Tag: running

NiteRider TL 5.0 SL Tail Light

Available on AMAZON 

The NiteRider TL 5.0 SL tail light. Long name, simple light. It’s got a few flashy settings to make sure you are visible to vehicles. I got it to replace my 20 year old tail light that finally disintegrated. Here it is, fresh out of the box. I’m going to use it first for running in the pre-dawn darkness on the highways and rec paths of Utah County.

NiteRider TL 5.0 SL Tail Light Video Introduction

 


Running in Foot Deep Powder

Today was a great day for a trail run. I went trailrunning this morning at -1F (according to the weather channel). Accuweather had it at -13.

Nothing like a little negative F to kick off the morning trail running
Nothing like a little negative F to kick off the morning trail running

I went out on the deck and it felt more like the weather channel had it at -1F so I dressed for that. It was snowing pretty hard and there was at least 8″ of new snow on the ground. I wore a minimum of clothing, in spite of the cold. It’s better to be slightly cold and dry, rather than dressed really warmly but sweat too much. That sweat will chill you if the wind hits it.

Dressed lightly for a winter trail run at -1F
Dressed lightly for a winter trail run at -1F

I wore my Pearl Izumi Trail N2 with Kahtoola microspikes. I’m glad I did. The trail was really bumpy with icy spots under the powder snow. You couldn’t see under the snow so it was good to have the extra spike aggressiveness. I had thought of wearing my Hoka Stinson with the screws in the bottom.

Winter Trailrunning Video on Vimeo:

[weaver_vimeo id=”111698274″]

I wore Salomon hybrid top and bottom. When I say hybrid I mean a thin athletic fleece with wind and water resistant panels. I wore the loose tights without a base layer. On top I had on an Arctyrex mid-weight base layer. That’s it for clothing. For socks I wore thick wool mountaineering socks. For gloves I had on bike commuter lobster mitts from REI for my hands. On my head I wore a buff, a mid-weight helmet liner, and a swag Salomon baseball cap I got at a race.

The snow was light and fluffy and dry so I didn’t really need to worry about my feet getting wet. When I turned around at the 2.5 mile mark the wind was pretty cold on my chest. I had a thin insulated vest in the UD Pack, but in a few minutes I was warm again so it was worth waiting before I got it out. It ended up I didn’t need it.

Winter Trailrunning GPS Track:

[sgpx gpx=”/wp-content/uploads/gpx/11-12-2014-KeystoneGulch.gpx”]

Treadmill Training for Hills

Why would anyone consider treadmill training for hills?

Here are some of my favorite reasons:

  • Recovery from injury
  • Meeting specific goals
  • Controlled environment
  • Weather
  • Time
  • Local terrain

Let me take a few minutes to examine each of these reasons or excuses for treadmill training for hills.

First of all is recovery from injury. I myself am currently in this group. About a month ago I went for a hike with some 18-20 year old guys I know, and we ascended Mount Royal in Frisco CO. It was fun, but then they all decided to run down and I, like an old man in denial, decided to keep up with them. I did set a PR, but part of that is that I rarely run down, deciding instead (wisely) to preserve my knees.

Hiking group at the saddle on Mount Royal in Frisco, CO
Hiking group at the saddle on Mount Royal in Frisco, CO

So now, yeah, my knees are thrashed. I took a few weeks off, tried to get back into running, but the trails I can get to easily are all up and down, and the downhill was killing me. My knees would never recover on those trails, so I’ll be doing some treadmill training for hills.

Why? The steady incline allows me to set vertical goals without having to endure the descent. This will allow me to maintain some mileage while giving my knees a chance to heal.

Second advantage to treadmill training for hills is that it facilitates meeting specific goals. If you have a goal that includes speeds, or elevation gains, or heart rate, it’s a lot easier to measure, monitor, and track on a treadmill. Need to go 3.0 miles at 5%? Just set it and forget it on the treadmill.

Anaerobic Threshold Training setup with Suunto Ambit 2S treadmill training for hills
Anaerobic Threshold Training setup with Suunto Ambit 2S on the handle of the treadmill

If your goal also includes a heart rate, such as with Anaerobic Threshold Training ARTICLE HERE you can set the watch up in view and then adjust your speed up and down to maintain your heart rate in the prescribed zone. That’s a lot harder to do outside.

