Physical Therapist & Running Coach at Run Potential Rehab & Performance in Colorado Springs, CO.
With the summer season now in the rear-view mirror and with winter lurking closer by the day, for most of us in North America the trail race season is coming to a close. That means the trail running off-season is upon us. Depending on where you live, the off-season is highlighted by colder weather, shorter days, and limited trail races available. For some of us, that may mean a “hard stop” with running for several weeks or months, some of us may spend more time cross-training/strength training and less time running, and some others may continue to build their training as if there’s no true off-season. The question is, what should you do?
In this article, I will explain some considerations for how to spend the off-season including variations of training. But, consider everything with a grain of salt, as the off-season is highly dependent on each individual.
Off-Season Timeline Considerations
At this time of the year I often find myself planning out my races for the upcoming spring, summer, and fall. Typically, my off-season timeline will vary based on when my races are planned for the following year & my current state of health. Ideally, if I have a goal race in March, my off-season may be several weeks to months shorter than if my first goal race is in June. However, if I feel a bit “run down” either physically or mentally, or if I’m still dealing with some sort of running-related injury from the year, my off-season timeline could look vastly different. So again, it really is dependent on the individual.
I’ve never been someone who does well continuing to search for peak fitness at all times of the year, nor do I believe that is a healthy approach. Though a small percentage of individuals can achieve that (arguably a very small percentage), most of us will often stay healthier if we reduce our running in the off-season and shift focus. This will potentially benefit you in remaining healthy, but also by reducing the risk of mental burnout. I recommend shifting focus in the following ways:
By no means is this an exhaustive list, but more so considerations that have worked well for a multitude of runners to aid in preventing mental burn out and reducing injury risk. I will elaborate on each specific bullet point and the following sections.
Reduce Total Running Volume
Reducing your weekly running volume can vary by running less frequently (ie. 3 days instead of 5 days), but also by reducing total time/mileage spent running. There’s no perfect answer for a reduction in volume, as some people may drop their total volume by >50%, some 20%, or some may just do 1 day less of running. Finding the sweet spot for you is something you need to test. I often recommend most runners to still remain running 3x a week to maintain some base aerobic fitness and mechanical stimulus to the activity; the other days may be filled with a combination or rest, strength training, or cross training depending on the person and situation.
Change The Run Environment
If you’ve spent the fall and summer on certain trails, it can be a nice mental stimulus to change it up. Now, if you're 100% all in on trail running only, I get it. So what I recommend is finding new trail areas to explore or run. Here in Colorado Springs we are pretty spoiled with the variety of trails. I often find myself spending a lot of time on certain trails or routes due to enjoyment or convenience, but it’s a nice change when I either find new trails or vary the trails I usually don’t run on during the summer months. This can be a nice novel change for our brains bringing a different sense of enjoyment.
Changing the running environment can also provide variability in the mechanical stimulus to your body which can be a healthy alternative to always running on the same terrain. I find myself running more on the roads this time of year, partially due to accessibility, but also due to working on some weaknesses, and for me that’s flatter and faster speed based training. But for some of you this could also mean finding a local track, utilizing a treadmill, or just finding new areas or routes to run. The key to changing the environment is novelty!
Improve Your Run Weaknesses
I know for myself that most of my summer and fall season were spent running trails, and specifically with a healthy amount of climbing and descending in the high country. That typically means a combination of running at a relatively slower pace on steeper climbs, intermittent hiking, and enjoying the technical to flowy downhills. What becomes a relative weakness during the summer months is my running speed and efficiency on flatter terrain. Simply, due to the fact that my musculoskeletal system and nervous system are “out of tune” with that type of running.
As I’m writing this article, I’ve been focusing more on my running efficiency and speed on the road and track. And though I’m still getting out on trails 1-2x a week, I’m enjoying the shift of focus to working on my current weakness. Depending on your running goals for the next year, this can be a nice time to improve on your running efficiency and turn over which can feed into the trail running season come spring and summer. What I will say from experience, and from the experience of other strong trail runners, is that speed and efficiency on the flatter terrain does translate into your climbing efficiency. So keep that in the back of your mind during this time of the year!
When it comes to cross-training, there appears to be a love-hate relationship in most runners I know. Some runners really enjoy the balance of cross-training in their training program especially during the off-season, and other runners just purely want to run. I find that the individuals that “love” cross-training really enjoy the activity (ie. cycling, skiing, etc) itself rather than necessarily doing it just to supplement their run training. I myself really enjoy Nordic skiing in the off-season as well as gravel cycling (weather permitting of course!). So for those of you who love cross-training there’s no need for me to sell it! But, for those of you who despise cross-training, here’s why it can be beneficial:
There’s also something to say about cross-training outside as this can provide some change in scenery in comparison to a machine in the gym. But ultimately, if you can find a cross-training activity you enjoy, that’s the one to stick with!
I’m a strong advocate for strength training all year round to improve load tolerance in our tissues, but also by addressing areas that get neglected in running. During peak run training, I may strength train 1-2x a week to 1x every other week, but during the off-season, I often add in strength training 2-3x a week consistently. I’ve found that an uptick in strength training during the off-season helps my climbing and descending as I return to more frequent trail running.
In the off-season I tend to focus on increasing my strength capacity with bigger movements like the dead-lift, squat, split-squat while also focusing on plyometrics to improve my energy storage and release for running. Though I find value in strength training to specifically improve in areas needed for running, I also believe it’s important to strength train tissues through a full range of motion for general tissue health and resiliency. The off-season can be a time to further explore the gym and/or movements that have been dormant during peak run training!
Rest & Recovery Time
Lastly, the off-season is a time to enjoy more true “off days”. Take advantage of social gatherings with friends or family, getting proper sleep, or enjoying other activities you may have sacrificed during peak training. When we heavily prioritize our runs during peak training, we tend to miss out on the other pieces that bring value to our lives.
I also think there’s something to be said about the natural cycle of sunlight. As we head into the winter season, there’s dramatically less daylight compared to the summertime. Throughout human history the winter season has been a time to rest and recover after a spring, summer, and fall season of doing work. Unfortunately, in today’s modern society we’ve become a bit “out of tune” with the natural cycle of seasonal changes. What I recommend is listening to what your body is telling you this time of year (not to say you shouldn’t listen to your body at other times of the year), as there’s usually no need to “push” your training. More intermittent rest days will be more beneficial to you than harmful as we approach a new cycle of training in the new year!
