I am sat in my favourite coffee shop – Nelsons Coffee in Eastbourne, peering out into a murky morning while everyone goes about their daily business.
My 3 week expedition to attempt to ascend Aconcagua is now under 3 weeks away and the final throws of preparation are being taken care of.
The nature of the expedition, physically, will see a lot of walking and carrying loads of equipment on our backs. This combined with the high altitude means there is a very strong cardiovascular element to what we will encounter on a daily basis. In addition, carrying packs of 20-25kg on our backs, on mountainous terrain for long hours requires a level of strength and resilience in the body that is impossible to achieve in the gym alone.
With all of the challenges I have completed this year (Winter Fan Dance, Summer Fan Dance, P-Company Fan Dance and 3 Iron Man Test Marches) I have been very consistent in my training and right now I am very fit.
Each of these events are based on Special Forces selection in the Brecon Beacons and are effectively a
race over mountainous terrain carrying between 40 and 55lb of weight on your back.
I completed the Summer Fan Dance in 3hr 30 (30 minutes under the SAS pass time) to finish 3rd on the day in July. I also came joint first in the P-Company Fan Dance earlier in the year.
My best Iron Man Test March Performance saw me carry 55lb for 20 miles over the Brecon beacons very worst terrain possible – it took 8hrs 27 to complete.
Right now I feel in peak physical condition.
Aconcagua Training this Year
My training has largely centred on high mileage, low intensity running to build a massive base of endurance while promoting the aerobic pathways of energy production.
A typical week for me is between 50 and 65 miles of running over the South Downs.
In addition I have put in the hard yards marching with pack weights up to 53lb every other week for between 8 and 20 miles including plenty of hills and drag inclines.
This year I have had many trips to the Brecon beacons to train which would see me complete 2 days of back to back training in the mountains clocking up 30 miles in 2 days with 35lb on my back.
Pack work is very hard on the body, especially the ankles, knees, hips, back and shoulders – thus it must be respected to prevent injury and limit the posture wrecking effects of carrying a heavy pack for long hours.
Using the pack every other week seemed to work well for me and I have no injuries this year despite the high volume training.
It’s Not All About Running
In addition to the cardiovascular training I have been incorporating some cross training in the form of strength work with Kettlebells (Heavy Turkish Get Ups, Swings, and Goblet Squats).
Mace training has been used for upper body strength and mobility to help promote mobile and healthy shoulders and posture.
And finally I have completed some fun high intensity sessions on the Concept 2 Ski Ergometer.
I love the Ski Erg as it’s a very different form of cardiovascular/strength endurance training compared to running. It provides a huge stimulus to the upper body and trunk, namely chest, lats and arms that running doesn’t take account for.
I have noticed a little hypertrophy in the upper body since using their piece of kit which is also a welcome positive.
It is common practice when ascending Aconcagua to use trekking poles for additional support due to the rocky terrain and so an upper body that can last the distance is also of key importance.
If truth be told, the rigours of the years training and racing has left me with an awareness of weariness on a physical and psychological level.
The last couple of months of training therefore have been all about maintaining the level of fitness that I have achieved.
I have been running on average 50 to 55 miles per week, some loaded hiking, some mace and kettlebell work and some ski erging.
None of it has been to push hard, but literally just keep going, nurturing the levels of fitness I have attained.
Look after your body and it will look after you
I have also been having a restorative session once per week in the form of sports massage and medical acupuncture from Kay at Mind Body Goal. Kay has a knack of getting to the points that need releasing and ironing out – a body that is asked to perform at a high level needs looking after and nurturing and I am lucky to have access to Kay to receive her expert treatment. Greg Funnel from Optimum Muscle Care has also played a large role in manipulating my body and reducing compression and tension in my body. What a team!
I will cease all training in the week before Aconcagua apart from mobility and flexibility work and I will go into the expedition feeling ready to attack the mountain with a renewed sense of vigour!
I am supporting two local charities.
I am proud to be trying to raise as much money for the JPK Project in this challenge as possible who do amazing work in Eastbourne. They provide greater opportunities to people with learning difficulties including housing and accommodation.
My JustGiving Page is here and any donations are massively appreciated for their incredibly worthwhile charity.
In addition I am representing another local charity called Para Monte – The Adam Savory Memorial Fund.
Jeanette and Chris tragically lost their son, Adam, to High Altitude Sickness when travelling in Peru. Their charity is passionate about raising awareness about the dangers of High Altitude Sickness.
They have been incredibly supportive and kindly donated £350 to me for the purchase of my summit jacket that will prove invaluable in the expedition.
Donations can also be made to Para Monte here:- DONATIONS.
I will be recording a daily diary of my experiences on Aconcagua at High Altitude to help raise awareness for their charity.
I am thrilled to be working alongside these two awesome local organisations and look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with both.