Kim is using her general physical preparedness base to help her train for a very, very long stage race in the Kalahari desert. We wish her the very best of luck.
CrossFit is exceptional at building our general physical preparedness or GPP. The GPP we develop in the gym will help us do anything we want outside of the gym....within reason. At some point you may need to specialize for a specific physical activity, rather than just being in excellent general shape. That is the case for Kim P., a regular in our 6am class, for she is training for a very big and very specific type of foot race through the Kalahari Desert in October. Kim is our guest blogger today and you can learn all about this crazy thing she is training for!
Call Of the Kalahari - by Kim Pribanic
No person in their right mind decides to tackle something like a 250-kilometer desert foot race without training for it. (Perhaps no person in their right mind decides to tackle such a thing in the first place, but we won’t talk about that!) Figuring out how to train is a difficult process, and as I have discovered in my work with physiology and biomechanics, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach that actually works for everyone. Over the next few months, I’m going to share some of the things that I have learned, with the hope of convincing you that you can accomplish things that seem – on first glance – impossible (or at least, not too smart)! I can guarantee that CrossFit provides a terrific foundation.
PART I: Why, what, and wherefore
I’ve always been a person who loves adventure. The problem is that the kind of adventure I crave is either very difficult (and expensive) or far too dangerous to tackle on my own. Who knows why, but I love deserts. I also love running, even though I’ve been a slow, lousy runner my whole life. The idea of traveling on foot through those vast, open spaces, seeing the history written in the land, and encountering the people and animals that live there is intoxicating. The problem, of course, is how to manage it all and live. That's where stage races come in.
Most stage races cover approximately 250 kilometers (155 miles) over 6-7 days. Racers are typically expected to carry enough food (regulations call for a minimum of 2000 calories per day), as well as gear for sleeping and emergencies, and any other miscellaneous stuff they might want. Shelters are usually supplied at the campsites (group tents or gazebos) and water is supplied at checkpoints (CPs) every 10-15 km along the course, and at the evening camp. Medical staff are on hand at CPs, and a sweep team wraps up the day's course, ensuring that there are no stragglers left behind. Some races have roving patrols - on horseback, camelback, or ATV - as an extra layer of protection. However, we all have to remember that we're pushing our bodies and minds, often in extreme environments, and that we are ultimately responsible for ourselves. While it is rare, participants have been seriously injured, and several have died.
So, like I said, no person in their right mind would tackle such a thing without adequate training.
For an event like this, training involves not just cardiovascular endurance, but general physical strength. It also means getting prepared for the environment. (The part of the Kalahari we'll be in is called the Green Kalahari, which means that it does get some moisture. As parts of the course run along the Orange river, humidity can reach up to 45%. That doesn't sound like much until you consider that the daytime temps can run upwards of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Because evaporative cooling drops with increased humidity, I could be trying to complete a marathon or more at 136 degrees on the heat index!) All of this means that the last major component is mental training. 250k is a long way to go when you're overheated, hungry, sleep deprived, and hurting. Oh, and let's not forget the one day when the course is long enough to have you out in the bush at night! (What critter do those glowing eyes belong to? I hope it's not a leopard!)
Based on past experience, one of the biggest issues I expect to have during this race is pain, and the self-generated mental sabotage that goes along with it. Between my hips, shoulders and back, there's enough old damage to supply a nursing home, with arthritis being a key culprit. I can no longer jog, especially while carrying an extra 18-21 pounds of gear and water. I can run-run, or I can walk. No matter what, the hours on my feet will take a toll. It used to be Vitamin I (ibuprofen, or Advil) to the rescue, but in this event, as in most ultras, dehydration and kidney strain are a real problem. What to do?
CrossFit, that's what!
This is one way in which the coaching I get at TSCF really helps. The variety of movements keep me well-balanced (physically at least), and the weight that I move builds muscle, ligament and tendon strength and endurance. These kinds of strength support my damaged joints, and allow me to go for longer periods of time before the pain sets in. That being said, because my training needs to be more focused on endurance than power right now, I'm not moving as much weight as I have. I need to be strong enough to move my gear and my body through the course, but I don't want to lug muscle mass that won't be helpful in getting me to the finish line. What's really cool is that my coaches get that. They're helping me to prepare for what I want to do, rather than hoping I might become a masters games athlete. (Good thing too. No way I'm gonna win a CrossFit competition!)
Okay, that's more than enough for now. If you've made it this far, you might just be seeing some parallels between my goals and yours. I hope you have gained a bit of inspiration to tackle something that makes you nervous.
Next month: a little technical detail about physiology
The (Re)Open starts in October!
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