Getting Downesy to the desert…

So here it is…. my first blog post about my training and preparation for the 2015 Marathon Des Sables.

Known simply as the MdS, The Marathon des Sables is ranked by the Discovery Channel as “the toughest footrace on earth”.  Next April (just 20 weeks from now) you will find me somewhere in the Sahara Desert running the equivalent of five and a half marathons in six days, a total distance of some 251 km (156 miles) carrying everything I need to survive on my back.

I have been warned to expect nothing but rolling sand dunes for miles around and daytime temperatures of over 100O F (50OC).  Having just completed the SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon and the Belleek Trail Marathon I have now finished my competitive events for the year and the focus from now on is to get “desert ready”.  I will be blogging regularly about my training, product testing and the nutrition and weight-loss challenge I have to undergo over the next 5 months.

My current 24-week training plan is loosely based around achieving an average of 56miles per week (thanks Damien McSharry) and has been refined with input from Rory Coleman who shared his invaluable experience of 11 MdS races. Having worked out my mileage plan, I’m also working with Ronan McNamara at J2P Coaching using lactate value testing to help me to determine the right training intensity to increase my power and endurance.

My running week now comprises of two days of 8-10mile runs which includes 12-15mins of Tempo Running (Tue/Thurs), an 6-8mile Active Recovery Run on Wednesdays where I am training with a 5kg backpack, an 18-20mile  Endurance Run on Saturday where I run 30mins and walk 5mins, again with the backpack.  Sunday is another 8-10 mile Active Recovery run.

Dog Vader 1
Me and Dog Vader

I am combining trail and sand-dune running in order to try to prepare for the terrain and will add heat training towards the end of the plan.  Across the week I also have to squeeze in 3 gym sessions where I focus on strength and conditioning training. I am very grateful to Pauline Kelly and Neil McCabe at the Sligo Park Hotel Leisure Centre for kindly allowing me to use and adapt their fantastic facilities to support my training.

Rest days are currently busy with sourcing sponsorship for the event as I need a lot of specialist kit for the desert and keeping my pack weight down will be essential in the desert heat.  My goal is to cover my event costs so that I can use my participation to fundraise for charity – watch this space for further details and give me a follow on twitter @downes23david


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