Thursday, March 7, 2019

Loon Mountain Race Training (Part 3): Event-Specific Planning

Dave Dunham leads a charge on the
sneaky difficult Exodus climb.
Photo by Joe Viger Photography
"Details are the difference between good stuff and great stuff."  ~Stephen Brewster

The optimal length of an event-specific plan is somewhere between 16-20 weeks.  Any less and progressions are expedited which may increase the risk of soft-tissue issues.  And any longer challenges an athlete's ability to focus and maintain the necessary levels of motivation and attention.  By the middle of March we are 16 weeks from race day making this time of year the optimal time to begin event-specific planning.  The following are the key training units and progressions to consider when putting together your Loon Mountain Race (LMR) plan.

Starting Point
There are a number of things to consider when developing your LMR-specific plan.  They include; your current level of fitness, your available time to train, and your race-specific goals.  Taken together, these variables will help determine your starting point and your weekly training volume.  In an effort to cover as many people as possible I'll provide training objectives for three groups; first timers, PR seekers, and Top 10 finishers.

Event-Specific Plan
The LMR-specific plan has two important elements; running-specific training units and mountain-specific strength training units.  Let's look at the training plans for each group separately.  

First Timers
Running-Specific Training Units
At a minimum there are three running-specific training units which must be performed every week; aerobic endurance, strength endurance, and LMR-specific.  

Aerobic Endurance training units are 30-45 minute weekday runs which are performed at an effort level described as "easy to moderate".  No specific terrain is required although the more time spent 'off-pavement' the better and "hilly" is always preferred over "flat".  

Strength Endurance training units are 30-45 minute weekday runs which are performed at an effort level of "moderate to hard".  These training units should be performed on the hilliest route possible.

LMR-specific training units will gradually increase in duration over the course of the program to approximate the anticipated finish time.  In 2018 the median overall finish time for men was 1:25 and for women it was 1:47.  You can base your projected finish time on these numbers.  The terrain for these training units should be off-pavement and hilly.  Start your LMR-specific training unit duration consistent with your current fitness and devise a progression over the course of the 16 weeks to get to your target.  

Mountain-Specific Strength Training Units
Strength training is a fundamental complimentary training activity for all endurance athletes and should be performed year round.  There are times, however, when the volume of strength training is reduced to account for an increase in event-specific training.  The LMR-specific plan should include (at a minimum) two days a week of strength training.  Mountain-specific strength training includes a total body approach with an emphasis on increasing work capacity by minimizing idol time and maximizing heart rate response.  This is done by moving purposefully from one exercise to the next without taking a rest break.  Here's an example of a mountain-specific strength training program for first timers;

Synergy Stack® 
Full Crunch (20)
Incline Press, DB (10) 
Incline Press, machine (10)
Bicycle Crunch (20/side)
Leg Press (10) 
Side Touch Lunge (10/side) 
Plank (30-60 seconds)
Low Row, machine (10) 
1-Arm DB Row (10/arm) 
Rope Crunch (20) 
Leg Press (10) 
Turn Lunge (10/side) 
Oblique Crunch (20/side)
Shoulder Press, DB (10) 
Shoulder Press, machine (10)
Plank (30-60 seconds)
Leg Press (10) 
Drop Lunge (10/side) 
Tricep Press, rope (10) 
Bicep Curl, rope (10) 

NOTES:  This routine is performed as a circuit meaning the exercises are performed in order.  The number of repetitions are provided in parentheses.  

PR Seekers
Running-Specific Training Units
After having finished the Loon Mountain Race once, we often hear one of two reactions; "I'm never doing THAT again." or "That was really cool, I wonder if I can do it faster next year?".  Fortunately the latter is a more common sentiment than the former.  If you're looking to improve your time there are four running-specific training units which must be performed every week; aerobic endurance, ascent attacks, active recovery, and LMR-specific.  

Aerobic Endurance training units are 45-60 minute weekday runs which are performed at an effort level described as "easy to moderate".  Every effort should be made to include as many hills as possible.  Generally speaking these runs should have an ascent rate greater than 75 feet/mile.  

Ascent Attacks are strength endurance workouts designed to improve climbing-specific fitness.  These 45-60 minute weekday runs are performed at an effort level of "moderate to hard".  The objective is to find the hilliest route possible and attack every uphill.  Active recovery is performed on the flats and the descents.  