When it comes to the off-season for trail running, there’s no perfect plan for any specific individual. The past year of racing, training, and potential injuries can dictate your off-season, as well as your future racing schedule plans. My recommendations are to reduce total training volume and to change things up in the off-season. Following these recommendations can aid in reducing physical stress and mental burnout. As for most of us non-professional runners, it’s about longevity in running and enjoying the process for a lifetime!
Written by: Sean Rimmer, Physical Therapist & Running Coach at
Run Potential Rehab & Performance in Colorado Springs, CO.
“ Regain your confidence to run pain free & to your potential”.
BRIAN METZLER - Published Sep 25, 2023
Original article by Boulder based, Brian Metzler, for TrailRunnerMag.com
The Golden Trail World Series is elevating the exposure—and clout—of ‘sub-ultra’ trail racing
Late on the night of September 16th, several of the world’s best trail runners could be found dancing and frolicking in costumes at the Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort in Manitou Springs, Colorado.
They’d run 13 miles up to the 14,115-foot finish line of the Pikes Peak Ascent that morning, and now Switzerland’s Rémi Bonnet and American Sophia Laukli—the race winners—were celebrating in style with dozens of other competitors who participated in the latest stop of the Golden Trail World Series international race circuit.
The post-race party included plenty of adult beverages, dancing to the tunes of a DJ, the community drinking from a shot-ski and, later—perhaps because of the liquid consumed off that shot-ski—some spontaneous unicycle and tricycle riding from the lodge’s collection of velocipedes.
Now in its fifth season, the Golden Trail World Series--a Salomon-sponsored lineup of high-profile and very challenging mountain races around the world—is all about three things: fast and frenzied made-for-TV trail racing, enticing thirst-trap promotional content, and endless amounts of rowdy fun that matches the high-energy running experiences.
In many ways, it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum of the more staid cavalcade of fun in the ultrarunning world. That’s not a knock against ultra-distance races, but more a hint of the growing excitement brewing in the mountain running scene.
This year’s Golden Trail races range in length from 21K to 42K—roughly half-marathon to marathon distances—which means there is always time to party later at night.
“It’s fun because it’s based on short and fast trail racing, which is what I love,” says Allie McLaughlin, a Hoka-sponsored trail runner from Colorado Springs. “It’s just a different vibe than a lot of races.”
Overall, there are a lot more shorter-distance mountain running events and participants than there are in the ultra-distance scene, but for years ultrarunners and key races have gotten most of the attention.
“I think it’s much more approachable,” says Dani Moreno, an Adidas-Terrex pro from Mammoth Lakes, California. “If you told someone who wanted to get into trail running that they could only do a 100-miler, most would say, ‘Uh, no thank you.’ And I get it because when I first started trail running, I was asked, from the get-go, ‘When are you going to do your first 100?’ That was always the conversation, but it took me five years just to do a 50K. But the point is that the performances of runners at shorter distances are just as impressive as the runners doing longer distances.”
Excerpt from "STORIES FROM THE 2023 PIKES PEAK ASCENT & MARATHON" by Peter Maksimow
Posted on October 11, 2023 - Trailrunner.com
One local Manitou Springs resident, who is very new to trail running, having only done his first trail race in November of 2022, excitedly mingled at the start line of the PPA as he took in the nervous energy of those racing. You could feel his excitement, and he exuded the enthusiasm of trail running!
One could say Diarra Cropper, who goes by “D” amongst his friends, stands out from the trail running community. Although his newly found excitement for the sport is common with many people who discover trail running, he tends to stand out in large part because of his physical stature at 6’2”. He stands out in larger part because he is black, a rare occurrence in the homogeneously white-dominated sport of trail running.
Cropper did not run the PPA or PPM–he is currently training for his first 100-mile race at Javelina 100 in October–but he was involved in the weekend festivities and supported his good friend Derico Delaney, who participated in the PPA. Both Cropper and Delaney sported “Black Men Run” shirts, a nationwide organization with chapters in major cities. Their mission statement reads: To encourage health and wellness among African American men by promoting a culture of running/jogging to stay fit resulting in ‘A Healthy Brotherhood.’
The most visible black mountain and trail running athlete for the last decade and a half has been the 23-time National Champion and 9-time World Champion, Joseph Gray. With his huge athletic success, he has gained a large platform and utilized it to be an outspoken advocate for getting more black athletes into the sport.
I had the great opportunity to join Cropper and Delaney on a recent trail run through the Garden of the Gods to learn more about his history and trajectory into trail running. In high school, Cropper was a sprinter and hurdler in track & field, but his main sports were football and basketball. After a serious injury on the basketball court during his sophomore year of college, his collegiate athletic career came to an abrupt end.
After college, Cropper became a semi-pro basketball and volleyball player, touring around Colorado and making a meager income. In the summer of 2021, during a pickup basketball game, he came down on his ankle wrong, culminating in a ruptured Achilles tendon. In an effort to get back to what he loved, he committed himself to aggressive physical therapy to get the Achilles back to proper function.
That commitment worked, as he came back eight months later to run his first 5K, completing it in 30 minutes. He continued that progression and ran his next 5K in 25 minutes. In his most recent 5K, he made another huge improvement and finished in 19 minutes. In his comeback to health, he found the love of running and completed his first trail half marathon in November of 2022.
Fast forward to our run in the Garden of the Gods, where Cropper was sporting a brand new pair of Speedland GS:PGH that he received in the mail the day before. The excitement that comes with any fresh pair of running shoes was very apparent. At the conclusion of the run, Cropper was sold on the shoes and has since accepted a sponsorship deal from Speedland. D has come a long way in a short period of time and still has a long way to go in what appears to be a very bright future!
To read more, check out "STORIES FROM THE 2023 PIKES PEAK ASCENT & MARATHON", by Peter Maksimow at Trailrunner.com.
