I spent last week at Falls Creek, a pretty ski town 4 hours outside of Melbourne that doubles as a distance running mecca every summer. The elevation of Falls (1600 meters or 5250 feet) is almost half that of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, offering some benefits of altitude training but also allowing for some good speed sessions.
Falls has been a post-Christmas training base for Aussie runners for nearly 50 years, and it’s easy to see why. The Australian World Cross Country trials are at the end of January, making it an ideal time for some work at altitude; it’s usually much cooler and drier up in the mountains; there are few distractions from running and relaxing; the trails at Falls are soft but quick; and the sheer number of runners, which reach a few hundred in the peak week between Christmas and New Years, creates an inspiring, competitive, and fun training environment.
Here’s just one group of many during a 1k repeat session…
And here is the front group during Sunday’s long run, featuring 3 out of 4 Olympians…
Falls has also developed a unique running culture and a predictable training schedule over the past half century. The weekly workouts, meeting times, and locations change little, if at all, from year to year, making it really easy to plan your training. For example… Wednesdays at Falls? Fitzy’s Hut run at 9:30am. Sundays? Pretty Valley long run at 9am. There are optional runs at 5:30pm every evening too, which begin on the dirt path just above the village, and plenty of aqueducts and lakes to ice in afterwards. It’s odd to be training in 100-degree weather at this time of year, but cheating winter is turning out to be one of my best ideas yet! Feels just like springy Houston, only with a few more mountains, a bit drier air, and 1 less coach pumping alongside on an Elliptigo (when it doesn’t break down on him midway through a 10-mile cruise home… rough day!).
In other words, barring injuries or other unusual circumstances, the Falls Creek atmosphere makes training (and recovering) hard pretty easy. In between runs, there are a few coffee shops and restaurants to hang out at, a nice swimming hole is only a quick drive away, and it seems like a nap is always on the horizon. I stayed in a lodge with members of the Melbourne University Athletics Club and really enjoyed getting to know them over meals, runs, chats, movies, and a birthday dinner.
Hamish Beaumont specifically, president of the club and quite possibly the most well-connected runner in Melbourne, has been incredibly helpful and inclusive since I landed in Australia. In addition to letting me snag some of his pictures for this post, he found me a ride to and from Falls, saved me a room in the lodge, introduced me to some great music, landed me accommodations in Melbourne, and welcomed me to train with the club while I’m here. Thanks so much, Hamish!
So here I am, back in Melbourne for 3 more weeks of sea-level training and lots of exploring. I have to admit that while I’ll miss the mountains and trails, after almost 2.5 months of altitude training, it’ll be nice to get back to some quicker workouts and a bit of flat running.
And one last thing… Shout out to the sweetest, smartest, hippest grandma on the planet whose birthday is coming up on the 10th. I miss you and love you tons, Grammy, and hope your day is full of warm fires, a completed NYT crossword, and lots of love from all your rellies!