Thursday, February 17, 2011

Trails for LA Marathon!


One would think that the best way to prepare for a race is to simulate the actual race course. If the race is on city streets that are mostly flat with few hills, then you train on city streets that have more or less the same course description.

Last month, one of the head honcos of our running group, Freddie Perez, showed me the group’s training plan for this year’s LA Marathon. It is a 10-week training program handwritten on a piece of paper that shows the location and distance of our weekend long runs.

What caught my attention were the training locations: Condor Peak, Mysterious Mountains, Chantry Flats and Green Valley. This looks more like a series of weekend outdoor expedition than a marathon-training program for one of the most urban places of the world. Instead of simulating the city streets of Los Angeles, the plan was to hit the backcountry, canyons, fire roads, and go farther up in the mountains. The only allusion to “city” location is the Hollywood Sign at the Griffith Park, which by the way is also located on a steep hill.

Freddie told me that while it is not wrong to simulate the “physical” race course, the key really is to simulate the marathon distance and marathon pace. The same with any other training program, we slowly increase our mileage and taper as the race near. Long runs on ¼ reserve effort; and speed work on weekdays. The location is the only difference – trails. In fact, done correctly, this provide significant advantage in road racing because your stride becomes more efficient as your body is forced to adjust to the constantly changing course of the trail. Come marathon day, paved road will not be as difficult anymore. Amen!

A recent convert to trail running, I am willing to give it a try. I’ve come to appreciate trail running for the simple joy of being outdoors, and I credit it for PR's I did in recent races ;) On a personal level, I have a score to settle - my last year's 2010 LA Marathon was one of my worst marathon time, it wouldn't hurt if this training plan would help me even the score. I took the paper from Freddie and told him, "I'll type it and distribute it to the group." Bring it on, Gatos!

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