So I am still not running – week two of the recovery/rest for the tendinitis is underway – but I am thinking about running and specifically about what I will be running next year. I ran a nice Fat Ass 100K this past January and it seemed to set me up well for the early season 12 Hour and 24 hour races, so I thought I would try something in the first month of the year again in an effort to give myself a real test before things get too far away from me.

As I have pretty much decided to target the Ultra Boucle de la Sarra now – the timing is good around the wedding and leaves me plenty of time for a second big run in the second half of the year – I will need to do something around climbing hills. Or, to be really specific in my training, something around climbing stairs. I want it to be a challenge, I want to spend more than a couple of hours on my feet, and I want it to be something close to home so that I don’t need to travel too much for what should be a low key (but still challenging) run on a weekend.

So what did I come up with? I’m calling it the Mount Kosciuszko Challenge.

Mount Kosciuszko, for those not in the know, is Australia’s tallest mountain with a summit at 2228 meters. Compare that to the Alps around these parts and, well, it’s not all that impressive. Still, as a challenge for a morning on a set of stairs, I think it is reasonable. Here’s what I have in mind…

First the warm up. It’s basically a kilometer from our apartment to Saint Paul in the Old City. I figure a five minute warmup on a cool January winter morning will be welcome, and I’ll take it nice and easy. Up the stairs from Saint Paul to the bottom of the Nicolas de Lange staircase – these will be bonus climbing meters because, in ultrarunning, there always seems to be bonus climbing meters – and the start of the real climbing.

The vertical gain for each ascent of the Nicolas de Lange is between 55 meters and 60 meters. Simple mathematics reveals that if I am going to run 2228 meters of vertical gain I’ll need to get up and down that staircase about 40 times. If I count on about 8 minutes for an up-and-back, that’s 5 hours and 20 minutes of up and down. Count some time to rest, some slow down, and time to eat and drink and it’ll be closer to 6 hours, I reckon.

And, of course, there’s the one kilometer to jog home again, too.

All up it’ll be something like 18 to 20 kilometers of stairs, with another two kilometers of there-and-back bringing it up to the half marathon distance by the time I am done. With a little more than 2.2K of gain in 21K of running, that’s the equivalent of running for five or six hours on a 10% slope.

And I think that could be a nice challenge for January.

Knocking it over in six hours is a bonus as I’ll be able to head out early in the morning and be home for lunch. It’ll hurt, of course, but it’ll be a nice test of strength early in the season. I’ll try and time it for a weekend when Jamie is with his Mum so as to minimise the childcare  challenges, and being close to home means Cécile might even drop by with some food and drink mid-way through…though in January and in potentially poor weather I may have to invest in flowers to guarantee that.

So: The Mount Kosciuszko Challenge – book it for January.

Now to think about the rest of the season…

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