Putting your mind, body & spirit to the test for human trafficking
When our friends at TRIBE announced their Run for Love event, we had two thoughts: 1) Fair play! 2) Hmm I wonder what their bodies will go through? And so we got in touch.
On June 30th, the TRIBE community headed to Sarajevo to begin the world’s toughest duathlon: 2,000km running and riding across 9 countries in just 2 weeks to raise £250K to fight human trafficking.
The run involved 6 days of brutal Ultra distance running across Bosnian mountains and rugged terrain. The runners battled open blisters, crippling knee injuries and widespread exhaustion. The riding stages involved cycling 1,110 miles in just 8 days. The riders faced seriously tough conditions, including challenging climbs through the Austrian Alps, torrential downpours and bruised and battered limbs.
Run for Love sums up everything TRIBE is about – a community coming together for an impossible challenge for an important cause, all fuelled by TRIBE natural performance products.
Those taking part in Run for Love will have been training and preparing for months leading up to the challenge, ensuring their bodies were as ready as they could be to take on the dizzying distances. We wanted to take a closer look at how their bodies would react. For instance, would different levels in terms of Vitamin D see a difference in performance and recovery?
We linked up with TRIBE runner and rider Julio Bara who took on the entire 2,000km, to measure if there would be a change in his biomarker levels from the start of Run for Love to the end, and also hear how he got on and how he felt his body held up.
Julio Bara, TRIBE runner & rider:
"Overall, the Run for Love II has been an incredible experience. The event itself was both extremely challenging and rewarding.
In preparation for the event, my training predominantly focused on running to ensure my body was accustomed to running several days consecutively. I commenced training properly for the event in March 2017 (I know very last minute!).
I split my training up in the following way:
- First month: Twice a day (5 days a week) between 5-10km in both the morning & evening. The aim of doing this was to get my body used to a short recovery period.
Second month: Once a day (5 days a week) between 15-20km.
Third month: Two runs during the week (15km-20km) and two runs at the weekend (30km) this helped me understand how my body would respond to covering a similar distance and time period of Run for Love II.
Unfortunately, during the month of June, I stopped training completely as a result of work commitments and travel. This impacted me more mentally as I felt that I came into Run for Love feeling underprepared. However, knowing how my training had gone, I started Run for Love II thinking my body would get strong as we progressed.
I also trialled all the food I planned on eating during the event whilst training. I have previously used gels and hydration tablets when I competed in half ironmans and half marathons. My preference are Powerbar gels as they have the highest sodium content, highest amount of calories, best taste and they’re easy to consume. Prior to leaving, I purchased 60 gels with the aim of consuming four per day.
The Main Event:
The run stage (Stage 1) was the most difficult. The first day did not go to plan – my body was cramping significantly and I was vomiting in the evening after the first day. Mentally I was concerned as there was still 16 days to go. But on the second day, I planned my eating better, I consumed a gel every hour, drank 500ml and had a salt tablet every hour.
I maintained this throughout Stage 1 and despite the mental struggles during the first six days, physically I was able to stay consistent with my performance and felt at my strongest on day four.
Day five, the longest day (44miles / 68.8km), I started feeling strong surprisingly, however in the last 20km, my body started playing up and a few niggles began to surface – fortunately I was able to maintain my pace.
Day six, final run day (48km) was the hardest day for me mentally. I didn’t eat properly the night before and had minimal sleep. Within the first hour I had consumed 2L of water and had ran out of salt tablets. Feeling thirsty I continued to consume more and more water but began to worry that I would over hydrate, plus the heat was extreme. At every checkpoint, I would have the support crew pour water all over me to try and cool down.
In summary, I felt the run stage went well, in hindsight I would have ensured I had kept training for the month of June and incorporated more strength training into my training and would have been leaner overall to reduce the joint impact. However, I am happy that I didn’t have any significant injuries, compared to other participants.
Over the 16 day event there was a single rest day between Stage 1 and Stage 2. This allowed me to mentally relax and also focus on treating any niggles I was carrying. I spent most of the day walking around Zagreb and eating.
Stage 2 and 3 (Cycle stage) – Zagreb to London:
My training for cycling had been very limited with four long rides only (maximum of 100 miles), and most of my other training dedicated to running. I do come from a cycling background and was hoping muscle memory would kick in.
