Big Horn 100 Mile Training and Preparation: Part I

Jan 16

Big Horn 100 Mile Training and Preparation: Part I

After running and completing the Grand Slam of Ultra Running in 2014 I needed a break from training and racing.  In short I was burnt out and really didn’t have that drive or desire to dedicate myself to another race effort.  Personally, the enjoyment I get out of running and racing is the preparation, training and if all goes well, the execution of a successful race.  This is one of the reasons I don’t race as much as many other ultra and trail runners and don’t like to jump into a race just to do it.

After a year off of any serious training and racing in 2015 I’m now ready to get back into the swing of things.  These past few months the urge and hunger to race again has slowly infiltrated my mind.  I have decided that this year I will focus more on longer trail races.  After talking to quite a few others asking for suggestions, several people mentioned Big Horn as a recommendation.  Big Horn is one of the older 100 milers out there in it’s 13th year this year and the Big Horn Trail Races are in their 24th year.

The race is an out and back that runs through the Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming.

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As you can see there are some pretty long and steep climbs on the course even though the elevation isn’t too high.  I still have to study the course a bit more but I already know that I will need to get my legs in shape to handle the pounding of the steep and possibly technical downhills.  With the race taking place in late June I still have plenty of time to build on this area.  I’m still finalizing the details of my training program but these first few months of the new year I’ll be focused on building a mileage base and strength training.  I have found that gaining lower body strength for running uphills is easy to train for through weights, stair climber machines, incline runs on the treadmill and good old fashion hill repeats.

The challenge that our lowlanders have is getting our body’s, specifically our legs in shape to handle the pounding of long downhill stretches.  Long technical downhill sections can turn your quads, ankles and feet into hamburger and send your race into a death march really quick.  This is something that I have really been thinking a lot about since completing the Slam.  I’ll post some of the things that I’m going to try in order to help address this problem.  What training methods have you used to help with this?

2 comments

  1. Allan Holtz /

    Having finished the Grand Slam, Jordan, I would say you already have done well on long races with long downhills and that your past downhill training method is adequate. I think the important part about downhills is NOT to over extend your stride, i.e. keep your stride short and fast, without leaning too far forward or too far backward. Just make sure to be aware of the terrain, so as not to fall. A short rapid stride helps balance also on downhills. Hill repeats will work both your ascending and descending muscles. A couple successful Minnesota Hardrockers used to do 8 hours of repeats on Saturdays on the steepest ski hill at Afton and then they would also go to Wisconsin and repeat some longer higher ski hills I think near the high point of Wisconsin. Their names escape me at the moment, but they would be in their mid-60s for age (like me). John Taylor and I will see you at Big Horn 100 this year. I am hoping I get into the lottery at Wasatch and that I can somehow finish the Rocky Mountain Slam this year. I did not get into Leadville. At my age my window of opportunity to do that slam is closing fast. Big Horn is a beautiful out and back 100. Last year I remember it was hot and some people were lying down during the first big climb. I slowly walked past them and finished within the final hour (my 3rd Big Horn 100). It will be cold near the turnaround (race high point) and likely muddy with some snow the final mile to the turnaround. There might also be some other swampy areas, depends on the weather the month before the race. You will need to have cold weather gear in your footbridge drop bag, although you will be quite warm at footbridge outbound. Be sure to take those clothes – you will need them. Yes, the final descent to footbridge outbound is steep and could be muddy, but probably not muddy. That section drains well. That section (a big climb starting 70 miles into the race) is tough inbound. When you leave footbridge outbound you begin the longest continuous climb of the race and it can seem challenging. Just keep plugging away. Once you get to the final major (drop bag) aid station inbound, you get a nice downhill to the road, although it will seem a lot gnarlier than it seemed outbound. At your age, you should be able to run this section relatively fast and then the final miles on the road will depend on what you have left in the tank. From Cow camp to the last drop bag station you will be exposed to the sun and it will get hot and dusty and you can see the major aid station from quite a ways out and it can be depressing as you have a nice steady climb to get there. Great post race breakfast the next day (Sunday), BBQ afternoon evening of race (Saturday) and LOTS of bling at both times as well as check-in. Enjoy.

    • Jordan /

      Allan, thanks for the comment and the race info. I completely agree with you on not over extending on the downhills. It took me quite a few races and a lot of abuse to my feet and lower legs to figure that one out. Coming from more of a road running background this is still an area that I feel I have opportunity to improve upon though. Especially looking at the elite runners such as Killian Jornet, who is in a class of his own. His ability on technical downs is something that I think really sets him apart from other runners. Especially watching him race again former road runners turn ultra runners like Sage Canaday. He always seems to break away on the tech downs. Definitely will be posting more on this. Thanks again for the comment and looking forward to seeing you out at Big Horn. Good luck with the rest of your races this year.

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