The week I have chosen to share with R4YL readers is the fifth week of my overseas trip to the US, which was spent in the small high-altitude town of Flagstaff, Arizona. Along with the ASICS Sydney Running Academy, I was based there for the majority of my stay between competitions.
AM: 40min run (8.7km) and gym
Monday morning began with a steady out-and-back 40min run from our house along Flagstaff’s urban trail. This course is quite flat, with only a few early inclines and a great surface. We manage to get out the door around 9am every morning, which suits me as an early riser, as it gives me plenty of time to stretch and prepare for the run, something I’m not really able to do as often at home.
I did my strength training soon after the morning run so I felt relatively warmed up already and so I could be finished before my massage appointment later that afternoon. Throughout our stay, we were given access to a great gym conveniently located just a 5-10min drive from our house.
I followed my strength program, given to me by Chris Delooze, which usually takes 60-75min. I have found this aspect of training has become vital in injury prevention, and though I see it as the least enjoyable part of my training, I understand it is definitely one of the most important.
PM: 30min run (6.5km)
The afternoon run was again quite steady and again along the urban trail. I really do enjoy the afternoon run, as it allows my body to loosen up after the gym session early in the day, which can sometimes leave me a feeling a little sore and lethargic.
AM: Session at Buffalo Park
Tuesday mornings at Flagstaff usually consist of a longer session at Buffalo Park, which is a well-known training space that has a two-mile loop around. It’s a great location, as it’s quite open, has a good even surface and a few hills, and is only a five-minute drive from our place. We met up with two other Australian groups, Dick Telford’s squad and Team Tempo of South Australia, for this session, which, as they usually do, began around 9am. We started off with a 4km warm-up before our session of 6 x 1km. I knew this session was going to be a tough one for me, as we have been doing shorter sessions lately, and with the added difficulty of altitude, I knew it was going to test me. I was happy to keep each rep quite even, and I even managed to make my last two the quickest. I gained a lot of confidence from this session, as I knew I would have struggled with it much more previous to our stint at altitude. It was very pleasing for the many weeks of uninterrupted training I had strung together to be starting to show. We ended with a 4km cool-down and headed home for breakfast.
In the afternoon, we were scheduled to have our haemoglobin mass tested for our post-training-camp result collection, as we had previously had these levels recorded when we first arrived at Flagstaff. This AIS study is part of Avish Sharma’s investigation into the benefits of altitude. The results should be quite interesting, but I think just being in an environment with professional athletes and having the ability to train and recover properly has plenty of benefits in itself. We then headed home, where I finally convinced myself to actually do some study for the university exams waiting for me when I head back home.
AM: 60min run (13km)
My Wednesday run is usually around 60min and is one of the longer runs for the week. Over the past few weeks, we have been running from the house along the urban trail, but we all agreed today we should opt for a different location to make things slightly more interesting. James Nipperess and Josh Wright are quite familiar with the town, as they stayed here last year, so we followed their lead and ran along a trail they knew that was close to Northern Arizona University.
AM: Track session
My coach, Ken Green, had planned for me to do a fast track session with lots of rest this morning in preparation for our next race in about 10 days’ time. We headed to Coconino High School, one of several amazing tracks Flagstaff has to offer, which again didn’t require a long drive. We began our warm-up of 4km and really noticed it was much hotter than what we had become used to during our stay. I was actually really happy with the weather change, as I seem to struggle in the cold. My solo session was 4 x 400m with five-minute recoveries in between, with the aim being to run really quickly while still finishing off the session feeling relatively good. I found this to be a really good session, as I was able to smash out some pretty quick times and felt really smooth and strong on the track, so I’m definitely feeling ready and excited to race in Portland this coming week. I got into my 4km cool-down and headed home to rest and recover.
In the afternoon, we headed to the local café, Firecreek Coffee Company, which has become a bit of a meeting point for the Australians. The café provides good coffee and a few chess boards, which have surprisingly gained popularity among members of the squad. Being athletes, I guess we’re pretty competitive off the track as well.
PM: 30min run (6.5km)
The afternoon run was again quite steady and along the usual urban trail. Kate Spencer, Linden Hall and I all headed out around 5:30pm, and it was still relatively hot for that time of the afternoon. We were all pretty tired from the training, and the hotter conditions seemed to be taking their toll a little, so we made sure we treated this as a recovery run.
We had also arranged to go out for some dinner at the best Italian pizza place in Flagstaff (or so we have been told), Pizzicletta, which certainly lived up to expectations.
The only session on my program on Fridays is my gym session, which I do in the morning to allow myself to use the rest of the day as recovery in preparation for the week ahead. I use this session not only for strength building but also to make sure I really focus on stretching. With a pretty busy schedule back home, this key aspect of training and recovery is sometimes skipped or done to a low quality. This is something I’m really trying to work on and hoping carry on once I return home.
The afternoon included another trip to Firecreek and a trip to the Northern Arizona University shop to pick up some gifts for friends and family back home. Everyone else also has Friday as a pretty relaxed day of training, so it was a pretty quiet afternoon in the house, which I attempted to fill with some productive study but mostly ended up using to rest.
AM: Track session at Sedona
On Saturdays, we usually train around 9am in the town of Sedona, which not only has one of the most scenic tracks I’ve had access to but is also at a lower altitude. This allows us to train at a higher intensity and still gain the benefits of altitude at rest. Due to the really hot conditions expected for Sedona, we decided to move the session from 9am to 8am, when the temperature was expected to be around 33C. Today’s session was a lot shorter than the previous sessions at Sedona, as it had more of a race focus given the Portland meet is next weekend. It consisted of two sets of 400m fast, 100m jog and 200m fast, with a five minutes recovery between sets. I managed to record some pretty quick splits and felt really smooth and strong throughout the efforts, so the session gave me a lot of confidence in my form heading into next week’s race. We finished off with a 4km cool-down, which proved pretty difficult considering the temperature was around 38C by that stage.
On the way home, we decided to stop off at a little water hole a few of the guys in our squad had previously visited. It was so good to cool off after such a hot session, and the water was pretty cold, so I’m sure it was helpful for our recovery as well.
PM: 30min run (6.5km)
As per usual, the afternoon run was again just along the urban trail.
AM: 80min (18.5km)
I really enjoy the long runs here at Flagstaff, as there are so many different trails, and the location is different almost every week. Due to the frequent change of location in the group runs organised by local running store Run Flagstaff, a Facebook page has been set up to inform anyone who is up for an 8am start where the long run will take place. This is a pretty big change compared to home, where I do the same loop each week, which can make the run feel much longer than it actually is.
I completed the 80min and felt pretty good. It’s a big change from when I first arrived in Flagstaff and my body wasn’t able to cope with the altitude as well as it is now – another little positive going into next week’s race.
The afternoon was pretty slow, but we eventually made it to Firecreek for our usual coffee. That night, a few of the locals came over for a barbecue as organised by Josh Wright, who had gotten to know them quite well from his visit to Flagstaff in 2015. We treated them to some Australian cuisine and enjoyed relaxing after a pretty big week of training.