Training Plan: Emergency Services Games

I now consider the base training to be completed. The last 3 months of training was aimed at reestablishing a reasonable fitness base, become structurally & biomechanical sound, develop efficient fuel (fat/carbohydrate) metabolism and generally set myself for the harder training to follow. The mainstay of training was low intensity runs 60-70%HRmax, with the harder sessions really just being longer runs with the intensity creeping up to 75%. Only a very small amount of faster running was scattered throughout amongst this. Early on I didn't hit the level of consistency I wanted. A few too many of the shorter easy runs were missed. As a result this limited the speed and distance of my long runs. Despite this, I would still consider this phase of training successful, as proven by my above expectations performance at the Maroondah Dam 50km.

An ultramarathon, 50km over the hardest terrain I've ever raced on will definitely highlight weaknesses. Yes, there are quite a few gaps in my fitness and skills, but it did also show a few strengths. Following this race, I have taken 5 days for recovery. No running was completed in this time, just plenty of recovery, mobility, tissue therapy work to speed up the recovery. This was slightly hampered by a couple of very unfriendly night shifts at work. This time I decided to recover hard then just get straight back into training. Different to my take it easy for 2-3 days, then build back slowly, standard approach.

What's next?

I'm heading back to the Emergency Services Games (ESG) in April this year. I've had some great performances in past years, with prodium placings and some wins in my age group. As always I want to go better. I am really aiming at trying to snatch outright wins in the 10km cross country and half marathon. While this is my closest set of goals, there is still the matter of working towards a 100km trail ultramarathon later in the year.

What do I have and what do I need?

I have about 6 x 8-day weeks to prepare. I have a good fitness base, lack of injury and a life that allows for something close to consistent training. Also there is prior course knowledge and experience at what level of racing has exsisted in previous years.

The ability to run sub-37min for a cross country 10km will be required for a chance to win. Also using the hill, downhill and slow grassed area to advantage could play a pivotal role in the cross country. For the half marathon I will need to be able to run sub 1:20. Naturally the skills that go with racing, such as holding form, abiilty to sure and recover plus reading when or when not to apply pressure all gets thrown in. These are quite big requirements for me, and so far I have't reached them for the ESG's.

Just love racing.
Please check out for their great photos of the Maroondah Dam 50km
The Plan

My time commitment for training will be fairly constant each week. Each week will vary slightly which day I can do what due to the joys of rotating shiftwork. The main variable will be speed and intensity. In short I will start with a certain framework, and each session will have a certain goal for improving my abilities. Within that scope progression will mainly come from increasing speed/intensity within certain sessions. Below is the basic plan. It is the fomat I will usually follow, but by necessity some days will have to be swapped around.

Day 1: Easy 60min (60-70%HRmax)
Day 2: Technical 60-90min, solid aerobic condtioning over trails & hills
Day 3: Threshold/Half marathon pacing 2x7.6km, total 2 hour run
Day 4: Hill repeats
Day 5: Easy 60min
Day 6: Track intervals
Day 7: off running, bike or swim
Day 8: Long Run 4 hours

The Detail

Day 1: Is run at a very low intensity. The run should always feel easy and is about going through a checklist on my body while moving. During these runs I will try to assess what areas may be at risk of injury or require other work. For me, mentally it is good to start a training week with an easy run and reset myself for the hard work to follow, especially since the previous day will have been either a long run or a track session.

Day 2: This is an aerobic conditioning run, with the intensity approaching about 80%HRmax. It's below anaerobic threshold, but certainly requires some concentration to keep from slacking off. The most important element of this run is that it is fast enough (but still easy enough) to focus heavily on technique. Foot placement, push off, body positioning and other elements will all be worked on here. Adding to this, the terrain will be over a large mixture of surfaces (bitumen, single track, rocky slopes, grass fields, assorted obstacles) with plenty of gradient changes, lots of hills, various lengths, a few flats and plenty of twists and turns. The focus it really getting better at the act of running over all surfaces. Due to time restraints, this run will often form a commute into work. This run is two days after either my long run or track intervals, the legs are likely to have some degree of fatigue or pain. As a result it adds that extra degree of difficulty to holding great technique, but keeping the work rate up a little, should kick the body into a state that it knows it going to have to perform.

