One of the things I’ve struggled with most if finding appropriate training in the city (where I pretty much live) when I’m racing in the mountains. Ideally I’d like to hit the trails 2-3 times a week to both improve my technical running skills and also to get that much needed vertical gain which urban Sydney is largely lacking. And with Sydney traffic being horrific it’s hard to get to the trails when you don’t have half a day to spare. So, how do you train for a race with 2,000m of vert when your local running area is lucky to clock up 100m??
First you’ve got to identify what race it is your running and train for it. Um, duh, tell us something useful Jen! What I mean by that is, what’s the defining feature of your run? Is it stairs, technical, fire-trail, long never-ending hills? Review the course, read up what you can about the terrain and think about how you can simulate as best you can in training. Ideally you’re doing all your long runs out on trails, if the trails that you can get to don’t have a lot of what you need to practice (technical or big hills) look for ways you can do repeats on the most hilly or most technical sections that you can find.
Create your own Strava sections for them and run them over and over seeing if you can get faster and stronger over time.
When you can’t get to the trails or when you have but are looking for a little bit extra in the week, look for areas locally that you can simulate hills and stairs. There are countless sets of stairs in the Sydney CBD and in most suburbs, find them and smash out a few reps on them. If you know there’s 1,000 steps at the end of UTA for instance then find somewhere where you can do 1,000 steps to get a feel for what that’s like. Granted you’ll be going up and down and getting a rest on the down, but as I can attest post Hounslow Classic 2016, going down stairs will also bugger your legs (in an awesome way obviously)!
During the week I like to run with some folk at work but recently have found that I’m struggling to make them really useful sessions for my current training (nobody wants to do 2k speed work with me!) so instead of doing an easy 7k run with them I’m focussing on getting out to the local city park where there’s lots of stairs and small hills where we can do repeat circuits.
When training for trail “stairs” you can do repeats of normal steps, double steps, pigeon toe / duck toe steps, alternating between all of the above in random patterns. Do whatever you can to simulate the fact that trail stairs are seriously fucked up and rarely are worthy of being called stairs! But hey that’s why we do it cause nature’s staircase is paved with happy feelings and giddiness when you slip and almost stack it, just missing out on taking down a dozen other runners! Yee-haw!
For hills I try to focus on up or down at a time when the hills are short and lacking in abundance. I push on the uphill and then rest (walking) on the downhill. But it’s important if you’re going to be running downhill in the race to focus on smashing out the downhills in training too so that your quads get used to it. On those days I focus on a fast paced hike up hill (remember unless you’re in the elites you’ll be doing a lot of walking up hills in ultras so it pays to practice this too!) and then smashing the downhills (ideally find grass if you can and keep your stride really short and light).
Whilst it’s likely you won’t be able to fully replicate the conditions you’ll face on race day, with a little creativity and planning you can focus on preparing your body and mind for what’s ahead.