Long runs average Heart rate/max and how much vert

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  • #65168
    Adam Custer


    I have a 2 questions and they have probably been answered before…
    Question 1: When i do my long runs in Z1/Z2, should i aim for my average heart rate to fall into this category or should i have my AeT be my maximum? I am talking about 3.5-6hr mountain runs on technical trail mixed with some roads to link up mountains. I would say on the uphill i focus to stay at my AeT max and wavering around +/-5bpm the Aet. Downhills are easy to maintain Z1 and then roads with flats/easy uphills is wavering at Z1/Z2. Sometimes in the first hours of a long run on the uphills i zone out in a dream and go into a higher pace that and can be just under my anaerobic Threshold. At the end of the long training run i look at my stats and my average hr will be below my AeT but my max for the run could of dipped +12bpm over my AeT. Is it recommended that my max heart rate on such a run to stay low and not even venture into this territory? or is this something i should save for the later intense weeks and not in base weeks? Any experience with this?

    — As a side note i have not done a Aet test to determine it precisely i am just going off of what i feel i can maintain over a long period of time based off of the last 3 years of training —

    Question 2: I have set up a rough training plan that i based from the Training for the uphill athlete book, set up for a 75km run with 5600m vert. I am not sure if i understand correctly but I am struggling to fit vertical increase to meet this run which is in 13 weeks from now. The distance part i feel is easy to do a gradual training for but throwing in the vertical here is tricky and i feel its quite difficult to increase the vert and distance the same time as i have set up my plan without risking injury? My last base week was 55km and 2900vert, which i felt quite good with and from how i have worked it out to be in good shape for the run the last 4 weeks of intense before i taper i am up to 85-105km in distance with 4-5000 vert per week. I have it as a gradual process but from my feelings i am not sure if this is realistic, maybe less distance with the aproximate vert? I am on the 4th week of my training plan (rest week) and i am kinda self evaluating the reality here and would like some help/criticism.

    Quick background on my self : I do a lot of ice/alpine/everything else climbing, rando skiing, general fitness and running in the mountains over the ‘off season’. I have done a race last year 45km 3500vert and several private mountain run goals also around 30km and 3000vert and a couple years ago a 45km 2000 vert race. I race for myself to push my fitness up for the type of climbing i enjoy most. I really have a lot of fun covering this much distance in the mountains and want to be better physically and mentally.

Posted In: Mountain Running

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    Anonymous on #65310


    Thanks for writing in with your questions.

    I hope these answers are helpful.

    Your first question. It will most beneficial for your aerobic development if you stay in the aerobic training heart rate zones as much as possible. You can do this by testing like we recommend or by checking to see if you can speak in full sentences.

    Second question: Your event with 5600m in 75km is an average grade of 27% on the (up) climbs if the course starts and finishes at the same elevation. This is a similar grade as the Hardrock 100mile event.

    When you increase the distance during your training in the mountains you also increase the vertical. They go hand in hand. However, if you have concerns about handling this training load, by all means do not force yourself to stay with the plan. Something I talk about a lot is: DO NOT BECOME A SLAVE TO THE PLAN. The plan is at best, a good guess at what can work sometime out in the future. It is a suggestion not an order. All training plans get adjusted based on the athlete’s feeling form day to day. I have coached many very high level athletes and my main job is not laying the plan but adjusting the plan, often on a daily basis. This even when I am contact with the athlete every day. So, now you are your own coach and you are wise to listen to your own feelings and adjust accordingly.


    MarkPostle on #65403

    Adam, To add to what Scott has already said here when you have an event that is only a few months away I like to think more in terms of prioritizing terrain to make sure I am ready. If you use only distance or only vertical as the metrics for measuring your training volume then you may miss the right kind of terrain. I encourage folks to think about training volume in terms of time, then try and match the angle of climbs you’re going to encounter in the race as much as possible. If you’re training on the most realistic terrain for your goal then the distance vs vert issue mostly takes care of itself.

    Adam Custer on #65413

    @scott and @mark-7582 I really appreciate both of you for taking the time to share your advice. As this is only my second more ‘serious’ training plan I will definitely keep in the back of my head ‘Do not be a slave to the plan’ @scott Usually i run a pretty dynamic plan based on personal and rock climbing goals and i try to adjust on how i feel but yes i will try to reflect daily on my own progress. @mark-7582 I guess seeing it as time will make it easier and then as long as i stay on the same terrain then the vert will take care of itself- seems very logical and reasonable. Keep it simple!

    @scott do you mean 15% grade? I feel my math skills have been deteriorating but to make sure we are on the same page you calculated (5.6km/37.5km)100= 14.93%

    To try to tie in both of your replies with some more specifics, for ex. I do have a perfect hill in my backyard that is 14% on technical terrain, 2.5km up and 351m vert and this has been incorporated into a large portion of my weekly training. I wont lie i find myself repeating 30-40% grades because i think it is more interesting and i would say this steeper terrain is definitely a strength for me especially with the climbing background on steep approaches/descents and often wearing a pack. But to reiterate obviously i am not planning to do 75km a week on this steeper grade for an event that is on average much less steep. Looking back currently at what i have done my long runs are at an 8% grade so that was very helpful to revisit with your tips and i will focus future long runs and actually sit down and look more detailed into keeping the actual event’s grade.

    Is it recommended to keep recovery runs at around the same grade as well? Is it ok to throw in some ‘lazy’ flat 10km in the week (especially when the weather sucks or just not feeling the desire for vertical)? or is this not going to be very productive? obviously this falls into the trap of ‘dont be a slave to the plan’

    Kind of a side note: On the races i have been on (4 total) the events can be divided up in specific sections. The uphill, the downhill and the inbetween. This inbetween rolling terrain with its slight ups and slight downs linking mountains can be a mixture of technical (hoping/high leg lifting over and in between rocks/ avoiding mud) and roads/gravel/easy trail. I would say this is a major weakness for me in terms of keeping a good speed and feels more energy demanding. I would not consider myself a fast runner on flats and where i am spending the majority of my time running it is not a groomed trail by any means. I am usually on trails that resemble a highly eroded ephemeral stream bed peppered with loose rocks, mud, roots or a slab. As i am kind of not really focusing my time to gentle terrain, any experience on being better here? should i throw in some speed training on flats?

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