6633 Arctic Ultra essential training sessions to get you through the race

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To follow on from my previous blog post on my top-5 essential items that got me through the 6633 Arctic Ultra and with the race only being about 6 weeks away, I thought I’d put pen to paper again and highlight some of the key training sessions that helped prepare me for the toughest race of my life (so far!).

The sessions I talk about below are what worked for me, they might not be the answer for you, but hopefully they’ll give you a few ideas and you might be able to take a little something out of it.          

  1. Back to back big training days: The back to back big training days were mainly about getting in some serious ‘time on feet’ whilst testing out your systems, specifically food & clothing options. These sessions started off as 3-4 hour sessions and eventually moved up towards 8-9 hours on your feet, followed by the same the following day. These sessions were physically quite tough but mentally they were very difficult too; and this is exactly why you should do them in training. Preparing yourself physically and mentally is absolutely key to achieving your goal, whatever that might be, in the 6633 Arctic Ultra.
  2. Strength & conditioning sessions: For me, strength and conditioning work was key to creating a robust body, such that I could pull my pulk efficiently and continue doing so for 9 days and over 380 miles. I started off in the gym 3 times a week for the first few months of my specific 6633 training, following a plan put together by an excellent local strength coach, Emma Cresswell. We did a lot of deadlifts, squats and lunges, supplemented with prowler/sled work, KB swings, lower back exercises and upper body strength work. As the hiking and running training increased, we decreased the specific S&C gym work to twice a week and progressed onto more core work and single leg movements. These sessions were vital and served me well on the hillier sections of the first 120 miles of the race and during the blizzard section when I was getting blasted by gale-force winds from all angles.
  3. Hike into bivvy session: I did a few sessions where I went out for 5-6 hours of hiking in the late afternoon and finished up the sessions in the early hours of the morning at my house. From there I’d go straight into the garden, bivvy up and sleep through the night. This allowed me to practice my sleep and bivvy systems whilst tired and let me work out what worked and what didn’t work. These systems were honed over the weeks until it became second nature and I could get into my bivvy and be asleep within minutes; this was so important for my time on the ice as any time lost whilst setting up your bivvy was eating into your overall race time, but more importantly it was time where you would be getting very, very cold. My advice would be.........practice this a lot!
  4. Tyre & pulk pulling sessions: Some former 6633 competitors recommend NOT doing any pulling before heading out to Canada, but from my experience I would say that’s sub-optimal. I set up a tyre and harness system and pulled that for about 10 sessions (up to 2 hours) and really felt the benefit during the race, especially in the first 120 miles of the race (the hillier part of the race). The pulling of the weighted pulk in the race can put a real strain on your lower back, neck and shoulders, so to practice that whilst in the UK seems like a no-brainer. I also loaded up the pulk and pulled that in training, only a few times, but again, that was beneficial to feel what the weight of the pulk was like when pulling it and to feel how the straps & harness felt across the waist and shoulders.
  5. 24-hour big day: I did this session twice before leaving for Canada. It was a really tough session but was an absolute key session that I would encourage potential competitors to do, at least once. The 24-hour training day started at 6am and consisted of hiking from the house for 2 hours (returning to the house), having a 1-hour break, and continuing that for 24 hours. Yes, you read that right! It essentially covered 56 miles of hiking over 8 distinct periods during the day, I then followed that up by bivvying out in the garden straight after the session, I slept for 2 hours, then I got up, packed my bivvy away and continued the rest of the day as normal. This is a tough one, but it replicates well the continuous nature of the race, especially with fatigue and the bivvy at the end of the 24 hour session just adds to the ‘beauty’ of this session.
Read more: 6633 Arctic Ultra essential training sessions to get you through the race

The best WhittleFit blog posts of 2019

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We're 5 days into 2020, but how fast did 2019 go??? Our WhittleFit athletes and coaches had a great year in 2019, here are my favourite blog posts from the last 12 months! 

  1. Ironman 70.3 Marbella race report: Andrew Fraser-Cole
  2. 6633 Arctic Ultra....setting the scene
  3. Ironman Wales race report: Jamie Radmore
  4. Ironman Tallinn race report: Craig Patterson
  5. 6633 Arctic Ultra....the aftermath
  6. Ironman Wales race report: Craig Burrows

You may notice that the majority of my favourite blog posts from 2019 are race reports and posts from my 6633 Arctic Ultra race. This is mainly because I love reading athletes feedback from race day, finding out when went right & what went wrong (and how we can get better, together); and because 2019 will always be my Arctic year (it had a profound effect on me).  

