Tuesday 5 January 2010

8 weeks to the Atacama Crossing 2010

Hope you all had an enjoyable holiday season. I didn’t hit quite all of my training sessions over the holidays, but I did enough to keep me going and now I feel ready for the final 8 weeks before the Atacama Crossing. Not far away is it, just 8 weeks? It’s crept up from nowhere. I will know for certain today or tomorrow if my employer will give me the time off for the race. I hope so.

I ran on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas day. I then ran midweek once, and did 15 miles on Sunday just gone. Every one of those sessions involved running in some degree of snow or ice. We are in the middle of more cold weather in the UK. Morning temperatures where I live have been around -5 have remained mostly sub zero all day. So, plenty of cold runs to encourage me to run faster to maintain body heat!

Speaking of faster runs, from this week I will pick up the speed sessions again. I find these most beneficial to increasing my fitness overall and not just improving my speed. I have swapped around the days of my training sessions, so now I will be taking Monday off, doing a flat out (100%) 3 mile speed session on a Tuesday, followed by the gym. On Wednesday I run home from work, doing a tempo run at about 80-90% effort. I then run back to work about 10 hours later at a gentler pace. Both of those sessions are 10 miles long this week, so it means late arriving home about 8pm, and leaving again about 6:15am to give me time to get to work and get a shower before starting. Given the freezing temperatures in the morning, I imagine these sessions are going to feel pretty tough when I first set out. This weekend coming I have a 20 mile training run planned. Some friends are doing the Cannock Chase run that I did last year but it’s only 15 miles, so much as I’d like to do it, it doesn’t really fit in with my plan. I like sticking to my plan; I think it gives the mental confidence to know you’ve done what you set out to do. I am also likely to go out for a walk on Sunday too. I’ll probably take a 5kg pack for this session.

I am doing The Hebden; a 23 mile race around Calderdale, in the 3rd week of January, then a week later I have come up with the idea of doing my own ultra distance preparation. I plan to run from Wolverhampton back to my home in Newcastle-under-lyme. The route I have picked is 44 miles long (subject to any route changes I make), and only has 9 miles of quiet country roads (the minimum I could work manage), the rest is 100% trail of fields and forest. I plan to set off about 5am in the morning and try and cover the distance within 12 hours. There will be a lot of stile-hopping and slow terrain, and I will be carrying a reasonable weight pack, hence the slow sounding target. I’m not going to get the opportunity to reccie the route, so the course may be even slower than I imagine, especially if this cold weather continues and its snow covered. I am looking to get this distance under my belt as a final confidence booster for the long stage of the Atacama, which will likely be a similar mileage. After that I have one or two more events in the subsequent weeks before I taper off in the last 2 weeks before going to Chile.

Speaking of pack weight, I am currently still on course for a 7kg pack (+1.5l of water) on the start line of day 1 of the Atacama Crossing. I don’t think I can get this down any further without some serious compromises on warmth, comfort or food quantity, so this will likely be my starting weight. I’m packing 4.2kg of food for around 15,500 calories. I have 1.2kg of mandatory equipment, and the rest is optional kit; mostly consisting of clothes and sleeping equipment.

I have around 2500kcal per day for my meals which is slightly less than I took before, but should be sufficient. I note one change from last year is that we must provide a dehydrated meal for the night. before the race. I think this is a good call from the organisers. It puts your entire nutrition and food hygiene strategy in your own hands.

I still have a few things to consider and some things I take may change, but all being well, this time next week I will be telling you that I am officially entered into the race, as I only have a provisional entry right now. Let’s hope so.

Have a good week!

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