3 April 2015

The Sharpening Phase

The Sharpening Phase

As with any program doing the final block of preparation for a goal event is key for optimal performance. Many refer (see references) to this period as the “sharpening phase” and it normally lasts for roughly 4 – 6 weeks depending on the race being undertaken. I truly believe this period is very important to really apply the principle of specificity to training and that this phase should most definitely be of a higher intensity than the build phase, but still a high training load.

Descending Scotsman Hill in King of the Mountain
My last 5 weeks have been about developing my fitness in the key areas for the Buffalo Stampede Ultra next weekend. I had a transition week and two fortnightly blocks that I used to really push my comfort levels in an attempt to get the final bit of conditioning I believe is required for me to complete such an event successfully. This method can be walking a fine line and once again I was very much aware of what I had done incorrectly in 2014 and was keen to not make similar errors that would lead to injury or wasted training.

I broke my program down into three areas; aerobic, anaerobic and strength. This was the focus of each session and I employed a particular methodology to my program. I will explain below how I attempted (see references) to develop each aspect over this period;

-       Aerobic: as an ultra race is on the cards my volume had to be high. I set aside a minimum of 4 runs that were specifically aimed being at least 60min and working between 50 – 75% max effort levels, including two longer specific runs weekly. I was allowing my body to be conditioned to the stress of Buffalo at an intensity level similar to that of what I will be operating at during the race. During my aerobic sessions I included steep, rocky and technical hills, both up and down to try and replicate the muscle memory needed on the climbs in a Skyrunning race.
-       Anaerobic: my anaerobic base was sound so I attempted to develop this threshold by including additional interval work and long higher intensity sessions. I began rep based track work, focused on a control run mid week and added a tempo/steady run of a longer duration to my program. This indicated my form and fitness and included three races of varying distance that all had very important elements similar to those that will be undertaken at Buffalo.
-       Strength: I had put a lot of work into my strength over Summer and was really keen to top this work off with some high impact strength sessions. I took part in some CrossFit 2795 sessions and began plyometric work as well as continuing with my balance based strength work. I felt that I was able to round out my regime with some good sessions allowing me to cut to race weight, engage my fast twitch muscle fibres and take the muscle through a greater range in each activity.

I was able to manage some very good training over this phase and am happy with where I am placed leading into my first goal of 2015. I have been able to train consistently well and avoid injury, this combined with a greater idea of what is required in the race allows me to move into my taper with confidence that I can develop a plan that will allow me to reach my goals. I have been looking at the race for five months now and while my focus has been all about Buffalo it is only now I will start to work the finer details for race day. I have my nutrition down after a couple of practice runs, my gear is now sorted and within the next few days my plan, splits, strategy, etc. will come into place.

On way to 2nd (blowing up) and 1st in
the series at STS
Nutrition (Supported by Hammer Nutrition)

-       Perpeteum – 1.5 scoops to 500ml water for 3hrs.
-       Gels – 1 each 45min or as needed.
-       Endurolytes – 1 each 30min
-       Fizz – 1 to 150ml water at each crewed aid station.


-       Shoes – Inov8 X-Talon 200
-       Shorts – Inov8 Race Elite 210 Trail Short
-       Shirt – Hammer Nutrition Race Tank
-       Visor – Hammer Nutrition Headsweat
-       Pack – Ultraspire Omega or Surge (weather pending) 1.5 litre bladder + 500ml soft flask.
-       Watch – Suunto Ambit Sport 3

I was happy to have been able to have a successful series of races during this period as well, my results are as follows;

-       Lithgow King of the Mountain: 2.2km 150m + 13:34 1st Place.
-       STS Manly Dam Big Dam Run: 30km 750m + 2:22:44 2nd Place.
-       Orange Volcanic MountainChallenge (NSW Mountain Champs): 11km 550m + 52:08 5th Place.
* I also won the long Course Summer Series at STS placing 3rd, 3rd, 2nd and 2nd in the four events from December to March.

So Buffalo is now just around the corner and I am looking forward to putting into play all the training I have completed over the last 25 weeks. I am genuinely excited to see how Bright comes alive for this massive weekend of running and getting to race alongside some of the best local and international athletes. The atmosphere will be rad!

I am also looking forward to watching Kel take part in the 26er. She has been doing it tough lately, being diagnosed recently with an endocrine disorder after 5 months of unknown illness which has greatly affected her running and overall wellbeing.  Hopefully this race can be a springboard to her having a great back end of the year.  Over winter there will be some change required to my training to accommodate more support and balance to my family life, and I am looking forward to simplifying things even more and enjoying time with my family just that bit extra and a nice holiday over the cooler months.
With Womans winner, Megan Reeves, who
was 2nd to the top of the hill!!!!


Lactate Threshold Concepts. Faude, Kindermann & Mayer, 2009

Lactate  - A signal of coordinating cell and systemic function. Philip, MacDonald & Watt, 2005

The Impact of Rest Duration on Work Intenisty and RPE during Interval Training. Seiler & Hetleid, 2005

Relationship Between Repeated Sprint Performance and both Aerobic and Anaerobic Fitness. Dardouri, et al., 2014

Effects of Plyometric Training on Endurance and Explosive Strength Performance in Competitive Middle and Long-Distance Runners. Rami-Rez-Campillo, et al., 2013

Essentials of Exercise Physiology. McArtile, Katch & Katch, 2000

Photo Credit

Lithgow Mercury - Fairfax Media

Geosnap Shot

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