Always On Phase
I find it easy to always keep my body at a minimal level of fitness year round so that when I’m a set time out from an event I can get more specific. I trail run as the basis of keeping fit as I see running as the best bang for your buck when it comes to fitness vs time and it’s my go to too for enjoyment. Others may prefer staying at a base level fitness through their preferred sport but it’s also a great time to cross train, maybe keeping the upper body fit surfing a bit more instead of kayaking or hitting the gym. Whatever gives you kicks!
Normally 8-12 weeks out depending on the importance of event. For me I start getting specific on the sports, skills and building towards the distances I will need to complete. With an adventure race I start introducing paddling on an ocean ski, my Mountain Bike and stationary bike ergo get more use and I may even back off my running a little from my ‘always on’ phase to make sure I’m keeping balance and not over doing it. This is not just balance physically but also balance in life between the upped training, family and other commitments. Stress is stress no matter where it comes from, and for majority of people they are not full time athletes, so need to make sure planning and taking into account all aspects of life, not just what’s on a training plan. My main general goal for sessions in this phase is to build up a long workout in each of the disciplines.
This means, not increasing the distances too fast but eventually managing a workout or two closer to the event that covers the same times I believe I’ll be out there on course for. I don’t do this week in week out, just once or twice to show the body what it’s going to feel like. It’s a good idea to find a few individual run, paddling or MTB events in the lead-up to show the body what it feels like trying to go race pace over similar distances as you’ll learn a lot about pacing yourself but also it’s a great way to tick off one of those long sessions with like minded crew. If the long running takes too much out of you, longer hikes through hilly terrain for the time you expect to be out on course for or a bit longer are a great way to build strength without the fatigue and soreness you get from running plus can bring a group together of varying abilities and for a good community day out. Also start adding some disciplines together to get the body ready to move muscle groups from one sport to another. Secondary goal is to compete a session in each discipline that has some intensity at or above the efforts I will race at. This could be sustained threshold efforts with warmups and warm downs, longer intervals, surging hills or some unstructured fartlek (speed play) which works well with natural environments you’ll face in the adventure races. After that anything else is very easy moving for recovery and adding a few more kms to the bank.
Race Ready Phase
Finally, the excitement of getting out there in the event is here. The last few weeks. I concentrate on freshening up by minimising as many distractions or stresses that aren’t around the training. The training eases off but still keep ticking over the kms and sessions because I haven’t burnt myself in the Prep Phase and if I was to decrease my volume and intensity too rapidly my body starts feeling crappy and starts to shut down. Make sure that when I head out in these last few weeks I’m using the equipment and nutrition that I will while in the event to make sure it’s all working and ready to go and my body is fine with what the event will have for nutrition on course and what I’ll need to take myself. Check pre-event what is available and get some training done with that.
Tips For Training
- Fit and strong is going to be way more important than speed! In the earlier months even going out for some long hikes in the mountains is a great way to build that strength and get used to spending a long time on your legs without stress of running.
- Have fun with the environment. The reason you have signed up for adventure racing is it offers MORE than a single event like a triathlon or marathon. Great for the mind to be exercising in nature, always something to be thinking about and throws up some challenges. Whether trail running or out on the ski in the ocean.
- Listen to your body, it is easy to get carried away with endurance training but number one goal is to stay injury free which allows you to stay consistent with training load which over time leads to the most beneficial gains.
- Try to spend time if possible training with your race partner. Not only does it feel great to have a common goal and company but learning each others strengths and weakness, knowing when to encourage or sometimes knowing when to keep quiet is valuable as in the race you’re sure to face highs and lows in energy at different times and getting through it together, helping one another, supporting one another is the quickest way to the finish.
- Remember when it comes to adventure racing it’s not how fast you can get up a single hill, it’s how consistent can you keep your pace over a complete day.
How Long In Advance Should You Train
The longer out you can start the better, but that doesn’t mean it’s not achievable if you only have 12 weeks up your sleeve. I said to some crew racing the other day who have come from a triathlon background that if you’re capable of training for a half-ironman then adventure racing distances will be achievable, you just pace your-self to your fitness level. The devil in the detail is how fast you want to go! If the goal is to complete the days that is a different scenario and training load to wanting to take out line honours.
Courtney Atkinson is competing in Red Bull Defiance 2021 in Mission Beach QLD.