Difficulty with Uphill Intensity

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  • #60718

    I’m a 50 year old lifetime endurance “athlete”. My main competitive sport has been years of trail running, but I also compete in skimo and nordic skiing events. While I never stopped being fit and active in the mountains, other than running in xc in college, I had not done structured training until 2019, when I started with the UA books and programs, and I have been a disciple ever since. I have done AET/AnT testing several times, and I believe these are pretty accurate. The AeT was done on a track (at approximately 5000ft) and pretty consistently found my AeT at 150 (though the MAF equation states I shouldn’t be training higher than 135, which is the bottom of the UA aerobic zone). My AnT is 160 done on modest 20 degree hill for about 40 minutes, and seems to be reproducible.

    I do quite a bit of vertical training as I live in UT. Though these mountains are not very high altitude compared to CO.

    Over the last 3 years, even as I have structured my training using UA programs, I find I have less capacity to tolerate much high, sustained effort beyond AeT while competing in uphill events, such as skimo racing. As I approach AnT, my muscles and breathing start to struggle quite quickly. Altitude, which I used to tolerate very well, seems to particularly exacerbate my inability to maintain a higher HR.

    So the question I pose is this: What is deficient? Should I be working on getting my AeT pace faster to race at AeT, and if so how does one do that specifically for uphill? Do I incorporate more high intensity uphill training closer to AnT or even higher to with the hopes to increase AnT? Or do I focus on more ME training? More weight training? I imagine the answer is all the above, but it seems I should be working on my weaknesses in particular.

    I understand this is all an effort to prolong the inevitable of father time. But I am surprised that even despite good structured training, volume, vertical, and recovery/rest under guidance of UA principles that I don’t seem to be improving, and may actually be regressing over the last 3 years. I have seemed to have plateau’ed, and while I am older, I believe the decline is not so severe that some of it can be ameliorated with a change in training tactics. Thanks.

  • Participant
    Dada on #60727


    May I ask some clarifying questions:

    – how long are your events/races?
    – do you see regressing in all types of your activities (longer vs shorter)?
    – how do your macrocycles look like?
    – how do you normally train?

    I have an idea what could be the problem but need more info for that.


    brianbauer on #60734

    jt, I am 51 and also race ultra trail. the vast majority of my training has been done in the 135 range for ultra distances. this will be my first year racing skimo, and I knew I needed to work on 2 things to prepare: uphill intensity and ME leg strength. for the past 8 weeks I have been doing 4 reps of 20 min uphill intervals at 10% on a treadmill, with my HR at between 155-160. I believe 160 to be my LT based on lots of hours training and anecdotal notes of when lactic acid starts. on weekends I do 5 reps of 15 min intervals at the local ski resort at an avg grade of 18%, with HR in same LT range. when I started these workouts 8 weeks ago I was huffing and puffing with 1 interval. now I do multiple sets with ME leg work in between intervals without stopping. my PE has remained the same in these workouts at about an 8. I have had to increase pace, incline and ME reps to maintain the right heart rate range. your age and HR range seems similar to mine, so maybe you will get some benefit from what I have described.

    jtrachtenberg99 on #60736

    Hi Dada ,

    Skimo races and Trail Races are quite varied event to event. Skimo for example: There are vertical races which usually involve 1500-2000 vert ft of climbing and last about 30 minutes. There are also long course races which range 4000-12,000 vert ft and last 2-5 hours. In general, I seem to be holding my own better in the longer and less intense the race, generally with ground being made up in the second half of long races. The real problem are the short intense races or the first third of the long races when others are really hammering. In those situations, I feel if I try to keep up, the wheels will shortly come off. Basically there is not much reserve capacity to push faster or harder beyond AeT pace.

    As far as training, I just finished trail running season, with my last race being a trail marathon. I was more or less following the Mike Foote Big Vert Plan, which includes volume, vert, intervals, strength. Following a 1/2 marathon hill climb race at altitude (which I did reasonably well, but started slowing above 10,000 ft) in August, I focused more on distance, 1 mile repeats, and intensity for the marathon in November, as this had far less vertical gain/loss. .

    At least 80% of my training is around Zone 1 or Zone 2 (Aet), with some intensity generally 1-2x per week and some strength training 1-2x/ week. Periodic ME w/o such has hiking steep hills with a weighted pack. Given I’m also a full time husband and dad with a full-time job, I am not always consistent, but I do pretty well given all the time constraints.

    Regardless of all this training there are still a considerable number of 50+ year olds who are much stronger. They are mounting times I was when I was 45. Despite training smarter and likely better, I feel the my capacity for intensity has dropped off considerably in the last 5 years.


    jtrachtenberg99 on #60738

    Thanks Brian!
    Sounds like we are well matched. Regarding your intervals at the ski resort, are you running or hiking/ski striding? One thing I have learned is that I am a faster runner than walker (compared to others). Since running season ended, I have focused more on hiking and ski striding to strengthen those muscles compared to more running-specific muscles. But mainly I’m trying to dial in the workouts. Your intervals seem to be effective, and I’m probably not doing enough of those (though I have been doing some intensity at least 1x /week).

    Our Aet and AnT HR’s are identical. There is also not much room between those (150-160). So the question is do we try to train to push our 150 pace higher, or should we be working to pull our AnT HR higher to allow for a more anaerobic range? Or perhaps the key is more strength/ME. Or perhaps I am thinking about this all wrong. But I feel there is some training component that I am deficient and should be focused on.

    Good luck with your first skimo season. It’s a really fun sport!

    Dada on #60749


    I think your VO2max and your Vlamax are deficient for the short events:

    FTP, VO2max and VLaMax: what triathletes need to know with Sebastian Weber | EP#169

    (I post another link in the next post).


    Dada on #60750

    Here you go:

    VLamax: Elite Coaches Secret Weapon

    brianbauer on #60783

    jt, I believe my LT has gone up in the past 8 weeks, but its what I call “marginal gain” territory. eg. gone up from maybe 157 to 160. I do not imagine I will get to say an LT of 165, given than my observed max HR is prob 170. if I believe my LT is about 90% of max HR at the moment, what I really want is to ensure that I can complete something like 5 sets of LT efforts, with descents in between( simulated indoor doing ME strength).

    Regarding the outdoor workouts at avg 18% grade: I have experimented alot in trail races. what I have found is that I am more efficient power hiking vs running on steeps. for example – I can power-hike at 16-17min/mile while staying below LT, but if I try to run the steeps at 15min/mile, the amount of increased effort it takes to gain 1min/mile is simply not worth it in a longer race. when dry-land training at the local resort on steeps, I am using poles and taking elongated steps at a snappy cadence. in between pitches there are a some short sections where it flattens a bit. in these flatter sections I will sometimes do 30 – 60 seconds of bounding. bounding will spike my HR above LT so I keep the bounding efforts short.

    basically I will run up to about 12%. above 12% I’m faster and more efficient power-hiking. its worth adding that I am built more like a bulldozer than a deer.( 5’11 187lbs…and I’m about as lean as I dare be).

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