I have been meaning to put this post together for quite a while now. Living in a flat area, while competing in mountainous races makes one creative. Here is my top 4 list of ways to train for mountain trail ultras in the Chapel Hill area.
1. I hate to say it, but the treadmill. There is no where one can drive to on the east coast that has unlimited uphill. At the beginning of a training cycle I usually walk uphill for as far as I can get in 45 minutes at 15% grade, eventually the walking becomes running.
2. Stadiums. Much like #1 this is a really underwhelming place to train, but if you run every other step up and hop (with both feet) down trust me, your quads and glutes will be talking to you the following morning.
3. Umstead Park. Ok, now we are getting outside. Umstead Park is located in the middle of Raleigh, its even convenient if you are flying in/out of the area and need to get in some hill repeats. If you park at Reedy Creek and follow the Loblolly trail over to the Reedy Creek and drop down to the Lake that is a decent hill to do repeats on. Turkey Creek is good for short steep ups and downs. Finally the Group Camp road makes for a nice long gradual uphill for repeats. I ran 10 miles of multi use trails for a warm up, and then ran 7 miles of hill repeats gaining 1,448, and losing 1,300 feet. Not too bad for a fairly flat park in the middle of a city. Most of the climbs are around 200 feet.
3. Tempo run at Occoneechee State Park in Hillsborough. This is my garmin info. In 15 miles I was able to get 2,836 feet of elevation gain. If you park in the parking lot and circle around clockwise the trails take you up and down for 2 miles, then straight up some erosion beams to an overlook, if you continue past the overlook and take a right up the wide trail to the radio tower…from the bottom by the Eno River, up to the top of the radio tower is 355 feet up. It gets monotonous but I loop up and around until I get up my mileage. Its also good because you get everything from very technical rooty trails, to stairs, to steep, loose gravel road. Also because one loop is just over 2 miles you can leave all your supplies in the car and eat or drink every time you run by.
4. Damascus Church Road. As far as roads go, if you want to practice fast leg turn over and steep descents this road is the best I have found. (at least one that isn’t too busy with travel anyway) There are several hilly drops, 100+ feet in 3/4 of a mile. Often I will pair this road with the treadmill or stadium.
Next time I will write about hilly/mountainous trail runs with in 3 +/- hour drive to train on. Happy Trails!