Original post by Golden Trail Series powered by Salomon
16TH SEPTEMBER 2023, Start 7:00 AM, 21KM, 2,382M V+ MANITOU SPRINGS, USA
Despite the snow on the Pikes Peak Ascent race, Rémi Bonnet smashed Matt Carpenter’s 30-year-old record and Sophia Laukli was triumphant in the women’s race.
A 30-year-old record!
Everyone thought the record was unbeatable, especially due to the weather conditions and a thick layer of snow that had fallen the day before on the upper reaches of the course route. But, Rémi Bonnet (Salomon/Red Bull, Switzerland) had the resources no one was expecting! 1h58’30 on the clock and the Swiss rounded the very last bends of the legendary Pikes Peak climb. A final burst of acceleration and the stopwatch revealed: 2h00’20, 46 seconds faster than Matt Carpenter’s time.
"I knew the altitude was the crux," confided Rémi Bonnet at the finish line. "I trained and slept in a hypoxia chamber for 20 days before coming here and today I suffered much less from the effects of altitude. I’m really pleased to have beaten this record! People thought it was impossible, but I did it and I’m really proud to show who the world’s best climber is! Now I need to come back and go under the 2-hour barrier!"
Patrick Kipngeno (Run2gether, Kenya) took second place also clocking a fantastic time: 2h04’09.
"I’m very happy with my race and this second place. Rémi was on another planet today, it was impossible to keep up with him. I led the pace in the first part of the race but just as I took water, he forged a gap. I’m really pleased because it’s my first time in USA and my first ever race on snow. It is the second time in a row that I’ve finished second on the Golden Trail Series circuit and I’m planning on giving it my all in Mammoth to chase down a victory."
Eli Hemming (Salomon, USA) rounds off the podium.
"I’m very satisfied with this third spot! Every year I get closer to victory so that’s a good thing. Honestly, Rémi was on another planet today but I’m really pleased with my time."
Sophia Laukli, in the lead before the Grand Final
With three victories under her belt, Sophia Laukli (Salomon, USA) cannot be caught up with before the final, so the American will arrive in Italy leading the women’s ranking.
"At Sierre-Zinal I was thrilled to have been able to run a tactical race, but here I started stressing out when Judith overtook me. In the end though, I managed to stay calm and gave a shot at being tactical again by waiting for the final 4 kilometres to attack, and it worked, so I’m really happy. It’s my first Golden Trail Series victory on home ground in the USA, and I also know I’m out of reach in the overall rankings before the final."
This time, Judith Wyder (Hoka/Red Bull, Switzerland) had to be satisfied with second place, after her victory at DoloMyths Run in July.
"I’m happy with this result, I couldn’t have done any better. There was a moment when I thought I could win the race as I was leading all the way to the end of the forest but then Sophia overtook me, and I realised she’d just been biding her time behind me until then and she was stronger than me today!"
Anna Gibson (Brooks, USA) capped off the podium.
"I’m so happy with this third place. I tried to take it easy because this is the longest race I’ve ever done, and with the elevation gain and altitude I wanted to keep some in reserve for the end. I’m amazed I finished third in front of all these athletes, it’s incredible!"
The last stage at Mammoth
The Golden Trail World Series will now be heading to California for the last stage in the season before the Grand Final in Italy. See you on 22nd September for the Mammoth 26K.
1 – RÉMI BONNET (SALOMON/RED BULL – CHE): 2:00:20 (+200 pts)
2 – PATRICK KIPNGENO (RUN2GETHER – KEN): 2:04:09 (+188 pts)
3 – ELI HEMMING (SALOMON – USA): 2:07:40 (+176 pts)
4 – SETH DEMOOR (USA): 2:09:47 (+166 pts)
5 – JOSEPH GRAY (HOKA – USA): 2:11:19 (+156 pts)
1 – SOPHIA LAUKLI (SALOMON – USA): 2:35:54 (+200 pts)
2 – JUDITH WYDER (HOKA/RED BULL – CHE): 2:39:35 (+188 pts)
3 – ANNA GIBSON (BROOKS – USA): 2:43:59(+176 pts)
4 – MALEN OSA (SALOMON – ESP): 2:47:23 (+166 pts)
5 – SARA ALONSO (ASICS – ESP): 2:48:13 (+156 pts)
Article provided by Sheels
Scheels is a Pikes Peak Marathon partner
Training in extreme weather can be a challenge—running in mid-summer heat can be just as difficult as those sub-freezing runs. No matter the temperature, the right running clothing can make all the difference. Although hot and humid weather requires different layers than a snowy, windy run, there are specific features to look for when it comes to running clothing. Whether you’re needing running clothing for summer or winter, our Running Experts share exactly what to look for so you get the most out of your run.
Pay Attention to Fabric Content
No matter the temperature, look for clothing made of a blend of polyester, spandex, or nylon. These materials are best for running because they are engineered to be lightweight and breathable as well as wick away moisture to keep you feeling comfortable. Avoid reaching for that cotton shirt or pair of socks—it’ll leave you cold, damp, and distracted throughout your run.
Learn more about why running-specific socks are important, straight from our Footwear Experts: Do Running Socks Make a Difference?
Running Clothing Features
Today, clothing is loaded with technologies and features to help you perform your best—and running-specific clothing is no different. When looking for new running clothes, consider these features and technologies:
What to Wear Running Throughout Seasons
If you live in a climate that has all four seasons, your running wardrobe will include a whole range of different layers to accommodate the variety of temperatures. Our Running Experts highlight some basic layering options, but it’s important to remember that everyone’s preferences are different so find what works best for you.
Expert Tip: Dress in layers that you can easily take off and tie around your waist.
No matter the weather and temperature, proper running clothing is key for a comfortable and successful run, so pay attention to the fabric content, features, and technologies available in running clothes. If you have additional questions about running gear, stop into your local SCHEELS to speak with an Expert.
