Monday, 11 April 2016

Tales from the British Athletics Mountain Running Training Camp

I write this on the four hour drive back to the mystical land of Wales from attending the British Athletics Mountain Running Training Camp up in Georgia Malir’s neck of the woods, Leeds. (I should probably be doing Welsh revision for my speaking exam on Thursday but this is obviously way more important!) 

Upon arriving at the very posh Weetwood Hotel I found I was roomy with Rebecca Hilland who actually lives in Norway! I hadn't met her before but as is normal for most mountain runners she was lovely and we were soon chatting away. I knew pretty much everyone else on the camp and it was nice to see everyone again and catch up.

The Weetwood Hotel

Sarah Rowell started the training camp with a look back at the GB team’s success in 2015 and the highlight of this was definitely a first time viewing of a short video of the British team at the home World Mountain Running Championships last year. Those championships will always hold a special place in my heart being my first home World Champs and my first team medal at a major champs. Everyone loved the clip and it definitely brought goosebumps to look back, reflect and remember such massive British success on that very special day! When I look back and think about it; that day when I got to wear my GB vest competing against the best in the world on home soil seems kind of surreal. If I could go back and relive that weekend I most definitely would. Nevertheless we must all look forward to future.

Team GB at the World Mountain Running Champs 2015

So, Sarah then described in detail the major champs this year in Arco and Bulgaria. I've been very lucky to have actually already raced on the course in Arco, Italy near Lake Garda for the World Youth Cup two years ago. It is such a beautiful part of the world and all the lovely pictures Sarah showed us are going to be a definite motivation for all of us towards making the team and being able to race there at the European Championships this year.

Arco is a beautiful location for a mountain race

Racing in Arco in 2014

Next up was food and I think it's fair to say that we all felt a bit under-dressed in the hotel surrounded by people who were all neatly dressed for weddings and what not. We mountain runners didn't mind though and the food was delicious. 

The look on the waiter's face when Katie Walshaw asked for custard “and possibly a banana please?” was priceless. He had probably never heard of such a combination asked for in the posh hotel, but he did oblige.

I never knew that arranging a training session could be so confusing as we all planned to go to the local hill called The Chevin to do a hill session on the Saturday. Of course; us girls easily decided what we wanted to do without much debate, but the men were not so quick to decide… “Oh, let's just run around the hill and the paths when we get there and decide what we want to do then”

So after a nights sleep and breakfast we made our way to the famous Chevin, where sometimes Johnny and Ali Brownlee train. After a gentle jog (it wasn't that gentle really as us girls tried and failed to keep with the men) the boys finally decided they would do long hill reps from the bottom to the very top, with us girls doing shorter faster ones half way up. 

I felt really good during the session and was pleasantly surprised as this was my first big hill session of the year. It was great to turn around after each rep and fly back down to the start. And, I DIDN'T FALL OVER!!! Can we just take a moment to appreciate this achievement as I'm forever renowned for falling over running fast downhill. May I even dare to believe that this is a thing of the past? We'll just have to wait and see! 

The Chevin was a lovely setting for a hill session and I can see why GB team mate and friend, Georgia Malir uses it a lot for training! 

The men seemed to be running well up and down the hill too, so a good training session for all.

The view from The Chevin

After some much needed lunch, it was time to get our brains in gear with a talk from Jamie Pringle all about preparation for altitude. This was particularly useful as he talked a lot about how altitude effects the body physically and how it is best to prepare for this. The World Mountain Running Championships this year are at altitude in Bulgaria so this was highly relevant.

Talking altitude

A quick trip down to Leeds Uni followed, for a drills session with Alison Rose. This was useful as it helped everyone to identify their weaknesses and how we could address them in order to improve. 

A talk about training for mountain medals revealed that Andrew Douglas likes his magic 8 hours sleep, Rebecca Robinson has such a crazy lifestyle balancing running with being a doctor (I thought training around exams was bad enough!) and also Chris Smith’s ability to overcome challenges as he lives in London with hardly any hills but has learned to make use of the environment around him. 

An extremely yummy vegetable lasagna for tea followed. (Don't worry though Mum; yours is still the best!) The meal presented a slightly less amused waiter when Katie changed her mind on food once again, but to be fair to him he did once again oblige.

Yummy vegetable lasagna

Georgia and I had fun talking Strava, blogging, so called gimp masks, altitude training etc with the fell running legend: Ben Mounsey after the meal. I'm not sure Ben and I successfully persuaded Georgia to start writing a blog though. You can check out Ben’s epic blog here.

I think its safe to say that we all probably ate more jelly beans between us than the number of miles we ran cumulatively. A never ending bowl always seemed to be there tempting us to eat just one more. As Sarah said, Gary must have been “buzzing around on the ceiling” with the amount he seemed to eat.

Andrew, making the most of the free snacks!

The arrival of Sunday brought the Sunday long run, full of sunshine and shared miles. Georgia was a very good guide showing us get local routes.

Finally to end we had a session led by Liz Birchall on ‘How to market yourself on social media’. This was interesting and provided an insight into how British Athletics use social media to promote the sport. Everyone probably felt that Ben could have lead this session as he's obviously the social media king! 

I'm lurking behind Ben's head there somewhere

So as we've just crossed the border back into Wales, it’s safe to say that I'm suitably excited to see just what the friendly GB mountain running team can produce this year. Time to put the hard work in...

but for the moment, back to reality and to revise for that Welsh exam.

PS: A big thank you to all the British Athletics coaches and managers involved with organising and creating such an inspiring weekend. 

PPS: Also thanks to Georgia for showing us around her local routes. Next time we will have to make it to the cafe for pancakes.

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