Ultra-runner (and Precision Hydration drinker!) Sophie Power was recently announced as one of two women on the 23-strong British team for the brutal nonstop 153 mile (246km) Spartathlon race between Athens and Sparta. It’s a race that despite having very tough qualification standards only 45% of starters finish and that only 145 Britons have ever completed. We caught up with her on a whole host of things from how she balances life as a startup founder and mum with the demands of training and racing, to what she regards as the toughest race she’s run to date…
Hi Sophie. So, how did you get started in running?
What does your typical training week look like, in the run up to say a race like the Transgrancanaria?
My actual mileage is pretty low for an ultra runner - in the week I run to work between 5 and 15km, doing intervals on a Friday. Then I’ll do a longer 25-30km run on Saturdays with a friend - for Transgrancanaria this usually involved lots of reps of Parliament Hill! I’ll sometimes take my son out in the running buggy with my husband for a gentle jog on a Sunday too.
Unless I’m racing that weekend I also do 2 fairly hardcore strength and stability sessions with my trainer Nick Kinsella focusing on sets like weighted single leg deadlifts and walking lunges with 24kg strapped to each hand. I haven’t been injured for 5 years and I think it’s largely down to this training which stops my form going towards the end of a race or a hard training run.
How do you balance training with demands of startup and family life?
I think it’s about being efficient and flexible – I definitely don’t have time for garbage miles. I’m really lucky that Robbie Britton will be helping me prepare for the Spartathlon so my training will be optimised for the time I have giving me the best chance of finishing. I can do the nursery drop off, run 15km and be at my desk by 9 – and my gym has a crèche my 17 month old loves so I can get my longer run in on a weekend morning before we go swimming together.
I also have an amazing husband who is also a runner – he’s done the Ice Ultra this year then has Ultra Tour de Monte Rosa in August (an incredible race btw) so we just manage things between us. Sometimes of course things have to give when I’m travelling with work for example or have family commitments but I just do whatever I can – my priority is firstly to be a great mum and then to grow a business - running is just my way to relax so it doesn’t make sense to stress about it!
What do you do differently in the summer or when you’re racing in hot climates?
I’m much more careful about sodium and hydration as hyponatremia is such a risk for me. I did the SDW50 earlier this year and it was actually pretty hot for that time of year and so getting my hydration strategy right really helped. Obviously the Spartathlon is going to be scorching, so much of my training this summer will be about coping with the heat – I’ll also include a few Bikram yoga sessions every week the month before.
How do you stay hydrated during a race?
I always preload with your 1500mg electrolytes and then I switch to the SweatSalt capsules during the race as I find them easier to manage when I’m on the move. I have a reminder on my checkpoint cards to keep taking on sodium and fluids as I don’t always remember in the heat of a race.
In Cambodia I overhydrated and my “electrolyte” tablets were too weak, which over a few days led to my hyponatremia and resulting coma. Now after my Precision Hydration sweat test, I know exactly what I need to supplement per litre I sweat and this has given me the confidence to race in the heat again.
What do you eat before and during races?
Well, firstly I tend to eat more than usual the night before a race. I’ll usually have a banana and porridge for breakfast and I carry Chia Charge bars with me on the course, as well as helping myself to whatever I fancy at checkpoints (usually the homemade cake and ham/cheese wraps).
I also steal Donnacha’s banana baby brekkie pouches too for my drop bags as they’re great when solid food feels difficult late in a race. Typically I’m aiming to take on 200-300 calories per hour and I make sure I start eating within the first hour or so as it’s difficult to catch up when you get behind on nutrition on longer ultras.
What’s the hardest race you’ve ever done?
* A 125 km race with 8k of positive elevation.
What are your main goals in 2016 and beyond?
Obviously my focus is on Spartathlon this year at the end of September so I’m running Centurion’s NDW50 next weekend then SDW100 in June as warm up races. I’ll be doing a lot of speed training to have some safety inside the notorious cut-offs (36hr total time, much tighter in the first half) so I’m tempted to do my first “normal” marathon at some point to make use of it. Well actually I’m doing the Marathon du Médoc come to think of it, which being 3 weeks before Spartathlon probably isn’t the best prep!
Thanks Sophie, good luck in Greece...
Sophie Power preloads with Precision Hydration 1500 and uses SweatSalt capsules when out on the course.