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Central Asia Institute, based right here in Bozeman, has been building schools and providing educational opportunities for girls in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan for twenty years. You have helped CAI through two decades of promoting peace through education in the poor and isolated mountainous communities.
And now, CAI has a new and exciting way for you to connect to our mission and provide education for girls across the globe. HER: Hope. Educate. Rise. is CAI’s new initiative, and it gives you the opportunity to pursue your passion for running and support girls’ education.
We’re excited to announce that HER is partnering up with The Ridge Run this year, and one lucky person will be selected to run in The Bridger Ridge Run for HER.
So, what does it mean Run the Ridge for HER?
It means that you run the race like you usually would, and you also fundraise to support CAI’s program overseas. You can ask for your friends and family to support your run and donate to your fundraising campaign. The best part is ALL of the money you raise goes directly to programs. That’s right – 100% of donations helps build schools, train teachers, and provide material health care in Central Asia.
It means that you’ll be supporting young women like Drukhshan, a girl in Afghanistan, who dreams of becoming a doctor.
It means you’ll support women like Shakeela, who is the only midwife in the valley in Pakistan where she lives.
It means your Run for HER will teach a grown woman to read, send a girl to school for an entire year, or provide a tent school for refugee students.
Whether this will be your first ridge run, or if you’ve been running it for three decades, this is a great opportunity to dedicate your run and your efforts to an important cause.
Thank you for your support of CAI and girls’ education around the world! We’re excited to continue to promote peace through education with you, one step at a time.
If you’re interested in running the Bridger Ridge Run for HER, register for the Bridger Ridge Run lottery May 9 – May 15, and tell us why you want to Run for HER in your essay. The winner will be announced on June 15th.
— Laura Brin & The HER Team
When injury or access to mountain trails prevent you from doing hill training you can employ a treadmill, a weight vest and some creativity to garner an effective workout.
A previous post described doing Walking Hill Repeats on a treadmill while wearing a weight vest. In addition to this, try adding Sidewise Shuffle Hill Repeats and Backward Walking Hill Repeats.
My uphill walking pace is 4.5 MPH at 15% grade.
For uphill sidewise shuffle and backwards uphill walking, cut the speed in half. In my case I use 2.2 MPH.
Side Shuffle and Backward Walking pace may see slow, but try it. You will find side shuffling or walking backwards uphill at 2.2 MPH to be plenty challenging.
The Side Shuffle will build hip strength and stability. The Backward Walking will work the quads similar to downhill running.
In my experience, when doing the side shuffle, do not step over or cross over your legs like a karaoke step. That can lead to entanglements especially on a small treadmill.
Try these workout techniques if you are located in an area where there is no access to mountain trails or the weather and trail conditions prevent you from getting out. These workouts are also very low impact and can be a great alternative to preserve fitness when you are injured and can’t run.
If you are doing these maneuvers on a club or gym treadmill they may attract a bit of curiosity from others. Don’t be self-conscious, just ignore the attention of others.
Does being really strong have a positive effect on one’s performance in the Ridge Run? Common sense says yes. Just make sure to understand strength and take into account size or weight when comparing strength between different people. My focus for 2016 is to get stronger.
A strong person will be able to exert large forces or move heavy weights relative to their size. Remember, weight is just the force gravity imposes upon a mass. If you have really strong quads, pounding down from Baldy to the M trail head is nothing. If you have weak quads, pounding downhill will leave your legs trashed and sore for days.
The running community tends to confuse strength with endurance. Most runners and running coaches wrongly define a strength runner as someone that can endure a steady effort for a prolonged period, but are not necessarily fast or able to generate the high forces needed to accelerate. In actuality, this type of runner lacks strength, but possesses endurance. Endurance and strength are different qualities. You can have both and need to train both.
Here are a couple examples of inspiring endurance athletes that are true strength runners:
Max King, 12th in recent US Olympic Marathon Trails, former World Mountain Running Champ, current Warrior Dash World Champ and countless other accomplishments is undeniably very strong and can be considered a true strength runner. Guess who is Max King in this photo.
