What a fantastic weekend training in the Blue Mountains with my good friend Rowena (@learngrowrun). Big hills, lots of stairs, technical singe track with roots and rocks and wide trundling fire trails. Warm weather with bright sun and cold wet fog….all in two days! This post is going to be about my training so far.
It’s Monday morning and I’m sitting in my office/local coffee shop trying to pull together this post. I’ve got so many thoughts about what I want to say and I’m trying to filter it all into something sensible to read! My legs have got that deep ache from all the hills and stairs in the Blue Mountains and this is a little concerning for me at this stage as I would have hoped to pull up much better with only 6 weeks to the start of The Track. I want to take a look at what I’ve been doing and comfort myself that there is some sense in my approach.
In May this year, 29 competitors from 16 different countries will set-off on foot to cover the 522kms from Alice Springs to Uluru in Australia’s Northern Territory. We are competing in a self-supported ultra-running stage race called The Track (www.canal-aventure.com/the-track). We have been told so far where to be and when for the gear check and race registration, what the basic mandatory kit is, some medical tests to have before we go and how the stages are broken down.
videos that I’ve managed to find and from looking at the stages and maps, I’m assuming that the first 2 days will be rocky, rugged and mountainous as we traverse the West MacDonnell Ranges. The remainder of the terrain I’m expecting to be a combination of shrub, compact sand and dirt and maybe a little softer sand but not deep. This is only what I’ve assumed from my research to help me plan my trip.
In my last post I talked about my kit choice and the above assumptions have driven most of those choices. Below are my thoughts on training based on these assumptions and the type of race that this is.
I am not a coach. This is just how I’m looking at this event and what I’ve done (and not done) in preparation.
The Blue Mountains is such a beautiful place to run. High mountain trails above large exposed rock-faces. Deep valleys with flowing rivers and the constant noise of birds, bugs and other wildlife. But the terrain and conditions are vastly different to what I expect to encounter on The Track. Only the first 2 days of the event have any elevation (700m & 1000m respectively) and the rest of it is desert. So why go training there? I went to the mountains this weekend because Rowena, one of my running buddies, has a race there in 7 weeks and she wanted to train on the course and I like training with someone. It also provided me with some variety, taking me off the roads of the Eastern Suburbs where so much of my training is based. But most importantly for The Track the weekend gave me back-to-back training runs, time on my feet carrying a bag and building leg strength.
Back to back run.
Running The Track, as with any other stage or multi-day event, means running the required stage for the day. Getting to camp and recovering, refuelling and preparing for the next day. Then getting up and doing it all again. This could be for 2 or 3 nights, a week or in this case, 10 days. Back to back training days and running on very tired legs let me know how I’m going to feel on the second, third forth and subsequent days and help my legs get used to running tired. I also find them useful to practice some of the recovery techniques that I can use on the event.
Time on my feet
Many ultra-running events for most people involve long days on your feet. My first 100km event took me 15 1/2 hours and I expect that the long day on The Track (the last stage is 127.5kms) will take me at least that long. I want to know through training that if I need to at any point during the event, I can keep moving, running or walking, for 12 hours or so. Even if I’m outside the cut-off, I can finish anyone of the stages.
Carrying a bag
As I’ve said, probably too many times by now, The Track is a self-supported race. We each carry all required kit except tent and all water. So sleeping bag, sleeping mat, cooking kit, clothes, med kit and all food needs to be on your back every day. I find running with a pack very very different to running without. Training carrying your kit builds your strength, both legs and upper body and shows you what might cause rubbing and give you time to fix it before the race.
How does that make me feel?
So in summary, I’m 6 weeks out. I wish my training had been more consistent and I wish my weekly volume had been higher. How do I deal with that? Right now I can dwell on that and feel stressed and negative about the event. But at the end of the day I’ve made choices throughout my training. I have the same work, life and family stresses as the next person and what I’ve done so far is as much as I could do given that and I’m not going to beat myself up about it. All of my training has been with a purpose like the weekend in the Blue Mountains and I feel that I know what I have to do over the next 6 weeks. Between now and setting off on this journey I’m going to train hard and stay very positive and when I get on the plane to fly to Alice Springs on the 15th May, I will be as well prepared as I can be and in a very positive frame of mind, looking forward to my impending adventure!