As an endurance coach, I get to work with athletes who have some pretty cool and ambitious goals. Most of my athletes are cyclists, runners, and multisport athletes, and I enjoy working with all of them individually to optimize their training to meet their goals.
But every once in a while, an athlete will come to me with a unique and novel event that she wants to compete in, and that's where the fun really starts!
Kelly B. and I have been working together for at least a few years now, starting off with a combination of ultra-distance trail running and cycling time trial. Kelly is a gifted athlete who can excel at both of these disciplines, even though the goals - and training - for each are quite a bit different.
During COVID lockdown, Kelly competed in virtual challenges for mileage and elevation. She even signed up for a virtual challenge that included a daily surprise (explore a new trail, take a photo, etc.). In other words, she finds ways of keeping her goals fresh.
So it wasn't really a surprise when Kelly came to me a few months ago with a new one (for both of us): she would compete in the Broken Arrow Skyrace Vertical Kilometer. Essentially, it's a super-steep climb of essentially a kilometer (or, in this case, ~7 km or 4.25 miles). This race has 3135' of quad-busting, oxygen-depleting vertical gain over that distance. Just looking at some of the prior race photos makes me dizzy!
How do you train for something like this?
First, we gather info. Through a listing of past results, we found a local gal who competed in an earlier Broken Arrow VK, and we set up a call. Julie K gave us many details about the race: how to train, what to carry in your pack, what to expect, what was unexpected. Talking to Julie was an invaluable advantage, and helped us figure out how best to prepare.
Training for a VK is a bit tricky. We have long, gradual hills around here. And we have short, steep hills, too. But we don't have long, steep hills or anything that can simulate the conditions Kelly will encounter at the VK.
So we improvise: lots of stair climbs, hill repeats, long endurance trail runs to supplement the power workouts. Crazy hard workouts called Mountain Legs that simulate the repetitive work a VK'ers legs will need to be familiar with. Kelly did a lot of strength work, not just for her legs but also for her arms, because she'll need to use hiking poles for this climb (luckily, she doesn't have to climb down the mountain - "only" up!). And, of course, there was a lot of recovery in between the hard workouts, to maximize adaptation. I'm sure a yoga break and a date with a foam roller never felt so good.
Is Kelly ready? You bet she is! She is heading to California later this week and will be racing on Friday, June 17. I can't wait to see how Kelly conquers this vertical goal!
You can watch a Livestream of the Broken Arrow Skyrace events on Friday: https://www.brokenarrowskyrace.com/livestream
Besides the VK, there are other races of various distances that day, and even a kid's race. Hopefully we will catch a few glimpses of Kelly as she powers her way up that mountain.
Send Kelly some anti-gravitational thoughts as she races to the clouds on Friday!