Hunter Mcintyre may weigh 200lbs, but can run fast enough to set a course record on a recent XTerra half marathon. He is obviously strong enough to move his large frame (atypical for endurance athletes) fast enough to compete with runners weighing 60 to 70lbs less. He once was a Logger in Montana spending time here as a troubled teen in a hoods in the woods program. Find the time to listen to this fascinating interview of Hunter: http://www.richroll.com/podcast/hunter-mcintyre/
One of my main goals for last year, 2015, was to overcome chronic back pain. One step I took to accomplish this goal was to remove bread (gluten) from my diet. Gratefully, my back pain improved as the year went on. I can’t definitively say eliminating bread from my diet relieved my back pain – as I took other steps such as avoiding long periods of sitting that probably helped. But one thing I can say is that eliminating bread resulted in me losing weight. Not that I needed to lose weight, but my weight dropped to a level that I had not seen since I was a teenager back in middle school 45 years ago! If there is anyone out there that wants to lose some weight, try not eating bread.
Being lighter typically translates to being a faster runner. There is less weight to carry and propel down the path so it makes sense that you have to work less and can go faster. Well this is only the case if your strength remains the same as you lose weight. Speed will improve by increasing your strength to weight ratio. On the other hand, if you get weaker as you get lighter, you are not doing yourself any favors as your strength to weight ratio does not improve..
45 years ago, I was a very strong and active youngster. It was common for schools back then to annually conduct standardized fitness tests. The goal for students was obtaining a Presidential Physical Fitness Award. I remember some of my scores such as number of pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups. I figured that since I was as light as I was 45 years ago, I should be able to do the same number of pull-ups. Shockingly, last summer, the number of pull-ups I could muster in a row was only one tenth of the number I could do 45 years ago. In comparison to my former self, I was very weak even though I was exactly the same size. Humbling, but also scary. What happened to me?
Strength or muscle mass decreases with age after 40 and drops off the cliff after age 50; so this should not be that much of a surprise. Nevertheless, I felt I needed to start working on my strength to try and gain some back or at least slow down the loss of strength with age. The goal for the end of the year (2015) was to able to do at least half the number of pull-ups I did 45 years ago. Disappointingly, I did not reach that goal, but I came close. Months later, I still can’t do half what I use to be able to do, but I am working on it.
Progress on the number I can currently do in a row has plateaued, so I have tried doing weighted pull-ups to mix it up. Right now I am doing 5 sets of 5 with 30lbs of added weight. My 1 rep max weight is over 200lbs; 140lbs body weight with 60lbs added.
Pull-ups are an accurate measure of upper body strength, but the steep terrain of the Ridge Run demands extraordinary leg strength. Back problems prevent me from doing popular lower body strength training like dead lifts or squats. Instead, I ski (downhill) about 4 days a week. There is a place I affectionately call My Old Skiers Retirement Home that is my winter haunt. It is not a destination resort and is located far away from any population areas. During the week, most of the people there are retired old codgers that grew up skiing and still love to ski.
No high speed quads, no lift lines, no crowds, you can park next to the lifts, the locals are friendly and the place is oozing with challenging terrain.
The front side lift takes 10 minutes to get up to the top for 1300 vertical. The long back sides lift takes 10 minutes to get up 1700 vertical. The short back side lift takes 5 minutes to get up 1000 vertical.
On average, I can ski about 6000 vertical per hour. It is like doing intervals. Ski hard non-stop down for a few minutes and rest and recover on the chairlift ride up. The short back side lift really gets the legs burning. The terrain is steep and technical and you only get a 5 minute rest on the lift. On the run serviced by the longer lifts, you can zoom down exposing the legs to huge sustained forces that only come with high speeds. Fastest top speed that I have witnessed verified on a GPS device is 85 MPH. There have been some serious accidents over the years and even some fatalities so you have to be fearless or foolish or both to go that fast. Fortunately the slopes are empty during weekdays. It is one thing to crash and wreck yourself, but to hit another skier – unforgivable.
The other winter workout I do is described here. Come Spring, I hope to start doing some trail running. We will see if this experiment in getting stronger pays off in a quality Ridge Run performance this year.
For some ideas on weight workouts for runners, check out the following video of Aston Eaton’s (decathlon world record holder) strength/power workout.
Since winter typically drapes the mountains in Montana in snow, finding snow-free trails with sustained elevation gain is a challenge from December through April. A couple winter alternatives to running mountain trails are back country skiing and uphill walking on a treadmill.
I’m not going to elaborate on this much, but climbing (skinning) up a mountain on skis is a low impact strength and cardio workout. If you are a skier, you know what I mean. I you are not, consider adding backcountry or ski mountaineering to your activity list.
Assuming you have access to a treadmill, walking uphill at a steep incline is great way to develop strength and aerobic endurance. Since trail running often incorporates power walking up steep sections, walking up an inclined treadmill has direct carry over to summer mountain running.
