Saturday, January 5, 2013

Base Training At Its Finest

Cougar Mountain, from Gunn Ranch Rd (Photo by Reid Warner)
These first few months of the year are all about training volume and building strength. Given that we have about two and a half feet of snow (with much more in the mountains), I'm doing a lot of skiing outside and pumping iron in the gym.  If I've learned anything in the past couple of years it is this: strength training is important. Very important. Last winter I spent time in the gym and was rewarded with, oddly enough, running stronger up hills! Since the races I'm most drawn to have a lot of climbing, that strength really paid off. Aside from the benefits of moving better with having more strength, strong muscles are more pliable and less prone to injury: good things for a repetitive movement sport like ultrarunning. While moving through the different periods of training and then through the racing season, I necessarily increased my running time and transitioned to doing specific strength like hill sprints. By the end of the season, I was looking forward to getting back to the gym to build more strength onto what I did last year. Having a true periodized training plan has been helpful in getting all the different physiological pieces trained properly. It's just not possible to build everything at the same time.

I am really excited about the coming year. Aside from the events we are putting on, I have some fun races planned. I woke up early on New Year's day to register for the Speedgoat 50k, in Alta, Utah. It's part of the International Sky Running series, that I've always been enthralled by, since first learning about the world of trail and mountain running. According to the International Sky Running Federation, skyrunning is defined as "the discipline of mountain running up to or exceeding 2,000m where the incline exceeds 30% and the climbing difficulty does not exceed II grade." Oh yeah! Most of the races are held in Europe, but this year there are a couple here in the states, the Speedgoat being one of them. Due to the quality of the event and available prize money, it attracted the best in the world last year, and will surely do the same this year. I'll likely only see them at the start, but I'm excited to participate in a race with the best mountain runners in the world.

That said, I have some serious work to do! The course boasts 11,000ft of elevation gain over the 50k course, between the altitudes of 7,700 ft and just over 11,000 ft. Just typing that makes me nervous. Needless to say, I'm motivated more than ever to get strong. Luckily, we've had amazing ski conditions and enough snow at low elevations to do front-country skiing on some of the very local, car-accessible spots like Cougar Mountain and Driveway Butte. The other day I did a strength workout in the morning, refueled with some friends, then took Nikki for a loop up Cougar with my backcountry gear to get some vertical. It was so fun!

Nearing the top.
I climbed a leisurely hour, with stops to look at the changing view and the cool, iced trees. The descent was even more leisurely, as it is a lot of work for a dog and required many breathers. It was a great first-time excursion for the season. A fellow enthusiast was out on his split board, and got some great pictures (thanks, Reid). It snowed today, and with a storm in the forecast, I'll have plenty of opportunities to do more laps. Skinning up a mountain is as close to hiking up a steep slope with hands on quads as you can get, with a really fun descent! Thanks to all the people who have been frequenting the mountain, the skin track is really well packed and easy to power up. Now that I'm getting my climbing legs in shape, next time I'll try picking up the pace.

Yet another forced dog picture.
One tired, happy dog!

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