Road To Elbrus – Skyrunning Training – 10 Aug 2018

It’s like one big game of “what-if” and you know the odds are against you. Elbrus Race 2018? In only six weeks? With enough time to get a Russian Visa? By Mail? Dang I’m a glutton for punishment.

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The Road to Elbrus Starts Here

The Road to Elbrus Starts Here

Running in Elbrus Race Yet Again?

Elbrus Race 2018? Skyrunning? For Real?

Well I just had a really dumb idea.

I received a Facebook Notice from the logistics company behind Elbrus Race. I hadn’t even considered it. Wowsers. If I train hard for only 6 weeks, can I get back to what I had achieved in 2013 [fifth place] and exceed it, even by a small margin? [Elbrus Race 2013 – my journal on Amazon]

I haven’t run in months.

Alpine Days Mountain Bike Race - 2nd Place in category
Alpine Days Mountain Bike Race – 2nd Place in category

My duties as a NICA Certified Level Three High School Mountain Bike Coach have taken quite a leap up from last year. I’ve had to train hard to keep up with my more advanced racing group, which is much much faster than last year by a large margin. I’ve been riding 60+ mile weeks, a mix of indoor trainer rides, with outdoor MTB rides. Much of that is faster and more technical than I am really up for, so I’m injured a lot. Like right now most of the scabs and bruises on my legs and elbows are pretty much healed. I twisted my ankle pretty badly in a race last Saturday, Aug 4th. Enough I couldn’t bear weight or push off with my toes for several days.

[more skyrunning tagged articles here]

I decided to do this little test. Could I go up Giddy-Up and Green Monster and descend in one go?

If the answer is no, then good enough. I would have no real chance to get in enough serious training to make it happen. I would let it go for next year. I still might have to if it turns out I can’t work, and coach, and train and stay fit and unbroken enough.

Then again, there are also several major logistics hoops to jump through:

  • Can I pull off a Russian Visa in the time given?
  • Can I make it work even though they’ve closed the Seattle Visa Center, where I usually go?
  • If I have to use the Mail-In service?
  • Can I get flights that line up with the start and finish times of the Elbrus Package associated with the race?
  • Can I skip one High School Race this year?
  • Or do I need to figure a way to fly around it?

Winter End Musings – Where do we go from here?

It’s been a long few years since I ended up returning to work as a “mere employee” and having to waste a lot of time commuting and then sitting at at desk in an office with 26 male employoees and one toilet between us. Since most of them are typical fast-food survivors and need to spend a good deal of time squeezing out toxic waste byproducts while playing on their phones, it’s somewhat difficult to stay properly hydrated.

If you can’t figure out what the connection is, let me know in a message and I’ll spell it out for you.

Fighting the results of my own toxic byproducts of training hard has become a real challenge. Enough so that my training is seriously impacted. Gone are the days of 10 days on and 1 day off.

Learning how to ride a mountain bike while overcoming the delusions of my youth that plague me has been a super difficult challenge as well. My memories of 30 years ago cruising along at 28 MPH on an 18 lb bike with 700 x 20 slicks confound me as I struggle to stay over 15 MPH on my 30 pound full suspension bike. Add in the inverted gravity response to cornering on loose gravel. It’s tough. But it’s part of the game when you’re a certified mountain bike coach for a local high school team.

I also get to spend a lot of time on a trainer, with the bad weather, or should I say typical Utah late winter weather?

I’ve been on the treadmill a lot, with various levels of incline, and overall it’s been okay, though not sustainable at heavy loads right now. I was using an Adidas Footpod and just recently changed to a Wahoo Tickr Run which provides the same data from a chest strap. So far I’ve liked it and it’s a bit more accurate than the pod, which is a mystery to me.

And on top of it all, I’ve been dreaming about Quandary. Remember my favorite Colorado Fourteener that I’ve ascended in every month of the year? I kind of do. I was thinking all winter of going out there to do it, but it’s been a bad weather and wind magnet all winter long. This shot is just an example. I saw days with > 60 MPH winds and way below 0 F.