Dr. Allen Lim
Skratch Labs Founder & Sports Physiologist
When preparing to do your best in a competitive event or training, it goes without saying that proper food and drink is a critical piece of the puzzle. But, as much of an emphasis as athletes put on what to eat and drink, I often see them making even bigger mistakes with when they consume their food and hydration. Those mistakes can manifest in a host of negative consequences that range the gamut from up-chucking a pre-workout meal to simply not having the energy to maximize a workout. To help prevent this mistiming woe, below are a handful of guidelines gleaned from years of well-timed and not so well-timed experiences that highlight some important tips about how to time your nutrition before, during, and after your next workout or race. Of course, everyone is different and what may work for some, may not work for you. So as always, it’s imperative that you treat yourself as your own experiment and learn what works best for you. After all, timing is everything!
1) Eat and Drink 3 Hours Before. For longer workouts lasting more than 2 to 3 hours, it’s really important that you eat a substantial meal that makes you full and satiated at least 3 hours before the start of the workout and to drink enough water to quench any sense of thirst. Doing so will ensure that your food is completely digested and absorbed, that you’ve got plenty of time to drop the proverbial “kids” off at the “pool,” that you’re adequately hydrated, and that your blood sugar will be steady. This last point is really important. Eating a meal causes your blood sugar to rise. This, in turn, causes the hormone insulin to be released about 60 to 90 minutes later, which causes that sugar to be moved into muscle and fat cells. If you start exercising 60 to 90 minutes after you eat a large meal, you’ll be starting that exercise right as insulin is peaking. Since a contracting muscle can move sugar into the muscle without insulin, the combination of insulin and exercise can cause blood sugar to dip making you feel like total crud. So give yourself ample time to digest, hydrate, visit the throne, and steady your blood sugar before your big workouts or events.
2) Eat and Drink Right When You Start. Sometimes it’s not possible to eat an ample meal 3 hours before your workout. If that’s the case and you’re worried about not having enough energy for a hard workout, start eating and drinking right when you start the workout. What’s unique about exercise is that unless you’re at a very low exercise intensity, insulin is not normally released when we are exercising since working muscles can uptake sugar without the need for insulin. This means that if you start eating right when you start exercising you won’t experience the crash that is common if you eat too much an hour or so before a workout. You’ll often see athletes right at the start line shoving simple sugars down just before the gun goes off to give them a little boost. Beyond food, another common technique for many athletes is to drink a high to very high sodium solution like Skratch Labs' Wellness Hydration Mix (1500 mg sodium per liter) or Hyper-Hydration Mix (3500 mg sodium per liter) right before very hard and long workouts in moderate to high heat, when getting adequate hydration might be a problem. By drinking a high sodium solution, right before exercising in the heat, the drop in blood pressure and extra space created by expanding blood vessels that are dilating to bring hot blood to the skin to keep you cool, can be offset. But, be careful. Drinking too much at the onset of exercise if it’s cool or when the exercise intensity is low will likely just make you need to pee 20-30 minutes into your workout.
3) Just Get Up and Go. In some cases, if the workout isn’t too hard or long, you can just get up and go, especially in the morning when you’ve just gotten up. The unique thing about sleep is that it’s essentially an overnight fast that re-adjusts the body’s hormonal and metabolic environment, keeping blood sugar steady despite a lack of food. You can take advantage of this in the morning by simply getting up and starting your workout, then having breakfast afterward. This works especially well for lower intensity aerobic workouts where your primary fuel source is fat. So if it’s early, the intensity or duration isn’t that great, and you’ve gotten plenty of sleep, just get up and go.
When in the middle of a workout the amount of food, water, and salt you’ll need will depend on a host of variables including your fitness level, the exercise intensity, the duration, and the environment. Given all the possibilities here, I tend to find that listening to one’s body and bringing ample supplies to allow one to improvise often works better than creating a rigid timetable that may or may not meet a dynamic environment. With that in mind here are some big picture ideas to keep in mind:
1) Hydrate First, Fuel Second. There’s a philosophical problem called Buridan’s Ass, where a donkey, equally as thirsty as it is hungry finds itself exactly equidistant from a barrel of hay and a barrel of water. Given that the donkey wants water just as bad as it wants food and given that it is exactly the same distance away from both, what does the donkey do? Some philosophers believe that the donkey will die because it’s unable to make a decision. Others believe that the donkey’s free-will has nothing to do with the problem and that some external circumstance like a butterfly flapping its wings will move the donkey either towards the water or hay. From a physiological perspective, philosophy doesn’t matter. In most situations, the donkey needs to drink first then fuel. This is especially true during exercise that causes one to sweat a lot. When it’s warm or hot and the intensity is high, the fluid and sodium we lose through our sweat is more likely to negatively impact our performance before depleted fuel stores do. Moreover, a low carbohydrate solution (4 grams of carbohydrate per 100 ml of water) with ample sodium (700-800 mg of sodium per liter) can actually hydrate better than water alone while also providing some fuel. This is because the active transport of sugar and sodium helps to expedite water movement across the small intestine into the body. Thus, when it’s really hot and sweat rates are high, focusing on hydrating with a low carbohydrate solution can provide more than enough energy since the volume of drink needed is also high. With that in mind, there are very few instances, if any, where drinking water alone is better than using a low carbohydrate drink mix with ample sodium. Generally speaking, replacing at least half the calories you burn per hour and keeping your hydration loss under 3-4% of body weight will keep you adequately hydrated and fueled for most workouts lasting anywhere from 2 to 8 hours.
2) Drink When Thirsty. I often hear people say that if you start drinking when you’re thirsty, it’s already too late and that you’ll be too dehydrated to fix it. But, that hasn’t been my experience with elite athletes competing in extreme environments. If anything, if someone drinks beyond their thirst, they run the risk of diluting their blood’s sodium concentration - a phenomena called hyponatremia that can lead to a host of problems and even death in extreme cases. Thirst actually works to try and help control one’s blood sodium level. In fact, one of the important cues for thirst is an increase in blood sodium concentration. As we sweat and lose more water than salt in that sweat, blood sodium concentration increases which makes us thirsty. If we drink plain water, we don’t need to drink as much water as we’ve lost because we lose an appreciable amount of sodium in our sweat (600 to 1500 mg of sodium per liter of sweat). This means that with plain water, we stop being thirsty before we’ve replaced all the water we’ve lost. Said differently, thirst controls sodium balance, not water balance. And this feature of thirst is actually a good thing because even though losing water can be bad for our exercise performance, screwing up our blood’s sodium balance can be bad for life. The easy solution is to replace both the water and sodium that you lose in your sweat. This allows thirst to be a better trigger for maintaining both water and sodium balance. Still, listening to one’s sense of thirst is an important way to time your fluid intake regardless of the type of drink you’re using because keeping one’s sodium balance in check takes priority over water balance. That said, if you weigh yourself before and after exercise to get a sense of your water loss and you are constantly finding that you’re more than 3 to 4% dehydrated and/or you find yourself more dehydrated than your peers and suffering because of it, consider that water volume by itself may not be the problem. If you’re drinking to thirst, you may not be getting enough sodium. Get enough of it and the timing tends to work itself out on it’s own if you listen to your body.
