Welcome, to the first of 23 (in theory) training log entries as we prepare for our very first USARA Adventure Racing National Championships.
I say "in theory" because sometimes I have a lot to say...and sometimes I forget to write at all. So there may be more than 23 posts, there may be less.
I might finish Squiggly Lines, I might not. (That joke is starting to get old, even I'm annoying myself at this point.)
In short, I've always enjoyed documenting my training progression (or lack thereof) over the years, whether it's been for my very first triathlon, a handful of 100 milers, or even that one time I thought the very first Spartan Ultra Beast was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Spoiler alert, it didn't end well, but it was a huge turning point in my transition into dirt-bag-athlete.
And since this is another pivotal point in my endurance career (I even added "adventure racer" to my instagram profile, so I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious), I thought it would be fun to write about it.
At least I know my moms will read this (shoutout to Carol and Louise!).
The Back Story:
Our arrival onto the entry list for the 2023 Adventure Racing National Championships went a little something like this:
Sometime last Fall (2022) we found out the 2023 Nationals would be held in Vermont. For those of you who weren't aware, Team HART* hails from Vermont. We practically bleed maple syrup, Ben & Jerry might as well be our uncles, and I first met Bernie Sanders when I was in 5th grade (this last one is true).
(*Well, Heather and Geoff call Vermont home. Brian and Greg are from just over the Connecticut River, in New Hampshire, and we fondly refer to the entire area as "Ver-Hampshire", so it still counts.)
The Green Mountains will forever hold huge pieces of our hearts, so of course we knew we wanted to take part in this race.
In fact, seemingly every decision we made regarding our race calendar (or calendar in general) was based around the fact that we hoped to get into Nationals.
But the night before registration opened to "the rest of us" (those who didn't participate last year or somehow otherwise qualify), Geoff suddenly decided that this might be TOO big of an undertaking, from a logistical and financial point of view.
I'm fairly certain that when he calmly and rationally explained the logic behind his reasoning, I was giving him the "you've got to be fucking kidding me" look the entire time.
You see, he's spent the majority of the last 11 years of our relationship together working the "long game" of convincing me to even become an adventure racer.
Hell, our first ever official date included a kayaking trip up a river, and down a stream until we could literally go no further.
After finally getting me to bite the hook in 2019, this year (2023) would become the first year in our entire life together that I sacrificed my entire racing calendar to exclusively compete in adventure races.
Nary an ultra to be seen.
And guess which adventure race I was looking MOST forward to?
THE ONE IN VERMONT.
Needless to say, I argued my case, and teammate Morgan unknowingly came in just at the right time to back me up with a "hey, are you guys going to sign us up for Nationals?" email.
(Thank you Morgan!)
Thus, at exactly 6:00 pm EST, Geoff logged into RunSignUp, and snagged us one of the coveted (and very limited) team spots to Nationals...which sold out in around 40 minutes
So now that we're in, we've got some serious (and I mean serious) work to do.
You see, just because my heart is figuratively in the Green Mountains, doesn't mean my cardiovascular system will literally survive in the Green Mountains. Because, my dear friends, despite the fact that our roots are in Vermont, we've lived and trained in pancake-flat-Myrtle Beach for nearly 8 full years now.
Running in 90+ degree / 90% humidity weather? We're used to it.
Paddling kayaks past alligators? Happens every Sunday morning.
Sugar sand? Venomous snakes? Hurricanes? Questionable blackwater? It's fine. You get used to it.
But despite all of the gnarly things we encounter down here in the coastal swampland, the one thing we seriously lack is any sort of elevation or terrain with vertical gain - period. And I'm not just just suggesting it's flat-ish here, but rather, it's flatter than you can imagine.
Case in point: I ran a 100 mile ultramarathon just a few towns over that netted me 369 whole feet of gain over ONE HUNDRED MILES.
There's more than 369 feet of elevation gain in the rock face behind me in this picture below, which happened to be taken in Jeffersonville, Vermont...the location of the 2023 Adventure Racing National Championships.
(Hell, I'm fairly certain the driveway at the house I grew up in had more than 369 feet of elevation gain).
So as you can see, we are FULLY aware of the fact that we have some serious work to do in order to make up for the disadvantage of our current training location.
Related: we are also racing the Rev3 50 Hour Challenge in the Shenandoah Valley which has arguably just as epic and gnarly terrain, but for whatever reason, I'm not nearly as intimidated by that. I'm sure my future-self will be laughing at the naivety of my current-self, but we'll deal with that when I'm crying in the middle of the Seven Bends State Park forest at 3:00 am.
TRAINING LOG: WEEK 1 OF 23
Before we dive into these training logs, I've got to post the obligatory disclaimer.
Professionally, I need to remind you that what works for one athlete (me) may not work for another athlete (you) and so what I share in these posts is in no way a recommendation of how you should train.
(if you're looking for help with training, send us an email at hartendurancecoac[email protected], we're more than happy to chat further with you).
I also want to fully recognize the training privilege I have in that I do not work a standard 9-5 office job. Rather, I work 24/7 - or so it feels - as I am self employed.
But the good part about having what sometimes feels like zero work/life boundaries is that I can make time throughout my day to train, often, more than once a day.