Here's to an amazing year! We have some amazing people racing with us this year and racing in some awesome locations! Hope to see you on the race circuit this year! 

6633 Arctic Ultra essential items to get you through the race!


Screen Shot 2019 12 24 at 09.30.03With the 6633 Arctic Ultra just around the corner, I thought I’d put together a list of my top-5 essential items, these are the items that I found really helped to get me through the race to be one of the few finishers of the 2019 race.

  1. Pulk bag: The Kakau pulk bag from Aiguille Alpine Equipment sits on your pulk poles, just behind your waist straps. This made access to all your vital pieces of equipment so much easier as you could spin round and grab your items within seconds, which proved to be a lifesaver many times during the race.
  2. Patagonia Micro Puff Gilet: The Micro Puff range is amazing and this super lightweight gilet was worn above my mid layers and below my outer Arcteryx jacket. It provided an amazing level of warmth, particularly for its size and weight. This was definitely my best clothing purchase for the 6633 Arctic Ultra.
  3. Dermatone: Skin care is vital during the 6633 Arctic Ultra and I came across this product via our medical team who swore by it. There are several products in the range but the Frostbite Protector is one we used as it provides superior protection against frostbite, wind burn and UVA and UVB rays.
  4. Firepot meals: The Firepot dehydrated meals, made in Dorset, are the tastiest expedition meals I tested before leaving for the Yukon. Hands down the best quality expedition food on the market.
  5. Stanley coffee flask: I used a small Stanley flask for coffee and hot chocolate during the race. Having it close at hand, attached to my harness, made sure I drank more fluids and acted as a little treat (especially the hot chocolate) without having to stop and break open the pulk bag and big flask again and again.
Read more: 6633 Arctic Ultra essential items to get you through the race!

Long Course Weekend Mallorca 2019 race report: coach Mark

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A group of of us decided that we’d enter Long Course Weekend in Mallorca as an end of season race, which would be a nice bookend to the season and also give us an opportunity for a brief holiday as the race was in the UK half term holidays.

Since I raced in the Arctic my body hasn’t allowed me to train as I would have liked, everything has been very slow and most training session have felt really difficult. I’ve done a couple of small races, but mainly for motivation to train and they’ve all been to race with mates, which has been a blast!

The beauty of the Long Course Weekend races is that you can mix and match different distances of the swim, bike and run, so I decided I’d do the Half distances (1.9km swim, 90km bike and half marathon run) as this would provide the perfect motivation to get the body moving and get in a half-decent training block. In fact, I managed to get in a solid 9 weeks of training, which had me arriving on the island knowing that I was in OK shape to get round the half distances and in good enough shape to actually enjoy the event.

Swim: The swim was on Saturday morning and the weather, and sea conditions, were amazing; it was picture perfect. We got down to the beach in plenty of time, so there was no last-minute rushing around. Craig, Charlie and I managed to get in a little practice swim and the water was just how it looked from the beach; crystal clear and warm.

We moved over towards the swim start and positioned ourselves accordingly. I’m not the fastest swimmer out there, but I’m more than happy to have a bit of biff at the start of the swim, so I put myself on the 2nd row with the idea of getting out quick (it was a beach start) and then hoping I’d be able to jump on some feet to get round the 1.9km swim in a reasonable time.

Read more: Long Course Weekend Mallorca 2019 race report: coach Mark

Ironman Wales 2019 race report: Craig Burrows

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I sat down with coach, Mark (Whittle), back in September 2018 to discuss goals and I asked him if he thought I could ‘compete’ for a Kona slot at Ironman Wales in 2019? Both an ambitious and ambiguous goal I agree. I mean, define compete. We knew there would be 4 slots and the likelihood of all slots being taken by thetop 4 would be unlucky. 5th should do it, 6th would have a strong chance, 7th onward would be slim. It was going to be a big year of work.

Coming off the back of an unexpected 6th place at Long Course Weekend Wales, I began the summer training block on a bit of a high. Despite the marathon and bike split doing a good job of masking the swim time, I was hopeful that the 12-month investment into a Masters Swim squad would translate to a good Ironman Wales swim come September 15th. Fingers crossed.

Swim: 1:10:08

I told Loz on numerous occasions in the weeks leading into the race that if I swim 65min then I think I will qualify for Kona but if I swim 70min then it would be game over. This self-inflicted pressure was probably why my anxiety increased exponentially on the morning of the race. I was very close to missing transition cut off, I almost had a wetsuit malfunction and I very nearly forgot to put my pink bag on the hook. A shambles of a human, I needed an Ironman miracle…...or a Valium.

Read more: Ironman Wales 2019 race report: Craig Burrows