3) Don’t Be Afraid to Eat Real & Solid Food. A lot of the available pre-packaged sports nutrition designed for exercise is deconstructed into some liquid or gel form. I think that the idea is that since athletes need energy quickly when on the go, companies make highly concentrated liquids and gels that are effectively pre-digested so that they empty really quickly from the stomach. But, just because something empties from the stomach really fast, doesn’t mean that it ends up getting absorbed really fast into the body by the small intestine, which sits below the stomach and which is responsible for actually transporting nutrients into the body. On the contrary, most gastrointestinal distress occurs when the rate that digested food empties from the stomach is greater than the rate of intestinal absorption. It’s a classic traffic jam. Put too many cars on a freeway in one spot too fast and you’ve got a cluster. And unfortunately, when there’s a traffic jam in the small intestine the result is a lot of bloating, discomfort, and in some cases an evacuation down the bowels and out the far end of our gastrointestinal solar system - a place that coincidently rhymes with the planet Uranus. The stomach, however, is actually a really decent reservoir for food that slowly churns and digests food then paces that digested food into the small intestine where it can then be absorbed into the body at a consistent and constant pace. But, this function only works if you give the stomach real food or externally pace the entrance of highly concentrated liquid fuels by taking in prescribed amounts on a rigid schedule. While consuming small portions of 10-20 grams of carbohydrate every 15 minutes is certainly a strategy that can work to keep one fueled during exercise, in dynamic race environments, it’s sometimes hard to stick to a very specific interval of food intake. In these situations, don’t be afraid to eat real and solid food and use your stomach as a reservoir that slowly and surely drips calories into your small intestine and body for you.
There’s only one piece of critical advice for timing your post-workout refueling and rehydration. And that is to eat and drink as soon as you can post exercise. Here are thoughts to help make that happen:
1) Plan Ahead. This certainly isn’t the easiest or most convenient thing to do, but planning ahead and pre-cooking meals that can easily be reheated to eat immediately after you finish your workout is what I personally prefer. Why? Because, it generally means I’m eating something that tastes better, is more nutritious, and a better value. But, even if planning ahead means you’re going to the sandwich shop down the street, the bottom line is that you want to satiate your hunger and your thirst as soon as you finish your workout. The reason for this is that immediately after exercise, tired muscles are really sensitive to insulin. This means that as insulin is released when you eat, the energy from the food you eat gets preferentially delivered to the muscles that need it the most rather than spreading throughout the body to fat cells or muscles that weren’t active during exercise. The net result is that recovery is improved because one is effectively refueling in a more targeted and faster manner.
2) Use a Recovery Drink if You’re in a Bind. While, there’s nothing like a freshly cooked meal to fast track recovery, if you’re in the middle of nowhere a good recovery drink with about 4 or 5 grams of carbohydrate to 1 gram of protein at about 300-400 Calories with 300-400 mg of sodium per 16 oz serving is a great way to refuel and rehydrate before a more ample meal can be eaten.
3) Time your Workouts to Finish before Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. There’s something about being an athlete and still functioning in normal society that is sometimes easier said than done. With that in mind and in thinking big picture about proper food timing, sometimes the easiest way to make everything fit is to start with when one trains. Plan your training to finish before breakfast, lunch, or dinner and few will notice that you're living in two worlds (just don’t forget to shower before).
It’s important to note that if you’re not an elite endurance athlete looking for a peak performance, the principles discussed also apply to any physical active person who is looking to feel their best when working out. What’s different is the amount or scale. It’s the same music, just at a lower volume. Giving yourself ample time to digest, thinking ahead, and listening to one’s sense of thirst and hunger are same.
In fact, for someone just looking to stay healthy and lose a little weight, timing of food around activity is a great way to structure one’s daily meals and meet one’s goals, since using food as fuel or to refuel creates a more natural relationship with the food we eat. Our bodies are designed for physical activity, so use food to be active. For a culture driven by breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a simple tip is to plan your workouts to end before breakfast, lunch, or dinner, so that you’re refueling a depleted tank and revved metabolism. Finally, scale up your calories around your workouts and scale down when you’re not working out. Ultimately, no matter what the intensity or duration of exercise, thinking about how we time food in the context of activity is key to a fitter and healthier life.
For a more detailed review of what and when to eat to optimize your active lifestyle, check out Feed Zone Portables for delicious and easy recipes as well as a plethora of food for thought.
Sean Rimmer, Physical Therapist & Running Coach at Run Potential Rehab & Performance in Colorado Springs, CO
“Regain your confidence to run pain free & to your potential”
It’s finally August, and the Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent weekend is just around the corner. If you’ve been honest with your training, your confidence should be building. At this point, your training environment and focused runs (ie. long runs & workouts) should aim to be as specific as possible for the final month of training; as you only have a few more weeks to peak your training before you begin your taper. So what might that training schedule look like?
Well to start, if you’ve followed some of the training build up from Part 1 & 2 of this training blog series, your training may look like the following:
With about 5-weeks left of total training, I recommend the following general guideline. The next 3-weeks will be your final building weeks followed by a 10-14 day taper period. For the 3 weeks of training build, I recommend the following:
Throughout the rest of this article, I will highlight the quality long run, the running workouts, the taper period, and final tips for race day.
Quality Long Runs
The long run should now be the staple effort in preparation for race day for a multitude of reasons. Our long run should be relatively specific in duration to race day, it can include steady-state quality efforts, race day specific practice (ie. run/hike combo), as well as race day nutrition and wearable prep. Think of your long runs now being similar to a “dress rehearsal” for race day.