My personal favorite is hill repeats on the treadmill while wearing a weight vest. I keep the treadmill speed at a constant 4.5 mph and vary the incline between 0% grade (level) and 15% (or as steep as the particular treadmill will go). Donning a weight vest makes the workout a challenge even when the speed is at a walking pace.
4.5 mph (13:20 minutes per mile) Brisk but Manageable Walking Pace
Walking at 4.5 mph is moving along at a good clip. This speed is manageable for walking but it certainly is not dawdling. It conditions one to walk briskly with purpose – which is often a challenge when encountering steep uphills while running in the mountains. Think about it – an average pace of 4.5 mph for the Ridge Run would yield a blazing time of about 4 and a half hours. So it is moving right along. Since steep mountain trails force you to walk, you might as well get used to walking fast.
The 3 minute Hill
A hard work interval of 3 minutes is associated with conditioning the cardio vascular system and increasing VO2max. At 4.5 mph and 15% grade while wearing a 22lb weight vest, I can manage work intervals of 2 to 5 minutes then have to back the incline down to 0% to recover. If I am out of shape, it only takes about 2 minutes to reach exhaustion with legs tightening and lungs burning. As I get in better shape, I can last at least 5 minutes before I have to lower the incline back to level to catch my breath.
A workout will consist of between 3 to 9 hill repeats of 3 minutes in duration at 15% grade and 3 minutes of recovery at 0% grade.
I’ve found some treadmills feel easier than others – even at the supposed same speed and incline. So there are obvious calibration differences from treadmill to treadmill. Adjust the speed and incline so you can do 3 minutes uphill followed by 3 minutes level at least 3 times in a row.
Walking Uphill is Low Impact allowing Healing while still Building or Maintaining Fitness
An advantage of doing the hill repeats at a walk is that walking is much lower impact than running. This gives the feet, ankles, knees, hips and associated connective tissue a break. You can still get a good workout, but injuries and accumulated damage that you may have sustained over the summer have a chance to heal.
Finding a Weight Vest
Weight Vests vary from affordable to costly for the fancy ones. Mine weighs 22lbs. It is comfortable and works fine for walking. It does bounce a bit while running. Look for one that form fits and weighs about 15% of your body weight. Perhaps you can find a gym or sports center that has weight vests and high incline treadmills as part of their repository of equipment.
An alternative is to load up a back pack with some water bottles. A gallon of water weighs 8lbs.
The last few decades have seen a revolution in the personal quantification of running performance.
The revolution started with sport wrist watches like the Timex Ironman back in the 1980s that allowed athletes to conveniently record and recall split times while running. No coach standing on the side of the track yelling out splits needed.
This gave us instant feedback on time to cover a known distance and thus deriving pace. This knowledge was so handy and useful for interval training on the track for example.
Heart Rate Monitors
Shortly after the sports watch, came heart rate monitors from Polar that gave us real time insight into our heart rate. The heart rate monitor gives instant feedback on cardiovascular effort. Information on heart rate is useful for monitoring effort to prevent over or under exertion.
Heart rate is very individualized as everyone is different in cardiac capacity and output. Heart rate is a great measure of effort and useful for comparisons between workouts for an individual. It has little value in comparisons between different people. A race is not won by the person with the highest or lowest heart rate, but by the person that is the fastest over the distance no matter what the heart rate.
There is a whole science that has evolved around training using heart rate. And a whole science that has evolved about using heart rate variability to measure health and monitor for adaption to training and over trained states.
Within a few years after the availability of heart rate monitors was the GPS revolution. One of the first on the market was Garmin with watches that would display running speed (pace), average speed, distance traveled, elevation gain etc. GPS became an extremely useful and convenient technology for directly quantifying running performance.
Next stop and the current stop on the technology train is Power Meters. Bicycles have had Power Meters for a decade or so now, but this technology is just now becoming available to runners.
The beauty of a power meter is that it gives real time feedback on energy expenditure and physical effort.
In my opinion, power meters will bring on a change and revolution in training as great as heart rate monitors and GPS devices did previously. Having a power meter will change the way you train.
For bicycles, the use of power meters has focused on maximizing power output and maintaining power output during a workout or race. Less attention has been paid to efficiency or economy. This is because on a bike, economy is less dependent and in control of the biker and more dependent on the bike hardware.
For running, efficiency and economy is primarily in the control of the runner. So it is natural to want to focus attention on economy and maximize economy as well as power output. So the question becomes, how does one attain a useful value of running economy from a power meter?
