Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to Train for a Slow Marathon - The Ultimate Pikes Peak Training Guide

The Pikes Peak Ascent is an intimidating race. Take a good hard look at the Google Earth image of the course below and tell me it's not intimidating.

From the start of the race at 6300' elevation in the town of Manitou Springs, the course climbs steadily to the summit at 14,115' (that's almost 8000' of elevation gain for those with history degrees) over 13.3 miles, of which all but the first 1.5 miles is on single track.

The Pikes Peak Marathon is an even more intimidating race because after you complete the Ascent course, you get to turn around and fly back down the mountain the way you came up. I've never done the round-trip, but I assume the descent is a delicate balance between trying to keep down the beer that you chugged at the turnaround point, dodging the hundreds of runners still slogging their way up to the top, and sweet-talking your joints and muscles into not exploding or seizing as gravity does its best to send you flying out of control headlong into a rock garden.

The time of year has come when approximately 3000 lucky people are starting to move full-swing into their Pikes Peak training. So how do you train for a race such as this? Although I've never trained for the descent, I think the best tactic would be to blindfold myself and then run really fast while my friends chase me and beat me about the legs and feet with baseball bats. I'm pretty sure that's what Matt Carpenter does and it seems to work for him.

Training for the Ascent takes a little more finesse. Leading up to my training for Pikes Peak last year, I developed a simple training philosophy that turned out to be very beneficial. Although my implmentation and execution strategy for training has changed somewhat this year due to having different goals for the race, I'm still following the same basic philosophy that is based on the simple set of rules below.

Rule #1 - Throw the treadmill in the garbage.
Rule #2 - Always take the stairs.
Rule #3 - Elevation gain takes preference over distance.
Rule #4 - Time at elevation takes preference over speed.
Rule #5 - Don't ever let a mountain biker pass you going uphill.
Rule #6 - You don't have to be running to be training.

So how will these strategies be embodied in my training this year? For starters, I'll continue to participate in the La Sportiva Mountain Cup series, one race of which is actually run on the bottom half of the Pikes Peak course. I plan to spend as much time as possible at my super secret training grounds in the San Juans where I'll make a sweet montage video of my training like in Rocky IV. I also have plans for some good running adventures including a Maroon Bells Four Pass Loop fun-run, a fast run up the Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window, a run of the Halo Ridge route on Mount of the Holy Cross, and some running in the Marin Headlands. You might say "Wow, that sounds like a really fun training plan!" and I'd tell you you're right.

So no matter what your training plan may be, have fun with it and I'll see you in Manitou on August 18!

But seriously, throw the treadmill in the garbage.

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