I recommend your long runs being up to 3-5 hours for the Ascent, and 4-7 hours for the marathon. The duration will be based on your expected time, but doesn’t have to be exact. The goal is to allow your body to become conditioned to locomoting for that amount of time in a relatively specific manner for race day.
I recommend trying to get a minimum of 4-5 thousand feet of vertical gain for your final few long runs for both the ascent and marathon. If you live in the mountains, this shouldn’t be too difficult to manage. But, if you live in a flatter geographical area, my recommendations are as follows: Use a tread-mill at 8-11% grade or find a smaller hill/bridge and do lots and lots of uphill repeats.
Now, the other piece to discuss here is the altitude and most specifically above tree-line (~12 thousand feet in CO). If you live in an area with accessibility to high altitude, I highly recommend doing some of your long run efforts above tree-line. For example, for CO locals that could mean doing a longer 14-er (14 thousand ft peak in CO) which includes uphill running/hiking and downhill running/hiking, or driving up to the summit of Pikes Peak then running down to Barr Camp then running/hiking up at a given effort.
So where does the “quality” piece come to play in the long run? By utilizing a workout during or throughout your long run. I recommend a steady-state effort this late in the training to be most specific for race day, as the higher intensity workouts will likely not be as specific to your race effort. An example could look like the following:
The overall time duration here is ~3.5 hours with 90 minutes of quality broken up into 3 parts. You can get somewhat creative with this, as long as the duration and environment are as specific as possible to race day.
The last piece to work on during your long runs is your race day nutrition and wearables. I recommend dialing what works best for you to wear (ie. shirt, shorts, running vest, hand-helds, belt, etc.) and practicing how you may take your calories (ie. gels, liquids, real food, etc). The more you dial this prior to race day, the more confident you will feel mentally, physically, and potentially reducing the risk of gastro-intestinal issues.
The stand alone steady-state workouts should be incorporated 1-2x a week for the final few weeks, not including your quality long run. These workouts will be somewhat similar to your long run efforts, but for a shorter total duration. Just to review, these efforts should be of a moderate intensity or consider this an intensity that’s just slightly uncomfortable. Here are a few examples that you may incorporate this late in training:
Again, you can be creative with the varying time domains, but for the individual steady-state workouts I recommend doing at the longest a 90 min steady-state continuous effort and at the shortest 20 min. It’s really all about the total time at the intensity.
If you’re doing the marathon, I recommend doing 1-2 steady-state efforts (for at least a portion of the workout) on a downhill grade similar to barr-trail. Though the downhill will not be as challenging on the cardio-respiratory system, it will take a larger toll on your musculoskeletal system. Therefore, it will benefit you come race day if you’ve prepped your legs to handle some longer downhill at a slightly more intense effort than an easy run.
The taper period is not complete rest before race day, but rather a reduction in total volume and intensity of your training. I recommend anywhere between 14-10 days of taper for this race especially if your final 3-weeks building up in August had the appropriate amount of volume and intensity. Choosing how to taper can be challenging if you’re unsure on what to do. I recommend the 1st half of taper (~5-7 days) to reduce volume and intensity by 50% from the previous week, and the second half of your taper to be 25% of your last training week. For example, if your long run was 4 hours, your final two long runs will be 2 hours, then 1 hour, respectively; and for your steady-state run, if you were doing 3x30 mins, it can now be 2x15 min, and then 1x15 min, respectively. This will allow you to recover, but still sharpen your fitness to not feel sluggish on race day. The ultimate goal is to feel fresh, excited, healthy, and fit on race day!
Final Race Day Tips
Finally, here are my top tips for race day based on my race experience on the course:
You’ve come a long way since you’ve signed up for the Pikes Peak Marathon or Ascent! Hopefully, you’ve taken some principles and recommendations from this 3-Part series into your own training whether it’s your first or tenth Pikes Peak Marathon or Ascent. If you’ve taken your training seriously over the past 3-4 months, you will be ready, and if not, that’s okay too, you can still give your best on the day. When it gets tough out there, just remember this event is something we choose to do, it’s hard for everyone pushing themselves out there, but the reward of finishing is something no one can ever take away from you!
Written by: Sean Rimmer, Physical Therapist & Running Coach at
Run Potential Rehab & Performance in Colorado Springs, CO.
“ Regain your confidence to run pain free & to your potential”
Allen Lim, PhD
Sponsor Post - Article provided by Pikes Peak Marathon partner, Skratch Labs
One thing to realize is that in the heat a high sweat rate can easily amount to a 2 liters of fluid loss per hour. Know that at even a 2-3% drop in body weight due to dehydration, our performance can suffer and that by the time we reach a 5% loss, many people can be in a bad place. If you want to learn more on hydration science basics check this out.
One of the easiest ways to get at your sweat rate is to use a scale to weigh yourself before and after a workout. Any weight loss (where 1 lb is equal to 16 oz of water) plus the amount of fluid consumed while working out is your total sweat loss. That said, if you're gaining weight over the course of a workout, then you are drinking too much. Ideally, try not to lose more than 3% of your body weight from dehydration.
An important consideration, however, is that rehydration during exercise isn't just about water balance, it's also about sodium balance. What this means is that to adequately hydrate, you need to replace both the water and the sodium that you lose during exercise. Unfortunately, sweat sodium is highly individual and can vary anywhere from 400 mg to 2000 mg per liter of sweat, with an average somewhere between 700-900 mg per liter (Skratch Sport Hydration is 800 mg per liter). As a general rule of thumb, if you're not consuming enough salt relative to water, you'll find yourself needing to urinate frequently despite losing body weight due to sweat loss. On the other hand, if you're consuming too much salt relative to water, you'll find yourself wanting to drink more water and potentially gaining weight as the high salt intake might drive you to drink at a greater rate than your sweat loss.
Remember, hydration is about 2 needs:
So ... drink to thirst with Sport Hydration Mix while you are working out or racing and if you are underweight after your workout/race add more salt. This could be preloading with our Wellness Hydration Drink Mix or Hyper Hydration Drink Mix, or it could be testing using 1.5 scoops of Skratch per 16 ounces instead.
It's generally not the dehydration, in and of itself, that is as much of a problem as the change or increase in body temperature that comes with it. Even if you were properly hydrated, if you get too hot for too long, the heat strain in and of itself can create the symptoms of headache and woe that you experienced. In fact, when I was the sport science director at Garmin and Radio Shack one of our most important priorities immediately after a race in the heat was to bring down core temperature as quickly as possible. We used a combination of cold showers, ice bath dunks, slushies, and cooling vests to do so. What we learned was that as long as body temperature stayed elevated post exercise, the athletes remained in a catabolic state making it impossible to recover or sleep.
Another trick we used with the pros for hot training days was to have them head out with knee high panty hose and a rubber band in their back pocket. When it got really hot, they would stop in a gas station and fill the panty hose with ice and close them off with the rubber band. They'd then wrap the ice-filled sock around their necks or just put it down the back of their jersey to help them stay cool on very hot days. We use these same ice socks during hot races and they are often a critical performance factor.
Finally, know that at high sweat rates, people tend to lose more sodium in their sweat. In these situations, it may not be enough to just drink a single serving of Hyper before hot training days. Many athletes we work with find that up to a liter of Hyper before is more effective for them. In addition, many will drink a full serving of Hyper in the middle of their ride for their longer (4-5 hours) rides to help replace their sodium loss.
Long story short, if you're going to go out in the heat, just know that preparing yourself for the conditions may just take a lot more fluid, salt, and cooling tricks than cooler days, especially if it's humid out and sweating becomes a less effective means of cooling. In addition, after you get done, the first thing to try and do is weigh yourself, drink to the loss, satiate any craving for salt, and cool yourself quickly.
Sponsor Post - Article provided by Pikes Peak Marathon partner, Skratch Labs
Have you ever ran a marathon when it was supposed to be 'cool' outside but it ended up being super hot? Ever 'carboloaded' the NIGHT before the race and got stomach cramps? Thought you knew what you needed on the day of but ended up stopping in the porta potty at mile 5?
Don't worry, we've also made these mistakes before. But we learned. We learned how to fix our mistakes and prep for a better, stronger marathon.
These 4 tips are more like tasks. They'll take time, and they're not so simple. Some of them will take longer than others and some of them will be tougher than others. But they worked for us. Check 'em out and give 'em a try.
Tip 1: Carboload (the right way)
Increase the amount of carbohydrates you consume 5-10 days before the marathon, especially after your workouts. Not only will this help top off the carbohydrate or glycogen stored in muscle (which is the critical fuel for the marathon), glycogen also holds a significant amount of water, which helps to increase your total body water.
Tip 2: Adapt to the heat
Make sure that you’re adapted to the heat. It may or may not be hot when you run that marathon but if you’re not ready for the heat, then even the best hydration strategy may not help you cope with hot conditions. Being ready for the heat also causes more water to be stored in your body which will help you even if it’s not hot. To heat adapt, plan at least a third of your training in the heat for at least 6 weeks before your event, making sure that your last session in the heat is within 2 days of your event. If you live in a cool environment, you can do training sessions indoors with more clothing, or heat acclimatize in a hot sauna. As always, listen to your body, your coach, and use common sense.
Tip 3: Dial-up your salt & water intake
Pre-hydrate by increasing the amount of salt and water you intake in the days leading up to the marathon. While a high sodium diet isn’t normally recommended for the general public, athletes can lose an appreciable amount of salt through sweat. Moreover, salt is important in driving thirst and in helping us to hold onto water. This is a bad thing if you are hypertensive, but a good thing if you want to be optimally hydrated for a hot marathon. A drink like our Wellness Hydration Mix, formulated to treat severe dehydration, is a great way to pre-hydrate before an event. For extreme heat, many elite athletes use a serving of our Hyper Hydration Drink Mix the night before and the morning of their event.
Tip 4: Plan ahead
Make sure you’ve got a plan for the day - that you have what you want to drink on course (ideally, a solution that replaces both the water and sodium you lose in your sweat), that you listen to your thirst, that you listen to your body, and that you have the flexibility and common sense to adapt to changing circumstances.
Sean Rimmer, Physical Therapist & Running Coach at Run Potential Rehab & Performance in Colorado Springs, CO
“Regain your confidence to run pain free & to your potential”
It’s finally June and The Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent weekend is now about 3 months out. It may appear like there’s plenty of time before race day, but trust me, race weekend will be here in no time! If you’ve read part 1 of this series titled, Start Training, then hopefully you’re in a good position to build on your training this summer; as the training will now progress to build volume and increase in specificity for the demands of the mountain.
In part 1 of the training series, we discussed what an early base building strategy could look like which included the following:
Periodize Your Training
If you’ve incorporated a plan similar to what was discussed in part 1, then you'll be in good shape to progress this summer; as we will now aim to incorporate periodization to our training. To explain periodized training simply, this process includes cycles of training stress followed by relative training recovery, to allow our body’s to positively adapt over the training process. As I previously mentioned in part 1, as important as your fitness is for the challenge of Pikes Peak, you also must remain healthy. A periodized approach enhances our ability to recover from the stresses of training with an aim to remain healthy during the training cycle. Here’s an example of a periodized cycle of training:
I recommend choosing a 3 or 4 week periodization cycle, where a 3 week cycle would include 2 weeks of training build and 1 week of relative recovery, and a 4 week cycle would look like the aforementioned bulleted points.
Moving forward, we want to continue to build on our aerobic endurance, our steady state and tempo based efforts, as well as the musculoskeletal strength/capacity to handle the stress of the mountain and our training. If you can train within these domains while increasing the specificity of training towards race week, you will be in a good position to challenge yourself against the mountain come September!
Before we jump into any specifics of the training, let’s provide some detail to the training focus terminology. Our aerobic endurance efforts will include the majority of our training with a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) of 5-6/10. This RPE range should correlate to an intensity where you can speak 3-4 comfortable sentences before needing to take a breath. These runs can typically range in duration from 30 minutes to hours. If we keep 70-80% of our training in the aerobic zone, it will enhance our ability to increase the volume of training while also promoting a level of recovery. Keeping a majority of the training at a lower intensity will allow a higher quality effort during our steady state and tempo based runs.
