Seven Recommendations for Trail Racing and Training

Kílian Jornet  /  4 Min Read  /  Trail Running

Mountain runner Kílian Jornet blazes down the north ridge of Täschhorn in Switzerland. Along with Steve House and Scott Johnston, he’s leading the “anti-fad” training movement for mountain athletes. Photo: Steve House

Patagonia is thrilled to publish Steve House and Scott Johnston’s second training book, Training for the Uphill Athlete, for which they teamed up with world-class endurance athlete Kílian Jornet. This is an excerpt from the book, now available in Patagonia stores, on Patagonia.com, and at your favorite bookstore or online distributor.

I race a lot: I have been doing between thirty and fifty races a year for the last ten years—450 races over the past fifteen years. I don’t really prioritize one race over another. I want to do well in all races. But one thing I do is use races to train. It’s not that I take it easy during the race; it’s that I treat it as intensity work. When I was younger, I did a lot of interval training and strength training, but now I do no strength training and almost no interval training. Instead, I get my speedwork done during races, and when I’m not racing, I do volume. I enjoy volume; it works well for me, and I have a fast recovery so I can assimilate it all.

This is not to say everyone should take this approach. I have been an endurance athlete since I was very young, I worked with a coach for many years, and I studied sports science at university. I have the background to train and race this way.

Seven Recommendations for Trail Racing and Training

Kílian Jornet doing his aerobic capacity training. Romsdal, Norway. Photo: Sébastien Montaz-Rosset

When people start running (or skimo racing) when they are older, they often train with no structure. There is no long, scientific learning process behind it. And even people who have been running for years can make mistakes in training. Whether you are new to the sport or are very experienced, take these seven recommendations to heart.

1) Consider the stress of everyday life. People who come late to endurance sports want to start at a good level, but they often fail to take into account the stressors of everyday life. They train a lot on top of work and family obligations, not realizing that when you train, it’s a stress to your body. And this stress needs recovery time.

2) Don’t overdo it. Many people work full time and train on the side because they really love running. Sometimes these runners get better, get a sponsor, and decide to work less and train much more. Then their performance drops and they burn out because they have become overtrained. Just because you have more time to train doesn’t mean you should fill it all with training.

3) Be realistic about your goals and expectations. Setting a goal—whether it’s winning a race, finishing in a certain time, or just finishing—is what will motivate you to train. It will motivate you to keep pushing through the hard moments and to improve from them. But be humble about what you can do. Honestly analyze yourself in the beginning—your strong points and weak points, even your work situation, diet, and travel. Do not overestimate yourself. To see if something is possible, look at what you want to do and what you will need to change for that to happen.

If a goal is unrealistic, you probably won’t reach it, and that can leave you less motivated. What you see as a bad result may actually be a very good result, it just wasn’t your goal result. In this case, the problem wasn’t your performance, it was that the goal was too high.

Seven Recommendations for Trail Racing and Training

Kim Strom runs a rocky ridgeline above Saas-Almagell, Switzerland. Photo: Dan Patitucci

4) Be progressive. It is important to understand the progression of training and the progression of distances. These days, people want to do a 100-miler, like it’s not enough to do a marathon. Maybe they do one 100-miler and it’s okay, they get through it. So they do a second one and maybe get through, and then they do a third one and end up broken for five years. You need to move through 10K, 20K, 30K, and beyond. I didn’t start out running 100-milers. I progressed over years of structured training.

5) Prepare for the technicality of a course. It is important to think about variables beyond just distance and elevation. People know and understand those, but they often fail to estimate the technicality of a course—if the tread is soft, grassy, hard, or rocky. We organize a Skyrace near Tromsø, Norway, that has a ridge with some third-class steps, and the downhill is off-trail through a snowfield and rocky terrain. It is not mountaineering, but it is not exactly running. Even if you can run 100 miles with a lot of elevation change, you may not be able to finish a race that is so technically difficult.

6) Train each element, because they are all connected. When it comes to your performance in a race, everything is linked: your physical preparation is linked to your technical preparation, which is linked to your mental preparation and your gear. Each one affects the rest, so they all need to evolve together.

7) Don’t take it all too seriously. To keep up motivation, don’t take training too seriously. Running and ski mountaineering—these are things we are doing mostly for pleasure and because we like them. It’s okay to do things in a serious way, but don’t take it too seriously. Train well, but don’t make it your whole world. It shouldn’t feel like an obligation. That’s when it starts to be a problem. I train because I enjoy it.

