“Base” Training Period for Great Range Traverse

I will start off with a disclaimer that I have used in the past: I am not a fitness professional, professional trainer, or doctor. I do however live in a totally flat area surrounded by corn fields and do decently ok in the mountains. Which is actually the reason that I started this blog, I want to inspire, motivate, and help other flatlanders enjoy the mountains. Now on to the training! This post is focused on what many fitness pros would call the “base” period. There are many interpretations of this but I think in general they mean a period of time in which you are getting into decent enough shape to set you up for a period of goal specific training. For example, when I ran XC for Philadelphia University my base period was during the summer break and focused on mid-grade mileage and general fitness. Once we got back to school, we then would transition into more specific training focused on our 8k races. Many books such as Steve House’s book Training for New Alpinism put a heavy emphasis on carefully planning this training period. I totally agree with this but find that its not always feasible for everyday people in everyday life. We get busy, life events happen, work gets crazy and goals change.

For my upcoming shot at the Great Range Traverse I would love to say that I carefully planned out a base training period and scheduled my transition into a specific training period. However, the reality is that it did not work this way for me but I still feel like I am in a good place to perform. This is based on my strict focus on staying generally fit. This past winter I focused heavily on both backcountry snowboarding (see my past post on splitboarding). My ideal plan was to come off of the winter season (Early April) and then have at least 6 weeks of easy to moderate running and then 5 weeks of hard uphill running before the traverse. However, work and life got in the way and I settled on early June for the traverse. My theory is that my months of uphill splitboarding, hard lifting, snowboarding, and daily fitness routine (yoga, climbing, kettlebell, etc..) provided enough of a general fitness for me to transition right to hard training for hard mountain running. Is it ideal? No, but I think it will work. I love the idea of staying generally fit at all times, this concept is something that Sean Sewell talks about in my recent interview with him:  “The way I train is to be ready for action any day and any moment.  So I don’t really have “off season” or peaking”. Check it out under the training section of my blog.

Ok on to my “base” period. While the majority of the focus was on snowboarding, I believe that the portion focused on uphill travel served as a decent base for my current training. When I am focused on mountain sports I care most about time on my feet and vertical gain. For me mileage has mostly been a secondary metric unless I am training for a marathon. Loosely my base period started in early winter. Below is my overall time spent on each training activity:

Looking back at this I find it promising that 28% of time was spent running combined with many hours hiking and backpacking. Additionally, many miles focused on uphill travel. However, on the negative side over the course of those 13 weeks I was only on my feet for 124 hours which comes out to roughly 1:22 hours a day, I think this has the potential of being troublesome. Especially because there where at least 5 or 6 full days of lift access downhill snowboarding (19% of time on feet). While downhill riding certainly works muscles I don’t think it will help me with the Great Range. However, on the more positive side I am pleased with the elevation gain profile:

While there are certainly some low weeks, I averaged 5175 feet of vertical gain a week. A lot of this was done through inclined treadmill and box step works outs but there was also a good amount of outside uphill travel as well. I should also note that sometime around week 11 I realized that winter was coming to a abrupt end near me and I started upping my miles. I even got in a 31-mile running day for my 31st birthday. While that completely sucked it was for sure a confidence booster for me.

Overall, I can draw both a number of negative and positive conclusions from counting this as my “base” period. In reality only time will tell, but so far so good on the “specific” training period. In the coming weeks I will touch on progress and specific workouts focused on the Great Range, however in the meantime feel free to comment with any questions or thoughts. By no means am I saying this is a brilliant plan and I would love to get everyone’s overall thoughts. Until next time, thanks for reading.

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