So, here's what this week looked like:
For those new here, know this: I not so secretly LOVE strength training. I'm a wanna-be powerlifter, body builder, Olympic lifting pro...you name it. Alas, my body was built for cardio, I like to eat far too much to ever endure a "cut" cycle, and I'm not that coordinated, as anyone who has seen my snatch (the lift, an important clarification) can confirm.
I spend a lot of time at the gym, likely at the detriment of my cardiovascular fitness, but I don't really care. I'm never going pro in any sport, so I might as well enjoy what I do.
Plus, I fully intend to be able to bring ALL of the groceries into my house with one single trip from now until I'm 85 years old.
Anyway, week 23 marked the start of a strength phase after a 4 week hypertrophy phase post Sea-to-Sea.
Basically, that means I'm shifting from sets and reps of 4x8 (ish) to sets and reps of 5x3 (ish) and obviously lifting heavier.
While I prefer a minimum of 4 strength sessions a week, this week only resulted in 3, for a grand total of 3 hours and 6 minutes. One lower body, one upper body, and one full body workout.
Better than nothing.
Here's where the hilarity begins.
Many years ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post on my other site titled "How To Train For An Adventure Race – Team Hart Style". The short version: head out into the woods, get purposefully lost for multiple hours, get messy, get uncomfortable, and call it a day.
Since then, our adventure race training has taken on a slightly more periodized look, but still remains rooted in chaos.
With only four weeks left until the Rev3 50 hour challenge, we are in an endurance phase, or "spend as much time as you can moving your body at a relatively easy to moderate pace" phase of training. Here's what it looked like this week for me:
Rest. It's a great way to start off your week, and I take these days very seriously.
A.M - Run: track workout, thanks to my teenagers. They made me run a timed 1600, 800, 400, 200, and 100...in that order. It was 80 degrees, and I thought they were going to kill me. And I loved it.
P.M. Treadmill Hike/Ruck: As previously mentioned, we live in the land where topography lines do not exist (it's FLAT), and one of our solutions to counter this is to put duct-taped bricks (thank you GORUCK) into our packs, crank the inline of the treadmill up as high as it will go (12% is better than nothing) and hike.
And so that's what I did, for 30 minutes.
A.M. - Treadmill Hike/Ruck: 30 minutes of the same as the night before.
P.M. - Mountain Bike: 2 hours (just over 13 miles) on single track trail. We started as the sun was going down, and finished well after dark. Overall effort was easy, I only "almost" crashed once, and I made friends with a tiny little rat snake, all while my husband was yelling at me to "leave nature alone".
A.M. - Kayak: 3 hours (about 11 miles) of paddling and straight shenanigans with Geoff and teammate Brian. Some days we head out to the river and paddle hard. Other days, we play the "I wonder where this creek goes" or "I wonder if Geoff will fit into what must be the worlds tiniest Adirondack chair" game.
This paddle was absolutely one of the latter workouts.
P.M. - Treadmill Hike: 30 minutes. Pack. Bricks. Trashy reality TV.
Active Recovery / Alligator (camera) Hunting:
Today was another cardio rest day, but I peddled my bike around the neighborhood abandoned golf cart trails with my youngest, looking for the alligators finally sunning themselves in the spring sun, so we can take pictures of them and send them to our friends up North.
File under: things this Vermont girl NEVER imagined she'd be doing for fun.
Anyway, it was a 2/10 effort, so this wasn't counted in the week's training totals. But it always feels good to hop my bike and spin my legs out.
A.M. - Garage Brick: 75 minute treadmill run + 30 minute spin
I have been at this endurance nonsense since 2006. I have proven myself in inclement weather time and time again. I have nothing left to prove. So when I wake up on a Saturday morning in April in South Carolina when it *should* be sunny and 70+ degrees, but it's raining and 45 degrees? You bet your ass I'm staying inside, with zero shame in my treadmill game.
I have no inner-David-Goggins. It's more like an inner-Bob-Ross, and I'm more than OK with that at this stage in my life.
P.M. - Treadmill Hike: 60 minutes
A.M. - 60 minute treadmill run
More cold rain. More time on the treadmill.
Totals & Deep Thoughts:
All in all I spent 14:14:32 training this week, which is about a 15% increase from last weeks training time of 12:11:10. Fourteen hours is approaching what would typically be near my "max" training time during peak ultramarathon training.
However, fourteen hours of multiport is SIGNIFICANTLY - and I cannot stress this enough - easier on my body and mind than fourteen hours of running alone.
In short, while the training is slowly ramping up, this volume still felt like a normal week in Heather-land. Which is exactly how it should feel 23 weeks out...though perhaps not how it should feel 4 weeks before a big 50 hour race.
But we're not focusing on that one in this blog series (I'm sure we'll all remember this, when that 50 hour race report comes out).
Next week (which will be "this week" when I actually publish this post) I hope to spend some more time running. I know specificity of training demands a good bit of hiking, since that's what we'll be doing in the upcoming Shenandoah Valley mountains, but I like to run.
And I miss it.
I'll have more deep thoughts on our quest for a Nationals finish in the future, no doubt about it. But for now: cheers to the next 23 weeks, and here's hoping for a stronger performance than all of the 18 wheelers that get themselves stuck at the top of Smugglers Notch, despite numerous warning signs.