Running Lake Baikal: Training Essentials


A comprehensive training program will not only prepare us to run 636 kilometers across Lake Baikal in about ten days, it will also help to prevent injury while dragging 100 pounds of gear and food along the way. Here are our top five training essentials:

1. Train Specifically: First, we need to ready ourselves for the grueling reality of running very long distances day after day. We'll use a primarily running-base cardiovascular program, with minimal cross-training. We plan to run six workouts of mixed intensity and duration per week,the longest one being six hours.

Second, we must face the sled issue. We want to travel light but we’ll still need to carry all the survival gear necessary for a polar environment andfood and fuel for at least two weeks (plus a little extra, just in case). Add to this cameras, video recorders, and communication equipment, and we've got a major mass to drag. To replicate this weight, we train by dragging a tire behind us while running. Masochistic, yes–but it truly works.

2. Strength and Core Training: Strength training and core conditioning provide a solid foundation of power and stability. Dragging sleds for a long distance is one thing, but dragging them over broken, uneven terrain will tax several muscle groups all at once, increasing the risk of injury. A core and strength program designed around “running” movements will help us stave off such injuries. We incorporate unstable training equipment, such as an exercise ball, unilateral strength exercises, and a Bosu balance trainer to strengthen muscle groups and develop core functionality. We’ll do two to three circuit workouts per week,lasting 45 minutes max.

3. Fueling Up: We’ll burn more than 8,000 calories a day while running across Lake Baikal. That means we have to ingest this energy back into our bodies. For two endurance athletes with moderate eating habits, this requires some getting used to. It’s difficult to eat so much during regular meals, so we'll eat continuously throughout the day.We'll have to eat while running, which can be tough, so we force ourselves to eat heartily during training runs to mimic the feasting ahead. We’ll use Expedition Foods's freeze-dried meals and wash them down with gallons of Gatorade and the occasional coffee.

4. Recovery: This is probably the most important part of training, but there never seems to be enough time for it before most expeditions. We’ve spent countless hours filming, blogging, and generally communicating, and things are just ramping up for the i2P mission. There aren’t enough waking hours in the day, so, unfortunately, we’ve been carving into the sleeping ones. But we make every effort to get as close to a full night's sleep as possible because that's critical to recovery.

5. Mental Preparation: What we do is 90 percent mental, and the other 10 percent is in our heads. Mental fortitude on an expedition can easily mean the difference between success and failure. We ready ourselves mentally by being exhaustive in our physical preparation. We train rigorously every day and test every piece of gear we’ll use on the ice. We expect the unexpected, but the better prepared we are beforehand, the better we can deal with whatever happens.

As for the hardest part–being away from our loved ones–we keep in mind that the goal of our adventure is to inspire and educate youth to protect the planet and its people, and it helps that our families understand and support uscompletely. We’ll be lonely on Lake Baikal, but knowing our familiesare with us in spirit will keep us going.

–Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab

On March 1, 2010, Kevin Vallely and Ray Zahab will embark on the i2P Siberian Express for Water Expedition. They will run 65 to 70 kilometers per day across the frozen surface of Lake Baikal,which is 636 kilometers long–carrying all the food and gear for theentire trip. They'd like to finish in 10 to 12 days, which would be aworld record, according to Vallely. Why go through such trouble? Toraise awareness and funding for clean drinking water projects aroundthe world and inspire students through the i2P experiential learning program. This is the second in a series of their dispatches forOutside Online.