Steady state efforts are just a step up in RPE at 6-7/10, where you are still in your aerobic zone, but slightly more challenged. During the talk test, you can speak a few short sentences. These run durations range from 30 minutes to 2-3 hours as continuous or with a short recovery period between bouts, ie. 2-10 minutes. This will be the “bread & butter” effort we will build on, as you will likely be in this effort zone for a majority of Pikes Peak if you are giving a solid effort.
Lastly, the tempo run will be the highest effort based run we add to our training which is run just below or at your lactate threshold. Tempo runs are run at an effort between a 7-8/10 RPE, where you can state about a full sentence during the talk test. This effort is hard to say the least. Typically tempo runs range from 10 minutes to 1 hour, with a 2:1 work to rest ratio. If you push yourself on race day, you will likely utilize your tempo based effort during portions of the race, especially ascending above tree-line.
What I recommend moving forward is the following base runs which can be periodized based on the total volume and intensity each week within a cycle (~3-4 weeks). This could look like the following:
This turns out to be 4-6 runs per week and 1-2 strength sessions per week. I recommend at least 1 day off of training per week and a minimum of 4 days per week dedicated to your training.
The long run will focus on time rather than mileage due to the nature of the mountain course. I recommend keeping these runs in the aerobic endurance effort until August, by then we can add in some quality within or long run to become more specific for the event (ie. steady state efforts within the long run). In general, focus on keeping your long runs to <50% of your total weekly running volume, but more specifically, your long run does not need to be longer than your estimated race time for the ascent and up to 75% of your marathon time. So for example, if you expect to run the ascent in 4 hours, then your long run does not need to be longer than that in duration. If your marathon time is expected to be 7 hours, then your long run can be up to ~5 hours. It’s more about the build up of long runs over the next few months rather than any particular singular long run. Your long run should incorporate some practice hiking (unless you are an elite) as you will likely not be running the entirety of either race. Here are some key points for your long run:
Steady State Runs
The steady state run will be the staple workout as you build over the summer. This is typically 1-4 longer based efforts that are moderately hard, but sustainable. For example, this could look like the following:
The early phase includes 20 minutes at intensity and 50 minutes in duration total, and the late phase includes 90 minutes of intensity and 130 minutes of total duration. This is just an example, as progressions should be varied based on the individual. However, the ultimate goal is to increase time at intensity even if it’s broken up by short recovery jogs/walks, as this will allow us to perform more intensity within a given quality run. As the steady state runs become longer in total duration, they can be incorporated into your long run.
The tempo runs will be incorporated more so initially this summer, but will begin to phase out come August with a focus more on steady state efforts. The goal of the tempo run is to build on some relative speed and our body’s ability to shuttle lactate to become more efficient at our highest aerobic intensity. These workouts will allow us to feel a bit more uncomfortably comfortable during our steady state runs. An example of an early and late phase tempo run workout could look like the following:
The early phase includes 24 minutes at intensity and 62 minutes in duration total, and the late phase includes 45 minutes of intensity and 89 minutes of total duration. Again, progressions may vary based on the individual, and these runs can also incorporate hiking if it fits within your intensity based RPE.
I did touch upon strength and plyometric training in part 1, but just to recap, this type of training sprinkled in will aid in tissue health (ie. bone, tendon, muscle, etc.) by increasing tissue capacity at varying loads, tissue length(s), and speed of movement. Initially, this type of training can be added into your training plan 1-2x a week, however, in the later stages of July and August, you can reduce this type of training to 1x per week. This will be due to the increase in running volume and intensity ~1 to 1.5 months out from race day. I still recommend only working a few heavier movements, and some plyometrics to enhance your muscle-tendon stretch shortening cycle. Similar to part 1, I recommend the following heavy load based movements:
Performing 1-2 sets (including 2 warm up sets) of 5-8 reps for each movement at a moderate to heavy load should suffice to hit the areas that are loaded during running. I recommend reducing the amount of sets as you progress throughout the training process to reduce soreness.
The plyometric movements incorporate jump/hop based exercises focused on short ground contact time. This improves our ability to store energy and release it at a faster rate which can lead to efficiency as we run. These exercises can also focus on agility, as there is some technicality to Pikes Peak which includes some rock hopping! Some of the plyometric exercises I recommend are as follows:
Both of these exercise variations focus on dynamic balance, reducing ground contact time, and agility to potentially enhance your ability to navigate some trail technicality. You can be more creative with the plyometrics, but simple is also effective. I recommend adding these prior to your heavier lifts to reduce excess fatigue.
I recommend incorporating your strength/plyometric days as far away from your tempo/steady state runs to not compromise the quality of those runs. This could potentially mean doing a quality run in the morning and a strength session that evening if possible.
Aerobic Endurance Runs
The aerobic endurance runs will be added into your training program between intensity based runs, and can range from 30-90 minutes of an easy flat recovery, to hiking from 30-90 minutes, to a hike/run combo of 30-90 minutes. The general concept for these days is keeping intensity rather low (can vary from a run to hike depending on the terrain), with duration ranging from 30-90 minutes. You should feel fairly good by the end of these training sessions, if you don’t, question what your true intensity was during a given session.
Putting the Pieces Together
Now that we have an understanding of the variable training sessions we can implement during the week, let’s highlight everything together. Just to review, I’m not providing a specific training plan as everyone’s training background and ability to train is vastly different; however, the aim of this section is to give guidance on how to put your own training cycle together. Here are the key points to consider when building your training cycles.
Hopefully, this article provides you with a road map on how to get from point A to point B, with you finding your path based on your specific needs. The path may not be direct and may include detours, but it’s all about ultimately making it to your destination aka. Pikes Peak with some confidence and fitness build in.
*If you need more guidance or accountability for your training, I recommend finding a running coach sooner than later to work on a specific training plan for you.
Stay tuned for Part 3 come August. The focus will be on fine tuning and tapering for race week!
Written by: Sean Rimmer, Physical Therapist & Running Coach at
Run Potential Rehab & Performance in Colorado Springs, CO.
“ Regain your confidence to run pain free & to your potential”