Lockdown training for the Dragon's Back

It is tempting to grumble about the current situation and how it might be affecting my training for The Dragon’s Back mountain race in September, but of course compared to most I have nothing to complain about. All I have to do is look out the window to realize how lucky we are here in Matlock. The photo below was taken on a recent run from near our house that overlooks the Derwent valley.

Dragon's back ultra run training - A sea of cloud in the Derwent Valley

Within a few minutes of home, I have all the types of training terrain that you could possibly hope for: flat playing fields and the Derwent Valley Railway path for strides and interval training; undulating lanes and tracks across Matlock Moor and nearby woods for the ‘easy’ runs; and plenty of hills for the longer runs. Plus, right outside our back door a very steep lane for those masochistic hill reps. The short video shows just 7-seconds of a one-minute uphill thrash, the first of 10 repetitions. You are supposed to put in near maximum effort, so imagine what I look like on my 10th rep!

The first 12-week block of structured training has been completed and now I have been introduced to the concept of periodization - different phases of training - including Base (endurance and stamina), Build (escalation of workouts that are more event specific), Hill (leg power and flexibility) and finally Taper (recovery with a reduction of intensity and duration). Currently I’m in the Base phase maintaining about 64km /40 miles per week. I’m happy to report that there have been no injuries and I have not missed a single session so far.

A question that I’m often asked is “do you feel fitter?” Until very recently I found it difficult to answer because my body is only slowly adjusting to a level of training that I have not committed to since the football days of my 20s. However, the answer is now an emphatic yes. The so-called ‘easy’ runs have become easier, and after longer hilly runs I no longer collapse in a chair and fall asleep – progress indeed.

One of the great things about all this training is the amount of food I can consume. I initially lost 7lbs (3.1kg) and have maintained that weight whilst eating copious amounts throughout the day. Apart from a drink at Christmas and New Year I have been alcohol-free for over 4 months. Clearly the lack of temptation due to pub closures and restricted social gatherings has helped.

It won’t have escaped anybody’s notice that the environment is taking a hammering at the moment. With warmer winters and the recent massive increase in recreational activity, local paths and bridleways are becoming veritable motorways of erosion and mud. No answers, just an observation – I certainly don’t envy the task of those in the National Park or Derbyshire County Council who have responsibility for managing the use of these public rights of way.

What's on my gear list?

Other than running shoes (mentioned in the previous blog) I am beginning to give serious consideration to other equipment required for the race.

I have never used a specific ultrarunning pack before, but I’ve been trying out a demo Ultimate Direction vest. I am totally sold on the idea – good design, very comfortable and loads of easily accessible pockets. As usual there are lots of different brand choices, specifications, price ranges and therefore a difficult decision awaits.

During the race I will definitely be taking lightweight trekking poles to ease the strain on my knees particularly when going uphill or steep downhill. In the past they have been used when carrying heavy sacks on long distance walks and the benefit of using them was obvious. However, if you are considering taking some, I suggest plenty of practice beforehand otherwise you will find them a nuisance.

So, for those of you who need your equipment fix see the photo below:

Dragon's back training blog 3 - gear fix Gear collection so far!

I have done my best to spread the love of various brands. These include a lightweight insulated windproof from Marmot (at least 15 years old!); small Sea to Summit dry bag; 59-litre Ortlieb dry bag; Ultimate Direction Vesta; Micro Trail Pro Leki poles; Blister Treatment Kit from Ourea Events; and a Berghaus Hyper Jacket (a fully compliant waterproof top weighing in at an incredible 100g).

Access to Wales and the Dragon’s Back mountains seems unlikely for some while but of course there are more important considerations at this moment. I wish all fellow DBR runners the best of luck in their preparations, particularly those who have entered from the flatlands of Norfolk, the Netherlands and other similar places!

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