By Paul Gains
High altitude training has become a popular method of marathon preparation, so heads were turned when Australia’s Jessica Trengove decided to spend four months in Hilversum Holland - elevation 15m.
The two-time Commonwealth bronze medalist expects this break with convention will help pave the way to success at the 2018 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon October 21.
"It’s basically a trip I had planned with my partner Dylan (Stenson) back in January of this year," the 31-year-old explains. "We decided we’d like to go to Europe for the Australian winter for a life experience and also because Dylan wanted to do some track races. We also have a couple of friends getting married here. So we decided to bite the bullet and come over for what will be four months in total.
"We spent some time in St Moritz (Switzerland) at high altitude in late July. That was fantastic, I have done quite a lot of altitude work in the last two years - in an (altitude simulating) tent at home. So I have got quite a lot of altitude training under my belt but I won’t be doing any in the lead up to the Toronto race."
Clearly, the Aussie subscribes to the ‘sleep high, train low’ maxim which many exercise physiologists have lauded the past few decades. Even world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe famously used to sleep in a high-altitude simulator tent on occasion.
With 11 marathons to her credit including two Olympic and two IAAF World Championships appearances, along with her Commonwealth performances, Trengove is well experienced at the international level.
A year ago, she raced to a commendable 9th place at the IAAF World Championships in London before claiming her second Commonwealth bronze medal on home soil in April of this year. Most recently, on July 1st, she finished 2nd at the Gold Coast Marathon in a new personal best of 2:26:31.
Canadian running fans will no doubt lament the fact she snatched the Commonwealth bronze medal from national record holder Lanni Marchant in Glasgow four years ago beating the Canadian by more than a minute.
"I do really love representing Australia," she says of her commitment to her country. "I love that team camaraderie; it gives the race strong meaning and you can always squeeze everything out of yourself when you are running for your country.
"I see challenging conditions as an opportunity to surprise yourself and maybe beat some of those people who may have faster PB’s but maybe don’t prepare for the conditions quite so well or maybe go out a bit hard."
Trengove has raced a few city marathons too and it was at the 2017 London Marathon where she met Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Race Director Alan Brookes and Canadian Olympian, Krista DuChene. When Brookes emailed her shortly after her Commonwealth performance she couldn’t resist the invitation.
"The Toronto race will be an opportunity to get out there and have a go in a new environment," she reveals. "I love Canada. It holds special memories for me because in 2010 I made the Aussie team for the World University Cross Country Championships in Kingston, Ontario. We stayed near Queen’s University.
"That kind of marked the beginning of the next phase of my running career where suddenly I had all this confidence I could run for my country at an open level. Then I went from that university experience to the London Olympics in 2012. So that was a very important stepping stone for my career. Going to Toronto will be very special."
Toronto Waterfront, an IAAF Gold Label race, will represent her third marathon in six months which by any standard is a tough slog for a world class marathoner. Trengove is not concerned. Recovery from Gold Coast was swift. And, as if to underscore her fitness she reveals she is currently putting in roughly 160km a week in Holland and expects to get nearer 200km in coming weeks. Getting the best out of herself on the day remains a priority.
"There are some strong competitors," she says of Toronto. "There are reasons why it could be a fast race when you look at the course. I mean, it’s flat; cool conditions which are good for the marathon. You can’t predict the wind. We will sort of weigh up how training has been going."
Being away from home for such a lengthy period does have another upside and that is she can do what is necessary to train and recover without being enslaved by outside responsibilities. In Adelaide she works part time as a physiotherapist but normally reduces her involvement as race day approaches. In addition, she is active in a sports underwear manufacturing company called ‘Rundies’
"Rundies is a business that my partner and my brother Jack (an Australian rules football star) started up in 2016," Trengove adds. "We thought there are plenty of underwear brands out there but none that specifically target the needs of athletes and I couldn’t find a constant supply of my favourite underwear.
"I would find a pair I liked to run in then couldn’t find them again. So we designed and manufactured them and now we are selling them online. It has been a huge learning experience but a lot of fun."
Trengove will line up against a strong international women’s field in Toronto including the defending champion Marta Megra of Ethiopia and Canadian Olympian Krista DuChene. No doubt she will approach the race with her normal enthusiasm and find her way into the mix. And, if she is successful she can point to her four months of low altitude training.
For more information or to join Jess Trengove on the Start line, see www.STWM.ca
Marta is married to Rorisa Bacha who works with Gemedu’s group as a pacemaker during training sessions. The couple has a home in Addis and are devoted to their running profession which means there is not much of an ‘off season’. Normally she races two marathons a year so there is little time when training is scaled back. But in their down time they enjoy visits to nature sites around the country. Lake Hawassa, where legendary runner Haile Gebrselassie has a hotel resort, is one place that stands out.
"I love traveling, especially to Hawassa; it’s one of the best destinations in Ethiopia," she says. "When I go there I like riding on a boat and seeing nature and the people. It’s honestly one of my favourite things to do. I have been to the Haile Resort once."
It’s early to even think about retirement from athletics as Marta could run for many years yet and hasn’t tapped her enormous potential. But Ethiopian athletes have been amongst their country’s biggest benefactors. Many contributed, for example, by buying government bonds to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a $4 billion hydroelectric project.
"I am not sure as to what business I am going to do or be involved in," she says upon reflection, "but I would love to do something for the community and the youth. Maybe building a training camp so that young athletes can train and be great and build a better future by helping the community with job opportunities.
For the meantime, her sole focus remains on running. "My goal is to run 2:17 or 2:18 (for the marathon) and to take part in an Olympic Games and to stand on the world stage where I can make my country proud."
For more information, and to register for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half-Marathon or 5K visit STWM.ca.
About the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon
One of only 5 IAAF Gold Label marathons in all of The Americas, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is Canada’s premier, big-city running event, the Athletics Canada National Marathon Championships, and the Grand Finale of the 8-race Canada Running Series. In 2017 it attracted 26,000 participants from 74 countries, raised $3.24 million for 182 charities through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, and contributed an estimated $35 million to the local economy. The livestream broadcast was watched by more than 160,000 viewers from 142 countries. (STWM.ca)