Tips for the Trail - "Live More" at Beaver Creek
By Rachel Cieslewicz
One of the things I love about summer is the accessibility of running and racing in the high mountains with the snow finally melted off the trails. Even better is when the race happens to be included in an XTERRA Championship event weekend. For anyone who thought the high Colorado Mountains are just for winter skiing, you are about to learn the truth. The summers of Beaver Creek at 8,000 feet elevation exemplify magical wonder and charm. Trail running, mountain biking, cool summer nights, and the list goes on … magical is right.
When XTERRA comes to town, it gets that much better. The XTERRA Beaver Creek Trail Run is set for July 21 at the Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, Colorado, and it will feature 5K and 10K trail runs that are open to runners of every age. The weekend of racing begins on Saturday, July 20, with the XTERRA Mountain Championship triathlon events.
Having shorter trail run races than a 21K will be a breath of fresh air for all toeing the line. Shorter does not mean less challenging! But that may be where the worry begins for those of us living on lower ground. We all hear stories of altitude stress and inability to catch a deep breath due to thinner air at high elevations. For the Beaver Creek events, elevation does factor in, but all can be well with preparation. Below are 10 things you can do to ensure you have a fantastic 5K or 10K race at Beaver Creek:
Hydration. The air at Beaver Creek is very dry and thin. Many problems experienced at altitude are due to dehydration. For several days before your race, drink at least half your weight in ounces of water each day. Take care to take in proper electrolytes and minerals as well. Coconut water and diluted sports drinks are perfect solutions.
Sleep. Good rest is very important no matter what. When we sleep we heal. When we sleep our bodies recharge and fine-tune us for all each day has to give. If you are new to high altitude, it could be difficult to sleep. For the days leading up to your travel, sleep 8-10 hours a night. When you arrive to the XTERRA Championship weekend, naps and early bedtimes will be helpful. You will find your rested body and mind will handle the stress of altitude very well.
Expect to go slower. Research shows that on a flat course at 7,000 feet, even top athletes run 20-30 seconds slower per mile than at sea level. The 10K course at Beaver Creek features 2,400 feet of climbing overall! Take note, this is at over 8,000 feet running up and down mountain faces! Even if you run two to three minutes slower than your normal, this is expected.
My number one rule is to start any long distance event slower than you think you need to. Every personal record I have ever hit has been running this way. Instead of running negative splits due to elevation changes in the race, I think of it as increasing energy as the race goes on. Each mile I push just a little bit harder until at the end I am able to fly to a fast strong finish. It is much more fun to pass many others as the race progresses rather than burn out before the finish line.
Nutrition. When new to high elevations, our bodies go through many physiological changes as they adapt to the difference in air pressure and diluted oxygen. This is a lot of work. It is a great idea to consume small frequent meals of easily digestible food throughout the day to avoid upset stomachs and provide constant energy.
High elevation, or not, the incredibly beautiful and challenging XTERRA Beaver Creek trail run courses are steep! The 10K course includes 2,400 feet of climbing featuring the best and most breathtaking mountain scenes and views have to offer. In your training, be sure to work on proper running form with short quick strides and running tall with relaxed shoulders.
Train for the terrain. If you live in mountainous or hilly terrain, include longer intervals lasting 3-6 minutes. Practice pacing as well. If you have no hills, using a treadmill set to grades of 8-15% will benefit you!
Teach your body to adapt to stress. Two weeks out from the race, implement two short VO2 max sessions a week. This can come from running short steep hills as hard as you can for 30-60 seconds, or running sprints on flat ground. This will be the final way to tax your system and assist your body to be prepared for elevation.
Volunteer at the Championship triathlons the day before. Nothing compares to witnessing trained athletes putting it all out there when it counts. Seeing hundreds of athletes competing swim, bike, and run at elevation, XTERRA style, with the theme of “Live More” emblazoned in their souls is true inspiration. Carry the energy of the day of serving others right into your own trail running race day spirit!
Decide you are capable. Know you can do it. Mind over matter really works. Come be a part of the XTERRA tribe while enjoying the Colorado Rocky Mountain highs.
Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, including the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run, and placed ninth overall in the women’s field at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at KualoaRanch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor, and is a certified running form and endurance coach. She can be reached at email@example.com or visit her website at www.newageathlete.comor follow her on www.twitter.com/newageathlete.
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