Many ultramarathons twist through the mountain forests on single and double track trails. Their race directors pride themselves on their ability to find routes that climb toward craggy peaks and descend through challenging terrain. Two skills will help you in your journey, power hiking and speed walking.
Power hiking is and essential skill when traversing mountainous one hundred milers especially for us middle of the pack runners, but like everything else becoming an efficient power hiker takes practice. Hiking up steep slopes is often faster and more energy efficient than trying to run up. For this reason, power hiking should be incorporated into your training program at least once a month, more often if you can manage it. You want to be able to hold a steady pace on the climbs even if your heart rate increases, keep climbing, you can recover on the descent.
If you don’t have mountains near you try using stadium stairs or climbing multiple flights of stairs in a building or parking garage. Don’t run up them. You can run down the stairs, but the idea is to maintain a steady pace going up. You’re going to have to do this many times. You can also try to find a steep hill and apply the same process.
The same techniques used in climbing and descending while running will keep you on your feet when power hiking watch your footing and keep your weight on your heels when you descent.
Speed walking also takes practice. You will use speed walking in the later parts of the race alternating between speed walking and running. Sometimes speed walking is faster than running in the late stages of a race particularly if the impact is causing you pain. Keep track of your pace and use whichever is faster for you. Your steps should be shorter than normal walking and you need to swing your hips a bit along with your arms. Your feet will follow the pace of your arms swings, so get them moving and keep them moving.
You should be using speed walking in your training as well. Try adding it into your training routine a couple times a month. Alternating between running, power hiking, and speed walking will keep your muscles fresh as you recruit different supporting muscle groups.