Third, it’s a controlled environment. You can wear whatever you want, the incline can be as steady or varied as you want, the speed can be anything you want. There is a bathroom just down the hall. You can refill your water or supplement bottles all you want.

Fourth, is weather. Treadmill training for hills avoids a lot of the complications of the weather and time. When it comes right down to it, if you want to practice being completely and totally soaked and frozen, with sheets of ice on your pants, then it’s probably a lot of fun to go do that outside. But you can’t promise that you will be able to maintain your pace, distance, heart rate, or any of your other goals while struggling for survival.

Winter Trail Running Salomon Spikecross on snowcat tracks
Winter Trail Running Salomon Spikecross on snowcat tracks

Fifth is time. This is a big deal for a lot of people. Sometimes that awesome hill climb route is an hour or more away, You can’t really justify taking that much time out of your day when there is a treadmill in your own home, your own apartment complex, or the gym on the way to work.

Sixth, is local terrain. There are a lot of people who have contacted me with the sad fact that there are no hills in their area. There is a lot to be said for running 5 miles at 6% incline. You can’t really duplicate that experience with stadium running, which really does use very different muscles. For hiking that would be great, but not for running. Some people advocate hill repeats on a 50′ hill, if you have access to one. That might work great for sprint training, but it doesn’t quite duplicate that same type of endurance that 5 miles at 6% does. Treadmill training for hills solves that problem in a very handy, easy to find, easy to use method.

How to use treadmill training for hills

Vertical training protocols are the main focus of my book “Summit Success: Training for Hiking, Mountaineering, and Peak Bagging” and I really suggest you get one if you’re serious about planning a program around vertical goals. It takes you from “the couch” to nearly 4,000′ of vertical per week over a 16 week period, which I feel is a worthy goal for most anyone who is not used to hills.

Treadmill training for hills helped me ascend Orizaba quickly
Treadmill training for hills helped me ascend Orizaba quickly

While the book is specific to hiking, the goal charts include vertical and horizontal goals that you can also achieve through increasing the speed on the treadmill while running on it. That also means you can spend less time on the treadmill, since you’ll be moving twice or more as fast. In my own training I use a similar set of protocols.

Here is a sample of a treadmill training chart as used in the manual, adjusted for 4% inclination, rather than the goal incline of 15% used for hiking:

Week 5 6 7 8
Target Weekly Vertical Ft 1,130 1,255 1,395 1,550
Weekly Miles at 4% 5.349 5.943 6.604 7.338
Incline Miles Per Session (x4) 1.337 1.486 1.651 1.834

As you can see, if you’re a runner it’s really easy to get these miles in every week. If you’re a beginning runner it shouldn’t be too hard either.

I wanted to introduce you to the idea of treadmill training for hills, and give you a few of the best reasons for doing it. I also wanted to show you an example training goal chart, modified for running from my training manual.

In an upcoming article I will explain how to adjust all the charts in the manual for running, rather than hiking, and talk a little bit about using VAM for training goals.

VAM is the abbreviation for the Italian term velocità ascensionale media, translated in English to mean “average ascent speed” or “mean ascent velocity”, but usually referred to as VAM. — WIKI

Thanks, and let me know if there are any questions or things I did not explain adequately.

Treadmill Training for Hills in my own garage
Treadmill training for hills in my own garage

Farmers Carry Workout

Here’s the Farmers Carry Workout I’ve developed over the last few weeks. It’s good for my trail running and hiking and I’m sure it would be worth your while to watch the short video for my own variation on a Farmers Carry Workout, posted to my youtube channel.

With this Farmers Carry Workout I’m doing the following:

  1. 25 Trapbar Deadlifts at 65 lb.
  2. 100 steps with Trapbar
  3. 100 Kicks – running high knee, high heel drill
  4. Walking back to the Trapbar and picking it up

I did 12 repetitions of that sequence over a total of 1.5 miles. Over that distance I did 300 Trapbar Deadlifts. I did 1200 steps with the Trapbar. I did 1200 Kicks running drill steps. I walked some distance I didn’t count back to the bar. Since there were so many reps involved I used 65 pounds as my weight for this session. It was about 40 minutes long.

One of my favorite variations is to do RDL (Romanian Dead Lift) instead of the regular deadlifts. I am looking forward to doing Sprints intead of the Kicks. I’ll probably try some with Bounding. The farmers carry workout sequences could be really intense if you do them without much rest. You set the bar down and pause for a second before your Kicks. You walk back to the bar and pick it up. The walking could be the closest thing to a rest that you get if you do it this way.

