Aside from the constant threat of venomous snakes and spiders, training in Melbourne is similar to training in Toronto. I do most of my running along the river that runs through Melbourne, the Yarra River. The pathway there could be loosely compared to the Martin Goodman Trail – my old training route.
Where I do my workouts in Melbourne is quite different from Mount Pleasant Cemetery or the University of Toronto indoor track. We run track workouts on a grass track, which are very popular in Australia. On Thursdays we do our threshold workouts around a horse racing track. Our training stints in Melbourne are short though, as the Melbourne Track Club spends about three months of the year at altitude.
Currently, we’re in Falls Creek – the altitude hot spot in Australia – for the next month. This place and these workouts have redefined hard altitude training for me. This is very different from the training camps I’ve done in the past. Looking back at those now, they were far more glamorous too. To give you a picture, Falls Creek is about five hours outside of Melbourne and thirty minutes away from the next town. Situated at 6000 ft, the wilderness is barren. There isn’t one single thing up the mountain except the ski resort (yes, it snows in Australia).
My coach likes this because there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go, so for a month we’re forced to live as the Kenyans do. When there’s nothing else to do, you nap or read, or if you’re lucky enough to be in one of the chalets with WiFi, then you Netflix and chill. Doing nothing is great for recovery and since the options here are limited, most athletes get a huge training benefit from this camp.
The workouts here aren’t for the faint of heart. There’s no track up here so we do our workouts on single-track trails and up hills. It’s hard work running as fast as you can with the constant fear of tripping over a rock.
Australian greats have been coming up to Falls Creek for ages. When I’m an hour into my long run, running down a rocky mountainside and I’ve rolled my ankle for the third time, it helps to think that Craig Mottram (World Championships bronze medallist) and Benita Johnson (World Cross Country Champion and 2:22 marathoner) have done these same training runs many times in their careers.
We endure this because we know that after four weeks up here, we’ll be much fitter and much better than if we had stayed in the comfort of our homes at sea level. Being here without what we think are necessities makes us more resilient and adaptable to situations, both of which are essential skills at Major Championships and on European racing circuits.