Suddenly we get this:

Quandary Summit
Quandary Treeline

What is a sort-of retired, but not willing to give it up Skyrunner to do?

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VK on the Stairmaster Stepmill

Tuesday January 17, 2017

After doing long hill repeat workouts two days in a row, I decided to mix it up with non-running. That pretty much leaves the Stairmaster Stepmill. An hour VK on the stepmill requires that I go at 85 steps per minute for an hour.

From my calculator HERE

Time: 60:00
Steps/Minute: 85
Vertical Feet: 3400.00
Miles: 0.72
Average MPH: 0.724
Average Pace: 82:49
Vertical/Hour: 3400.00′
Vertical/Minute: 56.67′
VAM: 1036.3

Anything over 1000 VAM is better than an hour VK (by definition, meaning that 1000 meters is a kilometer, and an hour is 60 minutes – DOH!)

Oh, don’t forget I was wearing a 12 lb vest too

Just let me tell you. It’s dang tough. I don’t recommend this to anyone of reasonably normal sanity. That being said, and hour VK is a totally admirable goal. [ Heart rate on STRAVA ]

Shots of the console readout after the workout

BTW: I was wearing a 12 lb weighted vest. Just sayin’

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Hill Repeats Up Silver Fork Road

Monday January 16, 2017

After my great adventure just the day before running Long Hill Repeats at Saint George, Utah, I decided to do some more. This time up American Fork Canyon, on the Tibble Fork Reservoir side of the canyon, from the parking up toward the gate near the Granite Flats Horse Trailer parking. I’ve done this repeat sequence before a few times. Run from the gate at the parking lot to the gate at the fork to Granite Flats.

That’s right, 10F. Dang cold compared to 24 hours prior in Saint George

I wore my New Balance Leadville shoes, and my Kahtoola Microspikes. It was colder than yesterday by about 30 degrees. Yes. 10F was the temperature. It’s difficult to judge how warm or cold you might be under those conditions. When running downhill you have to flip up your hood or otherwise bundle up, and running uphill, unzip a bit to let the heat escape.

Running shoes by New Balance. Microspikes by Kahtoola

Three laps is a bit over 5 miles and that’s what I normally do up here with the time I have. That gives me almost a thousand feet of vertical and a pretty good workout. I wore softshell fleece pants by Sporthill with Saxx boxer briefs and Columbia baselayers. I wore a Pearl Izumi softshell hoodie and Columbia vest. One nice addition to my collection is an Icebug buff that kept the lower part of my face warm.

I got in 5.2 miles and got my Strava PR for the first uphill segment. [STRAVA]

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Dirt Road Hill Laps in Saint George Utah

Sunday, Jan 15 2017

While on a road trip to Las Vegas for a gymnastics competition for my daughter, I had a few hours to kill early Sunday morning in Saint George Utah. The weather was perfect, about 40F and right at the break of dawn I got out to the trailhead, the top of the dirt road behind the condos at the Green Valley Race Loops (MTB race course}.

Mountain biking Bearclaw Poppy at Saint George Utah

I’ve been on this course a number of times, prerunning the course as a NICA certified Level 2 High School Mountain Bike coach, and then riding the local trails for fun and adventure. It’s a blast out there. I will someday run the backcountry trails, but today I needed to do some hill repeats.

From the top of the hill at the condo, down to the lowest section of road is a shorter hill, then the long hill up to the water tank at the walk-over gate to Bearclaw Poppy. I went out and back twice for a total of 5.4 miles and 853 ft of vertical. [Strava]

These are really long hill laps for most normal hill repeat training, but it was hard work to keep the pace up for so long. Much like a Vertical K would be.

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Snowshoe Hike in New Snow

Saturday Jan 21, 2017

It snowed last night, and my plan was to head up American Fork Canyon to Tibble Fork Reservoir and do some longer hill repeats. The road was unplowed and if not for the construction trucks heading up and down for the dam repair project, there wouldn’t even be a path. Fortunately I managed to get my SUV up to the lake parking and took off up the trail.