The cycle leg was less stressful on the body; however, the biggest struggle was the lack of sleep. Due to the varying cycling abilities within the group, we would spend between 8-13 hours cycling. This would mean waking up at 5:30am and leaving the hotel at 7am and arriving at the next location between 7-9pm, then quickly having to shower, see the physiotherapist, have dinner and be in bed before midnight and do it all again for the next 10 days. As a result, the niggles and injuries obtained in stage 1 become aggravated and exacerbated during the riding stages.
I would start most days having two codeine tablets and 600mg of Ibuprofen, and repeat this at lunchtime to allow me to continue. This was the way several of us managed our pain symptoms following stage 1.
I found that from a nutritional perspective, having a big breakfast was very important. There were a few days where I didn’t have an appetite and a small breakfast left me feeling lethargic and flat for the first few hours of riding. During the riding stage, I didn’t consume many gels, mainly because we would have enough breaks during the rides to allow for proper food to be consumed. We would normally have a break every 3 hours for at least 30-60 minutes, allowing proper meal to be consumed and rest.
Furthermore, the intensity at which we would cycle during stage 2 and 3 meant we weren’t burning through our glycogen stores quickly. I felt the only day where the cycling intensity matched the stage 1 running effort was crossing the Alps and completing the monstrous hill climb.
In summary, Stage 2 and 3 was the highlight for me as I felt comfortable and strong on the bike and the landscape was breathtaking. I felt stronger as the days continued which I accredit to my nutritional intake of consuming high carbohydrate foods during the day and a high protein meal in the evening which included two TRIBE protein recovery shakes.
Stage 4 (Final Day – 20 mile run)
Finally, back in London despite feeling sleep deprived, I felt energetic and mentally alert, both the excitement of knowing the end was near but also seeing familiar faces from stage 1 both contributed to these sensations. When preparing for the final run, I only decided to carry 1L of water and two gels in comparison to what I would normally carry during stage 1 which was 2.5L of water and electrolytes, four gels and salt tablets. I started the run feeling sluggish and heavy, but after the first 10km, I felt comfortable and was able to increase my pace and felt strong until the 25km where all runners were asked to stop to complete the run together.
We started the last 5km together consisting for 50 plus runners, but the 8 run/riders who completed the whole event from stage 1 to stage 4 decided we would have a moment together to realise what we have accomplished and despite all the pain and struggles we endured over the last two weeks, couldn’t even compare to the bond we had developed and the achievement of getting to the end all together.
Crossing the finishing line with those 7 other run/riders and being cheered by all those whom attended stage 4 of Run for Love will be something I will never be able to forget and gives me goosebumps thinking of it.
It was the most amazing, challenging, surreal experience and event I have ever taken part in.
I would be at the start line in a heartbeat again to do it all again. Overall, I feel healthier, happier and stronger.
I feel that the combination of appropriate calorie intake, daily time with the physiotherapist and using the other participants for mental and emotional motivation made it easier to complete this event. There isn’t one single thing I could say that made this challenge easy to complete.
I returned to work the very next day after the challenge, physically my body felt fine, no major aches and pains, just minor niggles (knee discomfort and minor difficulty sustaining a squat). Mentally I felt alert, but as the day progressed I felt tired and exhausted and struggled to focus on work tasks. As the week progressed and I managed at least 8 hours of sleep each night I felt more and more rested. I managed two training runs (one being the TRIBE tempo run), my body felt fine overall, just a bit of muscle tiredness. The first run included a sprint session but I lacked the capacity to go fast, my body just went through the movements. I thought it would be best to rest for the rest of the working week and try a short run on Saturday. Saturday’s run was short only 5km and again my body felt fine, with just some muscle tightness but this may have been contributed to going from exercising all day to sitting at a desk all day.
After a week off, my training begins again with the focus of setting a new PB at the Amsterdam Marathon."
There’s no rest for the wicked!
Some commentary from Dr. Vishal Shah on Julio’s health levels:
Before the race:
Julio’s results show that he is generally in very good health, with excellent levels of vitamin D, and normal liver function tests. His lipid profile showed very slightly elevated levels of cholesterol, normal levels of the HDL (‘good’ cholesterol), and normal levels of LDL (‘bad cholesterol’).
After the race:
After the race, Julio’s cholesterol levels fell from 5.12 to 4.69, which are now within the normal range. Interestingly his LDL levels (‘bad’ cholesterol) reduced from 2.54 to 1.63, a reduction in almost 40%. This all equates to a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease which is excellent! It is difficult to say if this dramatic reduction is entirely due to Julio’s race, so it would be interesting to see if the change is sustained in the long term, and if we see further reductions after future races.