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This year (2010) my training goals have
primarily been injury prevention, or rather
sorting out the cause of some long term
injuries I had and to increase my strength. I
have achieved the goals I set myself, my
recurring back spasm is no longer present
and I can now deadlift, squat and press more
than my body weight. I also have a new love
for pull-ups. This has helped with my MMA
training, I feel quicker, stronger for longer
and generally in good shape. Now MMA is
not an endurance sport, I may train for an hour but the nature of the sport
means it is geared towards anaerobic energy systems rather than aerobic.
Occasionally I foray into something a little outside my comfort zone involving
On the 3rd October I participated in a 5 hour adventure race around Plymouth
with the Lithinators (they know who they are!) This involved climbing, miles of
mountain biking, some running and yet even more miles of mountain biking.
The event was called Plymouth MAD and took place around a mix of rural and
urban terrain around in and around the city. This was my first foray into this sort
of event and I loved every minute of it. The day went a bit like this…
Team ExeMen arrived at Plymouth uni (marjon) at
10am to register and sit through a race briefing. On
registration we were presented with a map showing
numerous check points. Each check point was
worth between 10 and 30 points. There were
compulsory points we had to get to and the rest
was dependant on time. We had a quick look at the
map, and seeing as one of our team has done a few
events of this nature Chris and I handed the
We started at 11am sharp with a sprint to the
climbing wall. The harness was on and off I went, I
have climbed twice before and it never felt as easy
as this. I flew up the wall, dropped back down and
took the harness off. Unfortunately I had to sprint
back outside to the Lithinators to get the electronic
tag to swipe…they were sorting out the route to the next check point, so back in
I went to swipe the tag followed by a sprint back out to the bike. First lesson
It was from there we realised that our need for speed was a little bit reckless,
flying straight past the turning for the first check point. Oh well, a cycle back up
through the woods soon got that one registered on the electronic tag thing!
Only it wasn’t quite as simple as that because I managed to drop a vital part of
the instructions in the woods…..back down I went!
The next couple of check points didn’t really happen for us, following some
“local knowledge” and a quick glance at the map led us through a residential
area off into the country, over a bridge, along a track and up to some felled
trees. Back we went and picked up our original trail…the local knowledge was
right but they took us to another check point, not the two we wanted.
This check point involved an orienteering task whilst running through a field.
This was completed comfortably running through boggy sections to save some
time and feeling ever so grateful for waterproof socks!
We were starting to get the hang of this now, our initial disorientation and haste
led us to consult the map first and plan where to stop based on features on the
map. This was working, only we still couldn’t find the tag thing at the next
checkpoint despite being in the correct area, denoted by a red circle on the
map. The only problem was it could have been on the other side of the river,
accessed from the orienteering section! Too much time was wasted looking
along with some other participants, we were back on the trail of the next check
point under a motorway fly over. We split up and cycled around the graffiti and
rubbish ridden bmx playground and found nothing. We did find the timer on the
way out though so not a bad result.
Now we started to get some momentum. The Lithinators knew where the
rowing club was which was next on our list. A quick 2000m row done, with splits
of 500m between 1:45 and 2:00 we were beating out fellow competitors.
Anyway there was no time to stop and admire our efforts, choosing to refuel
whilst each other was rowing so that we could get back on our bikes and head
into town. This was probably the fastest uphill I had ever done, I had no choice
following the big guy who chose to go straight over the roundabouts and
sandwich us between the bus lane and the cars. We survived the gauntlet of
cars and buses and got to the next checkpoint in record time.
I was feeling good; so far I had not hit the fatigue I thought I would get. My
lungs were holding up and the legs felt surprisingly productive. It’s amazing
what cycling over a roundabout on a main junction does for your power output!
The next checkpoint was up a hill and on to a golf course to get the ball in the
hole in 5 shots or less for points! Easy…if you play golf. For us we failed and
had wasted our time on that one!
The next few miles were a mix of woody and urban terrain, again cycling
straight past the checkpoint at the top of a hill. At least we got to go down it
again! “Local knowledge” added vital minutes onto our route sending us down
dead end roads or spending 10 minutes recalling directions that they thought
they knew! The coconut shy task was next and finally some local knowledge
proved correct! This was completed on the second shot by the Lithinators and
we had a good idea where to go next.
Our downfall this time was following the masses (down the wrong route) and
getting stuck being someone learning to ride a bike on an adventure race….we
soon overtook her at the next clearing through the woods. Unfortunately as we
took the wrong route we were too far from the checkpoint to turn back. There
were 4 left, and many missed on the route that we were faced with a
decision….get one or two more and head back, or go back now uphill all the
way! If we were late back we would lose points and possibly end up in minus
figures, easy decision! Off to the race end we went. The last hill never ended!
My quads were feeling the burn now, but it was no worse than the strength
training I have been doing, it just went on a lot longer!
We were pleased with our results. We finished 26th out of 33 in 4 hours 34
minutes with smiles on our faces! Next time we will have a proper map carrier
on the bike and spend a few more seconds looking at the routes before we
cycle off. Some of our split times when we knew the exact route were very
As for the strength training, im going to keep that going. It is so effective that
every endurance athlete should spend some time strength training! Last year I
weighted 83 kg and could barely squat 50kg for a few reps and could struggle
with 8 pull-ups. This year I can squat 85kg and do pull-ups with an extra 10-
20kg depending on training phase, and im 10kg lighter! How does this equate
to endurance training?
Well if my max squat was 50kg, and I was putting an average of 5kg force per
pedal stroke that would equate to always working at 10% of my max. If my max
squat is now 85kg, and I still pedal with the same 5kg force I am only working at
5.9% of my max. If I put 7kg of force into each pedal stroke I am only working at
8.2% of my max and going further per pedal! I know this isn’t accurate cycling
maths, we would probably factor in watts and rpm if it were…but the idea is still
the same. A stronger person can influence their power generation capacity, and
also power endurance – important with repeated sprints up hills! Strength
training means you can go quicker, and sustain the effort for longer. With any
endurance race it is the fastest person that wins. Other benefits of strength
training include a reduction in injury risk and reduction in body fat levels.
Strength training, endurance and adventure
A great day out at Plymouth Mad adventure race, made all the more
enjoyable by great company and some new found strength!
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