Thursday, May 25, 2017

Generally It's Important To Be Specific

Upper Walking Boss
Loon Mountain Race
Scott Mason Photography
"Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory." -Miguel de Cervantes
There may be no greater challenge in northeast mountain racing than the infamous section of double black diamond ski slope at the Loon Mountain Race known as Upper Walking Boss.  This kilometer of grassy ski slope not only comes near the end of a grueling 6+ mile mountain ascent, but it has sections of terrain that exceed 40% grade!  And yet for many mountain runners their race may be made or broken much further down the mountain.  When breaking down a challenge like the Loon Mountain Race the more information you have about the entire course, the more specific you can make your training and the better prepared you'll be both physically and mentally on race day.  Here's an example of how US Mountain Running team member (and client) Kim Nedeau prepared to race the Loon Mountain Race in 2016. 

Kim on her Incline Trainer.
Loon Mountain Race Preparation
Knowing most would focus on Upper Walking Boss we decided to break the course down into five distinct sections and develop a training plan and race strategy to match those very specific demands.  With widely available course GPS data and local knowledge of the terrain we created a series of workouts to match those sections.  Many of these workouts were performed on her specialized incline trainer with still others done outdoors on similar terrain.

For very good reason Upper Walking Boss is the signature element of the Loon Mountain Race.  But many folks who've raced Loon will note that the part of the course just before the Gondola is arguably just as difficult.  For us this represented two sections and were a pivotal part of the training plan and race strategy.  As an example, we named a section of the course Upper Bear Claw (after the ski trail) and developed an incline trainer workout to simulate the distance and elevation.  

Upper Bear Claw
Mile 4.8 -> 5.6
Distance: 0.8 miles
Approximate Average Grade: 20% (there are short sections here that are 30%+) 

Sample "Upper Bear Claw" treadmill workout;

1 mile at 3-5% grade (warm-up)
1/2 mile at 6-8% grade
3/4 mile at 15% grade*
1 mile at 3% grade (warm-down)

*max elevation for most commercial grade treadmills

Kim is very fortunate to have an incline trainer that elevates to 40% grade so matching the 20-30% grades of this section were possible.  This training approach allowed her to specifically prepare for the event both physically and mentally.  Successful training plans involve reducing the number of race day "surprises" under your control.

When training for an epic event like the Loon Mountain Race start by collecting as much intelligence on the course as possible.  Then break the course down into mentally manageable sections.  For very challenging ascent-only mountain races that's generally no more than a mile.  Finally, develop a training plan specifically to the unique demands of the race (terrain, footing, elevation).

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