Powerful advice for XTERRA Trail Run Nationals

Aug. 30, 2013

Q&A with PowerBar representative Richard Burgunder

Rich Burgunder Editor's note: Richard Burgunder is one of XTERRA's most experienced and valued trail runners. He has competed in XTERRA Trail Run events in more than a dozen different states, and has won five XTERRA Regional Championships in four different regions (New England, Ohio, Pocono, Utah). He previously lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but moved to Boulder, Colorado, earlier this year. He has traveled to Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah, the past two years to compete in the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, and will do so again this year.

He is also a Field Marketing Associate for PowerBar, and will be assisting at the product booth during the XTERRA weekend at Snowbasin Resort/Ogden. The 2013 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship is scheduled for September 22, and online registration is open atwww.xterrautah.com. Burgunder offers some advice for runners in the following question and answer session:

Q:  How would you describe this 21K course, and are there specific sections to be aware of?

Burgunder: The XTERRA Trail Run Nationals 21K course provides diverse terrain that ranges from long climbs up fire roads to rocky single track along the upper ridges of the mountain. Shortly after the fast start in the parking lot, runners will be immediately challenged by a long climb up the mountain. The trails at this point will consist mostly of dirt fire roads that gradually take athletes to the top of the mountain. The terrain along the initial climb isn't too technical and most of the trails are relatively wide. As you run along the arête near the summit, you'll experience more technical running with an abundance of rocks and narrower trails.

Once you've ascended the summit, stunning panoramic views allow you to take in the natural beauty that surrounds Snowbasin. You'll be able to see for endless miles out into the valley, which will provide a breathtaking backdrop of the fall foliage and crystal clear blue skies. After running along the upper ridges for a couple of miles, you'll descend the mountain on a long switchback ski trail that will provide an adrenaline pumping experience. It's a long and fast descent, which enables runners to open up and coast down the mountain. After approaching the bottom of the long switchback, runners will then blaze through a gently rolling trail that is embraced with beautiful Aspens. The final push to the finish will include a small, but very steep climb up another fire road, followed by a downhill finish into Snowbasin Resort.

Q: How are you training specifically for this event?

Burgunder: The most beneficial training methods for this type of event would include focusing on mountain or hill running, cross training, and maintaining a mixture of both speed and endurance training. Consistently running up and down a mountain, or a large hill, will benefit athletes in many ways for a race such as the XTERRA Trail Running National Championship 21K. The pain and suffering of climbing a mountain or a hill will prepare you for the pain and suffering of racing. This specific type of workout also builds up your confidence, since it closely emulates the race day experience.

Training for mountain running is basically two workouts in one. The first half, going up, develops leg strength and generally trains the aerobic system at a higher intensity than a flat run of equal duration does. We automatically work a little harder, minute for minute, when we go against gravity. The second half of the workout, going down, subjects the lower extremities to repeated high impact forces, and thereby increases their capacity to withstand such forces. For the half marathoner, this translates as less chance of bonking in the late miles due to accumulated muscle damage or loss of elasticity in the legs.

For speed training, runners should focus on short bursts of extremely taxing exercise, a routine known as high-intensity interval training. This can include either track workouts or tempo runs on roads and/or trails. The goal for such workouts is to increase your VO2max, which stands for maximal oxygen uptake and refers to the amount of oxygen your body is capable of utilizing in one minute. It is a measure of your capacity for aerobic work and can be a predictor of your potential as an endurance athlete. Although there are many factors that affect your VO2max, it is a commonly accepted measure of cardio respiratory fitness.

An example of a good track workout that will help prepare you to run faster at Nationals would be to perform 12 x 400 meters at slightly under 5K race pace. The rest between each 400 should fall between 60 to 90 seconds, depending on your fitness levels.

The final training point to focus on is making sure to get in some long slow distance runs (LSD). The LSD run should be run slowly to ensure that you are developing the fat-burning metabolic pathway, and to minimize the effect of fatigue and risk of injury. It should be around 25-30 percent slower than your half-marathon pace. The optimal LSD run for your XTERRA Trail Run Nationals 21K training would be in the 15 to 18 mile range. For most runners, maximum performance will result from some combination of long slow distance and high intensity training.

