How To Train For Your Next FKT

Saturday, February 28, 2015

How To Train For Your Next FKT

By Jennilyn Eaton

This new passion of mine—ultra length mountain running, is something so new and foreign that it doesn’t yet have a definition, following, or official genre yet. Instead of racing this summer, my focus will be on summit FKT’s and ultra-length FKT ridge link-ups. My current training plan comes from a combination of road running books, like Training Endurance, alpine climbing guides, such as Steve House’s Training for the New Alpinism, and shameless cyber-stalking of local Wasatch elites.


Here are 5 concepts I’ve integrated into my training as I transition from fall/spring ultra races to summer FKTs:

  • Track Elevation Gain: After training and completing a flatter, faster 100-mile race this spring, I’ve transitioned out of mileage-based training and into elevation-based training. Giving up mileage-based training has been a difficult transition! Instead of counting weekly miles I’m counting total vertical gain; instead of tempo runs I’m trying to PR my summit times. I’ve been watching my weekly hours spent out to ensure that the quantity and frequency of training is not sacrificed. Maintaining my usual amount of time on feet and allowing elevation change to determine each day of training instead of mileage has been a pleasant and playful change to my training. Focusing on the elevation gain is helping me to gain confidence and durability on technical terrain.
  • Test Specific Fueling Plans: Nailing my nutrition is a real concern. Tummy trouble will be substantially more dangerous if it flares on an exposed 12,500ft ridge in the middle of the night. I’ve been experimenting with different food types and tweaking my energy gel recipes. Mountain running makes me hungrier for protein and the slower pace allows me to consume larger portions and eat less frequently than when I trail run. A recent 50-mile adventure run (Trans-Zion) was a great opportunity for me to test out a variety of new fueling strategies and theories.
  • Train on Applicable Terrain: I am spoiled in the Wasatch: I can be at the trailhead to summit a peak with over 3,000ft of gain in less than a 15-minute drive. I’ve let my desire to summit, explore, and link the local dry peaks push me onto terrain similar to what I’ll be experiencing this summer. I also spent the winter combining running days with bouldering days, so I could practice rock climbing with a body exhausted from running.
  •  Improve Cognitive Function When Sleep Deprived: Even though sleep deprivation is normal for me, it doesn’t mean I can perform well when fatigued. I did a 100-mile race in March to practice running strong through the night, and will be racing 100-miles again in June as another preparatory run for my mountain running goals. I’ve done 4 long night runs this Spring, and am planning a few more—the idea of needing to scramble at 2am frightens me, and I want to be able to engage as much of the “jello-ultra-brain” as I can!
  • Practice Route-Finding and Navigation: I’ve spent the spring creating messy lines on the brushier (and less snowy) Wasatch ridges. These long, schwacking ridges encourage me to study maps, visualize a line on Google earth, and then experience it on my feet. I’m starting to get good at identifying potential pathways along hillsides and navigating through short cliff bands and brush. While not a perfect simulation of the 3rd-5th class terrain I will experience this summer, this “practice” has helped me learn to efficiently navigate between summits.



Only time will tell the effectiveness of all this training. In the mean time, I’m enjoying daily summit sunrises and PR’s on my local peaks. The joy of training has skyrocketed since I’ve allowed myself to pursue what I really love—running summits—and stopped trying to pursue flatter trail runs that I can take at a faster pace. I’ve always believed we excel at what we enjoy the most. So—find what you enjoy, and get out there and get after it!

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