What are the specific demands of ultra running on trails and mountainous terrain?

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1 Guide to training for the Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 Many people entering ultra running events will already be accomplished long distance walkers and runners, whilst others may be less experienced. In this article we will outline the key things to be considered when planning your preparation, whether you're a novice or experienced competitor. The first rule before starting any training programme is to identify the demands of the event and implement the rule of 'sports specificity', which states that we become good at what we do in our daily training. Based on this you should identify the demands of the event and try to incorporate them into your schedule. One of the key things to highlight before going any further is that a complete training programme does more than develop your fitness, it develops all of the elements required to get you round the course in the most efficient manner. What are the specific demands of ultra running on trails and mountainous terrain? You will be on your feet running or walking for a long time The terrain will involve steep climbs and descents The terrain will be uneven underfoot You will be carrying a rucksack on your back which adds weight You will need to navigate You will need to feed yourself on the move You may have to run in darkness, bad weather conditions (cold, wet and windy, or hot and calm) How does the above affect your training programme? 1. You need to do long runs or walks at the pace you hope to travel in the event 2. You need to include both steep climbs and descents to condition your legs 3. You need to travel over uneven terrain to develop ankle stability and wear correct footwear 4. You need to carry a rucksack of similar weight to condition your legs 5. You need to navigate during these training sessions 6. You need to practice eating on the go and trial different foods 7. You need to run in all weather conditions, in the darkness and know how to deal with all scenarios

2 The Long Run / Walk: The long run or walk will prepare your body for prolonged exercise and should be done at event intensity. The majority of competitors will walk the climbs and jog the descents, either walking or jogging the flat parts between. If you attempt a 9 hour training session and try to run the whole way from the start, you're heading for a painful final 5 hours. Most pure runners who have never ran further than marathon distance, find it difficult to change pace, slow down, walk the climbs and pace themselves over long periods of time. It is absolutely critical that you learn how to pace yourself for longer distances, if you cannot keep going for 9 hours then you definitely cannot manage the which will be required for 50 miles of mountain trail. If you find yourself in this position, struggling after 6 hours or less, the answer is simple.. you're going too fast, you need to slow down. We believe there are 3 key benefits to this session. First, your aerobic energy system will develop in a manner which will ensure 'more miles to the gallon' from your precious energy stores. Long training sessions teach your body to utilise fat as an energy source and this helps to save carbohydrate, keeping you going for longer. Second, the muscles will become conditioned to working for long periods of time resulting in less damage and stiffness. During long distance events there is significant muscle tissue damage and this leads to deterioration in performance. The long run or walk will help to condition the muscles and reduce the amount of damage caused as a consequence. Third is the psychological benefit of 'going long' and becoming accustomed to 'time on the go'. If your longest training session is 3 hours in duration and you are competing for 20 hours, it will feel like a very long way and your mood will darken, impacting upon both enjoyment and performance! The most common question is: how long should the long run be? There is no simple answer to this question and it is based upon how much you can safely complete without getting injured or feeling tired for the proceeding 3 weeks! It's physically impossible to complete the race distance each week in training and you may need to accept the fact that you won't complete the full distance even once prior to the day. Competition is very different to training, accept that the event is going to be very challenging, you will slow down to some extent, but you can take as much time off after the event as you need to recover. Training 'consistently' is one of the most important attributes for success, if you need 2 weeks to recover from your long run, your training will suffer as a consequence. Ultimately, you should remember that your training is a means of preparation, it's not essential to 'do' the distance before race day, just accept that you'll slow down.. but you'll get there.

3 Climbs and Descents: Walking or running up steep hills is tough, especially when carrying a pack and it can drain your energy. It s important that you include steep climbs in your regular long run or walk and even more important to include steep descents. When you walk or run down steep hills the 'braking effect' of your muscles as you try to slow yourself causes damage and soreness, more so than when travelling up hills or on flat terrain. Impact during the down hill sections is the 'secret killer' and the damage caused is far more likely to impact upon your performance than any up hill sections. Include both climbs and descents into your preparation to help minimise damage by improving muscle conditioning. Any additional weight will slow you on the ascents and increase impact on the descents so pack wisely and opt for lightweight equipment. Lightweight walking poles specifically designed for ultra running can also be a great boost on climbs, especially when you are tired. Uneven terrain: If the terrain is uneven you will need good ankle stability and good footwear! Walking over rough terrain will ensure that your ligaments and muscles are fully prepared and also improve your balance and agility, thereby improving your overall performance. You'll need off-road shoes, which generally have a wider and lower base, to enhance stability and you'll need to condition your feet to prevent blisters. Rough terrain causes your shoes to 'twist' on your feet and this can lead to blisters in new places so go out and experiment! Carrying a rucksack: The best rucksacks to carry are those specifically designed for running. They are light and fit closely to your body without excessive movement. If you carry your rucksack for the first time you risk discomfort and blisters and you also run the risk of fatigue due to the extra weight. Pick your pack carefully and try it out before you buy if possible (run on shop treadmill?). Train with the rucksack and pack weight you intend to carry in the event and learn how to pack items correctly, so sharp objects aren't sticking into your back. Pack the things you may need during the event, so they can be easily accessed (leave your jacket at the top!). We recommend that you start running with the pack in the final 16 weeks, running with a heavy pack during every session for months in advance can lead to heavy and slow plodding. You need to prepare and condition yourself to running with the pack, but don't use it for every run!

