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 15 metres.
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, an IAAF Gold Label race, on 21 October.
“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 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 1 July, she finished second 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 PBs 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 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.
Paul Gains (organisers) for the IAAF