You could do just about anything you want with yours, if you decide to create your own farmers carry workout. I especially like the way that it’s good for my shoulders, upper back and grip. These are important with ice climbing training. Did I mention that ice climbing starts up here at 10,000′ in Colorado in the next 8 or so weeks?

The Running Kicks Drill as done in my farmers carry workout
The Running Kicks Drill as done in my farmers carry workout

If you have a favorite farmers carry workout I’d love for you to share it with me. I’m open to all kinds of interesting suggestions. Just comment below or on my Facebook Page [CLICK HERE].

Farmers Carry Workout in my new book?

I’m just about done with the final edit of my upcoming Summit Success: Training for Hiking, Mountaineering, and Peak Bagging. CHECK IT OUT. I have to say though that as a beginner training manual there won’t be a farmers carry workout in it. Perhaps in my intermediate training manual. I’ll save that for next year.

Until then, I hope you enjoyed my farmers carry workout video and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Can you add this to your own workout mix? Let me know.



Steady State Cardio

I was reading this article HERE on T-Nation “The Death of Steady State Cardio” by Rachel Cosgrove. A very long time ago, when I was an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer I attended a trainer workshop in Las Vegas that featured a session with Alwyn Cosgrove, Rachel’s husband. I don’t remember if she was there or not now. It was a very long time ago and I was very busy taking notes from Alwyn’s presentation on client mobility assessments.

AF Canyon Half Marathon in Utah
AF Canyon Half Marathon in Utah

Anyway, like most of these “Steady State Cardio” articles it tries to convince us that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is the ultimate and thus only option for training of any type including long distance events, like the Half Marathon. I’ve commented a few times, and shared articles and links to articles about these training protocols. For one thing, a Half Marathon is a relatively short distance, and isn’t a good example of endurance training protocols. I think anyone who has got one under their belts would be able to keep training for them with less than 5 hours a week of running training.

Did you see my article “The One Exercise You Must Never Do…

My own interpretation of this kind of slamming of “Steady State Cardio” is that we’re having a difference of opinion in what that term means. Assuming you slog along at some pace for a few hours and that’s what they mean by steady state cardio, then how about slogging along for a few hours at a 6:00 pace. That’s a six minute mile pace. It’s about a 2:38 marathon or two hours and thirty eight minute marathon. Not too shabby, but not a record either. So let’s do a few hours at 6:00 and get fat, as the articles all stipulate. To be honest with you I cannot run at that pace for more than a hundred (100) yards at a time. So I can’t offer an opinion on how that feels afterward. I cannot do that as steady state cardio.

Treadmill Running at 100% HR Max (220 - AGE formula)
Treadmill Running at 100% HR Max (220 – AGE formula)

Fine then, let’s interpret this from the perspective of Heart Rate. Find your Max Heart Rate, and let’s just do the simple version (220 – AGE). That’s your Maximum Heart Rate (estimated). Let’s do a two hour slog at 100%. That’s steady state, right? Just adjust the speed up and down as needed to stay at that 100% for a couple hours. My graph above shows me doing just that for a little over an hour. It’s not very easy. If you don’t believe me get your cardiologists okay and go for it. Go ahead, then comment below about how fat you feel having done that. Suunto says I’ll have a metabolic effect for 46 hours afterward. That’s a lot of fat burning BTW.

HIIT - heavy weights in the gym with little rest
HIIT – heavy weights in the gym with little rest

As a contrast, here’s my weight session with a 5 hour metabolic effect. Sweet. This is mostly supersets of squats and chinups with very little rest followed by shoulder presses and lat pulldowns. It was a great workout and I really burned the fat. 5 hours worth. Yeah. To be honest that is about 1/9 the effect of my 100% Heart Rate treadmill running workout. But I do weights because I enjoy them and they provide the support my endurance endeavors require. Running uphill requires strong legs. Climbing requires strong shoulders and back.

Steady State Cardio Roots

I think the root of the problem is that some warped peer-reviewed study of people who don’t work out found out that their fuel source wobbling along at a 60% Heart Rate was primarily fat. With fat as a fuel source you could potentially stay on the treadmill all day long burning fat at the “Steady State Cardio” rate of 60% Heart Rate ((220 – AGE) X .6). For me that’s 100 BPM (Beats Per Minute). That would totally suck to be on a treadmill at that speed for any more than a warm-up.

