Running

Specificity – Or Something Close to It

Training by specificity is a very fancy and technical way of saying “you get better at something by practising, and the more you do it, the better you get”. It’s the reason why marathon runners need to include some training runs at marathon pace. It’s also the reason why sometimes, you get really well, duh sounding advice like “if you want to run faster, you need to learn to run faster”. Mimicking your race day conditions (to the best of your ability – there is nothing one can do about the weather) and rehearsing as often as possible will make it that much easier, which is why some coaches believe this to be one of the most important principles in performing on race day.

Except.

It’s hard to mimic the conditions of an unfamiliar trail race, in an unfamiliar part of the country/world. So, the next best thing to do is to find the hardest landscape within vicinity, and train on it, keeping your fingers tightly crossed that it’d be enough preparation for the big day. In the best case scenario, it’d be an ass-kicking terrain and you’re well-prepared for the race. In the worst case scenario, you’re simply less ill-prepared. It’s highly unlikely that anyone can be over-prepared for anything.

So this weekend, the Ninja Turtle took to the hills – literally – on her LSD.

Her first goal was Mont Saint Quentin, and this was the view from above. There was a group of runners sadistically punishing themselves with this hill on a sunny Sunday morning, so the Turtle slowed down to have a chat with a few of them. Who said long distance running was lonely?

Her first goal was Mont Saint Quentin, and this was the view from above. There was a group of runners sadistically punishing themselves with this hill on a sunny Sunday morning, so the Turtle slowed down to have a chat with a few of them. Who said long distance running was lonely?

Scy-Chazelle, where the Maison de Robert Schumann (one of the co-founders of post WWII modern Europe) is situated. It's also one of the villages along the Route des Vins (wine route). Moselle produces some lovely white wines.

Scy-Chazelles, where the Maison de Robert Schumann (one of the co-founders of post WWII modern Europe) is situated. It’s also one of the villages along the Route des Vins (wine route). Moselle produces some lovely white wines.

In the forest coming down Mont St Germain. What do you do when faced with obstacles like a giant fallen tree? You hurdle over it of course! (Nah, kidding. The Ninja Turtle's 5 foot 1, so she easily passed under, although other runners may have to do the limbo).

In the forest coming down Mont St Germain. What do you do when faced with obstacles like a giant fallen tree? You hurdle over it of course! (Nah, kidding. The Ninja Turtle’s 5 foot 1, so she easily passed under, although other runners may have to do the limbo).

Running insanely long distances like that have one huge advantage. Once a runner is able to overcome the scary, horrible idea of “I have to do x km today”, the obligation turns into an opportunity. “I have x km to explore!” See, fundamentally, we’re all explorers, and deep inside, there resides the kernel of curiosity as to what lies beyond the hill, or even just around the corner. The Ninja Turtle didn’t have to worry about sticking to familiar routes and having to turn back; GodzillaPin had offered to pick her up from anywhere in case she’d gone too far. This gave the Ninja Turtle license to go out literally as far as her prescribed training distance, without worrying about making it back, if she didn’t want to. Hence, the hills, the forests, the little villages, etc.

Crazily enough, the green parts of the map on Lessy and Chatel Saint Germain were all forest hills, and the one in Lessy is part of the GR5 route (stretching from the Netherlands to Switzerland). It was hauntingly beautiful to be alone in the woods.

Crazily enough, the green parts of the map on Lessy and Chatel Saint Germain were all forest hills, and the one in Lessy is part of the GR5 route (stretching from the Netherlands to Switzerland). It was hauntingly beautiful to be alone in the woods.

P.S (She made it home on her own two feet, by the way! As she staggered through the door after climbing 3 flights of steps to their apartment, she was greeted with the most amazing smell of food – GodzillaPin had very thoughtfully cooked her  potatoes and homemade bolognaise sauce. If that isn’t true love, not sure what it is. To show her appreciation, she demolished all 2kg of it within half an hour.)

How do you train for a trail race?

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9 thoughts on “Specificity – Or Something Close to It

  1. I’d be lying if I said I knew how to train for a trail race, having never made it through a single season injury free. That aside, for me, calling it “training” just makes it sound like such a drab… I reserve that word for things like stair workouts, core exercises, laps in the pool.. you know, the boring stuff. The trail specific sessions I do, well, I find “play” to be the more appropriate term.

  2. Exploring is really a lot of the fun in running isn’t it? When the weather is bad, as it has been here, I run laps close to home so I have a safety valve in case I get into trouble.

    But when the weather is better I LOVE exploring new routes/trails/neighbourhoods! It really helps the kilometres go by!

    • Like the -41C wind chill you faced last weekend? It really gave me some perspective reading about that. Here I am, complaining like a baby when it was -10C wind chill. And you came from the tropics too!

  3. As to how a partner can beat show support to a runner I love the options you’ve offered. In fact I cheated and votes for 3 of them 😃

    But I think as importantly it’s imperative for the runner to show support for his/her partner. You get what you give. And I think it’s important for us runners to remember that our loved ones have their own interests that they would love to share with us too! I’m sure you do this too though 😃

    • That’s not cheating, I permitted multiple responses for a reason! =) As for showing support to GodzillaPin, he’s a simple man to satisfy – food usually does the trick. So long as I have Indian curry, Asian stir-fry, Chinese soups, Italian pasta, Basque-country stew, British meat+3veg and Mexican fajitas on my dinner rotation, he’s a happy man!

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