It is about 100 days (98 days by the time you read this) to the start of the 2013 edition of the Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon. I was fortunate enough to compete in the 2012 edition which I wrote about here on this blog. I have to say it was the best trip I have taken since moving to Australia, and there have been many trips (Singapore, Cairns, Melbourne x2, Sydney, Cairns, Tasmania, Darwin, Exmouth...All Western OZ...etc). I really want to go back and compete again this year. Flights are cheaper than flying to the east coast of Australia and once there you can live cheap. I am saying that is will cost me less to fly to Kota Kinabalu and stay for the week than it would for me to stay in Perth for the week. But I am scheduled to work that weekend so it doesn't look like I am will be able to make it (crossing fingers).
The race now features two races: 33km summit race on Saturday and a 23km race on Sunday which I ran last year. The 33 km summit race is only open to elite runners. I don't know if I could get into the elite race but I would really love to run that course. It is the same as the 23 km race except instead of turning at Layang-Layang hut mid way up the mountain, runners continue up to the summit then run down the mountain all the down to the village of Kundasang. While I was walking to the summit last year, I remember thinking to myself how on earth people race up to the top and that there would be no way I could race it. Today, I am wondering how I can do it and train for it. Running is funny like that, it makes you that you can surprise yourself and do more that you are capable of. On paper, running up a mountain or for 50 miles in mountains seems impossible, but yet I am somehow able to do it. And runners amnesia or forgetting how painful the race was rapidly disappears and you find yourself signing up for another 50 miler or mountain race.
I was able to run strong and do well on the up despite not really training last year. Running up mountains at altitude is all about steady pacing and going slower than you feel like you should early on. But I am really not an expert. Pikes Peak Ascent destroyed me two years in a row. I did have some success at the Imogene Pass Run though. I do believe that being successful at mountain running requires significant altitude training. There are exceptions to the rule but very few can pull it off.
I got absolutely destroyed on the downhill portion last year. Maybe its because I am tall and my legs are too skinny to take the impact or I haven't practiced the skill of running down steep, gnarly trails enough or I am just a big baby. I got passed by girls, old people, fat people, and everyone. I lost the race on the downhill.
I didn't fair well on the final 11 km road run either, the third and final portion of the Climbathon event. I am willing to bet I had the fastest 5k or 10k PR, but it doesn't really matter after 12 or 13 kilometers of pounding up and down a mountain. Also, I wasn't really fit or running more than 10 miles per week.
I believe I can do better at the climbathon with proper training and a good day. The problem is getting healthy and strong enough to take the training. My ideal training regime for this event would be 3 times per week leg strength work and plyometrics for the legs to resilient for the excruciating downhill running. I would do as much hilly running as possible during daily training runs. I would do 100-150 meter strides or short hill strides on Mondays. I would do speed specific work on tuesdays like 400-1600 meter repeats, maybe over low hurdles for some of them just to get the strength up. I would do hill repeats with downhill focus on Thursdays with a 5 to 10 km tempo after to simulate the course (final 11 km on road). I would do long runs on Saturdays building up to 3 hours. I expect the 33km race would take 4 hours so I would want to get in some longer efforts, even if I had to get on the mountain bike for 4-5 hours just to the get the body used to that length of exercise.
Anyway, I am not even scheduled or planning to run the race yet so all this is only a pipe dream. I really hope I do though.