Anaerobic Threshold Training setup with Suunto Ambit 2S on the handle of the treadmill
Anaerobic Threshold Training setup with Suunto Ambit 2S on the handle of the treadmill

One major issue with this is that as we train, our bodies adapt and it’s harder to actually accomplish anything at that heart rate. If we were to wander around on a treadmill at that Heart Rate for a couple hours we’d just be hungry and thirsty and achieve nothing for our health. These articles are correct about that, so long as they’re actually talking about this version of “Steady State Cardio” and not the previous two examples I shared.

This brings us around to the Elephant in the Room. Specificity. Steve House pointed out in his Alpine Training seminar that you have only so much time at 80% and greater Heart Rate, so your approach, maybe two hours, across steep rough terrain, carrying a 40 pound backpack, has to be done at less than that to conserve energy for the climb. You need to train walking 6 miles or so at various inclinations, carrying a 40 pound backpack, while keeping your Heart Rate around 70%. This is a sports specific training objective.

 50 pound backpack on a Jacob's Ladder is Steady State Cardio
50 pound backpack on a Jacob’s Ladder is Steady State Cardio

If you analyze your sport of choice for the requirements, you will get a much better perspective on what is actually required in your training. If you’re wanting to ride a century, you’ll need to get into the groove of spending 5 or more hours in the saddle at a time. You don’t do that tossing kettlebells across the room and returning in a bear crawl dragging chains.

On the flip side, various studies have shown that there is some limited endurance effect to a HIIT protocol. Hence the Crossfitters tossing out stuff like

“you won’t be able to do a marathon, but you can have a fast 5k”

This has given rise to the whole “close enough” or “good enough” protocols like Tabata. I have experimented with Tabata, and a strict Tabata protocol is very difficult to do. I think a lot of the Tabata articles are kind of like taking Yoga at the gym from a facilitator that took a weekend workshop. I also have my doubts that anyone is going to win a SkiMo race after spending a year training for 16 minutes a week.

“Great. But I am doing a marathon” you might say.

Aspen Backcountry Marathon Finish
Aspen Backcountry Marathon Finish

Some hype is being generated about various HIIT style marathon training, but so far no one (as of this writing that I am aware of) has come off the couch and finished a marathon with a good time using this methodology. All of the hype is based on majorly injured previous winners going on to good times using HIIT style training. They already have the gas in the tank so to speak from the long hours of endurance training they used to do and the HIIT training is just keeping the muscle fibers warm and ripe.

If you have read my previous article about Anaerobic Threshold Training HERE you’d see how I feel this is a great alternative to the classic maligned “Steady State Cardio” though in this style of training you’re riding a very fine line, a steady line, of your Heart Rate Target Goal. In my mind though that makes it a Steady State, though a very high state. It’s just a play on words. I wish that instead of ripping on “Steady State Cardio” they’d rip on Low HR Cardio.

It’s not Steady State Cardio that’s the problem, it’s the Low HR Cardio!

Marketing your HIIT programs though is a bit easier to do when you take advantage of how much people dislike wandering around on a treadmill for a couple hours at 60% Heart Rate. I hate doing that and I actually don’t mind being on a treadmill for two hours or so at a time.

Treadmill Interval Workouts

Have I mentioned several times already that I really like treadmill interval workouts? I wrote an article [HERE] in response to an article in Runner’s World recommending against doing treadmill interval workouts. Here’s a sample:

They claim that in order to bail you need to push buttons, whereas on the track you just slow to a stop. Well, to make it apples to apples, I think you’d need to just stop moving your legs on the track to see what happens. Just kidding, don’t do that. When it comes to bailing, all you have to do is grab the handles and jump up on the frame. It takes a half of a second. – Stay Injury Free on the Treadmill (SevenSummitsBody on Blogger)

I also discuss a few treadmill form tips and how to stay motivated and beat boredom if you want to go read that article.

treadmill interval workouts on an Incline Treadmill
Treadmill Interval Workouts on an Incline Treadmill at 5 AM while the family sleeps – 2013

Back to Back Treadmill Interval Workouts

That’s what I did today, March 27, 2014. First I got on the treadmill set at 3%, did about 15 minutes of warming up at up to about 4.5 MPH (MPH easier to use on treadmills than Pace). I did a test interval of a few minutes at 6.0 MPH followed by walking at 4.0 MPH. Keep in mind that my treadmill is at 9,400′ and that I’m 54 years old. My 100% HR (based on the 220-AGE formula) is 166 BPM. I did two Anaerobic Threshold workouts already this week [EXPLANATION] and one 75% zone workout. I am not recovered from those. That will explain a little bit about the numbers to come.

