A walk in the park?
|July 3, 2017||Posted by Melinda under Ultra Running|
I arrived home completely soaked with sweat.
And with a blister on my heel.
And the balls of my feet so painful I couldn’t walk barefoot on my hardwood floors.
I’m sure you are waiting with bated breath to find out what new tortuous ultrarunning workout I had just performed.
Here you go.
For a whole hour.
Go ahead. Laugh. And when you are done, we will talk about the huge revelation I had this week about my ultra training.
Ultra running for a mid to back pack runner like me involves a lot of walking and hiking. A typical race strategy for me is to run the down hills, most of the flats, and hike the uphills. Near the end of a race I might end up hiking even more, and I try to keep moving forward as fast and as efficiently as I can, even if it is at a walk.
My training for an ultra is focused on running intervals, hill work, and walk/run long runs at a suitable pace – all designed to make me faster, fitter, and more prepared for race day.
You know what I don’t do in training? Walk/hike for 20 miles. Or even 10 miles. Or even a single hour. My walking is reserved for when I’m too tired to run, or as part of an overall strategy for a workout that also involves running.
This is unfortunate because at the end of an ultra, I am most definitely power hiking for long stretches.
I’ve chalked up my soreness and level of tiredness as I’m hiking the last miles of an ultra to all those miles I had run before the power hiking had begun. But, what if it was something more simple. Maybe some of the fatigue is because I’m doing something I’ve never done in training.
The revelation came while pacing at WS100. My runner told me he was going to powerhike the rest of the way in he did just that. I’ve been told I have a good hike, but after an hour at a brisk pace, I had to start run/walking to keep up with him. My body just couldn’t sustain that walking pace for that length of time.
Turns out the secret is practice. He actually devoted entire workouts to just walking and hiking.
That’s embarrassingly simple. And obvious. And smart.
And apparently it was also the missing piece in my ultra training.
Which was painfully obvious when I did my first 2 power hiking sessions. Because my feet were on fire, I had blisters, and I was soaked with sweat. Perfect.
I’ve decided that for my power hiking workouts my target pace is 15 min/mile. It’s not an impossible pace, and is doable even when I’m fatigued. It’s also comfortably above the 18 min/mile average pace that’s required to finish a 30 hour 100 mile race. If I can hike at 15 min/mile, I can stay ahead of cut offs.
Turns out that 15 min/mile it’s also just fast enough that if I let my concentration wander, or if I’m messing with my ipod, or looking at my watch too often, I can’t do it. 15 min/mile requires engagement and a dedication to forward motion. If I’m not distracted, it’s sustainable and within the right energy range. Perfect.
I’m extra motivated to get in powerhiking practice right now because I suspect the Tahoe 50 miler coming up in a couple of weeks is going to require more hiking than usual. Elevation, snow, and lower amount of training than usual means I’ll be doing less running than usual. Not to mention this is supposed to be a GORGEOUS race with awesome aid stations. I plan to enjoy myself.