I stand atop Rabbit Peak Mountain, one of Southern California’s most technical and challenging hiking trails. In less than 5 months from now, this 22 mile round trip, beast of a trail will be the championship event in the King of the Hill trail running series. An event, not for the faint-hearted, that will see upwards of 8000’ of elevation gain for about 300 participants, 25% of which will compete with 30 – 50lbs of sand and water weight on their backs, and this considered by some is the “easy” part… welcome to the new evolution of endurance racing!
Over 10 years ago, the endurance industry exploded. Marathons and triathlons became the fastest growing sports throughout the world. Millions of people registered for events, and millions competed year in and year out. Ironman triathlons had become the “standard” in pushing one’s physical limits, and why shouldn’t it have been, I mean to Swim 2 miles, Bike 100 miles, and Run 26 miles all in one event can give anyone a good beat down. These 2 sports categories continue to grow to this day but in today’s give me more while doing less society, younger people are finding new ways to challenge themselves physically, without the hassle and time demanding needs of marathons and triathlons. Enter endurance racing’s new sibling, Obstacle Course Racing, an adventure style race designed to test ones endurance and strength mixing running with climbing, jumping, and fighting through mud and water. The last 2 years have seen the rise of Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Muddy Buddy, each of which pushes the envelope in regards to physical and mental challenges that each participant must complete to finish the race.
Enter the King of the Hill trail running series, a 2nd year series that has started making waves in the endurance industry not as an Obstacle Course Race, and not as a trail race, but as a hybrid of the two. The King of the Hill series was created by the Guinness Book of World Records “World’s Fittest Man”, Joe Decker. Decker, who has competed in many of the world toughest events, and even holds the title of 2-time champion of the Death Race (considered by some, the toughest event in the world), created the series as a testament and a challenge to the training he provides his clients through his Gut Check Boot Camp classes. Based in San Diego, Decker knew that San Diego County provided many of Southern California’s most beautiful and challenging trails, he also knew these trails wouldn’t support vehicles to drive up and drop off obstacles, such as walls and hay bales. So Joe decided to take the trail running concept and mix it with fitness challenges, which include Burpees, Pushups, Jump Squats, and Mountain Climbers to name a few plus everything you can do with a 50lb sandbag. In 2011, the King of the Hill series saw an average of 125 participants, of all skill levels compete in 3 events, all of different lengths and difficulties. The goal, simple… run to the top of the mountain, touch the flag, and run back down, but along the way you will have to complete 4-6 fitness challenges of 25-50 reps at each station, not an easy task when you have already run 1-2 miles uphill.
Decker, has raised the bar in 2012, making the challenges more difficult, the distances much longer, and the trails more technical. The Challenges… the King of the Hill will once again and always offer the “normal” race of running with fitness challenges up to the top and back, but now offers the “Bad Ass” division. A division that will see participants compete in each race and each fitness challenge with a 30 – 50 lb bag of sand on their back, plus any water they carry. The Distances… participants will be treated with a variety of distances from 6-22 miles, with the last 2 of the series being 12 and 22 respectively. The Technical… the King of the Hill series has added Rabbit Peak Mountain to the mix of trail races. A trail, in which participants must climb over rocks, battle the vegetation, and race in over 8000’ of elevation gain. Mandatory gear will include a pair of pliers (for the jumping cholla), snake bite kit, first aid kit and a death waiver. Does this sound like it’s for you? If so now it’s time to step up the training.
Question: How do I train for these types of events? Since most of these events involve cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance and strength, flexibility and a whole lot of intestinal fortitude this means you’re going to have to train all these components to get ready for the challenge. Here’s a sample weekly workout outline that can certainly get you on the right path.
Monday & Thursday – Strength training
We know that there will be quite a bit of bodyweight calisthenics including burpees, push-ups, starbursts, mountain climbers, sit-ups and more. In addition you’ll most likely encounter sandbag exercises with 30 – 50lbs. These could include shoulder presses, squats, walking lunges, weighted sit-ups, etc. A good way to begin would be to list these exercises in a column on a piece of paper one after the other. Next decide how many reps you can do of each. Beginners might start with 3 circuits of 10 reps each and advanced athletes might even consider doing a descending pyramid of 50-40-30-20-10. That will surely leave a mark but certainly get you ready. All you’d need to purchase is a $2 bag of sand from Lowe’s.
Tuesday & Friday – Speed or hill/stair training
In all of these events you’re going to find some pretty good hills and would imagine you’d like to run fast. So to do this you have to train for it. For example Tuesday is speed day. You can head to a track or a park with a loop that you know. Start out with a warm up loop then get after it. Couple options are to train by distance like run 400m, 800m, 1200m and finish with 1600m. Or you can run 4 x 400 one week, then 4 x 800 couple weeks later. Really depends on your current ability level and how hard you’re willing to push. Then Friday would be hills or stairs training. Find something either in your area, jog over to it and try to get as many repeats as you can in 30-45 min. You might even want to add another repeat or a little more time each week. In order to run hills effectively you’ve gotta run them in training.
Wednesday & Sat. or Sun.
Time for longer easier runs to get you ready for distances you are going to be running. Here’s an option, whatever distance you run on Wednesday, say 5 miles, then double that distance on Sat/Sun to 10 miles. Of course if this is tom much you are always free to modify to your needs. The key to these days are to enjoy yourself, have fun and always be sure to listen to your body. It’ll tell you if you need to back off.
With today’s world of sports changing, and more and more unique events popping up, yesterday’s Ironman is today’s Spartan race. The King of the Hill series is quickly becoming a leader in “hybrid” endurance racing, and to be a leader in today’s world you need a little bit of attitude… I see plenty in these events, with even more to come.