After my warm-up and cool-down I did an interval of 6.0 MPH followed by 4 intervals at 6.6 MPH. I was using a very simple 1:00/1:00 pattern. A minute high and a minute low. I stayed low then for a few minutes, since I hit my 100% level and needed a short break. I prefer a bit of flexibility which is why I don’t program in an interval training session in the presets.

I then did 3 intervals of (1:00 @ 6.8 / 2:00 @ 4.0). That’s one minute at 6.8 MPH and two minutes at 4.0 MPH. I walked most of the lower speed rests for these last three. At that point, my last glance at the treadmill was that I had gone just under 50:00, like 49:34 and 3.668 miles. I accidentally pulled the safety magnet off the console and it zero’ed out and stopped. Dang. I hate that. I need to superglue the magnet on. Drat. So I rounded it to 49:00 and 3.7 miles for my stats.

I raised the deck on my NordicTrack Incline Treadmill to 32% and began walking at 2.0 MPH. Immediately I realized something was wrong and I was running at what I guessed was about 4.0 MPH. At 32% that’s running. Try it and see. Anyway, I checked the readout and it said I was going 2.0 MPH. I slowed it to 1.0 MPH but still was running at 4.0 MPH. I stopped it and continued running as the belt kept moving. Then I unplugged the treadmill to reboot. This happened before once. The controller forgets to add tension to the motor so it’s nearly freewheeling at a very steep angle.

After the reboot everything was back to normal so after a too-long delay I got it up and running and began to walk on that steep incline at 2.0 MPH. Averaging 2.0 MPH at 32% is approximately 1000 VAM. My primary goal right now is Elbrus Race 2014 so working the VAM is essential to my training. [CLICK HERE] for an explanation if you’d like to know more.

After 9:00 @ 2.0 I did 1:00 @ 1.0 MPH. That’s a very long interval, but when I’m on a mountain I like going for as smooth and long of a pace that I can. Then I did 6:00 @ 2.0 / 1:00 @ 1.0 MPH. Getting a little shorter there but I was feeling pretty beat from my previous running interval. Finally I did 5:00 @ 2.0 / 2:00 @ 1.0 to finish. It felt good. One of my secondary goals was to get as close to 1000 VAM as possible. That’s why I was doing the really long intervals at 2.0 MPH.

I hung out for a bit cleaning up before I turned off my Suunto Ambit2 S Heart Rate Monitor and plugged it in for the stats. I spent quite a bit of time just under my 100% Heart Rate Zone. Do not do this! Unless of course you know for sure you can. The 200-AGE formula is just a starting point for average cardio training people to start with. When I’m rested I can spend time at 110%. I am guessing my actual Anaerobic Threshold to be around 166. I will get the blood test sometime but it’s much more difficult than it needs to be in CO. In UT it was a piece of cake and I didn’t take advantage of it while I was there. Maybe on a business trip…

Back to Back Treadmill Interval Workouts - stats on Movescount
Back to Back Treadmill Interval Workouts – stats on Movescount

I used my Incline Treadmill Calculator [HERE] to get my stats from the back to back treadmill interval workouts.

Treadmill Interval Workouts March 27 #1:

Time: 49:00
Distance: 3.7
Incline: 3%
Elevation Gain: 586.08'
Average MPH: 4.531
Average Pace: 13:15
Vertical/Hour: 718'
Vertical/Minute: 11.96'
VAM: 218.7

Treadmill Interval Workouts March 27 #2:

Time: 24:00
Distance: .728
Incline: 32%
Elevation Gain: 1230.03'
Average MPH: 1.82
Average Pace: 32:58
Vertical/Hour: 3075'
Vertical/Minute: 51.25'
VAM: 937.3

Treadmill Interval Workouts for You?

So now that I gave you all of this information about my own treadmill interval workouts, how does it relate to you? What information can you get from my examples?

