Workout #3: Hill sprints and/or long repeats
Example: 10 x 3 minutes @ 5 percent grade
Who: Anyone and everyone
Why: Living in the coastal plain of Georgia might not seem like an ideal place to train for the Western States 100-miler with its 18,000 feet of vertical gain. Reagan would be the first to agree. That’s why he makes good use of the treadmill every week.
“To me, the workouts all depend on the race in terms of specificity,” he says. His treadmill intervals often top out at a 15 percent gradient, but it gets the job done. “That’s the most important part. If you live in a flat area and are going to be doing a really hilly race, the treadmill is a great tool. Even if you just have one hill in your area, that is going to be a great tool.”
Richardson agrees. Picking up trail running in the valley surrounding Glenwood Springs, Colorado, she found there was only direction she could run to leave town: up. “I had to be okay with going much slower and even walking during training and races due to the amount of elevation I was gaining,” she says.
Richardson was warned that all the slow climbing would hinder her speed, but three weeks after her runner-up finish at the trail marathon championships in Moab, she came back and ran an Olympic trials qualifier of 2:42 on the relatively flat Cal International Marathon course. “I attribute that to the strength that mountain and ultrarunning provided,” she says. “I do believe that they all complement one another.”
Workout #4: Continuous Tempo Run
Example: 4-8 miles at tempo (lactate threshold) pace on track/road
Who: Anyone looking for a fitness boost
Why: As much as Richardson and Reagan love the trails, it’s not wise to do all your workouts on singletrack. “The more you can mix (surfaces) the better,” says Reagan. “There’s going to be certain things that you can get in terms of running efficiency and economy on a track that are going to be a little difficult to simulate on an extremely hilly or technical trail.”
Fitness matters on race day more than anything. Tempos and long cruise intervals (reps of 1-2 miles at tempo pace with a short recovery in between) are an excellent way to build the stamina needed to maintain your pace and form for the duration of a long race. Staying in the proper training zones, though, usually requires a flat or relatively consistent surface.
Richardson concurs. “Overall my main focus is building fitness,” she says. “The race-specific days are just to allow me to gain confidence on the trails, and so I am not surprised by anything come race day.”