About this time last year I spotted these switchbacks on the northern aspect of McGee Mountain. I knew as soon as I laid eyes on that road that it was exactly the training terrain I had been looking for: maximum vertical over the least linear distance. Obviously one could take "most vertical gain over least distance" to its end, which would be a sheer face. But I was looking for the steepest trail that could be run. I haven’t yet found something that equals these switchbacks. 2,200 vertical feet in under 3 miles.
Last year I trained here nearly everyday. Not having any formal education in workout theory I reasoned that since I was training for a sport that took place moving uphill I should only train going uphill. That idea certainly made me tough, but all the smart folks I talk to say that I wasn’t getting the most out of my workouts.
I had only been back to the road up McGee Mountain once this year. Going back to ski walk there this morning felt good. It was like visiting an old friend. Last year that horrible road and I became very close. I trained there no less than three times a week from the beginning of September to the end of December. I ran on that thing in the blaring sunshine, in 40 mile per hour winds, in the rain and in the snow. I visited him to suffer and in return he gave me strength. Even though I will see him less this year he will always be my favorite place to train.
Today’s workout designed by Sue Burak for my cardiac pleasure was a series of four 7 minute intervals at 75 - 85% max heart rate. The intervals were done moving uphill and the one minute rests in between were done walking downhill.
Having a hill like this is the ideal terrain to prepare for ski mountaineering races. Learn from my mistakes, don’t use such a hill everyday. But certainly make use of the hill you find, it will be the best terrain to run your intervals on and it will provide the best dry land simulation of our sport.
Train hard, but smart. The first races are 16 weeks away.