  • Warm Up and Cool Down Sufficiently
  • Be ready to change gears in a heartbeat if needed
  • Get enough rest in the lower speed phases of your intervals
  • Mix it up with different inclinations and speeds
  • Set targets and goals that apply to your larger goals
  • Do a variety of training protocols over the weeks
  • Be sure to keep your eyes open to the big picture

I’ve been doing different types of treadmill interval workouts depending on my current goals, on what altitude I’m at, and what kind of treadmill I’m on. It also depends on what my previous workouts were that week as well as what workouts are coming up in the next week.

Don’t be afraid of these workouts. They’re as easy or difficult as you want to make them. Start out slow and work your way up. Remember that most of the running information you find on the internet, deep down inside, is meant for people running 7:30 miles. If that doesn’t apply to you then sort through it and find what you need and make it work for you.

If you have any questions, comment here or on my Facebook page. I’m happy to offer little suggestions or advice, and if you subscribe to the blog (little box to the upper right) you’ll get notices whenever I post a new article here.

Interval Training is perfect for the stop and go nature of rock climbing
Interval Training is perfect for the stop and go nature of rock climbing

Training Log: Bonneville Shoreline Trail 12 Nov 2013

Last night I went to bed with a crazy idea. To do a 5K PR on the BST, or Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Along the Wasatch Front of Utah we just call it the BST for simplicity. Everyone who runs or bikes knows it. Here in Utah County it’s pretty dry and barren for the most part. It’s made up of various jeep roads along the base of Mount Timpanogos here in the Northern part of the County. Further South it has a few more trees on it, down by Rock Canyon.

Just after completing my 5K PR on the BST
Just after completing my 5K PR on the BST

I parked at a church near the Cedar Hills Golf Club, since they don’t mind much and the paved rec path is there to access the dirt road. I walked about a quarter mile to warm up, then hit the button on Strava [results] and my Watch. I monitored my progress closely, with the Pace View on the watch to make sure I stayed below a 10:00 pace, with a target of 32:00 minutes for my PR.

There were a few steep but short hills and a few longer gentler uphill grades, and I had to walk a few times. Then at 1.6 miles I turned around and gave it a little more speed. My legs and lungs were sore and I came in at the starting line, about 3.2 miles and then tapered to a walk to let my heart rate decrease. When I uploaded the run to Strava it did in fact meet my goal at 31:25 for the 5K PR.

Later I looked at my Polar results and my heart rate was over 160 for almost the entire return 1.6 miles. Awesome job, if I do say so myself. Below is the GPS track from Strava and then a gallery of some of my results graphs from Strava and Polar.

[map style=”width: auto; height:500px; margin:20px 0px 20px 0px; border: 1px solid black;” gpx=”http://sevensummitsbody.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/BST PG 5k 12 November 2013.gpx”]

Map and Splits
Map and Splits
Pace Overview - Elevation and Pace
Pace Overview – Elevation and Pace
Pace Analysis - Splits
Pace Analysis – Splits
Pace Analysis - Smoothed
Pace Analysis – Smoothed
Pace Distribution based on Tempo
Pace Distribution based on Tempo
Polar Heart Rate (in the red zone)
Polar Heart Rate (in the red zone)
Polar Heart Rate Zone Displayed
Polar Heart Rate Zone Displayed

Video Collection: Training in Colorado

I’ve been in Colorado most of the past month, and training for Elbrus Race has been my primary goal. I’ve had to adjust slowly to the training effect from being above 9,000′ for all of my training. That’s good for me. I hope.

I’ve been doing strength training at the Breckenridge Recreation Center.

I’ve been trail running, as in this clip from Keystone Gulch Road.

Especially on steep trails, like Mount Royal overlooking Frisco, Colorado.

And I’ve been to the top of Quandary, a Colorado 14’er, a couple of times.

I’m having a blast, and watching my fitness improve almost daily. I’m hoping to do great at the Elbrus Race 2013.

Trail Running Fartlek Training

I went out this morning for some winter trail running. My goal for the current program was 4.2 miles. I figured I’d be able to crank that out even with some uphill walking in less than an hour depending on snow conditions. I started at a local pool parking lot, like usual. I had done some ice climbing the day before which required a mile approach with over 500′ of elevation gain hiking up a steep gully of rock and ice. I wasn’t sure how that would affect my trail running, so I was ready to just jog lightly if needed.

Spiked Trail Running Shoes
Spiked Trail Running Shoes: Hoka One One Mafate WP with screws

The first part of the road was slick ice over the surface. I was glad to be wearing my spiked trail running shoes [article]. They stuck to the ice and I didn’t feel at risk of falling at all. I ran to the gate, and through. The road surface was pretty icy for the first half mile, with long strips of ice-impregnated dirt showing through. My shoes stuck well. I was glad to be wearing them.

