Sarah Lavender Smith June 30, 2012 TWEET COMMENTS 4

Training For a Self-Supported Stage Race - Page 3

I couldn’t stop laughing the first time I gave the tricked-out Inov-8 pack a try. First of all, it’s not exactly friendly to a woman’s anatomy. The bottles sit like mini rocket launchers on the sides of my breasts, which are squished by the shoulder and sternum straps. Plus, I made the mistake of using my favorite effervescent Nuun electrolyte tablets in the bottles, and the fizzy pressure made them explode like geysers in my face when I uncapped the straws.

But once I started running and tried numerous adjustments of the straps, I warmed up to this system and am cautiously optimistic it’ll work well. The sloshing and jiggling of bottles on the front straps takes getting used to, but having the water in front helps balance the weight of the back.

Other participants in the Grand-to-Grand Ultra recommend another pack system I’d like to try as well: the Salomon XA25 with an optional 5-liter front pocket that attaches on the chest and has bottle holders.

In any event, choosing a pack is only the first step; gradually getting used to running with it takes a period of many weeks. I filled mine about three-quarters full with gallon-sized Ziplocks full of dog kibble for weight. (I heard kitty litter also works well for this purpose, and might be a smarter choice for wilderness training runs where large animals might catch the scent of dog food and want a taste.) I was shocked by how heavy the pack felt—and more shocked when the scale revealed it was only 13 pounds.

Running with the loaded pack slowed my pace by a couple of minutes per mile and put extra strain on my quads and knees going up and down hills. The muscles around my neck and upper back slowly started to ache.


Jen Segger, a professional coach for the Grand-to-Grand Ultra, emphasizes the importance of core and strength training to prepare for pack running, along with squats and lunges. “Focus on developing all the deep internal muscles that stabilize the trunk, including the glutes, pelvic muscles, abs and muscles surrounding the upper and lower spine,” she says. “A strong back is key to keeping your trapezius muscles relaxed and not aggravated.”

I’m going to take her advice and add it to my to-do list, which is shaping up unlike any other from summers past. With less than three months remaining to prepare, I have to work on the following:

* Base training: Increase mileage, which currently averages around 50 miles per week, by 30 to 50 percent (65  to 75 miles per week), emphasizing back-to-back long runs and running-hiking in the mid-afternoon heat.

* Pack training:
Start with one pack run weekly and build up. Wear the pack around during the day. Literally run errands.

* Terrain-specific training:
Learn to run in the sand wearing full-cover gaiters. Train at altitude as much as possible.


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