An epic achievement!
It took Gabe Gage just over 30 hours to cover 74 miles and over 21,800 feet through rain, hail, mud, and snow in the wilds of Transylvania on Saturday May 19th. We caught up with Gabe once he'd had some time to recover to find out a bit more...
Hello Gabe, how are you?
I’m doing great! Recovering from the run a little bit longer, but good to be back in London to catch up on things I’ve had to put aside due to race training.
What made you want to take part in the Transylvania 100k?
I’ve been running Ultra marathons on my own throughout London for about a year, but wanted to make an adventure of one after hearing about Ultra events through a friend at my local run club, Midnight Runners. A broken toe kept me from competing in my first mountain ulta in September 2017, so I when I heard about Transylvania as I was recovering – I knew it was the one I would bounce back into shape for. My parents immigrated to the US in 1982 after having lived in Romania for their whole lives up to 30 years. Having recently gained Romanian citizenship, it was a bit of an ode to my parents and also a way to enjoy the country I’ve just recently become a fuller part of.
Why did you choose to raise money for FARA Foundation?
Although I was born in Chicago (USA), I was born into a very strong Romanian community, so I learned the language and culture first hand at home. When I moved to Europe, I learned about the struggles of Romanian children in access to proper education and general necessities. I understand I was very fortunate in my upbringing and want to ensure others have access to similar opportunities.
For future Ultra runs, I want to continue to make a local impact focused on social and environmental issues within the region I explore. I believe that if I am enjoying the natural landscape and generosity of local people, it’s good to use my social network for a positive impact.
What did you find most challenging about the run?
People mention that an Ultra is a mental struggle and it really is up to 80% mental, rest physical. My body held up well during the 30 hours it took, but at the start of successive long climbs of 1300+ meters, I really had to push myself through since I had little mountain experience. Besides this, I ran through at least 10 hours of rain, few hours of hail, which in turn, blessed me with a course full of mud, snow, ice, and slippery rock. So the conditions themselves were super tough for the 119 total kilometers!
Have you done anything like this before?
Though I’ve completed 8 Ultras before, they were all mostly road training runs in very flat England. I have never seen the varied and super technical terrain that I witnessed in Transylvania, one which meant climbing a 50 degree ski slope with rope! Having to cross valleys of snow in which one wrong step means falling into a crevasse is very nerve racking as well. I had also never had to deal with the long stint of sleep deprivation and attentive care for nutrition.
What did you do to train for the run?
I covered over 915miles in 2018 in order to prep for the race but used a mix of running, weight lifting, spinning classes, yoga, stretching & some sports massages as the key factors to ensure an injury free successful finish.
I ran between 30-70miles a week depending on the weekly goal, doing short runs on my own to work in the morning or with Midnight Runners on Tuesdays. I also ran with my running coach, Andy Wren, from Run with Wolves, who gave me very key tips on my self-prescribed training plan. Overall, I did 5 Ultra training runs – including a run to Brighton from London, and 3 Marathons – including a 3am run of the London Marathon Course in reverse – as well as countless half marathons and other sustained efforts.
I worked with Chris & Phil from HEX Personal Training in Clapham 3 days a week doing very functional weight exercises based on all-around strength and endurance. They also gave me a macro focused diet, which I did my best to follow though I probably ate pizza most often. I also supplemented weight training with spin classes.
Yoga, ice baths, warm baths, stretching and sports massages were all KEY parts to my training recovery and without this I would have not been able to sustain heavy mileage weeks.
What is your key piece of kit?
My Salomon ADV12 Vest Bag – this bag was able to take a beating through the event and was stuck well to my body. The Leki Trail Vario poles were also very useful on the steep ascents.
What is your best piece of advice?
In terms of physical training, cross training with various methods, as well as stretching are very key to something this long and taxing on the body. Seek help to create a plan and stick to it.
In terms of the mental training, try to have a long sustained effort before the event. For example, I ran a 50k 2 weeks before my event, then right after hiked over 60k in the day/night to simulate the event. When it comes to the event, remember that YOU have the physical capacity to go the distance, but you need to overcome your mental barrier. When you get into low situations, think about the people that supported you along the way or the cause you are there to support. I, for one, dedicated each ascent to a person – be it my parents, FARA charity, or my own self – this kept me going as I kept my focus on the next checkpoint, not the finish.
Overall, be in the moment, an Ultra marathon is in a typically scenic, beautiful area, take out the headphones and enjoy the sights/sounds.
What is your next challenge? Will you compete in the Transylvania 100k 2019?
I will be heading to the Faroe Islands in September for a 65km ultra, but also be leading a team to compete in the Ragnar Race on the Southeast Coast of England at the end of September.
I hope to gain enough ITRA points this year to qualify for a bigger event - the UTMB in 2019 – which would require 2 more races of equal difficulty to Transylvania 100k in the next 8 months.
At the moment, I’m unsure if I’ll be able to come back for the same race next year but will definitely try as now know what to expect!
We understand you stayed and recovered in Romania after the run for a couple of days before heading home to London, and you enjoyed some traditional Romanian cooking. What is your favourite Romanian dish?
Having grown up in a Romanian house, I honestly have so many favorites. My first Romanian meal after the run was a well-deserved plate of sarmale cu mamaliga, then I grilled some mititei with ardeiul iute and enjoyed recovery!
Thank you for taking part in this interview and for raising vital funds for FARA Charity.
Thank you for all that you do for communities across Romania!
Don’t miss the chance to donate to Gabe’s JustGiving account…here