The draw’s been done. The names selected. It’s now time to train for one of the most popular trail races in Australia, Six Foot Track.
Having run this race six times and lining up for my seventh next year, I’ve learned a few things. Some have been great, some OK and others just plain ugly. But if you’re seeking to put in a good show next March, I’ve come up with three top training sessions to get you firing for a PB.
Before we delve into the specifics, I’ll begin with a disclaimer. Prior to embarking on these sessions, it’s important that you’ve already built up a solid base. Going into these types of sessions at the beginning of a new block without the proper conditioning on the legs is asking for trouble. So, make sure you’ve done your base training before moving into these sessions. These are really reserved for the eight weeks leading up to the race when it’s quad annihilation time!
The three sessions below are all about specificity for when the going gets tough. And believe me, the going gets tough once you’re at the top of Pluvi. You’ve had the nice skip down to the river. You’ve worked up the hills, now the shit gets real on the Black Ranges and down to Jenolan Caves.
One of the biggest comments you’ll hear from people when Six Foot is discussed is hills training. Yeah, OK. Whatever. It’s important, but what’s more important is getting fit. Fitness will get you up those hills. Nailing the quads will help you be in the best possible shape to run the Black Ranges and beyond. HARD. If you want to PB and lay down a great time, the last 19kms of the race is where you put your body on the line.
Here are my three favourite sessions for the race that stops the montanes!
1.) Undulating Intervals
Track is good. Track, plus a little bit of resistance is even better. Why? If you’ve run the Black Ranges you’ll know why. You’ve just spent the last 10km having a nice bush walk up the hills. “Now it gets flatter you think”… WRONG. The Black Ranges are a niggly, bastard bit of trail that go up, then down, then up, then down. Sure, there are a few ‘hills’ in there. But it’s all runnable. And it hurts. To be in with a shout of a good time, you need to be running this section on the edge. And by that I mean running hard, working hard, but not pushing yourself over the edge.
Warning: This session is going to hurt. To mimic this section, find yourself a nice bit of undulating trail or road, preferably about 8-12kms in length. Ideally with around 150-200m of climbing and the same descent. If you can’t do that, find yourself a nice 1-2km section of undulating road. After a good warm-up you’ll be working in two cycles of around eight minutes. Begin with eight minutes at just above tempo pace, then 8 minutes at tempo, finally another 8 minutes at threshold. Split the two cycles with a two-minute ‘jog’. As you move towards the final stages of your training, aim for three cycles if possible.
2.) Very hard downhill running
On paper this one seems pretty easy. I mean, how hard can it be to run smash it downhill? After 10-15 reps very hard.
Find your self a nice hill, preferably around 500m in length if you can (with 5-8% gradient), but it can be longer or slightly shorter if needs be. But nothing shorter than around 300m if you can help it.
Begin with a nice steady uphill and upon reaching the top, smash yourself on the way back down. Make sure however that you’re in control of your pace. There are two reasons for this. First, you don’t want to fall over or risk running into something e.g. someone else or a car. Second, you need to keep good form to prevent injury. The running should be very hard, but you should be in control.
Upon reaching the bottom, turn around and use the uphill ‘jog’ as the recovery. Begin with 8-10 reps of this and build up as and when you feel good to do so. After 5-6 reps, you’ll really start to feel the quads taking a beating.
For some more variety on this session you run hard both up and down the hill. However, build in a pause at the end of each up and down. For example, run hard up the hill, take a 15-20 second break, then run hard back down. With another 15-20 second break at the bottom.
3.) Alternating hill / stairs reps and speed
This is another cracker of a session to have you hanging out of your backside. It also throws together two sections of the course into one training session. Namely the climb up from Pluvi through to the transition onto the Black Range.
First choose your poison, be they stairs or hill reps. But make the ‘climb’ is shorter than the previous session’s length e.g. you want to be running or climbing up for around 90 seconds. You’ll be looking at around 20-30 reps in total. Importantly, find a section of climbing that has a good 500-800m of undulation of gradual incline immediately nearby too. This last bit is important.
Break this session down into sections of five reps. So, that’s five reps up and down your hill or stairs, running hard up and easy down. At the end of the fifth rep, run the 500-800m of undulation / incline at tempo pace. Then use the return to the reps / stairs as recovery. Then repeat 4-6 times depending upon how many overall reps you’re doing.
Importantly, you’re not going to do all three of these session in a week. You’ll be smashed come race day. As part of your weekly running, you’ll be looking at 2-3 hard sessions, with the rest being easy runs. Intervals are a staple in the runner’s training plan, so you may wish to have that as the permanent fixture in your plan, coupled with one of the two others alternating weekly.
It also goes without saying to make sure you’re fully warmed up before cracking into these. And as another reminder, to ensure your base is fully loaded too. Attempting these types of sessions with no real base is simply asking for trouble.
Enjoy the ride people!