How I Get Ready For Mountain Running Season – by David Norris
by David Norris
Believe it or not, spring is my favorite time of year to train. Despite coming off a long and fatiguing ski racing season, I am always excited to get back to springtime in Alaska. The weather is generally pretty amazing at this time of year- lots of bluebird days that make for great crust skiing in the morning, awesome trail running in the afternoon, and even better corn skiing in the evenings. With such perfect conditions its easy to get carried away recreating and neglect the body- especially when it comes to running. As someone who has struggled with countless overuse injuries throughout the duration of my career, its really important for me to build into my running progression. I’ve found that if I’m not careful about gradually increasing both distance and pace, my minor springtime tweaks turn into long-term injuries that prevent me from training/racing later in the summer. Picking out the right pair shoes from Skinny Raven also helps avoid injuries further down the road.
It can be difficult to find dry trails in the spring time in Anchorage, but there are a few that tend to dry out quicker than others. My two favorite trails to start training on are the Bluff trail at Kincaid and the Turnagain Arm Trail by Potter’s Marsh. Not only do they dry out fast, but they are incredibly scenic- catching tons of sun to help jumpstart my summer tan. Although its easy to get carried away, I try to always start out by doing less than I think my body can handle. Rather than ending up super sore and tired after my first run, I try to finish wishing I could have run for longer. This can be especially difficult on out-and-back trails, so to help I will set a timer on my watch for half the total time I want to run. No matter how awesome I feel, I force myself to turn around when that timer goes off! I usually start out with 30-40 minute runs every day and add 5-10 min per week. I tend to gradually increase the pace as my legs get increasingly used to running, but I never add any interval/speed training for about a month after I start running in the spring.
I think its really important to keep in mind that trail running provides a very difficult stimulus/ challenge to road running; dodging rocks and roots is much more taxing than running on even ground for the same amount of time. Therefore, I am especially careful about not over-extending myself and running too long or fast on trails after only running on roads all ski season.
After 3-4 weeks of building into my running, I start to throw in some speed work. One of my favorite ways to do this is with fartlek style workouts; for example, five minutes of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. Again, I make sure to gradually progress into this workout- instead of going Mach 10 during the “on” time, I start out by going 10-15k race pace- or something I think I could sustain for at least a few minutes. After a few times doing the workout, however, I increase my pace to more of a sprint pace. To build a base of fitness, I also start doing threshold, or level 3, type of work. An example of a workout I might start out with is 3 x 10 minutes at a pace I think I’d be able to sustain for an hour or so. If the weather gets really nasty I will use the super incline treadmills at The Alaska Club and use similar intervals as a way to keep my mind stimulated as I tend to struggle with indoor workouts.
Between these types of workouts, I feel like I am able to start ramping in up in preparation for long mountain runs and races all summer. As long as I listen to my body and make sure to take a day off when I’m feeling tweaky or tired, I am able to train and race well throughout the summer. Cheers to springtime, fresh legs, sunny days, and injury-free running!