I haven't run that many trail races, and I'm planning to run a number of 10-20 mile, fairly hilly trail races in New England this year. I'm learning (based on both experience and advice from others) that power-walking up certain hills, even if they're theoretically runnable, may be a more efficient overall racing strategy. I am not experienced at when/how much to do this, but assume for purposes of my training question that I will somehow master this wisdom and judgment during races.
My question is how to train for hills that you're going to end up walking during a race. Is it important to walk during training? Does practicing walking (and practicing shifting gears back and forth between walking and running) actually provide some physical training benefit? Or should I just hammer all of the hills I can during training, so that when I walk the hills in the race it will feel that much easier?
As far as the race, it's a matter of efficiency. If you can power hike just as fast as you could run, then power hike it. If you have the energy and it's faster running, then run. Most hills will tell you what to do. I use my breathing as the judge. If I'm breathing harder than I think I should, and I can't see the top of the climb, I scale back my pace and will power hike if I have to.
As far a training, if you think you might be power hiking in the race, then you should train yourself for that effort. That doesn't mean every hill on every run, but throw in a few power hiking section on a run and see how comfortable you can get. On other runs, continue to train on the hills and run them as fast as you can to work on your climbing.
I do what AT-runner wrote, but I'd like to add one thing: switching between running and hiking takes energy, so I try to continue walking for a while once I make the switch. In practice, if my breathing gets heave enough to make me switch down to hiking, I keep hiking until I'm breathing quite calmly.
Putting some HR numbers on that as an illustrations, it could look like this:
Run flat: 150 bpm
Run hill: 150, 155, 160bpm, switch to hiking
Hike hill: 160, 155, 150, 145 switch to running
Run hill: 150, 155 -- hill ends
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Thanks for the input.
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Faster Than Your Couch!
Agree with AT!
In training, I do both, hiking and running up hills. Sometimes, I will run up a hill just for the fun of it, knowing that in a race, I would always walk that hill. Practising fast uphill hiking, and then learning when to start running again, is very useful, too. It also teaches you how big your steps should be for best efficiency and speed, because when you run, you rather take shorter steps, but when you hike, your steps can be longer. Just vary every now and then. BTW, same holds for the downhills!
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running under the BigSky
walking hills takes practice, I should say walking hills efficiently and quickly takes practice- so IMO yes you need to practice if you want to cover ground quickly
certainly running hills is good training and I'd encourage continue doing that, but it does take a lot practice to get good walking hills- this from someone who still isn't that great at power walking hills
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I usually run all hills on shorter training runs, and practice mixing hiking and running up hills during long runs. My brain seems to lag behind my fitness, so on long runs I sometimes run up a hill that feels or looks like a walker, just to see if I still need to walk it. I have noticed there is an identifiable stride that I start using when running uphill that cues me to start walking. I can't describe it, but I can feel it.
I practiced hiking short very steep rocky uphills in preparation for the ridiculous hill at the end of the Cheaha 50k and I think they really helped. I'd basically just do repeats up the hill until my legs couldn't handle the run/hike/fall back down. So it also really increased my confidence on nasty downhills.
On the topic of downhills, if the trails are going up, they are also likely going down! And being able to run fast (or at least faster) on the downs really helps keep the average pace up. It also helps me psychologically, because I don't worry so much about walking uphill.
My advice would be to find some hilly loop and test out different strategies. I found I finish hilly runs faster if I walk more than I want to. So that is what I do on most long runs (which I generally treat as race practice but I am training for 50ks), but on shorter runs I just run hills so that more hills will be runnable on future long runs, or at least that's my theory.
Caveats: I've only been running somewhat consistently for a little over a year, and have only raced one 10 miler and one 50k.
Mt Cheaha 50k 2/23/2013: 7:34 :D
Lake Martin 50; 27 miles: 5:29:07
Run For Kids 50k, Birmingham, 5/4/2013: 6:26:33 Woot!
Many thanks for all of the input - very helpful.
Oh, and one more thing: I believe that one of the several causes for the achilles tendinosis I got in 2011 was that I was taking too long strides uphill. If you really extend your stride, the strain on your achilles can be quite high. Nowadays, I'm working to find an efficient, shorter stride when hiking up.
Last summer in preparation for the Imogene Pass Run (17-mile high-altitude trail race that there is no way I can run the very steep summit of) I made sure to run once a week on a trail that has a ludicrously steep hill that I have to walk. I worked really hard on improving my walking speed up this hill, and when I ran the race I PRed by 20 minutes.
Ilana is awesome. She lives in a cool place, drinks good beer, and runs hard. She should start a fucking lifestyle blog for chicks. - NC Runner
PRs: 5K 21:03 (4/2012) 10K 43:06 (12/2011) 13.1 1:35:55 (10/2013) 26.2 3:23:31 (12/2013)
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