Train to Embrace the HMBIM Trails
July 10, 2012 at 8:31 PM
Many apologies for the long layover between posts --- While running this year’s 39th annual Western States 100 I had plenty of time to think about this week’s blog post: running on trails. You may be asking how does this relate to the Half Moon Bay International Marathon, or not, but stay with me for a blog post. Our marathon (as well as the ½, 10k, and 5k) offers breathtaking coastal views - something lacking in many of today’s races. In order to accomplish this, the marathon course utilizes approximately 70% paved bike paths and 30% packed dirt trails which in-turn creates a unique marathon experience.
If you’re coming from a strict road marathon background or are new to running the trail portions may pose a few challenges. However, if you adapt your training now, these “challenges” can be the highlights of your HMBIM experience! Additionally running on varied terrain, speeds, and gaits can improve your overall running making you a healthier, more rounded athlete.
With that, here are some training tips to prepare for the HMBIM course:
Train to the Course:
Like mentioned before, the HMBIM marathon and ½ marathon distances include a packed dirt trail section. One of the best training methods around is to incorporate some simple trail running into your program - ideally on the HMBIM course. If you can’t make it out to the Half Moon Bay coastline, I’m certain there’s a trail near you that’ll be a match. Review the course pictures or course video to visualize these sections. They are nowhere near technical, simply a packed dirt trail with a little roll to it and a few traverses to keep your attention. Donot picture mountain trails to the summit of Everest - that’s not our race!
Your training should include approximately 1 day a week running on a surface similar to the HMBIM trails. As with all training modifications begin slow, even if that means first hiking or fast walking then building up to running 3-4 miles on trail. I suggest cycling 3 weeks ON then 1 week OFF preferably earlier in training. As training progresses practice your long runs being partially on trail to prepare for the race day course transitions.
With all running cross-training is a key component in building strength, maintaining good form, and remaining injury free. This is especially true when you mix in varied running surfaces like trails which require more core strength and balance. Running isn’t just in your legs, it’s an entire body effort making strengthening your core muscles a vital part of training. Our athletic sponsors at Coastal Lifestyles have put together a great cross training routine with video demonstrations as a wonderful reference. To accurately capture the importance of cross training, I plan on doing a blog post / interview with Coastal Lifestyle owner Joseph in the future. Don’t forget, while cross training you’re giving your body a day of rest from running. Don’t underestimate rest days!
Prepare to be More Attentive to Foot Landings:
One aspect of trail running that differs from road running is while running trails you cannot tune out and just run expecting each step to be identical to the last. Running trails is an interactive activity that requires you to map the path before you with some level of recognition: There’s a rock, avoid. The path is pitching left, lean into it. There’s a divot, extend stride to pass over it. You get the point. In your training, practice engaging your mind with the trail or even the road rather than numbing it out. This is especially true in the longer distance training runs when you tend to become “zoned out” while flirting with glycogen depletion.
Read Your Body:
While you’re in a state of mental engagement, take advantage of the time to perform a systems check. Periodically assessing your body and making the necessary adjustments is key to running a smart race. The most common adjustment is pace. A rule passed down from the tribal knowledge of other grizzled endurance athletes to me is: The solution to most running ailments is to simply slow down. Other checks would be: heart rate, breathing, hydration, fueling, running form (smooth and effortless), and foot strike (soft feet). Practice taking these readings during training runs to better learn to read your body’s signals during the race.
Just because a path is labeled “trail” doesn’t mean you need trail shoes. This couldn’t be more true for the HMBIM. Trail or road, run in the shoes that are most comfortable for YOU. The course will be there for you - the trail portions of the HMBIM are road shoe friendly so if you’ve been training in road shoes run the race in road shoes. Don’t deviate from what works for YOU. With that I expect to see as much variety in shoes as smiles on runner’s faces come September.
In conclusion, customizing your training to be prepared for the HMBIM course will allow you to run comfortably while enjoying the coastal beauty we call home. Have fun with it. Make the the trails the dessert of your training - without question it's my favorite part of the course!
Enjoy the Run!
Franz Dill is the Director of Training for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon, and is responsible for organizing all online and in-person training resources for athletes participating in the HMBIM. Franz is an accomplished ultramarathoner who completed the coveted Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in 2011 and is also a Certified Coach with the Road Runner's Club of America (RRCA).