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Team goal setting 2020 - Ian

Following on from my article about SMART goal setting last week I thought I should share my own thought process about my personal goal setting for 2020.

For the last two years my main goals for the year have been multi-day expedition races, Cape Wrath Ultra in 2018 and the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race in 2019. These have both been brilliant adventures and have both been big steps up for me in terms of difficulty. I have really enjoyed the expedition element of these events and have found that I cope relatively well with multi-day races. I was very tempted to enter the Cape Wrath Ultra again this year, but instead I have decided to maintain the unknown element in my goal for 2020, as this adds the uncertainly and adventure that I find most motivating.

Rather than searching the world for an adventure of someone else’s design, this year I am planning to go for my own, local adventure; a continuous round, on foot, of all of the munros within the Cairngorms National Park.

A munro is a Scottish mountain over 3000 feet (914 meters) and there are 282 in total. 58 of these sit within the Cairngorms. As far as I can tell, no-one has ever done this as a round before. The closest similar journey would be the continuous munro rounds. Steve Pike incredibly completed all 282 munros in 39 days in 2010, he was in the Cairngorms for 8 days, but he also cycled linking parts of his journey.


Analysing the challenge

Distance: approximately 400km

Ascent: 21000m

Time: Estimated schedule of 6 days.


There are two key elements to this challenge, the terrain itself and the continuous nature of the attempt and it’s implications.

Terrain - All of the munros have reasonable mountain trails on the popular routes to the summits, but the nature of my round means that a lot of the time I will be linking peaks together in a way that will take me across a lot of rough and remote terrain. The distance is significant, but the amount of ascent and descent is more of a consideration. I expect to be able to jog along at a steady pace on the sections of good trail, but will be walking all of the uphills, and a good deal of the flatter terrain too where the route is pathless.

I need to think about this in my preparation and not just do loads of trail running. Big days in the mountains, purposefully choosing lines of rougher ground will be important. This is useful in a way through the winter, when the snow on the hills means that mountain running isn’t very practical anyway. High mileage winter walking days, carrying a larger rucksack, will give me a good base of power in the legs come the springtime.

The expected time on my feet, with all that descending will show up any weaknesses I have, and the most likely thing to stop me would be an injury. I therefore need to make sure I include a steady volume of strength and conditioning work to be able to maintain the volume of training as well as the effort of the challenge itself.

Continuous challenge - All the multi-day events I have done have been stage races where you have a set distance to do each day, with plenty of time to rest, eat and sleep overnight. I have never done any continuous races, like the Spine or Tor de Geant. The longest I have been on the go was 25 hours last January on an unsuccessful attempt at a winter Rigby Round and I was falling asleep whilst running towards the end of that.

The physiological effects of the relentless effort will be very difficult to practice for, but I can mentally prepare for the challenge by being really clear with myself about my motivations and expectations. Also important will be conditioning myself to back to back longer days in the run up to the event.

The biggest part of dealing with the continuous nature of this challenge will be in practical preparations. I will have a support team to help me, so I will have access to opportunities to eat good food, change clothes and equipment and get some sleep at a dozen places along the way. Getting the planning right for this and working out what food and equipment will work for me is going to be crucial.


Current position

Before I plan what I need to do in my final preparations it is important to take stock of my current position to work out where I am starting from.

2019 has been a fairly successful year for me, my primary event was the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race in May. I finished this in 40th place, but more importantly ran well all week and finished injury free and feeling strong. After that my training didn’t have particular structure, but did include some other high volume weeks, trail running guiding and a personal round of the Tour du Mont Blanc in 4 days.

My yearly total mileage of 2634km was up 30% on 2018 and my vertical total of 109,137m was up 69%.

In the later part of the year I have been running well, but without much structure due to work and traveling. I have also completed a good period of strength and conditioning and am stronger in this respect than I have been before.


Training Plan

I have 6 months to build my training towards this attempt, which is a good length of time to allow good preparation, without loosing motivation or focus.

Throughout January to March I will be mainly working as a Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor, this is physical work, carrying fairly heavy bags, but will make it difficult for me to put in a high volume of running training. I plan to use this time to focus on intensity to build a strength and power base that I can then use to increase the volume in the spring.

I don’t find it realistic to plan a very detailed programme months at a time, but instead periodise my training in month blocks, with a different focus each month. I can then build in the detail a week at a time, reacting to my time available and how I am feeling. The final week of each month I will take a bit easier, to allow recovery for the start of the next period.

January - Main focus - Flat speed

Progressively increasing interval training with decreasing rest periods.

Tempo efforts, 5k building to 10k

Some steady pace runs to maintain aerobic base.

February & March - Main focus - Uphill speed/power

Steep uphill, 6-8 minute intervals, increasing reps and sets.

Some steady pace runs to maintain aerobic base.

April - Main focus - Maximum distance

Volume of steady pace runs, Multiple short runs and some long days out.

Some short speed work to maintain.

Target of 80km per week.

May - Main focus - Uphill volume

Variety of terrain and training efforts, focusing on maximum uphill volume. Target of 4000m ascent per week. 

June - Main focus - Big mountain days, as specific as possible

- Events - Scottish Mountain marathon - 2 day event, with high mileage and ascent on rough terrain similar to my goal.

July - Final week of tapering, attempt starts 8th July


I will try to do a few updates of my progress before my attempt and it will be interesting to see how it all comes together.

If you have any questions about my process, or about setting your own goals, please get in touch.


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