Monday, June 23, 2014

WSER - One week to go!

Training with Vajin Armstrong, on the Western States Course, along the American River
It seems a bit surreal sitting here in my accommodation at Lake Tahoe knowing that in less than a week the event that has taken up a lot of my time, mental space and energy this year will be done and dusted. Whatever the result come next Sunday, I will know that I did everything I could to get to the start line in the best possible shape, with the best headspace and as well prepared as I could ever be.

Training has gone great. It's been a big build up since February. I went into a bit more about my training in this interview with Ultra 168 here.

But in summary, here are a few things that I've done a bit differently for this build up.

Training in the heated Altitude
Chamber at Valley Fitness
  • Focused a lot more on periodising my training rather than the usual mixture of speed, strength, trail, roads and treadmill that I usually have done altogether, week in week out in the past.
  • Had key races as deliberate performance markers of my training phases. These were to give me by far the best feedback possible. Nothing beats racing to inform you where you're at and what is working or not in training.
  • Heat and altitude acclimatisation sessions at home on the treadmill and in the altitude chamber at Valley Fitness. This has included layering up in thermals and blasting the heaters or reverse cycle air conditioning!
  • Lots more road running, especially in the sharpening phase which also included a lot of downhill running to enable quadricep conditioning for the downhill nature of the race.
  • Course familiarisation in the 2 weeks leading up to the event for heat acclimatisation and race pacing purposes. This also included my taper in the week preceding which included a lot of hiking and hanging out in the mountains.
  • A shorter than normal taper. Something I picked up on lately on Talk Ultra podcasts that seems to be the latest trend.
What about the race? I can't really say anymore about this race that hasn't already been written, and instead of rehashing I really encourage everyone to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Western States Killing Machine; an excellent article about the race by previous Top 10 runner Joe Uhan that was featured on iRunFar. But personally, I think this course suits me like no other big ultra that I've been part of. This is a runner's ultra, not so much a climbers or a power hikers ultra. Sure, there are lots of big climbs, tricky trail and of course the potentially hazardous environmental conditions. But on the whole, it's fast and give me this type of course any day!

I've been here in the States a couple of weeks now including running a lot of the course. All I can say is that I'm so so impressed by the trail, the country the trail runs through (the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range) and the spectacular scenery. The race is no doubt a special event over here in California. You can see that the local towns on the course, all the volunteers at the aid stations and the local agencies all really do get behind this event in a united way to bring the best possible event for all involved. No wonder this race is on so many people's bucket list. The race is steeped in history, from Squaw Valley all the way to Auburn. It's the grandaddy of ultras in the US.

I'm very fortunate to be here, and I haven't taken anything for granted this year. I've stuck to my guns with my training plan and now I feel like it's all come together and I'm ready as ever. After missing out on the lottery for the last couple of years to States, I was given a 'lifeline' of such from Ultra Trail World Tour. It would be remiss of me not to thank them and of course my main sponsors Inov-8, for supporting me on the tour. I love the concept of the UTWT and hopefully after next weekend I can cement a spot in the Top 20 or so for the remainder of the year as this will (should?) be my last UTWT event this year. Currently I am sitting in 3rd.

I want to wish all competitors a safe and rewarding race. Special mention to fellow Aussie Beth Cardelli who has been an invaluable source of calmness and experience over here and also to the only other Aussie running Dave Eadie too. Special shout out to my wife and crew Nadine who has been just so supportive, understanding and bloody awesome through all the training and planning for the big day. Also to my three pacers, Inov-8 team mate Scott Dunlop, Ben Zuehlsdorf and Daniel Kroeger; your course knowledge will be of great benefit and be sure to kick my butt all the way into Auburn as hard and best you can! And of course, to all my family, friends and supporters back home or abroad that have sent me messages of support, it's very much appreciated and I will draw on all this on race day!

I will try and get another post out before the race, with a bit more about my race planning, race strategy and nutrition and hydration plan, but if it doesn't happen, I apologise in advance. So if you would like to follow my progress coverage of the race is on the race day webcast and live feed. My race number is 14.

In the meantime, inspired by this awesome footage of the course on this course preview video, I decided to have a crack of making my own using Brian Cardelli's GoPro. This is one of the longest Canyon descents in the race so it goes for a while, so be warned, it's long and it's quite monotonous! Oh and turn the sound down, the camera was hitting my sunglasses on every stride and it sounds like a metronome the whole way down. So no Academy Awards stuff here, but it does have some gorgeous footage of buttery single track heaven :-)


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