Photo: Jana Herzog
Based in the mountains high above Salt Lake City, Utah, rabbitPRO Jimmy Elam doesn't let the elements stop him from training year around: he just adapts. With the über competitive Nine Trails looming, as well as The Canyons 100k later in the spring, he has no time to waste. Since Speedgoat and a trip to the UTMB festival fill out the rest of his 2019 calendar, the past few months have been even more vital for fitness gains required for big efforts later in the year. How does one of the most competitive ultrarunners in the country get the work done in less than ideal temperatures and weather conditions? We'll let him explain.
The planned meeting time is 8:30am. I’m standing at the trailhead and look down at my Suunto, reading 8:15. While I’m certain I feel more confident running in the mountains and snow than my friend who’s about to join me, when you’re about to do a brutal long run with a 2:13 marathoner you make sure you’re ready when they get there. The longer I’ve been a runner the more I’ve realized how important self care is. I’ve come to accept that you never know exactly how your body will feel on any given day, until you start running. You can plan perfectly, be on a rest week, and still feel the lead in the legs as if you’re on your third triple digit week in a row. For long runs like this I don’t roll out of bed and start running all within 30 minutes like I did when I was racing ten years ago.
- I set out my nutrition the night before and load up my belt or pack. Having access to some storage to put a layer if you get too warm is so important. If you get too warm during a long run below freezing, sweating too much can cause some real problems.
- I organize the extra gear needed for a winter mountain run that I know will be below freezing. A wind layer, the comfy new rabbit ez tee heather, head band, gloves and strong tinted glasses to help with snow glare are a few key items. I also made my own carbide tipped snow spikes for the days when it’s packed and slick. They’re made to be put on wading boots, but work great on a pair of trail shoes if you have a little patience to install them.
- I give myself plenty of time in the morning to mimic what it will be like on a race day. I always make sure I’m eating and drinking something similar to what I’ll have before a race. It’s so easy to take a few bites of a bar and have a little water then take off, but realize that days like this are the perfect opportunity to practice consistency. Dialing in your ideal long run diet is a great way to prevent stomach issues during a race! Think of it as making something as unpredictable as a race, be a little more predictable. Eating is training too.
- I never allow myself to be the guy that’s always late. There’s a lot to be said about stress levels and performance. In short, stress hurts performance. Being on time or extra early if at all possible is a perfect way to avoid unnecessary stress. If you’re early then you can squeeze in a few things like stretches or a warm-up to feel even more prepared than your friends when they arrive. It’s also a way to target any niggles you might be having before the real run begins.
I finish up a mile of easy shuffling, strides and light stretching as my teammate and fellow rabbitPRO Anthony Costales walks up to the trailhead and chuckles. He can tell I’m primed and ready to jam, but I’m certain he’s not concerned. The route we choose is a quintessential Wasatch peak called Grandeur. It’s all up then all down, hitting 2,600 feet of climbing in 3 miles...in the snow. Some days are better than others. One day it will be packed and fast, then the next could be slushy or soft. You never really know until you’re committed. If you’re lucky you’ll have the pleasure of seeing a massive bull moose on the mountain.
The plan is to do two laps with Costales then finish up a brutal third lap alone considering this is a key training day for me. This day is geared to prepare me for an upcoming race in Santa Barbara called Nine Trails. Nine Trails isn’t your rolling verty race like Lake Sonoma where as soon as you start to feel the burn of a climb you’re already descending. Nine Trails features wildly big climbs that are true torture, most being 1,000 feet of ascent or more. The idea is that days like this will prepare me for a big day at Nine Trails. There are a lot of things outside your control when training for a race. Learning how to direct your energy to control what you can is the best thing you can do, and good self care is in your control. The work is done, now it’s time to jam!
Photo: rabbitELITEtrail Gus Gibbs