The TNF100 is over for another year and the combination of 100km with a LOT of stairs, single technical tracks and big climbs and descents caught many a runner unprepared. Two weeks on and many runners are already planning how they can come back and improve their time or finally make it to the finish line in next years race.
Training for a race like this involves more than just racking up some high mileage weeks on the trails and one area I feel many runners overlooked was course specific training. Training runs on the course help but it is not the same as training specifically for the course.
If you want to improve your time next year give yourself a ranking on your ability on each of the following
1. Climbing stairs
2. Descending stairs
3. Running technical single track
4. Climbing Hills
5. Descending Hills
6. Maintaining a good pace on the flatter sections
Work out where your biggest weaknesses are and then tailor your training to turn them into a strength. It’s not rocket science but so many ultrarunners dont do any specific training to improve their weaknessess.
Trail running is a skill and to improve a skill you need to practice.
Imagine you are learning to drive and you arent very good at hill starts. You could go for a drive on a hilly route and hope that the few times you have to do a hill start will be enough to improve your skills or you can find a steep hill and drive around the block over and over again continually doing hill starts until you are proficient at it. No prizes for guessing which is going to improve your skills quicker.
Unfortunately many trail runners take the first approach to training.
If ascending/descending stairs is your weak link then find a big set of stairs near where you live and practice running down them. When you go to the Blue Mountains to run parts of the course instead of choosing a nice scenic route, spend 3 hours going up and down the giant staircase or the stairs down past the Leura Cascades. Not much fun compared to a nice out and back loop but a lot better for improving your chances of a good result at the TNF100 2013.
If running uphill or downhill is a weakness then the big climb up Kedumba is perfect to practice on. Do a few repeats of this and you are bound to improve your climbing ability.
If you cant make it to the Blue Mountains then find terrain as similar as possible near where you train. If there are no big hills then do repeats of small hills. I used to do over 100 repeats of a hill that only took between 1-2 minutes to run down when I was training for the UTMB because that was the longest hill I had near me. Was it fun ? – not really. Was it effective? – very.
Obviously you will need to gradually progress your training as going out and running up and down the giant staircase for 3 hours will likely result in an overuse injury if you aren’t used to it.
If technical single track is your problem then find a section of track near your place and do repeats of just the technical bit. This is probably the hardest skill to master, the elite make it look easy. Whilst we may never reach Kilian Jornets gracefulness running along very technical trails, we can certainly improve.
Maintaining a good pace on the flat
If you struggle to maintain a good pace on the flatter sections of the course then try doing 30-60 minutes of stairs or hills followed immediately by a steady 10-20k run on flattish terrain. Get your legs used to running comfortable when they are tired.
Choose races strategically between now and next May. Pick ones that contain big sections of whatever your weaknesses are. The six foot track marathon and Mt Solitary are ideal (provided they aren’t washed out!) but there are plenty of other trail races to choose from.
Dont have access to trails stairs or hills?
If easy access to hills, stairs or trails is a problem then a well designed strength training program is essential. You can build leg strength, ankle stability and increase mobility in a gym in ways that will help you out on the trails. For more information see here and here
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