Vlad Ixel: The Vegan Maverick

Vlad Ixel: The Vegan Maverick


Vlad Ixel is undoubtedly a dark horse of ultra-running in Asia. His rapid ascent up the ranks in the trail running circuit here is nothing short of amazing. Vlad won 12 races, podium 16 and set 4 course records in 2014; a phenomenal achievement considering he only started ultra-running in 2013.

His story mirrors that of other great runners that I have come to read over the internet and in books. One such runner  is Scott Jurek, who undoubtedly has been a great influence to Vlad in becoming the vegan ultra-runner he is. Timothy Olsen is another runner who’s past troubles mirror that of Vlad’s before finding focus in running.

Vlad experienced a turbulent time as a teenager, among them were addiction to smoking, drinking as well as having late nights in school. At the turn of his 25th birthday he decided it was time for a change, thus leading to him running his first marathon some time after. After a few more marathons, he switched his focus on trying out races that were edging on the fringes of the extreme.

A quick check on Google led Vlad to the Atacama Crossing in 2013, a race in which he came 2nd. Vlad has since been racing in Asia, as well as some races in Europe and in the Middle East. Vlad is no stranger to racing in Singapore. He won the 2013 and 2014 edition of The North Face 100 Singapore, improving his time by over 30 minutes between the two. With a sponsorship by The North Face secured for 2015, he has indicated that he may run the Singapore series again to leave his mark on the course.

Vlad is back in Singapore this time to promote the inaugural edition of The Great Relay Singapore. The race is inspired by his own participation of a similar race in Israel which he thoroughly enjoyed and loved of the concept of a team relay race. The first edition of the The Great Relay was introduced in Hong Kong before making its way down to Singapore. The Great Relay is organized and directed by the team of Vlad Ixel and Eti Rodriguez, both Australian runners, with the former more keen on trail running and the latter on road running.

Running Clinic

A total of 6 running clinics were scheduled to prepare runners for the rigors of trail running. Me and the Nuke Optics team attended the first session on a late Saturday afternoon at Macritchie Reservoir.

Starting off the clinic with a warm up run.

Starting off the clinic with a warm up run. Photo: The Great Relay Singapore

As with any other training clinic, the precedence was set on the specific techniques and skills of trail running. This would of course include uphill and downhill running techniques. Check out the video below this image for a quick snippet of the training clinic.

A quick primer on handling stairs set out on the trails.

A quick primer on handling stairs set out on the trails. Photo: The Great Relay Singapore

The later part of the clinic focused on strengthening and stretching exercises, something many runners (including myself) are still lacking the discipline to do. Some of the stretches also incorporates elements that can be found in Yoga classes.

I took 32 hours to finish the Translantau 100. Vlad did it in 13 hours. Last and first!

I took 32 hours to finish the Translantau 100. Vlad did it in 13 hours. Last and first!

The team with Eti Rodriguez, a co-organizer of The Great Relay Race series.

The team with Eti Rodriguez, a co-organizer of The Great Relay Race series.

Running Seminar

Vlad and Eti were kind enough to host a free running seminar to share their training, racing, nutrition and recovery techniques and methods to the local trail running community. The seminar was hosted in a meeting room in the IRAS Building which was kindly secured by a fellow trail runner (Henry Yang).

About 70 runners packed a meeting room in the IRAS Building to listen to Vlad as he shares his training, racing, nutrition and recovery techniques and methods. Photo: Vlad Ixel's Facebook Page.

About 70 runners packed a meeting room in the IRAS Building to listen to Vlad as he shares his training, racing, nutrition and recovery techniques and methods. Photo: Vlad Ixel’s Facebook Page.

Here are some of the key points raised during  from the seminar.  But if you wish to listen to the audio recording from the seminar, click here to download the file (a 30mb zip file).

  • Advocates for training without breakfast and without water to let the body to learn how to adapt. However you must drink up or eat up straight away after the training has ended.
  • Recovery happens at night. Thus the biggest meal is usually done before going to sleep.
  • Breakfast usually includes a glass water (or more) followed by fruits.
  • Post-race/training recovery would include taking of the following supplements in the form of tablets; Magnesium, Vitamin C (Berocca), Electrolytes
  • Transitioning to a lower drop shoe takes time. Try running in one, once a week for a month, before running more per week after.
  • Barefoot running does help with injury prevention, but should be done progressively, complementing training as a recovery run.
  • Strength training is important for trail running to build strong legs. But strength training equates to body-weight type exercises to build strength.
  • Active recovery includes easy runs and walks after a race. Sleeping with compression also helps with recovery.
  • Don’t be afraid to race often and try different types of races, as you will never know what your strengths are till you race them.
  • Sleep well the week leading up to the race, not worry about having not enough sleep before the race.
  • Try to wake up 3 hours before the race to have breakfast. Drink up water and electrolytes way before the race.
  • Try not to have caffeine the week before the race, so that the effects of caffeine on the race would be stronger.
  • Stretching and flexibility is important for ultra-running.
  • Elevation gain is an important marker for trail running, the same way pace and distance is an important marker for road running.
  • Stay light (on your feet), rhythm and flow; a good self-talk for yourself during races.
  • A good workout to try on the treadmill would be 15 sets of 1 min off x 1 min on, with the incline on maximum, replicating a hill repeat in outdoor conditions.
Vlad Ixel talking about running shoes.

Vlad Ixel talking about running shoes, how to transition to a lower drop shoe and strengthening the glutes.

Eti Rodriguez at the running seminar.

Eti Rodriguez also came up to answer some of the questions raised by runners. It is also worth mentioning that Eti is a 2:35 marathon runner!

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