Active Recovery training units are 45-60 minute weekday runs which are performed at an effort level described as "very easy to easy".  These runs should be performed the day after Ascent Attack workouts.  The terrain should be kept flat(ish).  

LMR-specific training units are designed to replicate the terrain, surfaces, and target finish time.  The ideal setting for these training units are ski resorts which provide gravel service roads and grassy ski slopes.  Alternatively you'll be looking for the hilliest off-road route available to you.  Rather than focusing on the event distance (~6.6 miles), structure these runs around target finish time.  Gradually increase the duration of these training units to peak two weeks before the event (ie. apex week).  Optimally this progression ends with a run that is 15-20 minutes longer than your target finish time.  

Mountain-Specific Strength Training Units
Mountain running is an incredibly demanding sport involving the entire body.  Mountain-specific strength training routines should be performed twice weekly (at a minimum), include movements for the entire body, and be performed with minimal rest between exercises.  The objective is to elevate heart rate and keep it elevated the entire workout.  Here's an example of a mountain-specific strength training program for PR Seekers;

Antagonist Pair Coupling®
Pull-Ups, wide (to failure)
Push-Up, traditional (double the number of pull-ups)
Butterfly Full Crunch (20)

Circuit #1: Push->Pull (primary) [no rest] 
Incline Press, DB, L2 (10) 
Low Row, machine, narrow (10) 
Bicycle Crunch & Reach (20/side) 
Angled Leg Press (10) 
Side Touch Lunge (10/side) 
Knee Extension (10) 
Romanian Deadlift->Calf Raise->Shrug (10) 
Arnold Press, DB, L7 (10) 
Face Pulldowns (10)

Pull-Ups, narrow (to failure)
Push-Up->wide-wide (double the number of pull-ups)
Marching Planks (10/side)

Circuit #2: Push->Pull (primary) [no rest] 
Incline Press, DB, L4 (10) 
Low Row, wide (10)
Rope Crunch (20) 
Angled Leg Press (10) 
Turn Lunge (10/side) 
Knee Extension (10) 
Romanian Deadlift->Calf Raise->Shrug (10) 
Arnold Press, DB, L6 (10)
Straight-Arm Pulldowns (10)

Arms 
Tricep Press, rope (10) 
Bicep Curl, rope (10) 
Tricep Press, V-bar (10) 
Bicep Curl, V-bar (10) 

NOTES:  This routine is performed as a circuit meaning the exercises are performed in order.  The number of repetitions are provided in parentheses.

Top 10 Finishers
Running-Specific Training Units
As the popularity and prestige of the Loon Mountain Race has grown, so too has the quality and depth of the field.  This includes non-championship years.  Any athlete who finishes in the Top 10 can count themselves as one of the top mountain racers in the region...and sometimes the country.  For individuals looking for a Top 10 finish there are five running-specific training units which must be performed every week; aerobic endurance, strength endurance, maximum lactate steady-state, active recovery, and LMR-specific.  

Aerobic Endurance training units are 60-90 minute weekday runs which are performed at an effort level described as "easy to moderate".  The goal for these athletes is to optimize weekly vertical gain so these runs must be hilly.  The target ascent rate is greater than 100 feet/mile.  

Strength Endurance training units are used to stimulate mountain running-specific skeletal and bio-energetic adaptations.  There are two common workouts in this category; Ascent Attacks (see above) and Vertical Compression.  These workouts should be performed weekly.  Vertical Compression training runs are 60-90 minutes, performed at an effort level of "hard+", and include as much elevation gain as possible in the allotted time.  Ascent rates of greater than 200 feet/mile would fit the optimal criteria for these training units.

Maximum Lactate Steady-State training units are 45-60 minute weekday runs performed at an effort level of "moderate to hard".  They are designed to improve the bioenergetics of racing at threshold levels for events greater than 45 minutes in duration.  There are many examples of workouts in this category.  A popular example is Tempo Intervals.  After a 15-20 minute warm-up, perform two 15 minute intervals at 10 km race effort with 3 minutes of active recovery between them.  Finish the run with a cool-down to 45-60 minutes.  The terrain should be hilly but not outrageously so.

NOTE:  Strength Endurance and Maximum Lactate Steady-State runs should have at least 24 hours of recovery (absolute or relative) between them.  These two workouts should not intentionally interfere with each other.  

Active Recovery training units are 60-90 minute weekday or weekend runs which are performed at an effort level described as "very easy to easy".  These runs should be performed the day after Strength EnduranceMaximum Lactate Steady-State, or LMR-specific workouts.  The terrain should be kept flat(ish).  