Even snowmobiles hadn’t made it up yet in any great numbers so the trail was really loose, even in the one snowmobile track there. I kept sliding out of the track and up to my knees. No running today. So I quick switched out of my New Balance Leadville shoes and Kahtoola Microspikes and into my Salomon S-Lap X-Alp Carbon and my backpacking snowshoes. Yeah, you don’t run in backpacking snowshoes.

It was “smooth” going to say the least. It was good work heading up the hill and since I was way off on getting anything on Strava [Strava for this report HERE] I just forked into Granite Flats campground to check out the path up the ridge of Box Elder Peak that I could see in previous runs up here. I really want to do that. Not today though. The path was narrow and not tracked out at all. Sank up to my knees and tipped into the creek bottom, even on snowshoes.

I ran into some 12 year old Boy Scouts hauling sleds down toward the parking lot. They were a bit miserable what with the heavy snow and all. Seriously over 2′ up here. Amazing good fun digging snow caves and hauling sleds. Great to see the young ones hard at work up here.

On the way downhill I met another runner heading up in smaller, lighter, faster snowshoes. He had come up planning on running just as I had, but had a backup plan handy (snowshoes) and was going to make a 2 hour workout his new plan for the day.

In spite of the storm it was actually quite warm, around 24F. I wore my Saxx Subzero wind front boxers, Underarmour windstopper tights, TNF base layer, and Pearl Izumi hybrid softshell fleece hoodie. I got in 2.5 miles in a decent, but certainly not fast time. Overall, great fun in a beautiful setting. I got in a rather gentle workout, and over the previous 7 days nearly 20 miles.

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Catching Up With Some Stats

In January I pre-tested working on a new goal. I started by trying to do the rough equivalent of 3 x 1.5 VK’s a week on the incline treadmill while I build up my strength. Some of them I had been doing with a 12 lb weighted vest. I should probably also work my way up to a 25 lb backpack.

[Weighted Backpack Treadmill Training Guide]

To be honest, it’s a pretty hefty expenditure of energy. It’s apparently not recoverable while also getting in 100 mile weeks on the Cycle Trainer and outdoor mountain bike riding.

1.5 x VK = > 4.66 mi and > 4921′

 Following screenshots from my Wahoo Fitness App, connected to my Adidas Foot Pod

The footpod calibrates itself whenever I run outside with the GPS on. It’s usually off a bit. I’m not terribly keen on it, but it’s what I have that connects between my phone and foot.

Above are examples of the type of stats I accumulate from my workout. It’s pretty strenuous, and I am not able to do it completely hands-free at this point.

Where did I get the idea to do 4.5 x VK in a week?

Let’s examine the details about what a VK means. A VK is about 1000 meters of vertical gain over the course of about 5k of distance. Multiply that by 1.5 for the daily goals and you get 4.66 mi with 4921′ of vertical gain per workout.

Multiply that by 3 and over the course of the week you get in a bit less than 15 miles and a bit less than 15,000 vertical feet.

A well-known author on mountain fitness has expressed that training goals in the 15,000′ per week range put you in an elite group of successful mountain sports folks, and I thought that sounded pretty cool. When I was training for Elbrus Race 2010 and 2013 I was doing between 10k and 15k per week regularly so it sounded about right.

Example stats from a recent trainer ride showing energy expenditure

Sadly, my position as a certified Mountain Bike Coach requires me to be able to ride with my team for most training sessions, which requires me to maintain a high level of riding fitness. So right now I am not able to sustain that level of training in the time period I have.

By time period I have, I mean that I only have about 90 minutes per day average to complete this workout, so I have to maintain a speed that gets my vertical in while also getting in my approximate VK simulated workout.

I pretty much took February off from the treadmill and just recently added in Stairmaster workouts to at least break the monotony of sitting on a trainer for 90 minutes per day.

I did some math and think I have an idea of how to at least get in the vertical, if not the miles. I’ll report back here when I get that tested out.

