Mt Guide trying to train for Ultra but has a substitute question

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  • #43596
    Matt Schonwald

    So I am turning 50 in September and want to run a 50km this fall and using Luke Nelson’s Ultra Training Program. I have entered the hill phase of the program and I am now guiding every weekend. After the summit(mostly Baker and Glacier with a few smaller objectives thru mid August) I feel any long distance run 1-3 days after trashes my knees(less than 10 miles/2 hours seems fine). Can I substitute one run with a long bike ride with the same intensity at a 3:1 mileage ratio? I feel a little cross training will save my joints for September/October goals. Just wondering if keeping the intensity and duration in mind will still give me some benefit for my cardio along with the summit climbs mixed in and keeping the other runs and training on schedule. I understand they are not the same activity and want to avoid completely messing up the training schedule.

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #43605

    I haven’t coached any active mountain guides, but our head coach, Scott Johnston, has. From what I’ve heard from him, it’s tough to juggle the impact of guiding with more event-specific training.

    As you’ve described, a big issue is that guiding is long, tiring, and wears on the body. I think 3:1 rides are a good idea. In addition, if possible, I would include some longer runs when you know you’re recovered from your guiding days.

    I hope that helps.

    Anonymous on #43608


    Thanks for writing in with your question. Scott Semple is spot on and I think your idea of subbing a bike ride is totally acceptable. First and foremost in any training program is injury avoidance but whatever means necessary.

    Here are some additional thoughts that might help you in both your guiding and training.

    Unless you’ve got a for sure orthopedic knee problem, like cartilage or ligament damage there is a very good chance that what you are experiencing is what is called patella-femoral pain, runners knee, jumpers knee. The pain you feel in your knee in this case is the patella being pulled out of alignment, typically by a tight IT band of tight vastus lateralus (the lateral/outside quadricep).

    A very simple test is to do some extended (like 10min/side) rolling either on a ball or foam roller on the lateral quads and see if that doesn’t make you knees feel better. If it does then you need to do this more often as maintenance. Especially after a guiding trip and before your runs. You are suffering from an over use injury related to your job of carrying heavy weight downhill.

    Next step is to make your legs able to handle this load better. My experience with guides is that because you are doing a very physically demanding job you probably don’t do much if any general strength training. Despite being on your legs and carrying a heavy pack, your legs are not strong enough (strength reserve) nor do they have enough local muscular endurance to allow you a good margin between what you can do comfortably and what your job demands. Here is what I would recommend as a longer term program that will make your legs bullet proof for both running and guiding: Add one session of our ME progression . I’ve used this with many alpinists, guides and mountain runners with great results. It will make your legs tired but I suspect your guiding day can me done with some residual muscle soreness and fatigue. It will greatly improve the fatigue resistance of your legs and should help reduce the knee pain when combined with the rolling.

    In the off season when you have more time to allot to training I’d add in a max strength gym session (4-6 sets of 4 rep at 90% of of one rep max) that includes Bulgarian Split squats, Box steps offs/heel touch, Box step ups.

    I hope this helps.


    Matt Schonwald on #43619

    Thank you both for your quick responses. The rolling out makes sense. I am not injured or suffering overuse. I started the Ultra Program in April and the long runs are scheduled for Monday, now the day after a summit climb. I am 200 pounds so running the 15+ miles the next day is not ideal without a rest day. I asked about the cycling mainly because without the weight bearing I feel good getting out for a long ride and can stay on schedule without feeling overworked or sore. I feel fit and I am about to turn 50 so the last 20 years of mt guiding have made rest a premium for my joints. I live in Seattle so I can mix my runs with trail and road. My other question or concern is how to categorize the summit day, usually 9-10 hour event, mostly Z1 , with an hour or 2 of Z2 with 5K of up.

    Anonymous on #43641

    My other question or concern is how to categorize the summit day, usually 9-10 hour event, mostly Z1 , with an hour or 2 of Z2 with 5K of up.

    I would count it as you describe: 9-10h of Z1/2. The unfortunate thing (for your training) is the pace, but it is what it is. It should be counted alongside your other activities because, although it may not be event-specific, the fatigue is very, very relevant. If you’re using Training Peaks to track your training, including it in the TSB calculation will be helpful.

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