With the Hounslow Classic fast approaching, but still several weeks away, here are four training tips to think about in preparation for the event!
- You will be hiking most of the climbs. This means that it is important to develop your hiking skills in training. This can be as simple as incorporating a similar amount of vert-per-km in your long runs (about 600m of vert per 10km) and hiking with purpose on a majority of the climbs. It is a common mistake for people to drop the intensity just because they have switched to walking, so try to keep the intensity at the same level as when you are running. Incorporating hard hiking reps during shorter hill sessions can also be great way to learn how to hike fast. For example, doing 30min worth of ascending on a hill that takes you 4-10minutes by breaking down the hill down into repetitions of 1min running and 1 min hard hiking until you reach the top, makes for a great hill session. This will also help teach you to switch between running and hiking as necessary. If you don’t have access to any steep hills, loading up your pack with 5-8kg can make even a gradual incline feel steep!
- There are quite a few stairs. These are bush stairs, where no two steps are the same, constantly changing height and angle. If you have access to bush stairs, incorporating these into long runs or doing stair sessions instead of hill repeats will get you use to their specific demands. Some people may only have access to conventional staircases, in which every step is the same. On such staircases, you can replicate bush stairs by mixing up the number of stairs you step up with each stride (just make sure your work out both legs evenly) and also by playing around with pointing your foot inwards or outwards. Personally, I don’t have access to any good staircases, so I make do with lots of hill work. The main difference between stairs and hills is the angle of the slope that your foot lands on, so I mimic landing on flat surfaces with strength work by doing lots of step ups and step downs on a box.
- There are runnable sections at the top of every climb. After working hard while going uphill, it can be very tempting to have a bit of a rest once you reach the top. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the view (I highly recommend taking at least a moment to enjoy the spectacular sights from Lockley’s Pylon if you are doing the ultra!), these flat stretches are an opportunity to stretch out your legs and move a bit quicker for a while. You can practice this in training by finding a hill which has a flat section on the top that you can run along. During a hill session, instead of turning around as soon as you reach the top of the hill, keep running hard along the flat section at the top for a minute, then turn around and run hard back to the top of the hill. Then you can jog back down the hill to recover.
- It’s the descents that will hurt your legs the most. It is a common misconception that running downhill is ‘easier’ than running uphill. While you might not feel like you are working as hard, the eccentric loading from pounding downhill will do a lot more damage than running/hiking uphill will. Matching the vert-per-km in your long runs will help prepare your legs, but advanced runners can go one step further by incorporating specific downhill training. During hill sessions, rather than taking it easy on the way back down, try picking up the pace to something that feel comfortably hard. You can play around with the recoveries, starting off by resting at the top before running hard back down, then progress to turning around straight away at the top and running immediately back down. Another progression would be to run hard downhill first, before turning around at the bottom and running hard back up, and then recovering at the top.
These are just a few ways to get physically ready for either the 21km or the 68km at the Hounslow Classic. The rugged Grose Valley is a beautiful part of the Blue Mountains National Park, so enjoy the scenery and remember to respect the bushland. Happy training!
Article by Ben Duffus