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Indoor Training TMI – February 25th Edition

I’ve been on the trainer a lot this past season. I got on right around the end of the Utah League NICA High School Mountain Bike Racing season. I did a few outside rides here along the Wasatch Front, weather permitting. I’ve also been to St. George a few times, and out to Moab once. That’s a whole ‘nuther story. For sure.


One thing I think makes a big difference is a two-bolt seat-post. Yep. Two bolts. Why?

There’s a big difference IMHO between sitting on a trainer in the garage, and riding outside. For one thing, you have a tendency to not balance your weight on your feet with your butt up off the saddle, even a few millimeters, enough to get that precious groin blood flowing again. For another, you’re not increasing and decreasing your inclination (going up and down rolling hills) which also moves you around on your saddle some.

With a two-bolt seatpost and a properly-sized allen wrench handy, you can adjust your seat angle on-the-fly. 

Yep. While sitting on your trainer you can reach down between your legs, or around behind your butt, insert the wrench, and wiggle it a little bit in and out to get the right angle for your poor suffering groin and butt.

Tightening a screw brings that part of the saddle down, and loosening it allows it to upward. It works in conjunction with the opposite screw.

As an example, to bring the nose of the saddle down, loosen the rear bolt, and  tighten the front bolt. Does that make sense?

I’ve discovered for myself that I have to pause pedaling to work on the front bolt, but can do the rear bolt while riding. 

I’ve noticed slight differences in angles with various cycling bibs I wear for indoor training. I’ve also notice a slight difference in the fore-aft positioning of the saddle. And of course, I’ve noticed a big difference when I use a slightly higher front tire stabilizer slot.

Maybe I’m just really picky?

If you’re spending 6+ hours a week on an indoor trainer, (in my case a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine with the Inride power meter sender) you’ll be much happier with a well-adjusted seat.

Stay tuned for some information about the saddle I chose for my indoor trainer too.

Below: screenshots from my Kurt Kinetic Fit App, receiving data from my Kurt Inride sender on my Kurt Road Machine trainer, my Wahoo Blue SC (speed cadence) sender on my bike, and my Suunto Smart heart rate sender. What a mashup! Yes, it works great. I’ll let you in on how I got them all to play nicey-nicey here in the next few weeks if you can be patient.

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Training With A Weighted Backpack On Stairs

Training With A Weighted Backpack On Stairs

If you’re needing to improve your fitness for hiking, training with a weighted backpack on stairs is an excellent choice. In this video, created for one of my Mountaineering Fitness Programs, I demonstrate a simple routine of stair walking while wearing a lightly weighted backpack. Some things to consider before you attempt adding this into your own fitness routine are listed here.

Video: Training with a Weighted Backpack on Stairs

First of all, before you put on a backpack loaded with any weight, be sure you are able to walk the stairs without one. This almost goes without saying, but you’d be surprised at how some people want to run before they can walk.

Next, make sure the backpack you’ve selected works well with the motions of walking both up and down stairs. You don’t want the bag flopping around on your back, especially if the weight in the bag is an appreciable percentage of your weight. 10% or more is plenty of weight to start “The Tail Wagging the Dog” as they say.

If your stairs are outside, like these are, be sure that they are safe for use for training. This includes water, oil, or other slippery surfaces or coatings. Be careful of critters like mice, squirrels, unicorns and the like.

For most people, about 20 steps is a good number of stair treads for training. If the stairs are too short there are too many stops to turn around and it bogs down training quite a bit. More than 20 is fine, but if you want a more HITT-like session of weighted backpack training, 20 makes for a good sprint up, and great rest returning to the bottom slowly.

If You’re New to Weighted Backpack Stair Training

Start slow, without very much weight. See what you are able to recover from depending on your fitness goals. You might progress to sprinting up the stairs with 20% of your bodyweight in that pack. You might just walk up and down with your lunch in your pack. Each of us is in a different place.

Be sure to check out the other articles in the Weighted Backpack Training series.

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