The Training Corner

Mountain Grit: Training for the Long Haul

Q: Hi Pat! I just hit 40, and registered for a Spartan 10K / 25-obstacle mountain race a year from now, on my 41st birthday. My three kids are in school full days, and my business as a website designer allows for a flexible schedule. What’s my incentive? To test myself, to see if I can finish in one piece, with a respectable time. I thrive on competition, but it’s the training that makes me tick, working towards a measurable goal. Fitness training preserves my base, but I am up for the next level.

A little background for you …. I grew up around horses, and all the work and fun that came with it. I did some barrel racing, but also was all-seasons GO in mountain sports, from multi-ski to paddle and bike, with some trail running thrown in the mix.

I never really got into fitness until after my first child. That’s when I realized that this vehicle, my body, requires DAILY maintenance. So, for the past 10 years, I have consistently trained to stay in shape. I lift, run, stretch, do Pilates and yoga, and it works. I am 5’6”, 140 lbs, a good weight for my frame. Ok, maybe I could be a smidge leaner, but I am not going to eat like a body-builder for show-prep. My blood work, BP and the rest of my vitals are optimal, according to my Doc. I guess my family meal prep, a Montana-version of Mediterranean-Paleo, is paying off. My shoulder took a hit from a rambunctious horse back in my teens. Occasionally, it acts up, IF I get stuck at that screen for too long.

My husband is all-in. He said, “Wow, what a great example for our kids!” I have one year to prepare, but I’m definitely not starting from scratch. Am I nuts to embark on such a journey? Maybe I need a reality check? Or just some sound advice to get me off on the right foot? Your thoughts?

Kelly, 40

A: Go for it, Kelly. The timing is right. You are in good health, and you have an excellent fitness base. You also have years of athletic experience on horseback and in mountain sports. Now it is a matter of layering on MORE resilience, durability and robustness so that you can ‘compete’, not simply ‘complete’ this 10K/25- Obstacle Course Race [OCR]. One year preparation allows for some wiggle-room, too. Murphy will strike in the form of sick kids, family emergencies, illness, or ‘the banana peel.’ Hey, stuff happens.

“Fail to PLAN, plan to FAIL!” It’s all about prep and prehab for a long arduous race. Start you journey here:

1. Find a year-long calendar and write in the Big Event. Plug in family holidays, vacations, kids school breaks, work deadlines, and anything else that you may need to train around for the upcoming year.

2. Train with a Coach who fully understands the demands of OCRs. You can do this live locally, or online via www. or, among others that offer beginner-to-advanced training programs. If you are a self-learner, go to www. for some excellent resources on OCR. Program priorities embrace planned performance training AND injury-risk reduction. You can use my 7S Buckets as a checklist to evaluate quality programming.

#1 ✓ Spirit, the mental toughness piece.

#2 ✓ ✓ Suppleness & Stability, the soft-tissue, breath, stretching and deep muscle work that will protects joint integrity.

#3 ✓ Gait Speed and Sprint-like mechanics, the efficient running piece.

#4 ✓ ✓ Strength & Power, to beat the obstacles, and to BRACE and BREAK falls and collisions.

#5 ✓ Skills, the agility that keeps you UP, in lieu of bumps, lumps and random surprises.

#6 ✓ Stamina, not just steadystate stuff, but with SIT [Sprint] and HIIT, too.

#7 ✓ ✓ Specifics for YOUR fitness base, and Specificity as to prepping for the unique demands of THIS event. Buckets 1-6 ARE the foundation.

3. Once you select a year-long plan, plug in any additional race days on your Master calendar. Most training programs are broken down into 4-6 week blocks, that gradually progress in overall intensity, volume and specificity, but also build in rest and recovery days. Nutrition and hydration tweaks will be included. Now you can get down to the nitty-gritty of the individual training sessions, mapping them out by the week and month. Again, Murphy will strike. Adjust as needed.

Now, for some no-nonsense tips

1. Get the specifics of your event; terrain, grade, altitude, temperature, specific obstacles, water, mud, start time, etc. Will you need to allow for travel or lodging? Altitude acclimatization should not be an issue if you live and train in the mountains.

2. Find a local playground, obstacle course or gym that has monkey bars, climbing ropes, an inverted wall, and whatever else you may need for the big event.

3. Volunteer at a couple different OCRs, say a Sprint and a Beast. You will get a sense of race organization, judging, timing, accidents-injuries, race gear, shoes, etc.

4. Schedule one 5K / 10-obstacle OCR for completion, not time. Use it as a dry-run, a dress rehearsal if you will. Then schedule at least one other OCR, a bit longer and with more obstacles. Your weaknesses will become obvious, so target them in training. Tap the experienced racers for tactical tips.

5. Run the trails, working towards 10Ks. Plug these into your Master Plan, too. Reading and reacting to uneven terrain when fatigued is a must in your training.

Give it your all, Kelly. No, you are not nuts. And continue to strive for new Benchmarks as you journey through the stages of life. NEVER stop training. Just ramp it up or dampen it down. Keep learning, growing and discovering. That’s how we age WELL for longer.

So you’re not training for a Spartan, but need some coaching? Contact Pat through See previous editions of Mountain Grit for more training tips from Pat.

More Information

Lone Peak Lookout

Cori Koenig, editor:
Susanne Hill, billing:
Ad orders, inserts, classifieds:
Comment Here