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Berghaus Dragon's Back race - Training update

With only 4 months to go until the Berghaus Dragons back race it seems like a good time to take stock of my training and see what I still need to do.


The race is a 5 day stage race travelling North to South along the mountainous spine of Wales. As it says on the website “The route is 315km and 15500 meters of height gain. Across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain. It is NOT a trail race! It is however, an incredible journey”.

An average of 63km and 3100m each day is definitely a big step up form the Cape Wrath Ultra that I did last may, which in turn was a huge step up from anything I had done before, both in terms of the individual days and the cumulative distance during the 8 day event. (read my race report here).

Preparing for Cape Wrath my main focus was on the distances, the longest day on that is 72km on day 6! I was definitely intimidated by this sort of distance and was stepping into the unknown. The ascent average of 1375m wasn’t a problem at all as my background was in mountain running.

I was pleasantly surprised by my performance during the week and held on to 7th place in the end. My only real problem was one ankle with some ligament damage and one with tendonitis!

The challenge for the Berghaus Dragon’s back is to manage slightly longer days (63km average compared with 50km) but will considerably more ascent (3100m average compared with 1375m).

After the Cape Wrath in May last year I took nearly 2 months to get back into running because of my ankle injuries. This was incredibly frustrating but also probably helped me to fully recover which is important after such a long event. For the rest of the year I didn’t really have any goals but was just enjoying running regularly. In the autumn I had a couple of big 50km days, one locally on trails and one as a mountain round in knoydart. I finished 2018 well, running 1000 miles in a year for the first time and pushing on to finish just over 2018 km for the year.

From this base I came up with a very simple training plan for my Dragon’s back plan. Working a month at a time with specific training goals should help me to get all the right elements together, which is harder and less effective with an ad hoc approach. 4 week blocks should be 3 weeks to build the work with a week of rest before starting the next block.

My plan is this:
Continuous throughout - Strength and conditioning

         S&C sessions to work on stability of knees hips and especially ankles with the aim of staying injury free.
December - Speed 

          Building maximum sprint speed, from 1 min efforts on the flat to 5 min hills after 3 weeks.
January - Maximum ascent

- Race: Marmot Dark Mountains - Mountain marathon Approx 55km 2500m ascent
          Slow speed ascent mileage. Repeated steady laps of the steepest hills I can find.
February - Maximum power/ascent
          Gym based power exercises, fast, longer hill efforts, weighted hill efforts.
March - Maximum distance

          Long slow distance, with moderate ascent, not just flat.

April - Big mountain days

- Race: Highland Fling - Ultra, 85km 2300m ascent

           Race specific training, replicating distance and ascent.
May - 3 week taper

          Some hill runs, but easing off and recovering.



December went well and I certainly felt my speed improve in the first couple of weeks. After this I was carrying a lot of fatigue in my legs, so despite feeling ok I wasn’t getting any faster. Here I had to remind myself that the goal wasn’t a 3 minute strava segment, but the end goal in May.

January started with a bang and my Rigby round attempt, 6500 meters ascent in the bag. A remarkably quick recovery and I am over 13000 meters of ascent for the year already. Compared with my annual total for 2018 of just over 60000m. I am on a week of recovery now before the Marmot Dark Mountains at the weekend. I feel pretty good so am hoping to do ok.

The difference in my baseline from this time last year is very noticeable, but it needs to be for this massive goal. Importantly I am feeling healthy and looking forward to every run. I want May to come around quickly while at the same time don’t want to rush through the next few months of training.

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