The training camp experience

I thought I would write a short blog about an Athlete’s life on a typical training camp for you all to get an insight in to my life a way from home and why I do it.

I’ll start by saying it’s no fairytale. I am currently in a place called Falls Creek. It’s one of Australia’s main ski resorts in their winter but in the summer it makes a great place to train. There isn’t a whole lot here. It’s a small village in the middle of nowhere made up of apartments, a few café’s some restaurants, a police station, fire station, post office a basic gym and two convenience stores. Needless to say they all charge through the roof! I paid £4.50 for a horrible smoothie the other day and a mars bar costs upwards of £2.00. There is a bigger shop about 40 minutes down the mountain in a slightly larger village called Mt Beauty, which is where we all do our main shop. The drive between the two villages is a very steep and windy mountain road, which would make a great (but very dangerous) rally course. It’s not too bad coming up but going down causes me motion sickness so I try and limit the journey to once a week.

Falls Creek is situated at an altitude of around 5,500ft and we will climb to a maximum of about 6,000ft on our hill sessions. Altitude training causes the body to naturally produce Erythropoietin, more commonly known as EPO. EPO is a hormone that produces red blood cells – red blood cells being the oxygen carrying blood cells, which feed our muscles allowing them to work. By living and training in a place where the air offers less oxygen to breathe, our body needs to make up for it by producing the oxygen through EPO itself. Generally the higher you go, the more EPO your body produces. The affects usually last about 3 weeks after returning to sea level and the outcome is that now you have more natural oxygen in the air to breathe plus the extra oxygen rich red blood cells so in theory your muscles should be able to go further at a faster pace – win win right? I hope so!

You can probably work out now why so many endurance sports people across a wide range of sports use the banned substance EPO to cheat their way to success.

Training has been in abundance recently which I’m pleased to report. My last week was made up of 3 running sessions, 7 steady runs, 3 cross training sessions (substituting running for this while I build up my mileage after a knee injury) and 6 gym sessions so 19 bits of training altogether with massage, stretching and self injury prevention methods such as foam rolling on top of that too. So it’s a pretty full on schedule, which is why it becomes a full time job. I’ll break it down for you here:

Monday:

Am – 30 minutes foam rolling | 9 mile steady run (61-62 minutes) | 30 minutes stretch | Gym (core stability and general conditioning)

Pm – 5 mile easy run (35-37 minutes) | 30 minutes foam rolling

Tuesday:

Am – 30 minutes foam rolling | Session – 8 x 1km between 2.54 and2.58 pace with one fast rep in 2.47 (1 minute recovery throughout) | 30 minutes stretch

PM – gym (Core stability and knee rehab) | 40 minutes cross training hard.

Wednesday:

Am – 30 minutes foam rolling | 9 mile steady run (61-62 minutes) | 30 minutes stretch | Gym (core stability and Hamstring and Achilles rehab) | Massage

Pm – 5 mile easy run (35-37 minutes) | 30 minutes of foam rolling

Thursday:

Am - 30 minutes foam rolling | Session – Quarters (explained below) | 30 minutes stretch

PM – gym (Core stability and knee rehab) | 40 minutes cross training hard.

Friday:

Am – 30 minutes foam rolling | 10 mile steady run (68-69 minutes) | 30 minutes stretch | Gym (core stability and Hamstring and Achilles rehab) | Massage

Pm – 5 mile easy run (35-37 minutes) | 30 minutes foam rolling

Saturday:

Am - 30 minutes foam rolling | Session – 6 mile lactic threshold run (Average 5.03 mile pace) | 30 minutes stretch | Massage

PM – gym (Core stability and knee rehab) | 40 minutes cross training hard.

Sunday:

Am – Long run of 2 hours starting steady but working down to 5.40 mile pace for the last hour.

The Quarters session is basically a continuous rep but with lots of pace change. We run along a 600m trail which is broken in to three 200m sections. We start at one end and run hard for 400m (about 67/68 seconds or 4.40 mile pace) we then “float” 200m in 45 seconds as a recovery (still 6.00 mile pace) then turn around and run back 400m hard and float 200m again. We repeat this 8 times and it takes around 15 minutes to complete. We then rest for 2 minutes and run 16 minutes of lactic threshold (around 5.00 – 5.10 mile pace)

The first part teaches the body to deal with lactic acid, pace change and 8 fast accelerations without any real recovery. Our body then has to learn to buffer that build up of lactic acid in the second part while still running at a good pace.

The trails we run on here are very rough and uneven which makes it even harder. My trainers don’t last more than 3 weeks and even that is stretching them. It constantly works the stabilising muscles and the core but the best thing is when we then go on to the track or a smooth road it feels like we’re effortlessly gliding.

So what do Athlete’s do when we’re not training? Well they say that world class training requires world class recovery so at least 5 afternoons out of 7 I will nap for 60-90 minutes. After napping, training and eating, there isn’t an awful lot of time to really do anything with so it will mainly be a bit of admin, watching TV or a box set for an hour or go to a café.

I’m living in an apartment with six other people at the moment. It works well with the balance of fun and seriousness. We have three Australians, two Irish, a Japanese coach and myself. Two of the Aussies are a couple so they cook by themselves but the remaining four have formed a cooking group where we take it in turns to cook dinner each night. It’s good because we only have to cook one in every four days and it’s a good way of learning new meals. The Japanese coach is following our group for a year learning his trade from my coach. He is the Japanese record holder for 3000m Steeplechase so he was a very good runner in his day. He’s left his wife and six year daughter at home to do this so he has a VERY understanding wife! We all get excited when it’s his turn to cook because he forges some excellent traditional meals out of the pans and makes the best chicken Katsu curry that I’ve ever tasted.

I’ll be racing in a few weeks in a 10K road race on the island of Tasmania, which will be my first race since September 6th so I’m looking forward to that. It’s more of a fitness test than anything to see exactly where I’m at after five weeks on the mountain. I’ll then base my self just outside Melbourne for the remainder of my trip here. I’ll race the Melbourne track classic 5000m on March 5th and return to the UK on March 6th, stay there until March 30th and then go out to another altitude training camp near San Diego for another five weeks. It’s a lot of days away from home but if it gets me to the Olympics in the best shape I could possibly be, it will all be worth it!


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