One of my barefoot runners has entered the Canadian Death Race or CDR (aptly named as it’s 125 miles through the Rocky Mountains of western Canada) that is held in August every year.
Needless to say, not many entrants complete it on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and, sometimes, 4th attempt. I know – you’re thinking “these MUST be people with death wishes and NO LIFE!” Well, the old coach kinda thought the same thing when my barefoot runner, Michelle Bolhuis, approached me to train her for it. After realizing she was serious, I also got serious and said “why not?? Let’s do this right”.
From there, it got me to researching the race, studying the terrain and figuring out the best drills to prepare Michelle for what lay ahead. In the process, I developed and included the following as what I term ‘foundation’ training for survival on the CDR course:
- running side to side and switching sides uphill and downhill to protect the quads & hams whilst specifically activating the hip adductors and abductors. This also helps prevent to fast a fall-off downhill and premature fatigue uphill
- running side to side with a crossover step uphill and downhill to give the running muscles a ‘shake-up’ and allow for better traction on slippery mountain terrain
- weaving forward across the full range of the trail uphill and, especially, downhill to neutralize the steepness of the uphill and the severe downhill inertia of gravity
- forward side to side steps uphill and downhill, making sure to shift your body weight directly over each leg before pushing off. This helps avoid stumps, rocks, gravel patches whilst maintaining momentum and conserving energy
- forward angled hop step up and downhill. This is done with small steps and a quick hop in anticipation of obstacles that could trip you up and end your race
I incorporate these once per week into Michelle’s schedule along with numerous other drills that I am not about to divulge at this time. We look for locations that include steep hills, rough and varied terrain, hardened mud or clay, slippery rock facades and rough-hewn brush. Living in southern Ontario, it is virtually impossible to train in the Rockies BUT we can get to places such as Rattlesnake Point, Collingwood’s Blue Mountain and the Terra Cotta Conservation area without too much difficulty.
The keys to success in using the above drills to better perform in mountain races are:
actually DOING the drills in rugged areas weekly
staying compact through the whole core for better balance
keeping your focus not more than 1 metre ahead at all times
shifting your body weight to keep squared up and centered over your mid-line
If you can follow the tips and hold the form, you will have a better-than-average chance of finishing your chosen mountain trail race. Get after it, my ultra-wild running colleagues!