Related Stories

Introducing “Training for the Uphill Athlete” by Steve House
In his new book, Training for the Uphill Athlete, Steve House joins forces with coach Scott Johnston and athlete Kílian Jornet to develop a comprehensive approach to finding the joy and the payoff of intense training effort. Even lunges. The wind had made its presence known all night, the tiny tent shaking off its layer…
In his new book, Training for the Uphill Athlete, Steve House joins forces with coach Scott Johnston and athlete Kílian Jornet to develop a comprehensive approach to finding the joy and the payoff of intense training effort. Even lunges. The wind had made its presence known all night, the tiny tent shaking off its layer…
Steve House
6 min Read
The Disaster Training Plan: Running the Tour du Mont Blanc with Jenn Shelton
“We just have to run 20, 30 or 50 miles a day over some mountains. What could go wrong?” When I received my itinerary from Jenn Shelton to run the Tour du Mont Blanc, I took a hard swallow of quickly drying saliva, knowing that my background as a middle-distance track racer (specializing in the 5K)…
“We just have to run 20, 30 or 50 miles a day over some mountains. What could go wrong?” When I received my itinerary from Jenn Shelton to run the Tour du Mont Blanc, I took a hard swallow of quickly drying saliva, knowing that my background as a middle-distance track racer (specializing in the 5K)…
Morgan Sjogren
7 min Read
Running With My Devils After a Health Scare
I remember running the 50K and getting off course but fighting back into third place, and I remember that it was hot… hotter than hell. And then… and then nothing… I don’t remember collapsing. I have no memories of kicking off good-Samaritan runners who pinned me down to the Prairie floor. I have no recollection…
I remember running the 50K and getting off course but fighting back into third place, and I remember that it was hot… hotter than hell. And then… and then nothing… I don’t remember collapsing. I have no memories of kicking off good-Samaritan runners who pinned me down to the Prairie floor. I have no recollection…
Steve Graepel
9 min Read
After a Big Injury, Just a Five-Minute Run
You won’t run again. I don’t really set concrete goals. In fact, I find it best to have no goals whatsoever; that way I won’t be disappointed if I don’t reach them. Hopefully some hiking by mid-summer, and some easy climbs by fall. Seriously, for me the goals are more of a process than an…
You won’t run again. I don’t really set concrete goals. In fact, I find it best to have no goals whatsoever; that way I won’t be disappointed if I don’t reach them. Hopefully some hiking by mid-summer, and some easy climbs by fall. Seriously, for me the goals are more of a process than an…
3 min Read
Jenn Shelton’s FFFKT (Fastest Fish Fourteener Known Time)
*Fastest Fish Fourteener Known Time I picked it up on a whim at the ranger station in Bishop 2012. I was there finagling a permit that would look more or less legal for my attempt to break the men’s speed record across the John Muir Trail starting the next day. And there it was in…
*Fastest Fish Fourteener Known Time I picked it up on a whim at the ranger station in Bishop 2012. I was there finagling a permit that would look more or less legal for my attempt to break the men’s speed record across the John Muir Trail starting the next day. And there it was in…
Jenn Shelton
16 min Read
If You Love It, Run for It: Dispatch from the Inaugural Takayna Ultramarathon
Krissy Moehl reports from the inaugural takayna ultramarathon “There are no footprints.” Fellow Patagonia ambassador and New Zealand native Grant Guise voiced what I was thinking. Our headlamps and phone lights dimly illuminated the overgrown double-track from Rebecca Road. “If 100 people are starting a race in five minutes, we would see footprints,” he said…
Krissy Moehl reports from the inaugural takayna ultramarathon “There are no footprints.” Fellow Patagonia ambassador and New Zealand native Grant Guise voiced what I was thinking. Our headlamps and phone lights dimly illuminated the overgrown double-track from Rebecca Road. “If 100 people are starting a race in five minutes, we would see footprints,” he said…
Krissy Moehl
14 min Read
Generations of a Diné Family Reflect on Running
Some time in the northern corner of the Diné reservation helps clarify why this question is so hard to answer. A girl wakes and runs toward the light, her dark hair streaming behind her as she races in the direction of the rising sun. She hears the prayers of her family and friends as her…
Some time in the northern corner of the Diné reservation helps clarify why this question is so hard to answer. A girl wakes and runs toward the light, her dark hair streaming behind her as she races in the direction of the rising sun. She hears the prayers of her family and friends as her…
Meaghen Brown
7 min Read
A Very Large, Long Group Run Through the Bob Marshall Wilderness
For the slo-mo, bug-bitten, exhausted joy of really long runs. Time expands and compresses on long runs. Moments of navigation or extended discomfort can seem endless, while the landscape sifts by like a slow-moving picture. And then suddenly it’s been hours that slipped by without you noticing, except for the subtle changes in light and…
For the slo-mo, bug-bitten, exhausted joy of really long runs. Time expands and compresses on long runs. Moments of navigation or extended discomfort can seem endless, while the landscape sifts by like a slow-moving picture. And then suddenly it’s been hours that slipped by without you noticing, except for the subtle changes in light and…
Meaghen Brown
2 min Read
Popular searches