In 2012 I had the pleasure of reporting from The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc following The North Face athlete Jez Bragg around the course as he attempted to repeat his 2010 win. (Link to blog). In 2013 I'll be back but to attempt the CCC, a shorter version of the main event featuring a 100km route from Courmayer to Chamonix via Champex with 5950m of ascent

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Thoughts on my CCC Training...

 Stamina training in Greenland!

The North Face CCC is now just 15 short weeks away. I’ve just finished a long stint in the hills, 4 months of stamina training carrying expedition rucksacks and pulling pulks, so it’s now time to focus on some more run specific training. I’m a strong believer in cross training for interest, to add strength & efficiency and to combat overuse injuries. Sessions will involve trail & fell running, road biking, swimming and even a spot of weight training. I'll also still be working on the hill so plenty of walking and climbing in the Lake District and further afield.

I'm happy with the 100km distance of the CCC so I'm aiming to focus on the following three areas during the next three months which should increase my basic speed over the ground.
  1. Improve my running efficiency - I have a very compact and short running style despite being six foot tall. This is ideally suited to plodding but as soon as the pace increases my technique struggles to cope and I become a lot less efficient. By increasing the volume of high intensity training in my schedule and including technique drills my energy expenditure at faster speeds should be reduced meaning I can go faster for longer. 
  2. Achieve my racing weight of 83kg
  3. Continue to develop my natural/barefoot running style - Over the past few years my running style has changed in response to the types of events I'm competing in and a few injuries / injury prevention. I now tend towards a forefoot strike, an increased cadence and a bent knee action. The short film below illustrates a pure form of barefoot running but many of its principles are based on sound sport science theory.

I plan to use a variety of running sessions and training ideas...
  • Hunger Run - Running first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is a great method of acclimatising your body to the demands of ultra running. Your muscle glycogen stores are depleted so you are forced to predominantly use fat as an energy source. In practice your body doesn't like to do this and your performance during the session will be below par but the metabolic systems concerned do respond to training and your body will become more accepting of running in this depleted state.
  • Fartlek - Fartlek simply means 'speed play' in Swedish and is a very useful tool in increasing the intensity of your sessions and developing base line speed. By varying your pace between high and low intensity efforts during your training run you train every bit of your system. A typical session would consist of 10 x 2 minute sprints seperated by 1 minute recovery jogs.
  • Hill Reps - The CCC has nearly 6000m of ascent and descent so hill speed and endurance is essential. Hill reps are multiple timed efforts at a high intensity interspaced with low intensity recovery jogs. The quadriceps take a real hammering on this sort of terrain especially on the descents so I'll also use road biking and weight training to strengthen this critical area. 
  • Apnea Training - This structured form of breath hold training was developed for by divers. The two components are oxygen deprivation and carbon dioxide tolerance protocols. There is also circumstantial evidence to suggest that it also benefits high altitude mountaineers in helping them combat hypoxia. It's not been widely studied in runners but it would seem sensible that improving your bodies ability to work in a depleted state will lead to an improvement in performance
  • Powerbreath - Resistance training for the inspiration muscles. 30 breaths through the device twice a day has been scientifically proven to significantly improve a number of measures of lung function and consequently sporting performance.

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