NAIL THE TRAILS #3: Hit The Track, Jack (Or, Variety Is The Spice Of Success)
How to achieve your trail running goals in ten significant steps.
(Continued from Tip #2: Consider a Coach)
I have a great book on trail running which teases the reader by ending a page with the words, “The road to injury is paved…” There’s plenty truth to this – road running, especially the road marathon, is an invitation to repetitive stress ailments. But that doesn’t mean you can achieve all your trail goals on trails. My coach had me out on my local high school track for brutal speed work (1200s with 200m cool-downs). He had me work through his patented 9-5s, 8-4s, and 7-3s. (Ask him.) He had me doing long runs with tempo runs in the middle, and tempo runs with speed work in the middle. There were hill repeats. Fartleks. (It’s a Swedish thing.) And he had me doing strides for the first time in my life. While a running track is more of a convenience for these routines than an absolute necessity, none of them could be easily accomplished on the trails.
That said, there was also plenty of trail in my weekly schedules, especially once winter gave way to spring. There was the weekend long run, more of which later. There was running on tired legs (six hours on the mountains one day, ten miles on the mountains the next). There were run/hikes, and hikes with no running. You name it, my coach had me do it. Believe it or not, he even ensured that I ran run easy and light at least once a week. I knew this variety of training was paying dividends when I ran the boardwalk in Ventura, CA, this spring, on next to no sleep (I was in a van on the street!), and a much younger runner tried but could not keep up with me. Ultra runners, for whom stamina and strength often seem the only essential qualities, can sometimes convince themselves that speed work is not important – but if you have a finish time in mind, or simply a desire to punch the final clock at full sprint, it’s vital. So, be ready to occasionally pound the pavement, or hit the track – and if you are worried about the effect of asphalt on your knees, build some barefoot running here and there. As well as providing additional variety, it does wonders for your form.