Jason Bryant - Training for the Mountain Cup

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Training for the Mountain Cup

By Jason Bryant

Everyone has a different training philosophy which is actually as it should be.  We are all different in a variety of ways whether it be running style, durability, occupation, lifestyle, or personality.  You listen to what someone else does, then use what fits for you and trash the rest.  So take what you can from these training ideas, and forget the rest, especially if it helps you at your next race.

I like to maintain a good level of fitness and speed year round as I tend to race year round.  I don’t typically have an off-season where I don’t do some type of race.  I look at the various races that I may want to do and then prioritize them.  You may be able to run everything and anything in top form, especially if you are Michael Wardian, but I can’t.  Maybe even Wardian can’t run his best at any distance or style all the time.  Prioritizing my races keeps my training focused on my top races.  I gear my training toward the focus races, then jump into whatever local races fit into my training plans or life schedule.  Does that mean I run races that I am not ideally trained for?  All the time.  But I like racing and the hard effort.  I’ve also been known to enjoy the social aspects around racing.  So on with my Mountain Cup training principles.

As I said I like to keep a mixture of endurance, speed, and strength in my training all year.  I’m not a particularly high mileage guy.  My weekly mileage ranges from 40 to 100, with most weeks being 60 to 70 miles.  I like to get in the mountains for runs regularly.  For me that’s not totally because of the mountain cup or the other mountainous races that I do, I just like being in mountains.  I’d say I do mountain races because that’s the type of running I like best in general.  As for my workouts, I have two staples.  First, I probably get some type of tempo run in at least every other week.  I like to mix up my tempo workouts with 20 minutes tempo runs, various fartleks, mile repeats, and periodically some longer 30-40 minutes tempo runs.  I use the Jack Daniels definition of tempo pace, also known as anaerobic threshold or lactate threshold pace.  Tempo pace is 25-30 seconds slower than current 5K pace.  I feel tempo effort runs are the best investment for my training bucks.  I make it a point to do some of my fartlek runs on trails.  I have some friends who feel this is too risky for injury or too irregular in pace, but I feel this helps prepare me to use whatever speed I have in my trail races.

My other main workout is some type of mountain workout.  My mountain workouts vary from steady uphill tempo type runs, to shorter uphill repeats, to downhill repeats.  My mountain runs vary in grade from 5% to 20+% and in distance from ½ mile to 6 miles.  The mountain workouts are my favorite, sort of.  I like knowing I can charge up or down some steep grade though in another way, they kind of suck.  My heart rate is screaming going up and I sometimes think I am risking death on some descents.  But then again I think this leaves me better prepared for race day. One of my most brutal mountain workouts is a .7 mile 18% trail.  I do 2 sets of up hard, ½ mile recovery, down hard.  My downhill pace on this workout is around 4:20 pace.  That is only 2.8 miles of workout and I leave with my quads trashed.  I make sure to plan no races for a couple of weeks after this quad destroying workout.  I like to get this workout in early in the year as I feel it toughens my quads for the summer.  Which brings up what I feel is critical for good mountain racing, regular downhill running.  I get in regular long downhill runs of 4-6 miles along with some steep downhill runs.  I often just get in the mountains for an easy or long run and then let myself roll on downs practicing not using the brakes.  Plus that means I’m in the mountains somewhere, which is always a good thing.

Finally I should mention that I feel it is important to keep some fast stuff in my training mix.  Just doing strides a couple of times weeks can help maintain decent speed.  I do interval workouts, at about 2 mile pace, about every 4-6 weeks unless training for something particularly fast in which case I do them more regularly.  I do a true speed workout, at 800 pace or faster, about 2-4 times a year.  I wouldn’t consider that a significant amount of speed work, but just enough to keep my speed at a reasonable level.  That amount of speed workouts keeps my muscles flexible for the range of motion that faster running requires.  Plus it keeps me a few workouts and a few weeks from being capable of doing any faster racing.  That’s my not-so-specialize training philosophy, or training secrets that aren’t really so secret.  So don’t tell anyone.

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