Trail Running in Keystone Colorado
Trail running up Keystone Gulch Road behind Keystone Ski Resort in Colorado

I actually felt really good. I did intervals up the road, choosing somewhat random targets. I ran to a fence post, or a stick along the shoulder, or a mottled shadow. Since you’re not at a track, trail running intervals don’t need to be structured as exact distances or times. This type of random-ish unstructured interval is called “Fartlek”.

Trail Running Fartlek

Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training. The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. It differs from traditional interval training in that it is unstructured; intensity and/or speed varies, as the athlete wishes. Most fartlek sessions last a minimum of 45 minutes and can vary from aerobic walking to anaerobic sprinting. Fartlek training is generally associated with running, but can include almost any kind of exercise. From Wiki

I ran out 2.1 miles, my half-way point and rested for a minute and took some pictures. I started down, and felt like I was flying. I did a somewhat long trail running interval, and walked down till my heart rate was below 130, then took off flying again. Usually in winter trail running I slog along and just enjoy the scenery. I again set my distance target to various appealing looking sticks or trees or shadows or rocks. It was a struggle to get there sometimes, but it’s great mental discipline.

Trail Running at Keystone Gulch Road
Trail running turnaround point at 2.1 miles surrounded by snowcat tracks

I continued my trail running intervals to my “targets” and walking till my heart rate descended below 130 till I got to the gate. There were a couple guys skinning-up their skis, and someone walking a big dog. I walked past them so I wouldn’t scare them. My heart rate got below 120 for a couple minutes. I took off again on the ice-covered road to the parking area. I felt great. Since I set my new goal to do the Uber Rock 50k trail run in Vail this coming September I’ve adjusted my training program into something like “40 weeks to an ultra”. Trail running 30 miles up and down the mountains between Vail and Minturn will require that I be in the best of shape for it. I learned that in Aspen Backcountry Marathon in 2011. I survived. That about sums it up.

trail running stats on a gps hrm watch
Stats from my Polar RS800cx

Above is the result of my winter trail running fartlek session, via my Polar RS800CX GPS G5 Heart Rate Monitor. Oddly the intervals are mostly fairly regular. I didn’t do that intentionally. According to the Google Earth elevation profile I did 560′ up and down. I take into account stats from both Polar and Google. One is based on atmospheric pressure, the other on waypoint interpretation.

The temperature was about 15 degrees F, but in the sun it felt warm and in the shade cool. For winter trail running you have to dress for both the fast and slow portions of your run. You should feel a little bit warm while fast, and a little cool while slow. I had dressed for a slow trail running session, so I was really warm during the speed intervals. It was a bit too cool to unzip during them though. If you choose to go trail running in the winter, please be careful, dress appropriately to your own metabolism and running goals, and consider wearing spiked shoes or some detachable traction device.

Trail Running in Winter at Keystone

Trail running in the winter can be exhilarating and quite an adventure. It’s one of my favorite activities. I love to run in the Winter in Keystone Colorado at 9300′ or more in elevation. One of my favorite trails to run on is the Keystone Gulch Road. This is the access for snowcats and snowmobiles to the back lifts of Keystone Resort. Normally the road is packed down by the constant daily snowmobile traffic, so it’s easy enough to run in spiked shoes. I had done Gray’s Peak with a friend on Saturday December 29 on a very cold day. My Polar Graph showed that I should have about five days of rest. Today, January 1 was a whole new year, right? I decided a mild bout of winter trail running should be fine.

Trail Running in Winter clothing and gear
Trail Running Winter Clothes and Gear

Trail running this winter morning would be probably the coldest I’ve done. When I started it was zero degrees Fahrenheit out. That’s cold. I’ve run at 5 degrees before. I’ve done the 14ers at below zero. Then you’re moving a lot slower and can wear and carry more emergency gear. I decided on my new Sporthill pants, which did pretty good at 5 degrees the other day. I decided against base layers. I wore a Patagonia fleece hoodie as my next-to-skin layer. Experimenting. I wore a thin waffled fleece over that, then a thin wind shell with breathable panels. I wore my classic favorite TNF running beanie on my head. I’ve grown to like my Injinji liners and Smartwool Men’s PhD Mountaineer Crewsocks as cold weather running footwear. For my hands I decided to experiment with my Burton touch-screen liners under my REI Winter Biking Lobster gloves.

