Ultramarathon training: Don’t underestimate the value of long hikes!

LP1020254I’m on the final countdown for my next race: a five-day, 160km utramarathon in the Himalayas. I leave for India in less than two weeks! I’ve got over a lot of health issues that I’ve struggled with these last two years, and am running much better lately. But I am also including long, and especially hilly, hikes as part of my multi-day ultramarathon training program. Any time on your feet is valuable for ultra training, and hiking reduces the pounding, and the risk of injury that too many running miles can cause. Hilly hikes, especially, are really good – working your uphill muscles and your downhill muscles.

LP1020250The hike that these pix are from was a 14 km trek along the Alberni Inlet Trail, with a total of 670 m cumulative elevation gain/loss. (I know those stats because it is the same route Dave led for the VISTA group run on International Trails Day! I did it in reverse, though, because I wanted to get up to the Lookout while the sun was still high in the sky.)

I started at the trailhead at the corner of Anderson Ave. and Ship Creek Road, went up to the Lookout (approx 250 m gain) then down to the water (approx 300 m loss), then along the Inlet to Lone Tree Point (another ~100m of gain and loss). Then back again by the Follinsbee Creek trail (300 m up) and back down to the start. It took 3:48 in total, hiking at a brisk pace, stopping only to set up a few photos with the dogs on the self-timer!

This is the view most of the way up the first hill, looking down on the town of Port Alberni.

This is the view most of the way up the first hill, looking down on the town of Port Alberni. Nice sunny day!

Winter hit us at the end of September this year! It's nice to have so many different routes we can go on here, definitely going for ones that are partially along logging roads in the winter months so we can get some sun.

Winter hit us at the end of September this year! It’s nice to have so many different routes we can go on here, definitely going for ones that are partially along logging roads in the winter months so we can get some sun.

Here we are at the Lookout, about 300 m above the inlet - taking in the views before we descend right down to the water.

Here we are at the Lookout, about 300 m above the inlet – taking in the views before we descend right down to the water.

I prefer to descend via the other trail (the one I went up this day) because this one is SO steep. But today I did it the other way around, because I wanted to get up to the Lookout early, while the sun was still high in the sky.

I prefer to descend via the other trail (the one I went up this day) because this one is SO steep. But today I did it the other way around, because I wanted to get up to the Lookout early, while the sun was still high in the sky.

And here we are, at Lone Tree Point. What an amazing day! This was our turnaround - then back up the hill, and back down again, to finish the day's hike.

And here we are, at Lone Tree Point. What an amazing day! This was our turnaround – then back up the hill, and back down again, to finish the day’s hike.

Long and hard hikes like this really are good ultramarathon training. Let’s face it, most ultrarunners hike the steep uphills anyway – so a hike like this helps work those climbing muscles: the quads and the glutes. It also keeps your feet really strong, just being on them for that many hours of the day. You can get a pretty good heart-rate going when you hike the uphills hard – at least, for me, as much or more than my slow-jog pace.

And a big thing is that you can do hikes like these back-to-back, two or even three days in a row, with less risk of an overuse injury than back-to-back long runs would have. Back-to-back days make especially good preparation for multi-day ultramarathons. Which is what I did this time… a 2:20 hard hike the next day up around the back of Mt. Arrowsmith, with 700 m elevation gain, and then a 3+ hour fast hike with a big hill-climb in the middle with Dave the following day. That’s all very good when training for the multi-day races, getting used to going hard on tired legs.

Advertisements
  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: