Training for the Sierra Crest Ultra 30K Trail Run - Year 2

My First Sierra Crest 30k – 2016

After having never run a 5k and finishing feeling strong at the Sierra Crest 30k last year, I felt accomplished. It definitely wasn’t without help. Fellow TMS Ambassador and ultra-runner, Chris Cloyd helped me at several points along the way to get from zero to 30k. You can read about that here and here, if you’re new to running.

Now, on to my Year Two training plan, which I started in March.

Year 2 Sierra Crest 30k – My Goals

My goal for this year is to train better for the hills and have as much fun as last year. And to not walk the last hill of the course, which is right before the finish line.

The Secret Ending

I’ll let you in on a secret. Not that it’s a real secret; it’s just that most people don’t put in the effort to preview the last, short segment of the race.

The last hill of the course is completely hidden, back behind the finish line. This is how it goes. You hit the final aid station and run a mostly downhill section. There are tons of volunteers cheering you on as you emerge onto the pavement and make your way on fairly flat ground to the Auburn Ski Club finish line.

The finish line is in sight. You feel like you’re done. But, instead of getting directed straight to that finish line, the friendly volunteers who are smiling and cheering for you, totally distract you and direct you to some hilly trails behind the Auburn Ski Club.

This is the section that I completely ignored in my preview, thinking it looked short and easy. It might have been the hardest segment of the whole race for me even though the terrain wasn’t very technical and the hills were very short compared to the rest of the course. I walked nearly the whole thing, as did everyone else I saw back there, out of sight of the cheering crowd at the finish.

But the race organizers have it set up so well. Once you’re done slogging up the hills out of sight, the final stretch to the finish line is an easy downhill and you can finish looking much stronger than you might have felt just moments before.

Until your husband asks, what were you doing back there, what took so long?

Not this year, I’ll be running that segment for sure!

The finish!

How I’m Going to Do It

Running Evaluation

This year, I started with a running evaluation from Hillary MacLean PMA-CPT to hone in on any areas I need to focus on improving. She is the owner of Sierra Symmetry a Pilates studio in Truckee that specializes in injury prevention and sports performance.

Hillary’s going to tell you exactly what this is about and why you should consider getting one too!

Most of us would like to jump back in to our training right where we left off last year, but we know better. We need to build back up. Now is the time to start strengthening to ensure the build up of mileage is balanced and does not lead to pain at the end of the long season. The good news is that there is an easy way to identify exactly where we should focus our efforts.

During a running analysis we start with the basics: alignment, tempo and ease. And then we move into the nitty gritty details of your body’s movement patterns. We identify any breakdowns in thoracic extension, hip flexion, knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion. We analyze video of you running in slow motion to identify corrections that need to be made in mobility or strength of specific joints and muscles. Once we’ve identified the disconnects, we build a plan specific to your body to fix them. Plans can be regular work in the studio or via an online platform. Every runner has different needs and plans are built to fill these needs.

If you live in Truckee or Lake Tahoe definitely check out Sierra Symmetry for a running analysis before you start the season repeating old injury causing habits.

Running Plan

If you can, work with a coach like Hillary and get your running plan from them! If you’re local, the Donner Party Mountain Runners is another great resource for finding the right coach, or for finding running buddies. You can also join their workouts (speed, hills, etc.).

I am continuing with the Gipis app (iPhone) this year. You tell the app how fast you can currently run a 5k, when your race day is, how long your race is, what days of the week you want to run, and how hard you want to push to improve (easy, recommended, or hard) and it comes up with a running plan for you and coaches you through each training run by telling you if you’re going too fast or too slow and when to start and stop each interval. Then, it will adjust your plan as you go, based on your performance.

While it doesn’t have 30k as an option, I selected half-marathon again this year, which is more like 21 or 22k. Then, I added some mileage to the longer runs, making sure I ran at least 24k once before race day.

This year, I’ll switch out some of the shorter workouts to be focused on hills. They’re hard to motivate to do alone, so joining the Donner Party Mountain Runners is a great idea for hill repeats.

Register Now at Ultra Signup

Gear That Works

I loved all my gear last year because early on, I figured out what would and wouldn’t work for me. And I figured out how to best use each piece by training with it all. That means you’ll see me out right now, even if my run is only 3 miles with my running vest on and the water full. I won’t drink it, but I’ll carry it around. By doing this last year, I figured out how every part should be adjusted, how I liked the bottles to sit and how to keep that whistle from smacking against the pack and annoying me.

Here’s the list of the gear I thought was most important to get right

Altra Lone Peak running shoes– alternate between 2 pairs

Darn Tough socks – how did I not find socks that actually fit before these?

Oiselle Roga shorts – these have a long spandex liner so you don’t chafe

Brooks sports bra – you have to find what works for you though

Oiselle Flyte Tank – fitted but not tight, longer so it doesn’t ride up, a high neckline so no chafing

Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta running vest – I much prefer this to holding bottles and some racers mentioned they ran out of water between the 2nd and 3rd aid stations with just handhelds. That is the hottest section of the course!

Headsweats Sport Headband – I always run in a headband to keep my hair back and to absorb sweat

Coming into the 2nd aid station at Johnson Canyon

Get Out There!

Now that it’s actually spring (evidenced by the snowstorm this week) get out there! There’s plenty of time to run in the light after work if you’re on a 9-5 schedule like me.

Finally, the daffodils are out! That means we should get leaves on the trees soon!

Find a running buddy so you can motivate to go out even though the mornings are still cold.

Register Now at Ultra Signup

Don’t forget to enjoy the views!

Rachel McCullough is an avid runner, hiker, mountain biker, rock climber, yogi, skier and photographer living in Truckee, CA. Follow @rachelmcphotos on Instagram for stunning images of beautiful Sierra scenery. When Rachel isn’t enjoying her free time in the outdoors, she’s leading Tahoe Silicon Mountain events for entrepreneurs, teaching skiing at Northstar California or building impeccably designed websites for her clients at McCullough Web Services.

Tell us about your summer racing goals and your best training advice in the comments below!

Click here to read a Course Preview of the Sierra Crest Ultra!

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