The Hounslow – Scott Hawker

When you’re looking at the details for any race it’s important to get acquainted with the course distance and elevation gain to assist with your training, but without freaking yourself out at the same time! It doesn’t take long to realise that the Hounslow Classic in the Grose Valley in the Blue Mountains has a tonne of vert. Sitting at 68km with approx. 4000m+ vertical gain, it’s an absolute beast of a course.

13254520_551395035043397_7926559486940825834_nThere will definitely be a stack of hiking involved, whether you’re out there to win the race or just make the cut offs and finish. It’s important to get your head around the concept that you will be hiking a fair portion of this course. Don’t beat yourself up if you find you’re not running up inclines like you did in training. Think of it as prepping yourself to shine later in the race.

One thing to be mindful of on this course is that there’s absolutely no need to be a hero early on in the race. With such a challenging course that is eventually going to show cracks in your armour, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with hiking the shorter stairs/climbs across the top from Allview Escape to Evans Lookout. It’s all about setting yourself up to hike more efficiently and with purpose on the bigger climbs of Rodriguez/Lockleys and Perrys. There are too many time gains/losses in the bigger climbs, so you want to make sure you’re feeling in control and moving well when you’re climbing up them.

13726671_574419539407613_8296868583907365051_nOne of the aspects of the Hounslow Course that often gets overlooked or forgotten is how technical the course is. The terrain in the Grose Valley differs massively from the terrain in the Jamison and Megalong Valley where the likes of the UTA events are held. Something to keep in mind when out there training is picking training routes that have technical terrain. A lot of the time technical might not be the “nicest” or “easiest” options but you did sign up for Hounslow after all! Remind yourself that technical trail ability doesn’t develop overnight, it is something that develops over time and as you become more comfortable you’ll see big improvements. Even if you can make it a focus over coming weeks and possibly get out on the course, I guarantee you’ll be glad you did come race day.

Some things to think about on technical terrain:

  1. Glancing and looking ahead on the trail when safe to do so – again, the more you practice this the more second nature it becomes. You can even be practising this on non-technical runs, so instead of looking at your feet or just in front of you, look up a little to take more in. This trains your brain to process the information quicker while your body is training for the physical task ahead. As always, safety first!
  1. Stay relaxed, it’s easier than it sounds. Often when I am running technical terrain I try to remind myself to stay relaxed and even say it out loud when I’m on my own. You can expend a lot of energy through running tense and stiff on rugged terrain and will then be loading up your legs more than necessary. “Loosy Goosy” is a good phrase I use.
  1. As you start to develop these skills you can then start to “link moves” on the technical terrain. Instead of only looking ahead one step at a time, you can start to plan a sequence of steps in advance. Kind of like driving defensively in the car – looking one/two/three “steps” ahead to make things safer and easier for yourself. This isn’t just a skill for faster runners as I believe it can be applied to everybody regardless of ability. The concept stays the same with just the speed or foot placement options available differing for each person.

I hope your last couple of weeks training goes well, and enjoy your taper! I look forward to seeing some of you out in the Grose!

Scotty