Atacama Crossing Blogs 2021
View All Posts 2021 From : Robert Ripley
18 July 2021 04:29 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana
(Note: this should not be construed as THE training plan for the Atacama Crossing (AC), merely my musings as to what I should be doing in what little time I have left to train. I should also say that I’ve left the actual details in the capable hands of a professional, Jaime, my coach from Laughing Dog Coaching)
This is what I am thinking about!
- Walking: Much as I would like to run the entire race, chances are pretty good that I will be spending more than a little time walking across the Atacama landscape. As such, I will need to be comfortable walking, so my plan is to walk a few miles in the woods most mornings with the dogs, and Nancy if she’s available. Not only will this strengthen my stride, but it allows my mind to wander and seek its own exercise.
- Running: The AC is, after all, a race. The amount of running I can accomplish will determine whether or not I can be competitive in the race. As I have mentioned in my other postings, my old legs can only take so much of this running stuff, so I will have to be judicious and intelligent about the miles I do put in. My plan is to run most of my mileage in weekly blocks of 2-3 days. These little blocks will hopefully simulate the fatigue of a multi-day race and get my legs used to going out to perform even when they are achy and tired. Most of my running will be at an aerobic (Zone 2 for you Training Peaks geeks) pace with occasional bits creeping up into Tempo pace (Zone 3).
- Cycling: As I’ve mentioned before, I still identify as a cyclist (even if my bicycle racing career was less than legendary). My friend Jay once told me that “the bicycle is the wheelchair of the older athlete,” and I will have to say that the Guru Praemio titanium racing bicycle Nancy got me for my 50th birthday (even though I asked for a Red 1961 Porsche Speedster) rescued me from a path to certain obesity and immobility. So my plan is to continue cycling. I will use longer rides to add to the ‘fatigue blocks,’ and I will throw down some intervals on the bike as well. At my age, high intensity training needs to be taken sparingly, once or twice a week at most, and I find that I can control the intensity better on the bike with the numbers on my bike computer than I can while running and trying to look at my watch.
- Strength training: Every coach and athlete will agree that strength training is an essential element to any training plan. But no one can agree on what the best form of strength training is. As a 125# cross country skier, I was traumatized early on when my coach tossed me into the weight room with the hockey and wrestling teams. I will say that the best strength training program is one that you will actually do, 2-3 times a week. After years of trying and then failing to follow through on various modalities, I have finally settled on the Vasa trainer. While it was designed for swimmers, it is basically a poor man’s version of a Pilates Reformer. The Vasa Trainer allows me to perform 20-30 reps of 10 exercises 3 times in under an hour. Exercising most muscle groups while focusing on the core. Without a trip to the gym. Sold.
- Stretching: Again, an easily ignored (at your peril) essential. My failure to properly stretch over the years has brought prosperity to several physical therapists. Brenda Rode, my current therapist, likes to say, “length is strength.” I try to stretch twice a day. On my morning walks, after the muscles have warmed up, I do some static stretches of my hamstrings, quads and calf/achilles. 3 sets of 20 second stretches for each. Before I go run, I spend about 5 minutes performing dynamic stretching: hopping, skipping, soldier walking, knee to chest walking and heel to buttock running.
- Rest: All of this training stuff causes trauma. And the best way to recover from trauma is rest. I will be resting as much as possible. At least one to two days a week. Sleep is good too. Unfortunately, as we age, sleep becomes a more erratic and difficult goal to attain. To make up for some of the sleep I’m missing at night, I’m having to resort to the old guy hack of taking naps.
- Nutrition: While I won’t be giving up burgers or beer like Ben(!!), I am going to focus on a healthy diet, as plant based as I can tolerate. Additionally, I will be tracking the calories I burn during exercise and try to replace those calories as soon after exercise as my GI tract will allow.
- Race Specific Training:
- Terrain: The AC course takes the competitor over sand dunes, through rivers and slot canyons, across salt flats, bare rock and jeep tracks. While I have been doing almost all of my running in the dirt, over the next month I will be seeking out more unstable terrain to simulate the course. Maybe I will even get my feet wet!
- Race Nutrition: In addition to experimenting with various electrolyte concoctions and energy bars (expect a report soon!), I have been adding in some instant oatmeal in the morning and freeze dried cuisine the night before! yum.
- Grunge practice: Nancy isn’t liking this, but I’ve been going several days without washing my running kit. When it crawls on its own to the laundry room, it is time to wash it. I haven’t tried going several days without washing me. I guess that’s next level.
- Sleeping on the Ground: Part of the AC challenge is to get up and perform after sleeping on the cold, hard ground all night. I’m going to start throwing that element into the ‘fatigue block’ mix.
- Backpack: I’m up to running with a 5kg pack. I will have to up that by a couple of kilos over the coming month. Then I plan on backing off.
- Altitude: The AC starts out at 3000 meters, but descends to 2000 meters early on. I live at a little over 1000 meters and train up to 1500 meters. So I think I can handle the altitude. I’m not thinking I’m going to have to start sleeping in an altitude chamber. But I will have to look at my travel options to see if acclimatization is an option.
There it is folks! You heard it here first (or 3rd, or whatever). If you are training for the AC, feel free to borrow whatever looks good. Or comment on the absurdity of it all.