Vertical Week

I experimented with a new kind of a training block for me. For some time I have been thinking that doing a vertical km, or 1,000m+ of ascent every day for a week and see how I feel about that. Well, that about the perfect kind of training for the upcoming UTMB (with 10,000m+ of climbing in the race). Another part of good timing was that I had an upcoming trip go Malaga to go to a wedding, which meant that I would be training less, so that was good for recovery.

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So I did this 2 weeks ago and wanted to document the process and what I think about it.

Training 1 – medium steep, soft ground repeats

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I started my vertical week with just 1 day of rest after a hard 21km night race with 1,200m+ of climb. My recovery day was a BBQ at a friends house and during this training, I realized I had only eaten 1 potato and some nachos the previous day (plus some protein, beer and wine, of course). I had eaten minimal carbs. My plan was to climb to the local high point, then run back down and do another run up, but avoid the end that had a couple of flatter sections. I then cut back even more and did only the steepest part of the climb.

I was starting to bonk during the second climb and felt low energy and power. A silly food mistake in training and this was a hard, hard session … I was starting to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into for the week.

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Profile. This was on some local trails, in a forest trail that is quite soft.. but the grade is something like 30%.

Training 2 – semi-hard grade, long climbs

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This one is a bit short, I did get 1,000m+ because I rode my bike to do this training and then walked the road up home, which is 100m vert. Legs felt pretty tired, but this was a better run than yesterday. This is one of the best runs around here, going up a steep and quite technical section and then down a nice rocky downhill. The rocks are solid, so it’s nice coming dancing down them.

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Nice about 600m+ steady climb to warm things up.

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Also had this nice bonus of above-clouds views that day.

Training 3 – diverse repeats

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This was a fun one, four repeats on a very nearby trail. It starts with a nice pretty steep narrow trail, then joins with a steep dirt road, then goes on a little trail again, which then turns into a very technical and super steep section that I have cleared for myself for training on exactly this kind of terrain. This one is also fun downhill. Very diverse and enjoyable trail. I was now starting to feel like I had recovered a bit from the race and legs started to work again and got better as the session continued. It’s still damn hard to run 1,000m+.

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The grade at the end is 40%+. This was the shortest distance where I was able to achieve 1,000m+ during the week.

Training 4 – fast, short repeats

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This one was about improving the motor. This was mostly cement / dirt road, but in very bad shape so there was a little bit of technical twist. Mostly it was just an aerobic push. It was a bit different, so it was kind of fun. I ran light with my water bottle stacked by the road. This was by far the fastest 1,000m+ during the week.

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Training 5 – long hard climbs

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This is the longest climb I have very nearby. It’s also technical at the end and very slow. It goes to the highest point in the mountains that we see from the house, so it’s nice and quite fresh at the top. Things kind of sucked at the top of the first climb. I was quite dazed and slow. Things improved a little, but it still felt like a pretty hard session.

Training 6 – long run

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We had plans to go have lunch in a restaurant in the mountains, so of course I would run there. It was a very hot day. It had nice water spots on the way, so I was able to swim in a stream twice, which totally saved the day. It was a really nice run, feeling quite good all the way, except that I was hot, out of energy and a bit irritated (poor Katri) when I got to the end. I only had 1 gel during the day (and spent 2,300 calories according to Strava). Quick garden hose shower, new clothes and a beer quickly fixed things though. A nice day out in the mountains.

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Training 7 – usual route with some repeats

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So this was a run on my usual trails. Legs felt the best all week and I was able to keep a nice pace. I could have cut it short since I already had well over 7,000m+ for the week and thats what I had in mind when I set out. It was so nice and I was feeling good that I decided to do the full 1,000m+ again. I just did some repeats at the end to get the meters. You can see I didn’t feel like doing much extra, so 1,001 was enough.

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For the week: Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 10.25.55 PM.png

So was this good training? 

I think it was. In the beginning of the week, I was thinking that this is silly. The first days were hard, which made it also more difficult mentally. Things improved every day however. Also what was really significant was that every day was +30 degrees and many of these days I was running in full sun. I needed a lot of water so was also running with a backpack most of the time.

The recovery week was good. I did run about 40km in Malaga, some flat stuff, but also trails. Things felt pretty good and also flat pace was decent. When I got back home, I went for a little walk with the dogs and legs felt really good. Just the kind of feeling you want before a race. Today I did a good longish run of nearly 20km with some long tempo sections in it and it was a good run. Uphills felt good, downhills were a bit sluggish.

Top tips

If I was to repeat this, I would try to:

  • Start the week very fresh, not after a race
  • Keep an arsenal of different trainings and routes and pick the most suitable one for each day and decide this each day based on feeling (I did this)
  • Consider energy use… perhaps have one bottle of sport drink or take gels. I took one gel all week.
  • Remember to eat well and focus on good recovery between races. Always take in carbs within 30 minutes of each workout. Forget weight control and things like that – eat and drink to maximize performance in the next workout.
  • Avoid, or properly prepare for hot weather
  • The objective is to get the vertical meters. Speed,  terrain, etc doesn’t really matter so don’t worry about anything else. This helps mentally when you can just do what you want as long as you get the meters in the end.
  • Schedule this in some good times in the training calendar. I think it was a good training for the UTMB and not too hard for me. Some people can do more, some probably less, so plan according to your level and race objectives.
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