At the end of November 2014 I decided to enter the Yukon Arctic Ultra. I have always wanted to take on a race in the Arctic, and when I saw 2 of our regular competitors at the Druid Challenge, pulling tyres to train for the event, I thought (supported by my darling wife) that I should go for it. The other motivator for me is that I am 50 in 2015 and you know how it is, you have to do something to prove you are still young when you reach a birthday with a 0 in it !!
With about 10 weeks till the race start, how would I prepare. My base level of fitness was pretty good. I had run pretty much every day for as long as I could remember, for a minimum of 30 minutes. Over the summer I took part in the 5-4-3-2-1 50km run in Salisbury, and the Ridgeway 85 miles at the end of August. So I knew I could cover big distances without huge training.
I also spent many hours all summer Kick Boxing, Krav Maga and fitness training at Tring Martial Arts. So my core and upper body were in reasonable shape.
My plan was simple and broke into 4 steps
- Plan a week in the alps at our apartment to train for 5 – 7 hours a day climbing in the mountains through the snow
- Plan in a couple of long overnight runs
- Get out everyday once or twice a day for a minimum of an hour, either pulling a tyre or without the tyre.
- Keep my classes up at Tring Martial Arts to maintain core and upper body fitness
Whenever I do anything big like the UTMB, TDS or Kalahari, I head to the alps for an intensive training week. I do this for a number of reasons.
- It is very focused training for a week.
- It allows me to build a level of fitness and strength up through the week
- It allows my mind to adjust to long days out in arduous conditions – because training the brain is more important than training the body
- Finally - I love the mountains
So Anna and I headed out to the apartment for a week, and completed some awesome days out in the mountains. There had not been a large snow fall yet in the season, so the conditions were perfect for walking / running. We could get much higher than we would be able to normally and only needed our crampons a few times in the ice. If we had snowshoes we would have been able to go even higher.
The Long Runs
Another key part of my strategy when I am training for anything big is to plan a very long session that helps me test my kit, my body and build up mental resilience.
So between Christmas and New Year I headed off at 10:00 on Saturday morning with my tyre in tow, a large rucksack on my back with warm clothing, food and water, and headed off to the Grand Union Canal. I chose the canal because it is pretty flat, reasonable terrain that you can see well in the dark.
I headed North towards Milton Keynes. The temperatures dropped to -5 degrees overnight. Perfect for the training I was doing. I found that 20 min walk, 10 min run, was ideal for making a good pace at 4 miles an hour and keeping me warm. Every 2 hours 20 mins I stopped for 10 mins for a sit down break. This routine worked really well. I will definitely use this in the Yukon.
It also gave me a chance to try my Sealskinz walking socks, with Sealskinz thermal liners. They were excellent. My feet were warm and dry even though I had to wade through water, and really comfortable.
I also tried my winter running tights, ice breaker base layer, new Sprayway shell layer and my RAB Vapourise Jacket when I stopped.
After 85 miles and 26 hours I slumped home, really pleased with the day and nights work, feeling great about the way I had managed the routine. It gave me the confidence that physically I was ready for the Yukon.
I have kept up my regular training of running or walking with the tyre every day, plus a couple of long runs and martial arts training.
My next step is a 66 mile walk / run this weekend doing the Pilgrim Challenge route out and back in one go starting Friday night (16th January) at around 20:00.
I believe training is about preparing yourself physically, being focused, but most importantly building up as many positive references as you can to prepare yourself mentally.
I will let you know how I get on, when I am back at the end of February.
All the best………… Neil……………