Day 3: The main session of the week. The meat of the run are 2 x 7.6km flat repeats on the Diamond Creek trail. The first week will start off keeping the heart rate around my anaerobic threshold conditioning zone (80-90%HRmax). From there I will progress aiming to hold a pace at slightly faster than I hope to hold in the half marathon. Recovery between repeats will be about 5 minutes of only a slight drop off in pace. Just enough to assess the first rep and refocus on the second one. No such thing as an easy jog between them. The warm up will take about 30 minutes building to quite a good pace over the last 10-15 minutes. Nutrition for the run will be what I plan to use on race day, but without the pre-run meal. Adding an extended cool down, this run will add up to 2 hours. Progression will be going faster each week in each of the 7.6km repeats.

Day 4: Hill repeats. 60-70min total. I will rotate through three different circuits each week. I want to make uphill running a key strength. It's not bad at the moment, but it definitely isn't a weapon for race day. So once warmed up I will launch into a collection of hill repeats that will take from 1:30-2:50 to complete. The focus will be full stretch powerful stride, aiming to minimise contact time and gain air time on each stride. The gradients I have on offer vary between 6-11% and the surfaces will be a mixture of stairs, single track, rockys and grass. The downhill won't be easy running either. No walk backs or easy jogging back down. Instead I will focus on descending quite quickly. Not quite at my max speed, but faster enough there is a technique load and conditioning element to it. The down hill in the cross country isn't extreme, and already my current ability should be able to take advanage of it. Here I am looking to set up some base downhill conditioning in my legs for future training, plus not get into the habit of taking a rest once I reach the top of a hill.

Day 5: Another easy run. After the last three days of training, especially the threshold and hill back to back sessions, I will be needing a little bit of recuperation. Coming off a 14 hour night shift on this day means there won't be much desire or juice in the tank for anything especially taxing either. So the run is simple, get out and enjoy an easy hour of running over whatever course I feel like on the day. I've learnt from the past, not to take complete rest after a night shift. Doing so seems to leave flat for the next couple of days. I respond better to keeping the body ticking over.

Day 6: Track intervals. Pure, simple, fast running. This is about efficiency, specific strength for fast running and the neuromuscular and biomechanical adaptations that go with. Of course there will be physiological improvements, but these central elements of the heart and lungs are not the primary focus. The intervals will be short enough to maintain good speed and form without the session deteriorating into a slugfest. The pacing will be faster than 10km race pace, probably around 5000m and faster level. Intervals will start at 400m and progress weekly up to 1200m. Recovery will be an easy jog of 200m. Exactly how many intervals will depend on how I am dealing with each individual session. It will be important to remember it isn't exactly a lactate tolerance session, despite the burn that should accumulate.

Day 7: No running this day. The week's training so far should have left my legs feeling quite battered. The body needs time to rebuild and further adapt from the abuse of training in order to get better. There is substantial evidence that mild exercise, without eccentric loading enhances the body's recuperative abilities. Therefore, I will include an easy swim or bike ride. Nothing taxing, just something to loosen up and move the blood and lymph through my body. Of key importance will be a stronger focus on tissue manipulation and stretching this day, more so than each of the other days.

Day 8: The long run. 3-4 hours probably at around 70%HRmax, over trails with plenty of hills. The long run is always important, but during these 6 weeks, I will be holding back the intensity a little. I want the run to be long (which always classes it as hard), but without a significant recovery cost that impacts on the rest of the training. So holding back on the speed here, will still gain many of the benefits sought, including preparing for the longer, harder training for my ultramarathon racing later in the year. In the two weeks before the ESG's I am likely to substatially cut back on the length of this run, depending on how I recover from it.


As alluded to above, there will likely be the need for me to swap around the order of some of the runs. The most likely will me moving the long run back to day 6, and the track run out to day 8. If this is the case, I would still prefer having the day off running on the day before the long run, but will have to decide at the time what I think will work best. I may also have to move the threshold run from day 3 to day 4. If this is the case, then I will have to move the hill repeats back to day 2, so the technical run is between the two hard sessions, otherwise, I just won't be able to run fast enough in the threshold run.


For those who have read the same articles as myself, you may notice some similar ideas showing up inthis training plan. Some of the other ideas won't seem so obvious. Of course I have been influenced by much more, and how it is put together is largely from myself. That said, I think the following articles have significant infuence on me and are well worth a read:

Train Like A Mother - The (so-called) Guide To Effective Training - Ultra168
Trent Chapman Tells Us How He Does It - First Off The Bike
Damian Angus and Training - First Off The Bike


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