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Training Info

May 22 / 2013

Mongolia tips for Ultra trainingoc

Mongolia tips for Ultra training

Training and preparing for Mongolia three day ultra: the land of desserts, horses and yurts

 Sharing preparation tips for Mongolia this year is Rachel Jacqueline, a regular Action Asia Events competitor and local Hong Kong trail runner & writer.

Mongolia is the flattest of the three-day ultras on offer from Action Asia Events each year. While other events in mountainous Nepal and Lijiang require competitors to prepare for steep climbs, Mongolia requires an altogether different training plan, incorporating some longer runs and preparing the mind and body for the unique scenery and terrain.

So how should you train for land of deserts, horses and yurts?


Understanding the course and terrain

Firstly, let’s have a look at the course. According to Race Director, Mike Maddess, it can be roughly broken down as follows over the three days:

  • 50% - dirt grassy sandy tracks
  • 25% - grass
  • 20% - sand dunes with small bumps that sap your energy
  • 5% - hiking steep hill

While the terrain is flatter, grass and sandy tracks are more taxing on the body than plain road. Sand dunes and steep hills will also require leg strength.


Training tips

Long runs

It’s perhaps more important than any other AAE three day ultra to get some time on your legs on the flatter terrain over longer distance. The Hong Kong trail on the island offers lots of long, flatter stretches of trail which are good to get in such mileage. Incorporating some shorter, more intensive speed training on your days off will also help work on your leg turnover to help grind it out the longer terrain.

While you don’t want to exhaust yourself / over train leading up to the event, right NOW is the time to increase your distances. If you’re doing the 60 km, you need to make sure that you can hike comfortably for 20 kilometres.

Hill climbs & stairs

While hill climbing is not as important in Mongolia as Nepal, leg strength is still vital over this terrain, especially for the sand dune sections, so don’t cut out your hill training altogether.  Get out on the hills at least once or twice a week and if you can’t, get on the stair master at the gym. Some hill repeats of the Morning Trail would be a great way to get prepared for this part of the world.  

Back-to-back exercise

Running/hiking for three days back-to-back will be taxing simply because you won’t have the time to fully recover. The key to preparing for such a challenge is getting in back-to-back sessions and training on “tired” legs. This will help simulate the feeling you will get over the weekend and help you to prepare.

Use your weekend to do a hike/run on Saturday and then getting up again and doing it on Sunday. Even better – get in a third session on Monday morning before work!

Build endurance and get the distance in your head

Training your mind to prepare for the longer, flatter distances and desert terrain is important to ensuring you have the best time possible in Mongolia, where the terrain is more sparse.

“When you see a landmark far away and you have to run or hike towards it, you have to mentally push yourself harder as sometimes it seems you’re not moving even though you are pushing yourself hard,” says Mike.

“Telling yourself when you get tired to just keep walking…you’ll make it eventually….put one foot in front of the other…just keep going.”

Endurance is more a mind game than anything else. It’s important that you get some long distances under your belt before you go away so – more than anything – you know that mentally you can handle it. That way you’ll head to Mongolia knowing the experience is achievable for you and you can hit the trails with confidence. 


Other preparation tips

Do I need Gators? This is still open to debate in Mike’s mind. “Mongolia is not really a “full” desert race, and all I think they do is not allow your feet to breathe and make your feet hotter,” he says. His handy tip is to remove the dirt yourself by taking off your shoes at the end of the sandy sections. If you are going to opt for gators, Mike recommends Velcro quick ones which are easy to put on and remove.

Don’t forget the sun protection. Temperatures during the day can reach as high as the 30s, while the mornings will be quite cool at around 15 degrees. Make sure you’re prepared for a range of weather. Loose long sleeve clothing may keep you cooler than short singlets where your skin is exposed.


Rachel also keeps a blog of all things adventure in Hong Kong. Check it out: www.hkadventurebaby.com

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