I didn’t want to come to Flagstaff. I hadn’t done this camp last year and I had the best year of my life, so why make a change. But “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” would come into my head every time I tried to make this argument.
What I slowly began to realize in grappling with this decision, was that the basis of my reason not to go was fear. Fear that I would overtrain like I did up here in 2014. Fear of being outside of my normal training environment. And fear of not succeeding in early season races. But I never want to do something because I’m afraid. And why not spend a month in a beautiful mountainous city with some of the best runners in the world?
I can honestly say that I am fully happy with my decision to come train in Flagstaff. Regardless of the outcome of my races in May, I tried something new in training and I took a risk in a situation where I could have stayed in my comfort zone in Toronto.
I believe that sport is a way to learn more about yourself and in this situation, I have learned to read my body better, to be less stubborn in training and to deal with unfamiliar situations. Training at altitude requires a little more self awareness and an ability to let go of your ego, both of which are great skills to bring back to sea level.
Living and Training with Your Competition
Athletes from all over the world come to Flagstaff to take advantage of the elevation. You’ll regularly see athletes from different training groups or different countries working together. It’s comforting to know that, at this level, training groups and their plans are not so different from one another.
I originally saw the many female 5000m athletes here as a threat. I didn’t want to know what they were doing at the track. But I’ve reframed this as an opportunity to work with other athletes, to learn from them and improve together. We all have the same goal: to be better than we were last year.
Training at 7000ft
A typical week of training in Flagstaff is structured a bit differently than at sea level to allow for more recovery between workouts. Doing track workouts at altitude is surprisingly enjoyable. Because of the elevation, the focus shifts from hitting certain times to just working hard and keeping your effort under control. With races coming up, it’s a relief to let go of time and just focus on doing the work.
A Week at Altitude
10-12km Recovery run or day off
AM: Track session in Flagstaff (6800ft)
3x 800m at 2:30-2:33/ 2:30 rest
7’ set rest
2x [4×400 at 69-70/2’ rest]// 7’ set rest
AM: 12km and strength session
AM: Tempo at Buffalo Park
6x 4 minutes at 3:40/km/ 2 minute rest
PM: 6km run
AM: 12km and strength session
AM: Track session in Cottonwood (3000ft)
3x 1600 at 5:00/ 3:30 rest
6-7 minute set rest
24km long run
To get a peek inside what a day in the life at an Athletics Canada training camp looks like, check out my article for Canadian Running.