Kate Trains For Ultra Trail Australia

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Winner of an entry to Ultra Trail Australia, 2020, Kate Shedden has been receiving expert coaching from two-time winner of the UTA100, Brendan Davies.

We caught up with Kate to chat about her training, with 13 weeks down and 17 weeks to go until Ultra Trail Australia.

“I’ve built from 20km up to 70km per week with my longest run, a hilly 40kms. I’ll be looking to focus on stairs and hills during the weeks ahead to prepare for the elevation that the Blue Mountains likes to throw at us!”

What have you found to be the most challenging so far?

“I’d actually say the most challenging thing is calming the nerves the night before a long run so I can get some sleep. A 3-4 hour run, especially if I opt to go solo, can seem quite overwhelming!

Three months ago, I’d have thought I’d have said the volume of training would be the biggest challenge, however the slow weekly build and the supportive ultra-running community has made it feel manageable and quite enjoyable.”

Has Brendan included anything in your training schedule that you didn't expect?

“I think the biggest surprise has been the pacing of the long runs. I’m learning that it’s important to keep your heart rate low, not only to ensure all the kms are kicked off, but to aid recovery. Going too hard on a long run can put you out for days which is detrimental to the overall efficacy of the training plan.”

Have you changed your eating habits?

“What I eat hasn’t changed much, however I get a whole lot more hungry, so volume has definitely increased. I know I’ve not had enough when I find myself waking up in the middle of the night wanting to eat which was happening initially after my first few long runs. However, I’ve gotten better at refuelling with the right foods.”

Has the training affected any other areas of your life?

“I’ve learnt that planning is the key here so other parts of my life aren’t affected too much (this challenge is just as much about the journey as it is race day, so I don’t want to resent the training because I miss out on things).

I swap around my long run on the weekend to try to fit in with any social occasions at night so I can get as much sleep as possible. Over the Christmas and new year period I did lower my expectations of getting all my training done. 

Whilst training for the UTA100 is about sacrificing certain things, I knew mentally that I would resent the journey if I didn’t enjoy the festive season with family and friends. I was able to compromise and tick off two boxes at once by inviting friends along on some of my runs. Because of the pace of trail running, friends could join for a section of a longer run.”

Generally, when you think about your UTA2020 run, how are you feeling?

“I’m not going to lie; I have my days where the nerves kick in. I just try to remember I’m in it to enjoy it, so I try to talk myself out of setting expectations for race day.

Mark (Webber) told me (minutes after signing me up for the UTA100km) that toeing the start line is an achievement in itself because of the nature of ultra-running training, so I try to focus only on the week ahead.”

“I think it is important to speak to the horrific fire season we’ve had in Australia as well, and how it has put it all into perspective. Many of our trails have been completely destroyed and there have been very few days in the last few months that we have had clean air, which can make it difficult to prepare. However, this pales in comparison to the impact on our animals, their habitat and the toll on human lives and their homes.

Returning back to the trail paths in the Blue Mountains has been very sobering and my heart goes out to those impacted and those who have been valiantly protecting lives and property.”

Brendan discusses gear:

“Early on, I asked Kate to think about gear choice and what she will need for both training and racing.

After a 3+ hour run with some very well-seasoned trail runners, Kate came back a stack of tips on what to think about when getting gear:

Hydration pack – after realising that her everyday backpack wouldn’t cut it, a specialised hydration pack that big enough to carry all the gear requirements whilst being light and fits like a second skin is the way to go. The pocket arrangements on the front of the bag strap is worth thinking about in relation to personalised hydration and nutrition plan too.

Shoes – Again, 3-year-old runners, although very comfy, won’t fair well for 100kms let alone the training in the lead up. Consensus is to find a trail runner that is supportive and comfortable (rather than determined by look and colours!). Also, look to get a half to a full size bigger to account for foot swelling.

Safety – First aid kit, a snake bite bandage, charged phone and letting someone know about your route plan is essential. This is no afternoon run on the busy paths of Sydney and so extra precautions must be taken.

Clothing – Kate was repping the Aussie grit gear on the long run. Upon reflecting, she mentioned that “not once did she have to readjust her shorts (which is often an annoyance when running) and the pockets came in handy to store some of her snacks…although she very quickly learnt chocolate doesn’t store very well on long runs!”

We will continue to follow Kate’s journey in the lead up to Ultra Trail Australia, 2020.

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