Trail Running on Keystone Gulch Road

Trail Running in the Cold behind Keystone Resort
Trail Running in the Cold behind Keystone Resort

I started my HRM/GPS watch in a parking lot near the entrance to Keystone Gulch Road. The road can be pretty bumpy and has space for only a few cars. Warning: park at your own risk wherever you decide to park since most of this is resort property. I walked quickly up the road swinging my trekking poles, Black Diamond Compactor Ski Poles. Today my goal is to run/walk intervals working on improving my turnover rate (foot strike speed) by making smaller faster steps. I also am going to work on syncing my pole swing with my steps to increase the number of steps per pole swing.

At the gate, just up the road a short bit, I tapped my lap counter and took off running slowly uphill. I worked my way up the Gulch Road with what I interpreted as fairly even run/walk intervals. After a while I decided to do some trail running hill repeats on a particularly pleasant grade. Usually you run up and walk down, or walk up and run down, depending on your training goals. Today I’m running down, quick turnaround then up. I paused at the top for a minute to catch my breath, then repeated it.

Trail Running Hill Repeats in Winter with Poles: Video

When I was done I gathered up my camera and took off trail running in the snow uphill again. The sun was pretty, and the wind was light. Bright flashing crystals of snow blew off the pine trees. I kept up the run/walk intervals for about an hour of total time.

Trail running in winter along the Keystone Resort back side
Making snow at Keystone Resort on North Peak

I had hoped to get to the base of North Peak, near the LaBonte’s Cabin area. I’ve been there a few times for trail running on this road. It’s about three miles from the gate. Today my face was getting really cold and I decided three miles from the parking lot was a good enough turnaround point. I was using my backpack for training and to carry water. I was using my Flexline Hydration system with a Platypus Bladder inside the insulated sleeve of my Marmot Kompressor backpack. I also have my GoLite Bitterroot down jacket for just in case. Smart when it’s at zero degrees.

winter trail running on the snowcat tracks at keystone
View looking down on myself and the snowcat tracks I ran on

On the way downhill I worked to stay around an 11:00 minute mile pace. The footing was rough, between the tracks of a snowcat and multiple snowmobiles passing up and down the road all day. It varied with ice chunks, chopped snow, ice sheets, and narrow gullies between the paths. I can sustain an 8:20 pace on nice dirt trails, but chunky snow is totally a different trail running surface. I had to take a couple of walking intervals but tried to keep them short, drinking from the Flexline tube at each one to stay hydrated. Since the whole run would be less than two hours it wasn’t worth eating. YMMV. Remember that one key to success in using a bladder system at this cold a temperature is to totally blow all the water out of your tube between each drinking session. Short frequent drinks are better than longer drinks at longer intervals. If ice does start to build up you will suck it out of the tube more often and keep it clear with more frequent drinking.

One of my favorite trail running roads at Keystone Resort
Looking down the road at Keystone Gulch behind Keystone Resort

As I got further and further along I had to take more frequent and longer walking breaks. I finally got to the gate and hit my lap counter again to mark it. I ran quite fast down the road, crossing the street carefully, then walked to cool down to the parking lot. My face felt pretty windburned, and when I got home my nose hurt quite a bit when it thawed out. I recommend sealing your nostril skin surface with chapstick when you go out in this level of cold. I will do that next time for sure.

Winter Trail Running: My Stats

I checked the stats on my Polar RS800CX and found that I had spaced out my intervals pretty decently. I had maintained a good pace, especially on the way downhill. I also looked at my heart rate zones and found a good spread, pretty full in the upper middle, where I want it right now. It was a good way to train my last day in Colorado for this trip.

trail running polar graph with elevation, heart rate, and pace
My Polar Graph with elevation, heart rate, and pace from my trail running adventure

If you decide to try trail running in the Winter, I highly recommend you break into it slowly. If you’ve never run outside before, or on uneven surfaces, it might not be a good idea. It’s going to be cold, and if it’s windy, miserable for most people. Wear the appropriate clothing, and try to avoid sweating if you can. It’s best to be slightly cool rather than slightly hot.

Winter Trail Running heart rate distribution graph courtesy of Polar
Polar heart rate zone distribution for this winter trail running adventure

Above all, stay safe, stay warm, and remember that trail running below freezing can be fun 🙂