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How to Ensure Race Day Success

Ensure race day success with Kieran O'Byrne's 'building blocks' training programme

Kieran O’ Byrne is a self confessed adventure racer, adrenalin junkie and Quest addict.  He is also a health and performance coach and has revealed his ‘secrets to success’ Quest training plan with us. It’s a ‘building blocks’ approach and a great read with plenty of practical advice. Time to get crackin’ folks!

There are so many things you can try to do in order to get yourself fit for a Quest Adventure Race but trust me, the last thing you want to do is the kitchen sink approach and start trying everything because your body will break down too quickly. The training required is definitely something that’s overlooked when it comes to getting ready for an adventure race because it’s not anything like a normal 5km run you’d do on a random Wednesday afternoon.

Your body is actually going to be challenged in more ways than you think so just remind yourself that a pound of prevention is better than a stone of the cure and you need to prime yourself to take the punishment on race day that you will secretly LOVE!! First thing is to break down the event of what you’re going to be doing: Kayaking, running and cycling. Obviously, you’re going to have to do some bit of training in these disciplines to ensure you’re actually building a cardiovascular base but what exactly is going to help me get better with the training?

The total volume/ amount of training that your body can handle at any one time is a HUGE factor that should never be overlooked because if you’re going to do too much too soon then your body is going to break down quicker than you think because chances are you haven’t actually prepared your body to this level of physicality before. Take note of these few things and physically write them down as you go to ensure you can see how you’re improving week by week. How far can you run at a comfortable pace before you begin to get tired? The answer would more than likely be somewhere around 5-15km and anything outside of that would be more for the elites (ignore them for now).

Now, what you want to do is consider that to be about a 5-7 on a scale of 1-10, 10 being a lung-buster and 1 being you sitting on the couch with your dog. The first thing you need to focus on is building a bigger base in this “zone” so you have built up enough mileage in your legs and they can take the loading (the volume) and you can think of this phase like building the foundation of your house, the house won’t stand unless the base is strong as hell – which is exactly what you want to do in your first phase of training for Quest.


Now since you’ve been recording how far you can run, you can start to increase the amount of training sessions you’re doing every week, bit by bit for the first few weeks. Since you’ve spent a few weeks just building a bigger and stronger foundation so your body can take the loading, then you can start to shoot the intensity of your sessions up a lot more and you’ll notice you’ll be recovering much faster (your aerobic capacity is now much bigger) than a few weeks previous.

Example Week 1-3 Monday: 10km run @ 5/10 difficulty Tuesday: Rest Day Wednesday: 30km cycle @ 5/10 difficulty Thursday: 5km run Friday: Rest day Saturday: 10km Run and 20 km cycle @ 5/10 difficulty Sunday: Rest day This should be a great base for you to start building miles into the legs and ensuring your body is capable of tolerating the load, recovering and ensuring you’re bouncing back with a bit more ease for every session thereafter.


Week 3-6 Monday: 7km Trail Run with bouts of fast paced bursts to mimic when you’re coming downhill Tuesday: Rest Day Wednesday: 20km cycle @ 7/10 difficulty Thursday: Rest Day Friday: 5km run @ 8/10 difficulty (speed work at a higher intensity) Saturday: Rest day Sunday: 10km Run and 20 km cycle @ 7/10 difficulty If you’re starting to feel that your training is becoming a little bit more comfortable then you can begin your brick training a bit sooner which consists of you running, biking, then running again. Tip: The sooner your legs get used to running and cycling one after the other then the quicker you will make leaps of progress.


Week 6-8 Monday: 1 long run (10km+) at your new comfort pace Tuesday: Rest Day Wednesday: Gym Work – Core and compound resistance training Thursday: Rest Day Friday: 20-30 minutes of mobility and stretching Saturday: Brick Sessions (bike, run, bike, run) Sunday: Recovery Jog (5km at comfortable pace)/ Mobility/ Walk with the family or dog What you’ll notice immediately once you go into the higher intensity sessions is that although they’re shorter, the effort required is much higher than the previous block.

However, since you’ve worked through the longer more boring stuff – your body can tolerate the loading much better and can also recover much faster too. Hence why there should ALWAYS be a “building block” in everybody’s training program to ensure they can endure the physical battle on race day. To conclude, the kind of training you should be doing each week for Quest adventure racing is consistent training!! Consistently overloading the amount that you’re doing each and every week by one little increment at a time – we want to make sure that our bodies can tolerate the training stress and not break down via the kitchen sink approach (we’ve all done this before).


The most consistent training is going to be the best one you can afford to prepare for race day. Following the progressive structure as above will help you not just show up on race day, but also make sure you can smash the course to your best ability, confidently!!


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