As we finally head into the warmer seasons in the southern part of Canada, it signals the start of my Canadian Death Race training for one of my barefoot running clients – Michelle Bolhuis. Our goal every year is the same – get her a little deeper into this 125 kilometre race in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. As such, our training is unorthodox by southern Ontario running standards…AND it must be so. We do not have mountains anywhere near us but we DO have marshland, Lake Ontario and rugged terrain. By mixing in some of all of this, I am able to push Michelle into the dark areas she encounters during the Canadian Death Race (CDR). We normally start on sharp stone trails to activate Michelle’s feet, improve her balance and center her body.This is followed by a weaving run over wood chips that cut into Michelle’s feet and force her to cup the feet, flick the heels and land as light as a cat – critically important for survival on the CDR trails.
We then mix in log running in the bush with swamp mud running to improve reactivity and strength endurance. The mud swamps of the CDR are infamous for destroying the will of many competitors. Michelle MUST learn how to control these.
The next challenge is running along logs that stretch across swampy sections of the marsh. This helps improve Michelle’s focus when in areas of the CDR where falling off an edge could literally end up in death. No FEAR…Heading down to Lake Ontario, I mix in shale, river rock and beach stone running with lake running (where the water temperature is 4 degrees Celsius at this time of year).These get Michelle ready for the temperature extremes in the Rockies and toughen up her feet to move with NO fear of avoidable injury. It’s amazing how good she gets at running efficiently in such tough conditions in less than 1 hour of training. It’s then over to the logs for power lifting in case there are such obstacles on the CDR trails (anything is possible in the Rockies!).The finale on the lake is climbing over a series of boulders that drop sharply into the water. This is similar to some of the lower drops in the CDR. The goal is to move quickly and stay low to prevent sudden falls. The grande finale of our session usually includes a run into the marsh, through the deep, thick mud and over the last series of logs. This tests Michelle’s fatigue tolerance as she gets deep into the most challenging sections of the CDR. Needless to say, we NEVER see anyone else training like this on our watch. It’s quite simply the most difficult form of Natural Method training that anyone could attempt. Good on Michelle to take on the challenge and persevere in the toughest races on the planet!
I would recommend the training highlighted above for any of you following my blog to do weekly, knowing full well NONE of you will do so. I DO believe that many of you will be motivated to train a few times barefoot and head off-road to test yourself against the challenges of nature!