Thursday, 29 March 2012

Big Weekends

Just had a great l-o-n-g weekend teaching Off-Road Running skills to a great bunch of people. First off, we were based at Plas-y-Brenin with the Dragon's Back Race team and Trail Running Magazine relay team.  Excellent sunny weather was nice, but er .... not so good for teaching 'poor viz' navigation. Hey-ho, too bad, but well done to everyone who got well stuck into some mighty difficult night navigation courses, showing true determination with some nearly missing last orders! A tough and demanding weekend with much energy being drained by the heat, and the loss of an hour's sleep as the clocks Sprang forward.

Seriously great to meet and talk with some fellow Dragon's Back racers, and to reminisce a bit about the original 1992 Dragon's Back Race, but also to be able to offer some advice and guidance to DBR 2012 racers.  I'm really looking forward this year's epic event now.

On Monday I was in Shropshire and the coaching on the beautiful Longmynd with just one student, Jen, who will become a natural fell runner now that we have cleared away some compass phobias and got to grips distance, scale and speeds.  Shame about the sun tan weather ... good that she likes tea, (and beer apparently.)

On Tuesday I worked with a  AR team of four and the agenda was a mixture of running and biking, with 'nav strategy' and 'route choice' being key issues.  Team dynamics was also explored, with a skills audit and action plans being made towards some BIG races this year. I'm sure they'll all do well and look forward to our follow-up session, 'AR Rope Skills' and review.

This weekend I'm on a train/bike trip down to the Open5 in The Peak District. I'm looking forward to exploring Dovedale, some more coaching and racing on Sunday, followed by a UK Adventure Racing Club Committee meeting.  Then a quick bike back north; should be fun!

Looking forward to meeting up there.

UKARClub Chair

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Skill Development

I had a great swim today - felt lethargic - and nearly went back to bed whilst waiting for the car windscreen to defrost (but felt good about deciding not to bike there instead) .  Living just one mile from Ullswater means it feels totally criminal to swim inside during all but the winter months, so I've just joined our local Tri club so I can get some indoor swimming done before the regular outdoor swimming season begins.  Swimming up and down in a pool is not very exciting, although sharing a lane with Shaun, Tom and 'Shelley'* makes it more interesting, and I thank them for it. At the end of the session it was great that Lucy, the coach coming across and asking me how my session had been and 'was I focused on a particular forth coming Tri?' As the 'newbie', this was great, or she had some stroke feedback for me.

I've not got any Triathlons planned as such, well not at least until The Big 'Bad' Ben in September, a good shake down after Terrex Sting, but it did get me thinking about training goals and skill acquisition.

As adventure racers, just like fell runners, we are notoriously bad at skill acquisition and we rely heavily on our stronger disciplines ... mainly because they are more enjoyable and give us a greater buzz!    I'm guilty of it myself but have relished the occasions when I have paid for 'proper' MTB skills coaching, despite having very competent MTB riders in my circle of friends and teammates.  Good quality coaching doesn't come cheap but  is an excellent investment for future enjoyment, reward and success, so I've decided to make the most of time in the pool ... and take the plunge so to speak!

Whatever your goals - working on your weaknesses is the quickest way to improve your performance.  One such example of this is our NAV4 Paddle Club.  This was set up as canoeing was our weakest team discipline in our last big expedition race. Since entering the Terrex races this year we've learnt that we will be paddling Open Boats, rather than kayaks; an even weaker skill so with much to learn. Having discovered a great local provider (Distant Horizons) we've done a deal where UK AR Club members get coaching and boat hire for just £40 - and absolute bargain!   The only problem is that you need to get booked up and committed now, in order to reap the benefit, and regular monthly attendance will pay dividends.  Places are limited, and with a 4:1 ratio of students per coach the session must be pre-booked.  The next session is this coming Sunday, 11th March, 10-4pm on Ullswater, and we have a session planned for the second Sunday of each month through until July. It's not profit making, in fact Paddle Club is heavily subsidised and runs at 'cost', but I've negotaited this deal for UK ARClub members ... and so it is a bit of a 'use it or lose it' situation.

So, you can either stop reading now, drop me an email because you want to come along to Paddle Club, or carry on reading what is a blantant plug for our Navigation skills coaching, as I need to re-coup some lost earnings somehow.

NAV4 provide training in Navigation and all manner of things to do with adventure racing, mountain marathons and mountain sports, and have done for around fifteen years. I've enjoyed working with loads of people on our NAV4 'Masterclasses' over many years.  Masterclasses are basically a day specific to you and your needs, on a date by arrangement, whether it is just you One-to-One, or up to three friends as well.  Our maximum group size is usually four, or based on a 4:1 ratio.   The hardest part of booking any course tends to be finding the right date, so get sorted now.

NAV4 One Day Open Navigation Courses 

More recently we started offering one day 'Open' courses for those who don't want to book a Masterclass, but do want to join a small group (maximum group size four people) for some quality skills coaching.  I've just set some new dates for March, April and May; including some mid-week days and some in Shropshire rather than our usual Lakes based home venue, so as to make it as accessible as possible.

Take a look at our website, think carefully about your AR performance and then write yourself some goals.  If a skills audit or development isn't listed then I suggest something is missing from your training plan!

AR Rope Skills - Abseiling and Belaying and stuff ..
And finally .... I'm looking to stage some AR 'Rope Skills and Certification' days so watch out for more info.  Please don't be the 'numpty' who 'forgets' how to abseil during the next race. Get some training, get some real practice in real situations and get certified; you owe it to yourself and fellow racers.

* 'Shelley' isn't her real name, but she reminds me of a Shelley I know and until I have the chance to talk to her properly without coughing and spluttering it will have to do.  'Sorry, Shelley and thank you for taking the lead.' 

Ok, rant/plug over -  'race hard - smile lots' - I look forward to racing against you soon.

UK AR Club Chair
NAV4 Adventure Race team - aka Cannycrocs