4 Navigation: The most effective mountain and ultra athletes are super-confident navigators and this is where they save the bulk of their time. Stopping for 10 minutes to read the map every 30 minutes, adds 20 minutes to each hour of travel. 1. Use your map and compass on your long run / walk and become accustomed to navigating on the go. Plot some checkpoints on a map and use this as your training course. 2. During the event you can t afford to stop and lose time every time you need to check the map. When you are training, always aim to keep moving and NEVER STAND STILL! 3. Fold the map so it only shows the section you are covering, this prevents the need to constantly find your position on a large page. 4. Thumb the map - put your thumb where you are to save time each time you look. Check frequently and relate the map to landmarks you see. 5. Plan ahead if you know that you are heading in the right direction and the terrain is relatively good, start to look at the proceeding checkpoint so you are always planning one step ahead. All of these skills can be practised whilst running in the mountains or running in the city. If you can t get to the great outdoors, plan a street orienteering course and develop your navigation skills. It s a great way to liven up the same old evening run. Putting it all together: You will need 14 weeks of preparation based on the presumption that you are already relatively fit and can run 10 miles continuously without difficulty. If you are not at this level of fitness, you should complete general running and cross training until you reach this point. The programme is aimed at L50 competitors and is intended as a basic schedule to get you round the course successfully and make it as enjoyable as possible! Note that the strength training guidelines are very generalised and you should seek the advice of an experienced instructor within the gym. We recommend that you focus on core strength to help maintain running form and free weight exercises for. For lower body exercises focus on the eccentric phase of the movement (lowering) as this helps to reduce descending damage. If you are experienced, a basic plyometric routine will also greatly help with running economy. Aim to complete the strength workout twice per week, leaving one complete rest day within the week. Weeks 1-4: Monday: Rest or gym session focused upon core strength and free weights exercises for. Tuesday: Run to work and back or run 45 minutes continuous with a low-moderate weighted rucksack. Keep your foot-strike light and your cadence short and fast. Don t allow the rucksack to cause heavy foot-strike and slow, plodding cadence. Wednesday: Gym session focused upon core strength and free weights exercises for joint stability.

5 Thursday: Treadmill session 3X5 minutes brisk walk or run on 12-15% incline (increase by 1% weeks 1-4) with 2 minutes flat walk recovery between each. Warm up and cool down 10 minutes steady running. Friday: Rest or gym session focused upon core strength and free weights exercises for joint stability Saturday: Run steady minutes focusing upon navigation. Plan a series of checkpoints either urban or rural and incorporate all of the skills listed above. Keep your foot-strike light and your cadence short and fast. Sunday: Walk/Run hours off-road (increase 30 minutes per week) with a race weight rucksack. Practise feeding and hydrating yourself on the move, focus on navigation skills. Spend as much time as possible on the move, walk all uphill sections and jog the flat and downhill sections. Weeks 5-8: Monday: Rest or gym session focused upon core strength and free weights exercises for Tuesday: Run to work and back or run 60 minutes continuous with a low-moderate weighted rucksack, if possible incorporate navigation skills and attempt to follow your route on OS map. Keep your foot-strike light and your cadence short and fast. Don t allow the rucksack to cause heavy foot-strike and slow, plodding cadence. Wednesday: Rest or gym session focused upon core strength and free weights exercises for Thursday: Treadmill session 4X5 minutes jog or run on 12-15% incline (increase by 1% weeks 5-8) with 2 minutes flat walk recovery between each. Warm up and cool down 10 minutes steady running. Friday: Rest or gym session focused upon core strength and free weights exercises for joint stability Saturday: Run steady minutes focusing upon navigation. Plan a series of checkpoints either urban or rural and incorporate all of the skills listed above. Keep your foot-strike light and your cadence short and fast. You should not stop for any of this run, always moving and following the map, if running urban, watch for traffic! Sunday: Walk/Run hours off-road (increase 30 minutes per week) with a race weight rucksack. Practise feeding and hydrating yourself on the move, focus on navigation skills. Spend as much time as possible on the move, walk all uphill sections and jog the flat and downhill sections. For weeks 5-8 this run needs to be off road and it needs to be hilly! Weeks 9-12: Monday: Rest or gym session focused upon core strength and free weights exercises for

6 Tuesday: Run to work and back or run 60 minutes continuous with a low-moderate weighted rucksack, if possible incorporate navigation skills and attempt to follow your route on OS map. Keep your foot-strike light and your cadence short and fast. Don t allow the rucksack to cause heavy foot-strike and slow, plodding cadence Wednesday: Rest or gym session focused upon core strength and free weights exercises for Thursday: Treadmill session 6X3 minutes hard run on 12-15% incline (increase by 1% weeks 9-12) with 2 minutes flat walk recovery between each. Warm up and cool down 10 minutes steady running. Friday: Rest or gym session focused upon core strength and free weights exercises for joint stability Saturday: Run steady minutes focusing upon navigation. Plan a series of checkpoints either urban or rural and incorporate all of the skills listed above. Keep your foot-strike light and your cadence short and fast. You should not stop for any of this run, always moving and following the map, if running urban, watch for traffic! Sunday: Walk/Run 7-8 hours off-road (Include 2 long sessions of 8 hours, preferably partly in darkness) with a race weight rucksack. Practise feeding and hydrating yourself on the move, focus on navigation skills. Spend as much time as possible on the move, walk all uphill sections and jog the flat and downhill sections. For weeks 9-12 this run needs to be off road and it needs to be hilly! Weeks 13-14: For week 13 repeat training from week 12 but rest on Saturday and complete 2 hours only on Sunday. For week 14 (event week), rest on Monday, complete 3X3 minutes steady running at 15% incline Tuesday, rest Wednesday, run 20 minutes easy with rucksack Thursday and rest Friday. No strength training at all during week 10. On a final note, practise on sections of the course so you know exactly how rough and steep its likely to be. Good luck, enjoy the training and I ll hopefully see you out there! Marc Laithwaite

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