Ben St Lawrence – A Week in the Creek

FallsQuartersThis is the 7th January in a row that I have spent at Falls Creek in the Victorian Alps, and I wouldn’t want to start my year any other way. It’s an unforgiving environment, there is a noticeable lack of oxygen and the sessions can be brutal. However there is no shortage of outstanding training partners, the town has a restful and recuperative feel to it and the scenery is stunning. If you can manage your time here well and stay in one piece, it will provide a solid base for the long year ahead.

Falls6x800mhillsAt the end of 2007 I came up here wet behind the ears and in a big hurry to get fit. I wanted to prove to myself that I could run with the big dogs and I absolutely smashed myself in an effort to do so. I learnt a lot those first few years, running with Mona, Troopy, Marty, Mottram, Scotty Westcott, Collis etc – they were such a big help, and willing to answer all of my questions. While I definitely trained too hard up here, I did take a lot of confidence and enthusiasm with me back to Sydney at the end of those training camps. I guess I’m now one of the more experienced blokes who tries to impart some wisdom on the younger guys, but speaking from personal experience, sometimes advice can only go so far and we need to learn lessons the hard way.

Last year I came to Falls Creek after a few weeks off with a hip injury, so I held back a little and just got through three weeks of solid training, without any scintillating sessions. I ended up having my best overall year of running, with a 7:40 3k, a 13:10 5k and a 27:37 10k. Looking back at my training in the past, it seems that if I am in exceptional shape in January, I haven’t been able to find that form as much as I would like in April and then again in August. It’s hard to draw any definite conclusions from this, but I do think that for me personally to reach my best in July/August, I need to see January as a time to lay a good foundation. I do still train very hard during this time, but I do now realise that there are a lot of sessions to get through during the year, and that if you’re maxed out in January – there isn’t much room to improve throughout the year.

Falls8x1kHaving said that, if I am under control in January – and still in better shape than previous years – then hopefully with a smart approach to the rest of the year I may have an even better year than last. Fingers crossed anyway.

Here’s a quick look at a 7 day period during this time:


Morning: Fitzy’s Hut Run – a 16km loop run (approximately) with the first 31 minutes along a flat trail at a moderate pace (4 min/km ish) followed by a very hard hill about 10 minutes in length and then a hard 2km across the snow plain, followed by a  fast descent and another couple of km along the flat back to the start. It’s basically a long threshold with a very intense hill and some rough ground. From the 31 min mark, the effort is equivalent to running under 3 min/km in Centennial Park in Sydney. I ran this is 62:45, coming in quite a way behind Collis and just back from Andreas (The Clydesdale) from Sweden. This was decent for my first session at altitude. 3km cool down at the end. 19km

Afternoon: 8km recovery run. 27km

Sun: 30km Long Run, starting with a 25 minute hill. From the 63 minute mark of this run we had an extremely tough headwind for most of the way back to the village. Thankfully I was running with a few other guys (Jacko Elliott from QLD, Nath Hartigan from Ballarat, Mike from Sweden and my fellow Sydneysider Harry Summers) – so we shared the work into the wind. We got back to the village in 1:53 and I added on 7 minutes to hit 2 hours. I didn’t wear the Garmin for this run, but it would have been 30 – 31km 58km


Morning: 13km hut run. Mostly flat with a couple of hills to go past Cope and Wallace Huts, these huts are awesome, with little fireplaces and some places to sleep. If things ever get really tough financially I could see myself camping in them. 71km

Evening: 8km recovery run: 79 km.


Morning: 8x1km, with 60 sec recovery. My Garmin measured this 1km stretch as a few seconds long, however it’s the same course that we do every year. My times for the standard Falls Creek 1km were 2:57/52/57/53/59/52/56/47 + 9km jogging. 17km 96km

Afternoon: Physio/Massage treatment with Dave Campbell + Gym session + 20 minutes on the elliptical.


Morning: 14km flat run, not fast. 110km

Afternoon: 7km recovery run. 117km


Morning: Quarters Session, along a 600m stretch of trail. We do 400m hard, 200m float, repeated 8 times for approximately 4.8 – 5km. I ran this in 14:55 which is one of my better times up here. After a quick drink we jump straight into a threshold along the trail, I did 16 minutes at 3:22/km pace. This is not fast, but after a very intense session it is a great addition. 9km of jogging. 18km 135km

Afternoon: 7km recovery run 142km


Morning: Tower Run, 13km. 155km.

Afternoon: 6km recovery run and gym session. 161km for the week.

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