Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wilderness Training

I have a few mountain 100 maps in my office. When a visitor examines a map and weighs the prospects of running that far through the mountains, there's some serious doubts:

"So do you run in the dark at night?"
"What about animals? Aren't you worried about bears, mountain lions, snakes?"
"What if you get lost?"
“Don’t you get tired?”
"What if you chafe or get blisters?"
"What if you run out of food and water?"
"What if your ipod dies?"
"What if you break your ankle?
"Is there cell service?"

Somehow, ultra runners adapt and overcome the myriad difficulties of operating in the wilderness to finish some difficult races. Some make a seamless, painless transition excelling in the worst conditions and others struggle, relying heavily on good luck, super crews, and miracle potions of iced chai lattes. The difference is in the approach, and the approach isn't always just hill work, long runs, and a good diet. It's also in the subjective mental approach to the wilderness.

Do you enjoy camping?
Do you complain a lot in un-ideal conditions?
In training, do you look for flat carpet trails or steep technical trails?
Are you confident in your survival skills?
Do you enjoy solitude?
Have you ever gotten lost for hours and figured your way out?
Are you afraid of animals?
Does altitude sickness make you freak out?
Can you rely on basic packaged food?
Do you love wilderness?

My point is that when you get down to the pure action of traversing 100 miles across mountain ranges, you have to do the basic things well as if they're as natural and efficient as daily actions. The more you adopt this outlook in training, the easier the race is. You can watch a race and easily see the differences as runners pass through aid stations. Early on most runners look the same, but later in the race you'll see the well adapted float through stopping only for a few seconds for water and fuel while others struggle several minutes to take in soups and sandwiches and other special treats to help them mentally overcome the present and future pain. The experience of hundreds of other runs sets up this moment: the earlier runner has been even more tired, had less food, less water, less sleep, more stress and looks and feels strong at mile 80. The comfort of shorter runs, extra food, extra water, more rest, a warm shower and bed every night has left the later runner less adapted and more dependent on external support. Accordingly, these well adapted runners usually get to the finish line hours in advance and enjoy domestic comforts sooner than their counterparts (all is equal in the end).

I believe in this wilderness training not just because it's better training, but because it's the authentic experience that defines what makes our sport unique. Mountain hundreds are far cries from highly engineered running tracks, well organized big city marathons, or half marathon trail races with buffets at the end. They’re wild, raw, tough blends of running, hiking, mountaineering, adventuring, orienteering, suffering, bleeding, and celebrating of life. As the last training weekends pass by before the summer’s events, it’s not too hard to find me if you know where to look.


Monday: 4mi/600ft easy at Crystal Cove
Tuesday: 9mi, 2000ft Crystal Cove

Wednesday: 6mi, 2000ft goat trail on the ridge at silverado

Thursday: 9mi, 2500ft crystal cove hill repeats

Friday: 5mi, 1500ft treadmill easy

Saturday: 25mi, 11,500ft, 7:15 - bear canyon, north backbone, guffy CG and back with Chris, Eric, Jesse. Felt really solid on the steep hikes, didn't feel the altitude

Sunday: 27mi, 6500ft, 5:30 - Guffy to Badden Powell summit and back Really slow, stomach completely off, a little hangover from the day/night before

Monday: 13mi, 5500ft - Easy pace with Jorge, Mari, Chris, and Elissa. Enjoyed the day and took pictures

7 day total (not counting last monday) 94 Miles, 31,500ft of climbing

Overall, plenty of climbing and high quality mileage. The highlight was Saturday as I felt like the run could've gone on and on and I was in a solid rhythm of hiking and running comfortably on terrain that used to work me.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes - That's what's up
New Edward Sharpe album is excellent, I strongly recommend it.


Joe Sammadi said...

Beautiful in the way you describe how the mountain runner differs from the ordinary runner, the element of, in fact, dealing with the natural elements.

Mountain running, aside from the aesthetics and appeal, can be nasty. We're dealing not with wet sidewalks but with nature: impartial, brute, harsh and wild.

Mountain running is life in ultra high definition.

I'll be at bear canyon much these next few months. Can't wait to recklessly descend the mountains with you and consume the beauty of the rugged landscape.

Your volume screams quality. Keep climbing, my man.

El Jacob said...

Awesome write up Dom. Hope you don't mind if I share this one!

watergirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Price said...

Thanks for showing me the North Devil's Backbone trail... quite possibly my new favorite.

We had so many fun activities last weekend!

Well, I'm off to hit up Baldy again, and camp up there AGAIN =)

Don't worry, I'll send you pictures to look at while you're at work, hehe.

Sean O'Day said...

31k. Damn. That's all.

Unknown said...

Josh sykes here. Nice to see ya when we met running longs peak... I hope your training is going well. I love running longs. Once again I plan to be helping out at the hardrock 100 and if I can help I will.

Unknown said...

Josh sykes here. Nice to see ya when we met running longs peak... I hope your training is going well. I love running longs. Once again I plan to be helping out at the hardrock 100 and if I can help I will.

Dominic Grossman said...

Thanks Josh, I'll see you out there, I don't know the specifics of my race plan yet (other than a lot of hiking), but I'll let you know as it develops if I need any more help.