LMR-specific training units for Top 10 Finishers should simulate the three sections and five climbs that make up the Loon Mountain Race course (see previous article).  As mentioned before, the ideal setting for these training units are ski resorts which provide gravel service roads and grassy ski slopes.  Once again, rather than focusing on the event distance (~6.6 miles), structure these runs around target finish time.  Gradually increase the duration of these training units to peak two weeks before the event (ie. apex week).  Optimally this progression ends with a run that is 20-30 minutes longer than your target finish time.  

Mountain-Specific Strength Training Units
Mountain running is an incredibly demanding sport involving the entire body.  Mountain-specific strength training routines should be performed twice weekly (at a minimum), include movements for the entire body, and be performed with minimal rest between exercises.  The objective is to elevate heart rate and keep it elevated the entire workout.  Here's an example of a mountain-specific strength training program for Top 10 Finishers;

Bulletproof Circuits®
Pull-Ups, wide (to failure)
Push-Ups, traditional (double the number of pull-ups) 
Butterfly Full Crunch (20)

Mega Push Circuit (:30 rest between Chest Press->Push-Up Position supersets) 
Chest Press, Smith Machine (Smith), L0 (10)
Push-up Position (PUP): mountain climbers (10) 
Chest Press, Smith, L2 (10) 
PUP: pike (10) 
Incline Press, Smith, L3 (10) 
PUP: wobbly mountain climbers (10) 
Incline Press, Smith, L4 (10) 
PUP: frog (10) 
Incline Press, Smith, L5 (10)
PUP: jacks (10) 
Shoulder Press, Smith, L6 (10) 
PUP: alternate toe touch (10) 
Shoulder Press, Smith, L7 (10) 
PUP: spider (10)

Pull-Ups, narrow (to failure)
Push-Ups, wide hands-wide feet (double number of pull-ups)
V-Tuck Circles (10-20/direction)

Bullet-Proof Leg Circuit (no rest between Angled Leg Press->Lunge supersets) 
Angled Leg Press (20) 
Side Touch Lunge (10/leg) 
Angled Leg Press (15) 
Turn Lunge (10/leg) 
Angled Leg Press (12) 
Drop Lunge (10/leg)
Angled Leg Press (6) 
Ice Skaters (10/leg) 
Angled Leg Press (12) 
Reverse Lunge to Single-Leg Post (10/leg) 
Angled Leg Press (15) 
Walking Forward Lunge->Russian Twist (5/side) 
Angled Leg Press (20) 
Split Squat (10/leg)

NOTE:  Start with a light weight on the angled leg press and increase the weight as the repetitions decrease.  Follow the same pattern in reverse as the repetitions increase again.

Pull-Ups, narrow (to failure) 
Push-Ups, pike & frog (double number of pull-ups)
Plank (60 seconds)

Mega Pull Circuit (minimal rest between Pull->Push-Up supersets) 
Face Pulldown, narrow, L8 (10) 
Push-up, single-leg (10) 
High Pull, narrow, L7 (10) 
Push-up, pike (10) 
High Pull, narrow, L6 (10) 
Push-up, off-set hands (10) 
Mid Pull, narrow, L5 (10) 
Push-up, side step (10) 
Low Pull, wide (10) 
Push-up, frog (10) 
Low Row, wide, L2 (10) 
Push-up, narrow (10) 
Low Row, wide (10) 
Push-up, decline (10)

Mega Arm Circuit 
Tricep Press, rope (10) 
Bicep Curl, rope (10) 
Tricep Press, V-bar (10) 
Bicep Curl, V-bar (10) 
Tricep Press, EZ-Curl bar (10) 
Bicep Curl, EZ-Curl bar, wide (10) 

NOTES:  This routine is performed as a circuit meaning the exercises are performed in order.  The number of repetitions are provided in parentheses.   

Success at the Loon Mountain Race takes a combination of physical preparation and solid mental constitution.  Beyond all else, consistency is the most powerful training variable.  Whatever your preparation, do it consistently.  

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for these helpful posts. Just wonder what the L# are listed after some of the exercises? Effort level? Thanks again

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry about that confusion, those numbers represent the position of the adjustable bench. "L2" refers to "level" or position #2 of the bench.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for sharing this and it is very helpful and informative post. I will share this with my friends and also I will try your program and maybe with the probar to add exciting and challenge in my workouts. Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete