Spartathlon 2023 — lessons learnt

Simen Holvik
5 min readOct 3, 2023

A working document. Today is Tuesday October 3rd. I ended my race at Sunday October 1st at 5:33 am (after 22:17:17) (2nd place). I have not yet done a recap / lessons learnt with my coach Sondre Amdahl — but below are my initial thoughts. More details to be added after in-depth discussions with my coach. Many improvements, but also a lot of positives (of course). My best race exection ever. Better than my BADWATER 135 male champ victory.

Note to self:

  • Issues with diarrhea from 50 km or so. Had four (or five) “situations” and was really struggling with a “bubbling” stomach. Next time, either skip the 4 am breakfast — or make it more normal. My breakfast with eggs, sardines, olive oil, kiwi and cheese was — most likely — too much! Stupid :-(). Next time bring with me my own bread and jam.
  • With regards to above, maybe all the hugging at the start line was not very smart. Next time, be anti-social at start line, and only show up right before the start. Do not hug people that day, or the days ahead. Save that for post race.
  • Apartment downtown Acropolis did not work out. Too much noise and very difficult to sleep. I traveld down a week before the race and did not use any of the race hotels, but instead book my own accomodation. Next time, still travel a week a head (and alone), but make sure to have an apartment, with kicthen, outside of the main city centre. (Making my own qulity food worked out very well. Did not eat out a single day.)
  • Gear all worked out fantastic. No improvements needed. I did not change anything.
  • Post race, at the evening, my left hip was very stiff. Need to check that out. Can be problem for longer races (48–6 days). Now, two days later — it feels a lot better.
  • Got a lot of scratches around my ancle. (Too tight shoelaces). Not an issue during race.
  • At the mountain decline, I was nauseous and used my fingers to provoke some vomiting. Could be too much gel during the road decline up to the mountain pass. (I was very eager with swollowing the gel with water). After that point, I had really heard time to get the fuel and nutrition back on track. From then on, I was hard on Coca Cola and some water.
  • Very happy with myself that I managed to return to gel and chews after my vomiting and down period. Even if I did not stick to my 100 gram cabis per hour plan, I managed at least to get down 30 grams per hours. That is more that nothing. I knew that I had to get something down, if not — I will end up outside the podium. I showed strong mental capasity there. Pround of myself
  • Great crewing. No comments.
  • And I did not sit down during the race.
  • Very important with my training camp at Sparta. And I knew that when I arrived at that Aradamis restaurants — it was all about pushing hard to the end. I know every corner of that route. And I know that my legs have super power.
  • The crew is allowed to set out drinks at non-crew stops. I was not aware of that. Must be done next time.
  • My offical goal was sub 22 hours, and my private sub 21 hours.
  • Crew are allowed to set out items at drop bags C/P´s. This means that a few minutes before I arrive at a given checkpoint, my crew can set out a drink and whatever else I need for me to pickup. That I was not fully aware of, and is something I should implement for my 2024 return.
  • The rule says to have a maximum of two crew members. It is not specified if this is two crew members pluss a driver or if you can have a bigger crew but only two active at the same time. Next time; have two active crew members and one driver, lik Fotis had this year.
  • I had some periods with side ache. Not very serious, but I do not normally get that. Not sure why.

Tapering period:

The last weeks as shown below.

  • Race week (25th to race day): 38 km
  • T-1 week (18th — 24th): 86 km
  • T-2 week (11th — 17th): 106 km
  • T-3 week (4th — 10th): 147 km
  • T-4 week (28th — 3rd): 338 km training camp in Sparta.

Note; after the training camp in Sparta, I got a minor cold (was very tired) and had several days without running. Changed the plan, and also dropped any heat training to try to get my ready. At the week of the race I was not feeling 100%, but closer to 90–95%. Had a week in Athen were I did not sleep very well and was stressed out.

Sleep tracking the month

Issues with quality sleep at my Sparta training camp, and also in general too little sleep the weeks before the race.

Race execution:

Very happy. And did not sit down a single minute. No more comments needed.

Write up from PF&H:

  • See following link for their case study



Simen Holvik

A professional Norwegian ultra runner, adventurer, speaker and writer