The Haglöfs Open 5 series is an ideal way to get into the sport of adventure racing. If you've already taken part in duathlons, triathlons, half or full marathons, then, with a little bit of tweaking to your training, one of these five hour events is definitely doable. Without the worry of a kayaking leg, preparing for the race is far more accessible.
The navigation aspect of the racing often puts a lot of people off but, with the courses sticking to public rights of way, getting lost is highly unlikely, even with the most rudimentary map and compass skills. Also, you can enter as a pair so there's no worry about being lost alone in the woods.Overview
The 6-week plan below is designed to hone your fitness up to Open 5 level but will also be ideal if you're preparing for an off-road duathlon or just want to mix up running and cycling training.
Each week is broken into two rest days, two quality work sessions, two long and steady sessions and one strength session. For the strength session, concentrate on your core strength and keeping your upper body strength maintained.
From Week Three, we introduce Brick Sessions. These are workouts that get you use to the jelly legs sensation of running straight off the bike. You'll hear various explanations as to why their called bricks, but we reckon it's because your legs feel as though they've been hit by one! For the Interval Brick sessions, the ideal set-up is a turbo trainer by a track. However it's just as effective to use a treadmill and a spinning bike in the gym or do them for real if you've got somewhere suitable to leave your bike.
In an Open 5 race you will be carrying a small pack so it's a good idea to wear one for all training as it will affect the way you run and ride.
You'll notice that some of the sessions during the week require you to work at quite a high intensity. This is to make the weekday sessions as time effective as possible and, although Adventure Racing is typically a "slow and steady" sport, by factoring in some faster paced work, your overall performance will be significantly improved. Plus, having some top end gas can be useful for powering up steep climbs and for racing in to make the time cut-off!
For these weekday sessions, most of us will have to make-do with the gym or the road. Don't worry about this but do try to hit the trails at the weekend to maintain your sanity and to develop essential skills and core strength. If you are lucky enough to have trails on your doorstep, the more time you can spend on the hilly rough stuff the better.
The long weekend run, rides and brick sessions are the bread and butter of the training plan. This is where you get out on the trails and practice your race day pacing and fuelling. We'll cover nutrition for long races in a future article but the golden rule to get used to is "little and often right from the start". Aim to take something on, gel, bar, flapjack, mini Mars, every 30 minutes and experiment to find out what works for you. Don't leave it until you feel hungry. You're not eating for that moment, you're eating for an hour or so down the trail. The same applies to drinking. Experiment with different sports drinks or plain water with electrolytes added but drink early and drink often. 500-750 ml per hour would be an average range for a winter race.
Try to make the rides and runs technically challenging and to incorporate some navigation practice. Charging round a way-marked trail can be fun and is a good fitness hit but solid map work will significantly boost your race day ranking. Finally if you're planning on racing in a pair, try to train as much as possible as a pair. You can then build fitness together, find a mutually effective pace and learn about each other's strengths and weaknesses.
Heart rate intensities are given in the plan. There is little point in giving percentage heart rate zones of theoretical maximums as these are notoriously inaccurate. Field testing for maximum heart rate is very unpleasant, can be dangerous and is hard to replicate. If you're wanting to train with heart rate you need to perform a test for your anaerobic threshold and then derive training zones from this figure. A protocol for this test and calculation of training zones is given below. Heart rate zones on the bike will typically be 5-10 bpm's lower than their running equivalents but, for mountain biking, using zones derived from a running test is fine.
You need a flat running route without any obstructions (a running track is best) and a heart rate monitor that allows you to recall average heart rate.
Have a complete rest day the day before the test, don't eat for two hours before the test and make sure you're well hydrated.
- Warm-up for 10 minutes building up your heart rate progressively.
- Complete 6X50m acceleration strides with 30 seconds recovery.
- Start the recorder of your heart rate monitor and run as hard as you sustainably can for 15 minutes. Don't go off too hard and try to pace your effort so you cover as far as you can manage in the time. Stop the recorder on your heart rate monitor at the end of the 15 minutes.
- Cool down with 10 minutes easy jogging.
- Your average heart rate for the 15 minutes will equate to your threshold
- Apply the following % bands to that figure.
Alternatively you can follow these guidelines to effort level:
Heart rate zones 1-2: Comfortable pace where you're able to maintain a full conversation. Don't plod when running at this pace, concentrate on your form and keep your cadence high and foot strike light.
Heart rate 3: This is the "sustainable discomfort" pace. You're working hard but can keep it going. No chatting, just short answers.
Heart rate 4: Really pushing hard. No talking, just grunts and moans.
For full details on the Haglofs Open 5 Series see the Open Adventure website - www.openadventure.com
All Images - James Kirby for Open Adventure