Nikolaj and I believe, that pushing the training and racing to the next level takes a special type of dedication. This specific dedication can be found in everyday life, but nothing beats a training camp with 100% focus on training, eating, recovery and sleeping. This training camp will be our 4th together and an opportunity to once again push our limits as athletes – and this camp will definitely be our hardest!

A total of 4 Spartan Race surrounds 12 days of altitude training in Flagstaff, one of the world’s most famous place for runners to train in altitude. This post will solemnly focus on these 12 days of training.

The benefits of altitude training

The primary reason athletes train in altitude, is to develop red blood cells. Red blood cells are the ones that transports oxygen through your veins to your muscles. The more of these bad boys an athlete has, the better aerobic capacity of the athlete – which potentially leads to a better race performance.

It’s widely debated for how long (and how high) you should be to have an effect of altitude training. The overall guidelines, and the ones we follow, are:
1) Spend +10 days in altitude
2) Stay between 2000m and 2500m altitude
3) Do not perform (too) high intensity workouts too until acclimatized
4) It’s recommended to leave training with a feeling that you could have worked harder.

It’s not actually training in altitude that makes a difference, but living in altitude. We are doing a “train high – live high” setup, and if you’d like to know more about this, check out this slide show. It’s debated that the training outcome could be better with a “train low – live high” strategy. But that’s not too important for us, as we’re doing winter/base training.

Peaking: Theoretically there’s 2 peaks after altitude training camp, assuming the athlete experiences any improved affect. The first peak is the first 2-3 days arriving to sea level altitude and then again 2-3 weeks after. This is at least how it works for most athletes – but this is not what we’re aiming for. Our goal is a solid push in the right direction on our winter training. This is the base from which we will keep developing back in Denmark before the season begins.

Source: YLM Sport Science

Plan and structure

We are using an on/off structure to ensure the different training modalities are performed in best possible conditions and to minimize interference between endurance and strength based training. This interference is especially important to consider for OCR athletes and it can have negative impact on the effect of the training sessions.

FYI: This model we are using is best for winter/base training periodization and will change a lot when we get closer to the main season.

The setup is simple – but brutal. Every other day we perform a double running session with a bit of intensity in both sessions. Because its still winter and we are a long way from the OCR season, we do a lot of threshold running. On the running days, we have between 30-50min total of threshold running. Threshold running is defined roughly as the submaximal intensity zone which you can sustain for 20-60 minutes with your heart rate around 170. This is not maximal effort and that is why it’s possible for us to do two sessions a day. Including warmup and cooldown we run 24 – 30 km on the hard running days.

The other days we do very easy running 8-10km with no-specific-pace – it just has feel very easy. On top of that we have two strength/grip/calistenics sessions. The first one is 1:15-1.45 hours of basic strength training and obstacle specific strength exercises in one session. That’s squats, deadlifts, box jump, hamstring exercises etc. The other session is 30-60 minutes of either grip based training, bouldering or calistenics/gymnastics training. If we feel especially fresh, we throw in some crosstrainer, yoga or another easy activity.
Just like that, we get enough rest between the hard-running sessions and the strength/grip/boulder/calisthenics sessions because we have one day of “rest” between these different sessions.

This may very well not be the ideal structure for every OCR athlete. We are simply trying to accept the fact that we must separate the training modalities as much as possible on this time of the year to have the best effect of the training, but still put in enough work to be an ELITE OCR athlete on every aspect of that. We are guinea pigs on our own plan and we hope to see positive results. The work we do these days is not recommended for everyone. We have spent years building training volume, so we can handle this kind of training without getting injured.  

Below you can follow the specific workouts done in Flagstaff:

So how do we feel?

All in all, we feel damn great. There’s been plenty of training, but we haven’t been too bombed to miss out on the ‘office work’, which we’ve done every day. We prioritize more time for recovery and sleep, we read books and we evaluate everything we do to get the most out of the experience here. We also appreciate chatting to many of you, who are DM’ing us or commenting on the trip.

The first few days were actually the hardest. Every run was surprisingly hard to breathe on and we felt a bit hammered after a weekend of racing some tough American OCR athletes. But now (Sunday), we are good and ready to conquer the last 5 days of training before heading to Phoenix and 2 more Spartan Races! This blog will be updated once we leave Flagstaff!

The training camp GEAR

We had to pack for quite a variety of weather, ground and facilities. Racing gear and training gear for indoor, chilly outdoor, cold outdoor and fucking cold outdoor training was a necessity.

We both packed 4 pairs of shoes:
– Inov8 ParkClaw 275 / TrailRoc 285 (dirt roads, but good for anything!)
– Inov8 TrailTalon 235 / X-talon 210 (race shoes)
– Inov8 F-lite 195 (indoor training)
– NIKE Pegasus 33 / Zoom Fly (road shoes)

The ParkClaw has become our new favorite running shoe! I even used it on the long Grand Canyon run (snow, ice, mud, dirt) and it was simply perfect.

Base layers:
– SAYSKY and Inov8 merino base layers
– SAYSKY performance tees and singlets
– SAYSKY fleeece tops
– SAYSKY Winter Combat Tights

We are pretty big on merino, as the material is great in basically any weather condition! Combining it with a SAYSKY fleece top, we were sure to stay warm in some chilly conditions. The Winter Combat Tights are nice and warm, but sometimes we used not-so-warm tights if the sun was high. For racing (or really warm days) we’ve been using either SAYSKY or the red-and-white split shorts.

Outer layers:
– Inov8 Pro Tec shell jackets (the most badass water proof running jacket)
– Inov8 Thermoshell jacket
– SAYSKY running jackets (Universe and Wellington)
– SAYSKY Tracksters
– Inov8 Race Pant (water proof)

In the daytime when the sun is out, we only need an easy outer layer like the SAYSKY running jackets. But bring in some cold temperatures, some wind or rain and we’re straight into the Inov8 gear! This gear is made for some cold, wet and crazy British running conditions and it’s just perfect for the varying temperatures in the mountains!

– The most important gear has maybe been our Garmin Fenix 5 Plus tracking devices. All of our training has been monitored here, we can pay for almost anything with Garmin Pay and the battery time is incredible.
– We both brought running packs from Inov8 and soft bottles. This is useful for longer runs or for exploring areas in which we need to bring more gear.
– Socks are SUPER important when you crush a lot of running, since no one wants blisters. We’ve been swapping between merino socks from Inov8 and the new running socks from SAYSKY for warmer runs. It’s been amazing to have both options and we have 0 blister issues!
– We have been running with caps, headbands, gloves and buffs most of the time.