this post are with MyCrew, Run Bulgaria, and Amazon.

Run and travel with me

Monday, January 28, 2019

You may have noticed that my Events tab to the right is looking a bit full.  This year I have lots of exciting things happening and I would love for you to join me on some of them.

To celebrate my 40th birthday, I am taking part in the Run Through Queen Elizabeth Park Half Marathon* on  Sunday 10 February.  We are away for my actual birthday this weekend (off to Norway to see the Northern Lights!), so this is the best way for me to celebrate with my London friends. Many of my running buddies from Advent Running will be there too.  You can still register for the race here.  Afterwards, we will head over to Crate Brewery for pizza and cake baked by yours truly.  I would love to see you running, cheering or eating at some point that day.

Although my big goal is to run a Boston Qualifying time, I decided to focus on half marathons for the start of 2019.  I am trying to run one a month.  In March, I will be running the Croydon Half * on Sunday 31 March.  It is a small local race and we will be visiting friends who live near by as we rarely make it south of the river these days.

This month, I am travelling abroad to run the Budapest Half marathon on 14 April by travelling with Run Hungary**.  They are a new company of locals who want to show off their country through running events. The trip is just a long weekend and includes a pasta party and free beer post-race. I always try to run a race when I travel.  So far, I have medals from France, Germany, Czech Republic, South Africa, Ireland, and many of the states in the USA.  I am very excited to be adding Hungary to the list!  Please check here for all of the info, including hotel options (accommodation and breakfast is included in package price).  Non-runners are also welcome to join us.

I am still researching options for half marathons this month.  Hackney Half is very appealing due to the proximity to home.  I did it the first year so maybe it would be a chance for a new course PB.

There is also the Ragnar Relay Sweden event in May, which I totally want to do.  Ultra X is putting together a team but I need to look at if I can get off work and then at how much the flights cost.  I loved the UK Ragnar Relay White Cliffs and think the first ever Swedish one (where the Ragnars originally hailed from) would be epic.

This will be my last half marathon for the year.  A good friend lives in Italy so I am looking for a race close to her to mix a visit with a run.  She isn't a keen runner so I will have to accompany her to the beach during my stay too. Oh darn.

I am super excited to announce I am an ambassador for Run Bulgaria**.  This summer, they have a five day camp in Bansko which includes:
  • Accommodation (1 Bedroom, 2 sharing)
  • Airport Transfers
  • Breakfast and Lunches
  • Guided Run 2-3 Times Per Day (Mixture of Trails, Road, Long, Short, Intervals, Mountains, all optional)
  • Seminars and Talks (Running, Stretching, Nutrition )
  • Films Shown Each Evening in The Bar
  • Spa Facilities Available (For Free or For a Very Small Charge)
  • Swimming day at the mineral hot springs.
  • Mountain Hike including lunch, Enjoy the most beautiful views in the mountains.
  • Mountain Bike (MTB) Tour along beautiful trails including bike hire.
Basically, if you love the outdoors, this trip will be ace (the poster also mentioned wine tasting.  No idea if this is an extra fee though).  Spots are going quickly, so I encourage  you to sign up today to enjoy mountains, sunshine, and more.  Get £75 discount on your registration to their five day run camp at the end of July using my code AMB19MOL.  Note, you will need to purchase your own flights.

Still in planning phase, but Valencia marathon is a top contender to keep me in shape during the autumn.  Price goes up 30 June, so I have time to decide.  In an ideal world, I will be running Tokyo Marathon in March 2020 which means Valencia would get me fitter and faster.  I then just need to keep it up until March 2020.  Easy, right?

Please let me know if you have any races you would recommend, no matter there they are.  I am always looking to explore the world in different ways.

*Thanks the organizers for a complimentary race entry.  #gifted
** These are affiliate relationships which cost you nothing additional for using my referral codes.  More info about these partnerships will be detailed in my blog post on Thursday.  

Cool-down stretch video

Friday, January 25, 2019

It is so important to incorporate stretching into your fitness routine.  My physio keeps reminding me that I need to stretch after every run and I am doing my best to do that.  I thought it would be good to share my routine with you too.  It is only 8 minutes long, so pop it on your phone or tablet after your next run and have a go.

One of my goals this year is to share more videos on my YouTube channel.  Normally, I am a techno-phobe so I am really stepping out of my comfort zone in terms of learning new software and video editing skills.  If you have any workout requests or would like a 'how to do this move' tutorial, leave a comment below and I will add it to my list.