Scramblers to your marks

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  • #16732
    Colin Simon
    Participant

    Each fall I participate in a stage race fast-paced group hike(races are not allowed) in the flatirons – stages are separated by a week, and consist of 1-5 flatirons, from different trailheads, car-to-car. Events are 35-65 minutes, and are very, very anaerobic.

    The demands for this somewhat mimic a skimo race:
    -You alternate between steep up and steep down
    -The part on the rock is always done in the quadripedal scrambling position, not terribly different from a shorter skimo race

    Obviously you are running downhill instead of skiing, and the uphills are really steep, 40-60 degrees, but also doesn’t have much to do with rock climbing. Getting stronger fingers will not help you much unless you cannot climb 5.9, and flat running will only give you so much benefit when the approach turns to a 30% grade and professional runners are hiking. I have seen 5.13+ climbers and 2:25 marathoners both come in mid-pack at best, and most of the people at the front also finish near the front in races like the Power of Four skimo race. Interestingly(annoyingly?) there’s one competitor who I can outrun on flat ground, AND I am a much stronger rock climber, but he will always beat me at both skimo and flatirons races. He is simply great at going uphill(running downhill too).

    Sometimes the fastest way to go is to only look at your handholds and just “stamp” your feet, sort of like pedaling a bike, because then you don’t waste much time deciding which hold to grab. This means you go fast, but it burns an enormous amount of energy stabilizing your feet. It also gives the event an amazingly rambunctious feel as it is horribly dangerous and exciting.

    How would I best prepare for an event like this? It seems like the 16-week advanced skimo plan is a good start, except all of the “ski striding” should be steep running/hiking or scrambling, and the Z3 and Z4 workouts should also be done as steep as possible, preferably scrambling, on the flatirons themselves. Would much else really change though? Stick to the same core/strength regimen, but focus on particular exercises like the two-point plank, ideally weighted?

    It is a very niche, Boulder-centric event that is about as much fun as you can have with pants on.

Posted In: Mountain Running

  • Keymaster
    Scott Johnston on #16759

    Colin:

    Sounds like a very fun race. Boulder has a long history of this kind of thing. In the early 70s there was a race from the dining hall in Chautauqua park (making a loop around the paved road) to the summit of Green Mountain anyway you wanted to go (not mandatory to sue a trail). Then as now Boulder was home to several world class runners including freshly minted Olympic gold medalist Frank Shorter who was a a 2:09 marathoner! These sub 28 minute 10k runners would set a blistering pace on the flats that the rest of us could not begin to match. But the winner was always some Norwegian Cross Country skier from CU. Quadrupedal propulsion was the mode for steep scrambling.

    The flatirons are even steeper than the rough 3 class terrain we chose but the idea is the same: Besides the moderate technical skills you need to be well trained aerobically with all 4 limbs. Not much better way to train that then accumulating a big volume aerobic work using all 4 limbs before adding intensity. Classic XC skiing and Skimo mimic the demands for the upper body because you are using poles which put your body posture in a very similar position as when on steep terrain scrambling. Classic XC uses the upper body even more than Skimo because the grip of the XC skis is much more tentative than full length skins.

    While I was working with Steve in the early 2000s he did a lot of 3rd class scrambling for aerobic base training.

    As with all high intensity endurance events the aerobic base is THE key to success. Focus on developing as big an aerobic base with all 4 limbs first then apply very event specific high intensity workouts on top of that base. Don’t leave home for a run in the mountains without poles in your hands. The ski striding will do what you want for much of the base training. The advanced Skimo plan would provide a good template for this approach. Be aware that the bigger the base the higher will be the peak when you apply those Flatiron interval sessions.

    Neal Beidleman and Kevin Cooney used to put on the Basic Boulder Mountain Marathon until the park police shut it down in 1992 as I recall. I have that last year’s t-shirt still. It started and ended in Chautauqua but went over the skyline to Eldo and back. It got too big.

    Scott

    Inactive
    Anonymous on #16808

    Could a Jacob’s Ladder in a gym serve as an option for this type of aerobic base work? Or would that be a similar situation to the stairmaster vs actual stairs debate on the other board?

    BTW, that is some very cool history of the Boulder running scene!

    Participant
    Colin Simon on #16810

    Thanks Scott. I may be spending time on classic skis! Any particular spot in Boulder you use for hill sprints or Z3/Z4 “steep” workouts? Some trails like Amphitheater up Green have a lot of stairs built in, I’m curious if is suboptimal for foot/leg stability training.

    The guy who won the 2018 flatirons event is young(early 20s) and ascended Green Mountain by various different paths over 200 times in 2017, lots of times by going up the First and then social trails, mostly in the morning, so probably mostly fasted.

    Another interesting fact, the current record for the First Flatiron, car-to-car, was set by a guy who grew up running to school in the Dolomites, and his last name is Messner. He says there’s no blood relationship to Reinhold, but I am skeptical!

    Aholle, the Jacob’s ladder does seem like a good idea for athletes in scrambling-deprived areas.

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