They say you should play to your strengths and forget about working on your weaknesses. If I could race only uphill or on less-technical downhill terrain, I might follow this advice. I’m tired of getting passed on the really technical stuff though, so I decided to instead seek some advice from one of the fastest downhillers that I know.
I’ve had the pleasure of doing a bit of training with local speedster Mike Murphy, recent winner of the Knee Knacker, who suggested that I try running downhill repeats. This, in addition to doing more functional strength work like plyometrics, could be just what I need to mitigate my major weakness.
In just over a week, many of the top local runners will be lining up to run on some of their favourite North Shore trails. The Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run (or Knee Knacker for short) takes runners from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove on the Baden Powell – 16,000 feet of vertical climb and descent along 30 miles of technical trails.
The race is hugely popular, with almost 400 entrants competing for 200 spots in each year’s lottery. I wasn’t lucky enough to get a spot this year after running it last year for my first time, but you can bet I’ll be trying again next year.
With so many great runners signed up this year, it would be impossible for me to try to predict a winner, and the nature of this particular race is that anything really can happen on the day. I did manage to connect with 3 particularly fast local runners though to discuss their strategy and goals for this year’s race; Oliver Utting, Graeme Wilson, and Mike Murphy.
After my recent peroneal tendon injury, my MD recommended that I get custom orthotics. I wasn’t sure at first, but my physio agreed that it could be a good temporary aid as we work to build up the strength in my arches.
It’s still not clear how my biomechanics are to blame for the overuse injury, but I’m using this whole experience as an opportunity to finally address a series of minor issues and weaknesses so that I can come back strong for the long-haul (poor tracking of the knees, weak glutes, etc.).
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use orthotics in my Salomon Sense Ultras though. While far from ‘minimalist’, they’re definitely on the lighter and more flexible side as a performance shoe and neutral, like most trail shoes. After a fair bit of experimenting, I’ve found them to be the absolute perfect fit. I’m a mid-foot striker and I like to feel the ground beneath my feet so I wasn’t about to put on a pair of Hokas!
They say that training builds you up and racing breaks you down. Each training session is a small deposit into a piggy bank of fitness; each race a withdrawal.
This seems especially true with ultra running which usually requires at least a short amount of time off after a race. But many ultra runners are in the habit of racing so frequently that it could almost appear they ‘race to train’ instead of the other way around, treating their ‘B’ races like nothing more than a catered training run. “It’s just a training run” and “I’m just going to take it easy” are pretty commonly heard expressions during a race. Nothing wrong with that!
I’ve always found it hard to stick to my plans to take it easy during a race though. Once in the heat of the moment I always want to put my fitness to the test and leave it all out on the course. Even so, there’s still plenty of room for racing in my training.