Saturday, June 21, 2014

Last week of preparation pre-Åre Extreme Challenge

After last weekend's mini-Åre (without the vertical run and the mud bath which we expect on the bike!) my mind has been looking ahead to the 2 weeks leading up to the challenge which awaits us. After the training last weekend, my Suunto Ambit2 S told me 120 hours of rest prior to the next session so I've followed it's advice and taken it easy. Rest is a big part of training and in the past I've been guilty of ignoring the signs and just plowing aimless ahead with session after session. I guess getting older really does make you wiser as I've been far more focussed on quality over quantity this year.

As I'm visiting my wife's family in Skövde this weekend, I took the mountain bike out with my middle son (7yrs) onto the mountain..Billingen and rode the tracks there. Really nice turn of the legs and keeping a very low HR and cadence but geting more feel for the bike. I'm not going to make any gains now so close to the challenge so it's more a case of keeping everything turning over and what better way of doing that than with family. Tomorrow will be a little easy leg stretch jog and on Tuesday a light and easy gym session when I'm up in Umeå again for work.

So back to my thoughts and preparation for next Saturday. I've been reminissing a bit. Those of you following on Facebook may have seen a number of throwback screengrabs from a movie my brother-in-law made during my first ever multisport race back in 2002 in Åre. It's just great to watch as we had so much fun and so many awesome memories from that trip. If it wasn't so much fun then I wouldn't be heading back again like last year and this. As well as being a good trip down memory lane it reminds me of the good things we did and the not so efficient things we did during that race, that helps me think and plan out this year.

So what are my thoughts for this week? Fix a race plan:
I've thought long and hard (even drempt) about last year and all the areas where we 'wasted' time along the way. We had a single goal last year and that was "FINISH". This year we want to beat that time and finish strong. It was an adventure last year and we treated as such, taking pictures, blogging, having to do all the transitions unaided, etc. I've run the race over in my head countless times and jotted down the areas where if we just cut those out and didn't go any harder we're likely to save between 60-70mins in the same conditions!

#1 - Kayak
Check the rudder fittings and pedals (especially for Jon's kayak as it's borrowed from Friluftframjandet and the rudder pedals have had a tendancy to throw the wire out of the pulley system in training). 
Tape gels to the deck. Fasten the water bottle to my lifevest and consider what should that contain. My plan this year is to take a mix of sportdrink, crampfix & an energy gel in a bottle. I've been trialling crampfix for the past month to help and try to prevent the cramps which hit me really hard in Lidingöloppet MTB.

#2 - Transition in Åre square
I want to be through here in as little time as possible. The moment I stop in a race, the blood pressure drops and I feel really tired, really quickly and cold too. Knowing this, hanging about for too long is not good for me. But, as we're a team we need to have a combined strategy so we're aligned. I'll be thinking more this week about footwear and whether to go with the shoes for the run in the kayak or change in Åre at the transition. Not changing will save about 30secs so it's worth a long hard think.

#3 - Run over Åreskutan
How many gels do I need to tape to my bag (when should I be taking them)? What mix is going in my Camelback? What's the weather going to be like at Åreskutan? It may be +15C at the lake but it could easily be +2C or lower on the mountain, especially if the clouds are enveloping the hill. Last year we experienced sun, cloud, hail, snow, wind, sun, rain in 60mins so we need to be prepared with clothing. Nothing worse than being stuck on a mountain in a t-shirt and it starts to hail and the wind whips up.

#4 - Transition in Huså
Once again, I want to be quick through here. A change of shoes, something to eat, an energy shot and a change of bag and we're off!

#5 - Mountain Bike
Gels need to be taped to the bike, energy tabs put in pockets & the right mix and quantity in the camelback. I ran dry on the bag last year as seriously underestimated the time we'd be out for, plus as I was refilling the bag myself in the transition just didn't get enough in. I was getting so cold and low BP that we had to get moving. We'll be better mentally prepared this year as it was mentally very tough last year just not knowing what more was to come. Could we have pushed harder at times? Could we have navigated the bogs better? Could we have ridden a little more when we were both very low mentally and physically and walking with the bikes? 
On Friday we'll ride the final downhill section so we're both comfortable with it. Being a combination of being low & the bike not functioning 100% was very tough for Jon. There's nothing worse than suddenly panicking and not being able to snap yourself back to reality....that's what tiredness does for you. But I consider us much more mentally strong and focussed than last year.

#6 - Finish
Something which we missed last year and due to having no assistance we had nothing but a coffee and a bulle at the finish (how typically Swedish you may say!). Need to ensure the box has some good stuff in it to start helping the body repair itself!

...and finally
Make sure we pack all the gear and double check it all before we leave on Thursday for the 7/8hr drive north. My box is already packed at home and I'll be double and triple checking it during the week to make sure I have not forgot anything. Best to have too much with us than a vital piece of kit left at home.

This year our wives, Nina (David) & Camilla (Jon) will assist us in the transitions. It'll be fantastic to get some help and to have someone else shout and cheer us on!

Stay tuned to FB, Instagram & Twitter during the race as Nina & Camilla will be uploading pics and comments as we progress.

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