Updated: Nov 14, 2018
So you've signed up for Ultra-Trail Australia √
You're scrolling through images and race reports from previous years √
You're wondering what the hell have I got myself into √
What should I be doing now?
Building a strong base. Lot's of easy running at conversational pace. Running over hills a couple of times a week and incorporating strides and short hill sprints to develop a strong stride. Now is the perfect time to start a strength program if you're currently not strength training.
It's also a good time familiarise yourself with the specific demands of the event and aim to address those as your training plan progresses. Let's have a closer look.
What are the specific demands of UTA?
Let's focus on the UTA100 as it covers the terrain present in the UTA50, UTA22 and UTA951. The first thing people normally obsess over with all the events under the Ultra-Trail Australia banner is stairs. This is the obvious starting point but It's important not to overlook the other demands of the event. UTA100 is a race that suits a strong runner. While the stairs become the focal point for many, the long periods of running on fire trail and single track break just as many runners hearts. Narrowneck to Dunphy's Camp, Dunphy's Camp to 6 Foot Track, 6 Foot Track to Nellies Glen; these stretches all contain periods of long, sustained running. Don't forget to focus on developing as a runner before you start thinking about the stairs.
Let's talk about stairs. There are plenty of them! Stairs are a unique feature of the Blue Mountains landscape in that the majority of the climbs in both the Jamison and Grose Valleys are 'staired'. The obvious Golden Stairs, Nellies Glen and Furber Stairs are an important part of the race, but the real crux of the race starts between checkpoint 4 at Katoomba Aquatic Centre and Checkpoint 5, Queen Victoria Hospital. There are plenty of ways to address this in training, but for now, adding in some stairs on one easy run a week should be sufficient in developing strength and technique.
(Fun fact: Queen Victoria Hospital was originally built as a treatment point for tuberculosis patients in the early 1900's as medical opinion believed the Blue Mountains climate and air quality provided to be optimal for treatment)
Long climbs. Long climbs that for 95% of the field require hiking. Don't neglect the importance of hiking in your training, but as mentioned before, spend the time now developing as a runner while we are this far out from the event.
Distance! 22km/50km/100km in the Blue Mountains is a long way. So many of us are guilty of normalising our behaviour within our running circles and it's easy to forget the details of what you've signed up for. Start the process of gradually building your weekly running volume, allowing for rest days, weeks to absorb the load and paying attention to other stresses outside of running that impact the overall picture just as much.
This period is all about establishing routine, working out where your strengths and weaknesses lay and having fun with your training. Spend time cross training, targeting your Parkrun PB, developing your weaknesses in the gym. Leave the specific sessions for further along in your training program.
Over the coming months we will go into details regarding ideas for specific workouts, training on course, gear, nutrition and hydration and the mental component of preparing for UTA to help get you to the start line in the best possible shape.