When I was a kid, my dad use to say the phrase “I use to walk to school, uphill, both ways, through the snow.”  He even once threw in carrying the horse on my back for good measure 🙂 .  Well, in less than 2 weeks, I will be “running” a race that will be uphill and through the snow (I still think there is more to the story about both ways…)

On June 21st I will be running the Mount Evans Ascent here in Colorado.  It is a 14.5 mile race that starts at Echo Lake campground which is over 10,000′.  The course then climbs 14.5 miles up the side of Mount Evans.  This road is the highest paved road in North America and ends just short of the summit of the mountain, which is 14,264′.  This race will be all about making it to the top.  There will be a total of 500 people trekking up the mountain.  This race has been running since 1999 (2004 was canceled due to a snowstorm).


 I have been living in Colorado for 3.5 years now, and I can tell a difference that living at 5000′ has when I travel to lower elevations.  I have hiked a couple 14,000′ peaks and the lack of oxygen is very much noticable over 8000′.  In general the formula for VO2 loss goes like this: For every 1000 feet above 5000 feet you will lose 3% of your VO2.

I’ve ran hills while running, but usually, they don’t last forever. They may seem that they last forever, but before long your legs can feel that the course has leveled out. A lot of times when the hill is attacking my legs I envision that sometime, somewhere, the hill will end. I picture a plateau or even a downhill to ease the legs.

Then the hill does even out and I feel my muscles relaxing a little and thanking me for the end of the hill. That is one of the things that will make the Mount Evans Ascent different. The uphill battle will last the whole 14.5 miles, there will just be varying levels of uphill intensity. Check out this graph of grades for the climb:

Miles (Grade)



0 (Entrance Station)



1 (5.0%)



2 (5.6%)



3 (6.1%)



4 (5.6%)



5 (5.8%)



6 (4.8%)



7 (3.1%)



8 (3.9%)



9 (1.2%)



10 (2.4%)



11 (3.7%)



12 (3.9%)



13 (5.2%)



14 (5.1%)



Summit (14,60)



I found a few websites that had some great information on both running up hill and running at higher elevations.  I will list a few things that I found that help with training for this event. 

First from Skyrunner.com, a few tips on uphill running:

1) To get fast on uphills, train fast on uphills. If you live in Kansas, crank up the grade on a treadmill.

2) Taking “baby steps” will help you maintain a good cadence when your lungs are screaming for mercy. It’s like switching to granny gear on a mountain bike.

3) On long, steady hills, switching often between walking and running is tempting, but it makes you lose momentum and cadence. Pick one or the other and go with it.

4) Posture is everything on the uphill. Leaning forward from the hips puts too much pressure on your back, an erect posture will provide better push-off.

5) Look ahead, not at your feet. This will allow you to pick the best line and free up your airway.

The Australian Mountain Running Association had some tips on uphill mountain racing:

1)  The Lydiard hill training workout – bouncing up a hill, with high knee lift and vigorous arm movement that best looks like sprinting in slow motion.
2) Learning how to judge pace – In mountain racing, pace judgement plays an enormous part in determining outcome.

3) Altitude training.

4) Cycling –  The principal advantage of such workouts is the absence of jarring of the legs in the downhill between each repetition.

5) Long repetitions – an excellent session for improving cardiovascular fitness in both the lead-up to and during the concentrated training phase is to do repetitions of a kilometre or more at slightly faster than 10km race pace over flat or undulating dirt trails.

6) Stair running

7) Flat running – A guiding principle should be that a heavy hill bouncing workout must be followed the next day by either light training or a long run on the flat.

8) Biofeedback – personal biofeedback monitoring to avoid illness and injury has to be a high priority and a daily training diary should be kept up-to-date.

Here is a nice race report from the 2007 Mount Evans Ascent – http://brandon.fuller.name/archives/2007/06/16/16.34.00/

Look for my report here in 2 weeks.