Personally, I have been focusing on long tempo mountain runs at higher elevations. Also, I have tried to race as often as possible at higher elevations throughout the Mountain West, this past summer. Additionally, I was a pacer for one of the top finishers at the Leadville Trail 100 Run, which provided some outstanding training on grueling mountain trails at an average elevation of well over 10,000 feet.

Q: For those from out of state, how much of a factor is the altitude, and how do you prepare for it?

Burgunder: Adjusting to the altitude of 6,391 feet at the base of Snowbasin Resort can provide another hurdle for those coming from lower elevations. The top elevation is 9,350 feet, with a vertical rise of 2,950 feet. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do other than arrive a couple of days early and try to get some easy runs in to acclimate. Consuming enough electrolytes and staying well hydrated will greatly help prevent altitude sickness.

Q: Any travel tips - when is the best time to arrive, where is a good place to stay, how do you stay rested?

When traveling to XTERRA Trail Run Nationals, you should try to arrive in Snowbasin a couple of days before the race. In addition to the races, XTERRA will host an expo in downtown Ogden with free kids races, vendor booths, a Paul Mitchell hair cut-a-thon for charity, and evening dinner parties. Here you'll have the opportunity to pick-up your race bags, mingle with fellow athletes from all over the nation, and also sample and purchase products from XTERRA's wide array of event sponsors.

There's an abundance of places to stay in the local area, ranging from luxury hotels to camping options along Pineview Reservoir.  Lakeside Resort Properties is the closest Lodging to Snowbasin and offers luxury 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom condominiums with luxury master suites, fully equipped kitchens, private hot tubs, Wi-Fi, garages/covered parking and much more. Marriott Ogden offers remarkable scenic beauty in the Ogden metro area. The Grand America Hotel is an easy 40-minute drive south from Snowbasin and The Little America Hotel is an easy 40-minute drive south from Snowbasin, and is centrally located in Salt Lake City's business, historic, cultural and entertainment center. Maples Campground is an abandoned campground north of the Snowbasin Ski Resort. Anderson Cove is located on the South side of Pineview Reservoir, near the turnoff to Snow Basin. This Forest Service campground is right on the lake and offers both individual and group reservations. Jefferson Hunt, also a Forest Service campground, is located at the South Fork inlet to the reservoir and has 29 individual camping units. Reservations for both these campgrounds can be made by calling (800) 280-2267.

Q: Any recommendations for hydration and nutrition for this race?

Burgunder: Sports nutrition will play a vital role in your performance when it comes to more grueling nature of mountain running, especially at higher elevations.  Runners should aim for 60 to 90 grams of carb per hour while you are training/racing. Pay attention to your micronutrient intake (i.e. your vitamins and minerals) and avoid deficiencies with a varied, colorful diet.  Ask your health professional if you need a supplement if your diet is less than spectacular or if you start to feel fatigued, run down, etc. To prevent fatigue, top off your muscle glycogen fuel stores before working out by consuming a meal 2 to 4 hours before a workout, choosing  familiar high-carbohydrate foods and beverages, and by avoiding slow-to-digest fatty and high-fiber foods prior to running.

Some good snack examples include a fruit smoothie, a meal replacement drink, a PowerBar® Performance Energy bar, a PowerBar® Fruit Smoothie Energy bar, PowerBar® Energy Bites, a PowerBar® Gel, or PowerBar® Gel Blasts™ energy chews.

Make sure to start the race fully hydrated; dehydration will make your race demonstrably harder and put your health at risk. Make sure to match your hydration and fueling plan to the workout challenge. For training runs up to the half-marathon distance, your existing fuel stores should tide you over, and your focus can be on staying hydrated. Try to consume fluids at a rate that keeps pace with your sweat rate. This generally requires 13 to 26 fluid ounces (400-800 mL) every hour of exercise, preferably in smaller amounts taken every 15 minutes or so.

Along the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals course, you will find one of XTERRA's most prominent sports nutrition sponsors, PowerBar, offering an assortment of free product samples.

Note to runners: If you have a question you would like to personally ask Richard Burgunder, he and fellow PowerBar Field Marketing Associate Mark Robertson will be the guest speakers at the XTERRA University presented by Paul Mitchell on September 21 (the day before the race) at noon at the Snowbasin Resort.

Trail Run