Racing as Training

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  • #22037

    I recently started structured training, adhering to the fundamentals of building up my aerobic base. Like many endurance athletes, I have probably been training the wrong way for decades, and incorporating too much high intensity training without any coaching or guidance. So as I journey into this new world of Zone 1-2 training to improve my AeT/AnT ratio, I have a question about mid-season racing.

    Like many of us, I have 1-2 races which I would like to to do well in later on this summer (ie, 20 mile mountain race with about 6500 vert gain). However, there are a few other shorter/faster races which I would like to do as well (All similar mountain races with considerable vertical gain/loss). Before starting this program and being ingrained in my misinformed notion that training fast makes you race fast, I was planning on these races as part of my intensity training…plus they are really fun.

    So the question is, will these “training” races hinder the overall goal ( assuming plenty of time of rest before the main event)? Will they help? Can/should I “race” these which would probably push me into Zone 3 for 2 hours (more or less)? Should I stay in Zone 2 ( which would result in much slower times as previous years).

    Thanks, and I really enjoyed the new book. Fantastic job.

Posted In: Mountain Running

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    Anonymous on #22039

    You can definitely use races as training, but they can cost you fitness if they dominate your training. That’s why most athletes lose fitness as a race season progresses.

    The trick is to keep your low and high intensity within proper proportions. If your goal event is ~2 hours, then I would keep actual minutes of high intensity to about 5% of total training time. (So a ~30′ race during training should be supported by ~10 hours of base training within the same week.)

    For shorter goal events (~30′), then you can probably get away with minutes of intensity representing ~10% of total training time.

    You may hear people talk about an 80/20 ratio for low/high intensity proportions, but that break down comes from a “session goal approach” where an entire workout is labeled as high or low without regard to its contents.

    jtrachtenberg99 on #22044

    Thanks Scott,

    I have one follow-up question regarding racing/effort/HR. I’ll use an upcoming “training race” as an example. It is about 16 miles total, uphill a continuous 4500 vert, then back down. The downhill route is about 3 miles longer than the uphill.

    The uphill is very steep and slow, and much of it is power-hiking. HR will certainly be in Zone 3 and approaching AnT at race pace.

    But that is only half the race. Downhill will be very fast (for me)… around 6:15 min/miles. The effort will be quite significant, the legs will be feeling fatigued, but the HR will likely be in Zone 2 for much of that time.

    My question is regarding the hard downhill effort. What type of training effect (both cardiovascular and muscular) does one get with a long, continuous, hard, fast, race-paced, and relatively exhausting effort with a relatively low HR that one is affording when running downhill?


    Anonymous on #22046

    Heart rate isn’t a good measure of intensity for downhill running. Even if your heart rate drops, the eccentric load on your legs will be significant, especially at race pace. I suspect it’ll be at least “zone 3”, although at a muscular level rather than cardiovascular.

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