Tips for the Trail - Training for Trail Run Worlds in a Cold Climate

Nov. 14, 2011

By Rachel Cieslewicz

Rachel Cieslewicz, an elite runner from Salt Lake City, Utah, will be competing in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship next month for the third consecutive year. She placed fifth overall last year in the women’s division. A week after that, she placed eighth overall in the women’s division at the Honolulu Marathon.

Here, Cieslewicz offers some advice for runners currently training in cold climates who are planning to compete in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship:

Explaining you have to go to paradise to race will leave those at home cold with envy.

Ensuring your World Championship race creates the greatest memories takes some preparation.  Many of us living in colder climates will receive a huge shock leaving snow and frigid temperatures to race at the scorching hot and humid Kualoa Ranch. You will be hot and you will sweat. Even though the XTERRA Worlds is on an island, don’t think sea level. Sure, you never even reach 1,000 feet in elevation, but expect lots of climbing and crazy descents all while inhaling liquid air.

Difficult terrain with the added heat will leave your legs burning, but it will also leave a warm imprint on your heart.  It may take a week, or a month, to forget how grueling it was and to remember only the warmth in the heart part, but soon all you will think about is the aloha --  LOVE!

Even if you think you know what you need for a typical 21k race, Hawaii and its incredible island energy is going to give you a race like you never dreamed! The main factors to think about to run happy and fast in the sauna are hydration, terrain, and adaptation.

Hydration by now should be dialed for you from your race season. But especially if the weather has turned cold in your town, going from super cold to super hot will shock your body. Be certain race week to drink lots of water and take in good electrolytes. My favorite way to do this by far is young coconut water.  It truly is Mother Nature’s perfect electrolyte drink as it is filled with fabulous amounts of potassium, natural sodium, and other electrolytes.  If you don’t like the idea of natural, then definitely find your way of taking in electrolytes pre-race as it will bring you to the start line hydrated. All you will have to think about is topping it off as you fly through the valleys and pray to the Hawaiian Gods for mercy on the climbs.

The terrain is truly unique in Hawaii. In its own Hawaiian way, the 21k course is one of the most epic you may ever experience.  Sometimes you will feel miles from any ocean as you run up barren passes. In addition, all in one race you will be treated to cow pastures (watch out for fresh pies!), slippery single track, crazy rock gardens, wicked climbs, and familiar sights of famous movie sets.  At home, practice courses with as much variety in terrain as possible. Also challenge yourself to running hard hills in the beginning, keeping a high tempo for the mid part, and then pushing hills once again near the finish. This will help you replicate some of the challenges you'll face.

I have a secret for living in the cold and adapting to heat.  I practice yoga. Typically my favorite is Ashtanga. But for the past few years I have raced in Hawaii, I’ve traded in my classical style yoga for Bikram two to four times a week for the two months leading to the race.  Bikram and other forms of hot yoga equate to the perfect recipe for an athlete preparing to race their best in Hawaii.  The whole session is done in a room set at 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity. It is rigorous, forces you to learn to breathe properly while exerting copious amounts of energy, and it lasts 90 minutes which is long enough to help your body adapt to working hard in extreme hot conditions.  Plus you get the added benefits of a great detox, no appetite for Thanksgiving pleasures, and increased flexibility.

While preparing to go race in paradise, it is also important to consider travel and time zone changes.  A general rule of thumb is to show up to the race 1 day per time zone early. I live four hours different from Hawaii. My plan is to show up three to four days early so I can adjust and catch up on my sleep in order to feel refreshed come race day.  Complete your travel plans now as Worlds are right in the mix of Thanksgiving and other holiday travel craziness. This way, all you have to do when it is time to fly is show up and chill out.

Tips for the Trail