Here is my proposal for a useful mathematical formula for running economy. It is only possible to get a real time value of running economy when you couple a power meter with a GPS device. Once you know your instant value of your running economy, you can experiment and modify the way you run and get real time feedback on what helps and what hinders your running economy. This is my wish list for the companies that are developing power meters for runners.
If I still had an engineering business and a budget I would develop a watch size wearable GPS device that could continuously monitor and display a value of running economy. A shoe or foot bed with force plates and accelerometers would have to communicate wirelessly (blue tooth) with the watch. An accelerometer clipped to the waist and one in the watch would add more data refining the calculation of power. Once you have pace from the GPS and power from the power meter you can derive running economy. The definition of Running Economy becomes:
Running Economy is Ratio of Pace to Power
Running Economy = Pace / Power
To get values of Running Economy that are simple to work with, I propose using SI units of Meters for distance, Watts for Power and Pace expressed in Meters per Minute.
Using these units will typically yield values near but less than 1.0. Some may prefer to represent this as a % by multiplying by 100.
Some examples are helpful to illustrate the calculations. These examples are derived and simplified from some actual personal measurements and tests.
It is interesting to note that this particular runner is less efficient at a moderate pace as compared to a fast pace and an easy pace. A possible explanation (this is from firsthand experience of this particular runner’s training history) is that the runner had developed better economy at the paces that they spend the most time training at. In this case, fast interval running is done at 5:20 pace (300 Meters per Minute) and easy running is done around 8:00 pace (200 Meters per Minute). This particular runner is less experienced at running 240 Meters per Minute and has not naturally developed their economy at this particular pace.
Obviously power will go up with the weight of the runner lowering running economy. So it may be helpful to normalize Running Economy by Weight. Doing this, Running Economy by Weight can be compared between different runners.
These are just some preliminary thoughts on Running Economy. It will be interesting to see what products and their features become available in the next few years. It is my desire to see a real time read out of Running Economy on a watch. With that information, a runner has feedback on what form, cadence and other adjustments maximize their economy.
After 19 Ridge Runs, the Hoka Clifton worked better for the Ridge Run than any other shoe I have used. That is right, on race day, I chose the Clifton over the Nike Wildhorse. Granted, the course surface conditions in 2015 were ideal – dry, but not so dry as to be dusty or loose and pebbly.
On the other hand, if the conditions were wet, muddy or snowy, they would have forced me to use a shoe with a more aggressive outsole and I would not be writing this.
My feet felt good the whole way – no blisters or battered toes. The Cliftons afford plush cushioning at the expense of a bit of performance, rebound and quickness. I did trip and took a hard fall once. Admittedly that was my fault, not the shoes. It occurred because I lost concentration thinking about how good things were going – irony.
The drawback of the Hoka Clifton, is that it is a fragile shoe. After a just a dozen or so training miles and the 20 miles in the Ridge Run, this pair is nearly trashed with limited life left in them. The rubber outsole pieces are already ripping off.
From past experience, gluing them back on is only a temporary fix. The welded overlays on the upper have also separated. The sole area that does not have the rubber pieces is chewed and shaved from rocks.
Deep cuts form in the sole where sharp rocks cut into the soft material. Perhaps the Challenger ATR trail version of the Clifton is more robust, but the rubber outsole pieces only cover the same area, however they stick out more on the ATRs and would probably catch and tear off even sooner than the Clifton’s.
There were a couple minor modifications I made to the shoes. In the heel area, I added a make shift rock plate. Fabricated out of a plastic Yogurt container, it fit in the shoe under the insole and was held in place with double sided tape.
In training, I noticed sharp rocks would poke me in the heel even through the thick Hoka sole. Right under the center of the heel, there is no rubber outsole and a cutaway yielding a less cushioned zone – see previous pictures. This makes the center of the heel a vulnerable spot. This thin piece of plastic as a rock plate worked perfectly.
Instead of the Hoka insoles, I used the insoles from my Nike Wildhorse shoes. The Nike insoles have a grippier surface preventing my foot from sliding in the shoe. I also added a partial insole under the metatarsals and arch to give my foot something to grip – Skecher Gorunerize .
For smooth trails, the Hoka Clifton is a wonderful shoe just the way it is. For rocky and rugged conditions, it still works, but gets beat up quickly and has a couple vulnerabilities.
If I was to make a single change to the Clifton to make it more rock ready, I would add a thin rubber outsole with some small knobs that covered the whole bottom of the foot.
Think the old Nike Waffle Racer outsole. This might add a little weight, but it would prevent the need of adding a rock plate and it would add significant durability as there would be no individual rubber pieces on the sole to get ripped off.