Here it is, my Atacama Crossing Training Plan. The next 5 months of my life in a few lines.
The red ink highlights actual events that I am doing, whilst the green ink indicates a recovery week, where I drop the mileage allowing my body time to repair.
I am typically doing a marathon distance event every 3 weeks, and an ultra distance event at the end of January. It may not necessarily be the T2T event that I do, but it will be around 40 miles.
You'll notice I am already at week 4 of the schedule, so have completed all sessions already shown. This week I have upped my midweek runs to 7 miles each. I run a tempo, or fast session on a Tuesday night, running at about 80%-90% ability. I actually run home from work. The following morning I run into work with a backpack of about 2-3kg, but it's run at a very easy pace. Thursday I run at 100% for 3 miles trying to improve my time each week, and straight after I do a strength and stability gym session. Mondays I either do another gym session or a yoga session, which I am hoping to help prevent injuries.
Saturday is my long run day, and last weekend it actually felt like my training had begun. It's been a couple of months since I actually ran 10 miles non-stop. Sure I have taken part in longer events, but over rough ground or hilly terrain where I had to walk some of it, so getting back and running a solid 10 miles felt good. I ran locally on trails, and fields, taking in almost 1000ft of ascent and still managing it in just over 1hr 20, so I was very happy with that. I have no more distractions from navigational events, like mountain marathons, that are zero value to my training for the Atacama. Stumbling through tussocky grass, in the cold and rain, up to your knees in peat and mud with a compass in your hand is about as far away from the sun parched salt flats and dunes of the Atacama Desert as you can imagine.
All the events I have chosen are challenging. They are all over some challenging, but not stupid terrain, with plenty of hills to climb. I can't do much about the cold, since winter is almost upon us of course. The next event is the Six Dales Circuit, in 10 days, which I did last year. It's a 26 mile event, which has 3000ft of ascent and some challenging terrain underfoot as you negotiate the dales; I recall that Lathkill dale was especially difficult. Nevertheless I did it in 5 and a half hours last year. I was quite fit having just completed the Kalahari Desert, but was carrying a knee injury, which was later diagnosed as the Meniscus tear that I had surgery on 6 months ago. It'll be interesting to see if I can beat last year’s time.
I've been working on my pack weight for the Atacama Crossing and have managed to get it sub 7kg, without water. I'll keep working on it and see if I can trim any more off between now and then. The event is being held a month earlier than usual which should make the days and nights warmer. This means that I may well chance my lightest weight sleeping bag again (+8C rated). I took it last year and ended up wearing all my clothes to keep me warm. On the first night I barely slept in the (literally) freezing temperatures. It's a big gamble just to save 250g, but I'm going a lot more hardcore this time, so I'll trim off weight wherever I can find it. I'll be taking the knife to my rucksack, shortening straps and removing surplus clips and toggles in an effort to get the weight down further. No flip-flops or slippers this year. The ground was pretty good in the camps, and the camps were small anyway, so little walking to do. I'll make do with a couple of plastic bags to put in my shoes at the end of the stage, like I did for La Trans Aq back in 2007. I'm not taking any walking poles. I took some last year and didn't feel as though they added much value. I just burned more calories when using them. It was the first and last time I ever used them in an event.
Be interested to hear what everyone else’s thoughts are on weight saving?
Have a good week!
Oh, I've taken a gamble of work letting me have the time off for the event, and booked my flights for the event. I found a good deal, London to Calama return, for £709, which is about £200 cheaper than last year!