Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Mount Marathon Training
Starting in April after they announce the winners of the lottery, I get a lot of hits on my blog for "Mount Marathon Training". I think it's people who, like me, signed up for the lottery on a whim thinking they would never get in, and then were like, "Oh shit, I actually won, NOW WHAT?"
I can probably help you if you want to finish, but not if you are trying to win. If you think of it as a really hard and fast hike, it's not so bad. I started training two weeks ago. Here's my strategy.
1. Hike up the steepest mountain you can find as fast as you can. Do this about twice a week. Bird Ridge and Rainbow Peak are dry in early spring and are great for this. Keep in mind that Mount Marathon is steeper than these hikes though.
2. Find the nastiest scree field in the Chugach and run down as fast as you can. Actually you may want to start out jogging down at a more moderate pace until you get comfortable running on scree. Wearing gators helps keep the rocks out, but if you really want to toughen up for the race, leave the rocks in there and then try running on pavement.
The scree field on Mount Marathon is like a luxury scree field. Since people run up and down it so much, all of the scree has been ground up into tiny pebbles and you have a huge cushion underneath you. But I like to practice on nasty uneven scree fields, that way when I get to Mount Marathon it seems easy.
3. One thing that is overlooked, but very important is the run to the bottom of the mountain at the start. This is a gradual uphill for about a half a mile, but you need to run it FAST if you don't want to wait in line at the bottom of the hill. So do some fast intervals on paved ground with a gradual incline.
4. Lastly, but most importantly, if this is your first year, GO HIKE THE MOUNTAIN. It's especially important to have a route ready for going up the cliffs and back down. You don't want to get stuck in a spot where you are uncomfortable or lost.
When I reach the bottom of the mountain, I go into the trees to the right of the gully. Then I go far right and climb up the roots. You'll find the best footing and handholds there, but try out a few different ways and see what works for you.
On the way down in the past I have taken the sissy route which is the trail to the left of the gully (that is if you are at the bottom looking up). This takes too long and people don't cheer for you when you come out that way. I'm working on a new route this year. I have hiked straight down the rock cliff in the gully (see above photo), but that can get really sketchy if it's wet and when your legs feel like jello. This picture shows my proposed route down, if the cliffs look bad. Behind those trees to the right and then down the dirt to bypass the cliffs.
That's about it. Good luck and most importantly have fun! Be sure to soak it all in when you turn the corner and into the crowds on 3rd Avenue in downtown Seward. In this race they cheer for everyone that finishes, not just the winners.