Training for the UTMB OCC

As I write this it’s ten days until the UTMB OCC and I can’t quite believe it’s actually happening! It’s been a long journey to get here. After three attempts in the ballot I finally got a place for 2020; then all the UTMB races were cancelled due to Covid. I could have done it last year, but as foreign travel was still tricky and the event was much reduced, I decided to defer my place to 2022 so I could have the full-on big race experience.

After the Highland Fling I took a bit of recovery time, then at the beginning of May I had a catch-up with coach Kim Cavill, who came up with a 16 week OCC training plan for me. The first half concentrated on building aerobic fitness, including interval sessions and hill sprints, and also incorporating some of our local 10K summer league races.

The second half focussed more on preparing for the actual event, so there were specific strength sessions twice a week, and the introduction of weekends where I would do a long run on Saturday and a hilly hike on Sunday. I really enjoyed these, but it didn’t leave much time for anything else other than training for a few weeks! Luckily Steve has also had to put in some long training hours for a cycle sportive he’s doing in the Alps a few days after the OCC – the GFNY Vaujany – so at least it was the same for both of us.

For two weeks in the middle of my training plan we were on holiday in France, and I had permission from Kim to freestyle a bit. I got in a few hilly runs, but also did quite a bit of cycling and walking. After having croissants for breakfast and baguette for lunch pretty much every day for a fortnight I was amazed when I got home to find I’d lost a couple of kilos! I don’t really get hung up about my weight, but I had put on a few pounds during lockdown that I was more than happy to shake off – a bit less to drag up those mountains!

I haven’t done many races in the last couple of months as I didn’t want to risk upsetting my dodgy hip in the run-up to the OCC. Just two half marathons that I love: the Ravenscar Half and the Hardmoors White Horse Half. Both good, hilly training exercises! And fortunately the hip has behaved quite well.

I’ve really enjoyed the strength work I’ve done over the last couple of months. On Wednesday I’ve been doing a session I call Mountain Legs, which is basically various different types of squats and lunges. Then on Friday I’ve had a kettlebell session; this was something completely new to me, but I’ve loved it. I think it’s really made a difference, even after just a few weeks – I definitely feel stronger and am a bit more toned all over. I’m aiming to keep this up going forward. After kettlebell Fridays, long run Saturdays and hilly hike Sundays, I’ve always been ready for my Monday rest day! I find Yoga with Adriene’s Yoga for Tired Legs session really helps me to recover on a day off.

So now I’m tapering, feeling tired but stronger, and with just a few easy sessions to do over the next ten days. Plenty of time to fuss about what to wear and pack on the day! If I’m honest, the thing that’s bothering me most now is the prospect of a very long, hot day in Chamonix, which is more than likely. I’ve tried to acclimatise a bit by forcing myself to go out and train sometimes when it’s been hot. Then again, it could rain! Ah well, what will be will be. At 55K, the OCC isn’t long (the baby race of the UTMB festival) but it does have 3,500 metres of ascent, so it’s no pushover, and will be a long day out. I’ve completed a race with that much climbing before – the Hardmoors 60 – but that was over almost twice the distance. The time limit for the OCC is 14.5 hours; although apparently the winner will take around 5.5 hours – wow! I’m a long way out of my comfort zone with this one. I just hope there will be some nice people to chat to at the back of the pack.

If you’d like to watch any of the UTMB races live you can do so on their website here. Although I doubt very much I’ll be on camera! And if you happen to be in Chamonix next week and see me, please say hi and wish me luck. I’ll certainly need it!!