training for mountainous ultramarathons

Flatlander’s Guide to Training for Mountainous Ultramarathons

Topics Covered In This Episode:

  • How to train for mountainous ultras when you live in flat regions
  • Altitude tents vs. fundamental aerobic training
  • Using local features to replicate vertical gain/loss from your event
  • The advantage of using rating of perceived exertion (RPE) to prepare for varying terrain

In this episode, host and CTS Coach Corrine Malcolm is joined by CTS Ultrarunning Coach Cliff Pittman. Cliff has been an endurance athlete from a young age competing nationally in both track and cross country through high school before enlisting in the military. While he is new to our team, Cliff has been coaching endurance athletes for over a decade, and became a full time trail and ultra coach in 2019. Corrine brought Cliff on the show to talk about training and racing mountainous and higher altitude races. He has coached athletes to compete in some of the most challenging events in the US, including:

  • BigFoot 200
  • FKT Across Iowa
  • KUS 24 Hour (course record)
  • Midstate Mile (Last Man Standing)
  • Arkansas Traveller 100
  • Arkansas Backyard Ultra Championship
  • LOViT 100
  • Outlaw 100
  • Silver Rush 50
  • Sheep Mountain Endurance Run 50
  • Tunnel Hill 100
  • Yeti Dam 50
  • Seven Trails Fest 100
  • Hitchcock Experience 100
  • Pumpkin Holler 100
  • Twisted Branch Trail Run 100K
  • Boston Marathon
  • Marine Corps Marathon
  • Chicago Marathon

Cliff Pittman on Instagram: @coachcliffpittman

Listen to the episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform


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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Corrine Malcolm (00:00):

My guest today is CTS Coach Cliff Pitman. Cliff has been an endurance athlete from a young age, competing nationally in both track and cross country through high school before enlisting in the military while he’s new to our coaching team. Cliff has been coaching endurance athletes for over a decade and became a full-time trail and ultra coach in 2019. I brought cliff on today to talk about training and racing for mountainous and higher altitude races. We cover what we are both working on with athletes ahead of big fall ultras, what mistakes we’ve made or see our athletes make and how athletes can best prepare themselves for this style of racing, including the panic that sets in four to six weeks out. I really enjoyed this conversation with cliff and I hope you do too. Cliff. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I think you’re new for this audience. I don’t think you’ve had, I’ve had you on any of the round tables yet. So welcome, welcome. It’s gonna be fun. We’re gonna have a fun conversation today, I think, but because you’re new to this audience, I’m wondering if you can just introduce yourself to them formal, informal, whatever you want the audience to know about you.

Cliff Pittman (01:06):

Yeah. I don’t know how to do formal, so we’ll keep it informal. But my name’s cliff, both Pitman. I’m a CTS coach and I tend specialize in, in ultra running. That’s my, my focus and what I have a passion for been coaching and some capacity for a little over a decade, but I’ve been fortunate enough to do it full time for the last last five years or so, and really within the ultra scene for the last three years. And then I am new to CTS though. So that is been a really fun transition over the last few months is to, to join the team and be able to learn from a lot of brilliant coaches that, that we have.

Corrine Malcolm (01:45):

Yeah, we’ve got a cool, a cool coaching staff. That’s why I came to CTS was I needed, I wanted that education. I wanted some other people in my corner so that when I didn’t know the answer, someone, someone would, right. That’s kind of the whole, the whole idea. I think we use a lot of team team think. Well, welcome to CTS. Welcome to the show. Thank you. I sent you this, this topic and I said, you know, we’re in the thick of the season, right? Like high lonesome just happened. Never summer just happened. Harder rock just happened, you know, kind of classic big mountain races. There are Mount Blanc, 90 K was supposed to happen in Europe. It got canceled due to weather. We’ve got Wasatch, Leadville, fat dog, one 20 grindstone, all these kind of, you know, the mountains are open. Snow has melted it’s, you know, kind of peak mountain season, maybe after a flatter spring. And so we’ve got some people that are probably starting to panic a little bit as their, a, their a fall race comes up. And I’m wondering what you have athletes getting ready for right now.

Cliff Pittman (02:41):

Yeah, you bet. And so I’m sure there’s, you know, a lot of people that might be listening right now that, that have Leadville here in a few weeks. And so maybe there’s some panic associated with that and I’ve got one athlete that’s preparing for Leadville. He, he lives in Kansas. And so that’s fun. <Laugh>, I’ve got an athlete preparing for the bear 100. And so we’re still a good, you know, I think eight weeks out from that one he, he lives a van life. And so like, there’s no barriers in terms of training. Yeah. We, his mobile camp is at Flagstaff, so we, we live high train, high train low, and <laugh>, it’s, you know, been, been a lot of fun. I’ve got an athlete preparing for UT M B and I’m hopefully I can even say this right. Porto Vallardo in Mexico. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> so the a hundred K. And so, you know, that one starts at 5,000 ends at sea level. He lives at sea level and on the weekend travels to Mexico city and trains up at 7,000 plus, and then get an athlete preparing for Bigfoot 200 that’s that’s right around the corner.

Corrine Malcolm (03:48):

That, that is right

Cliff Pittman (03:49):

Around really close <laugh> and

Corrine Malcolm (03:51):

So close. Not, not this week next week, I think. Right?

Cliff Pittman (03:54):

Yep. That’s, that’s correct. He lives in Iowa. And so that’s probably, you know, of all the athletes that I have coming up at be racing an altitude. That’s been probably one of the biggest challenges just because not only do we not have mountains nearby, but it’s just no technical terrain whatsoever. So

Corrine Malcolm (04:11):

Yeah, we’re, we’re gonna dive into that. Right. Kind of what are, what are the limiting factors here? And I love it. I love, I grew up in the Midwest. I live out in the Pacific Northwest now, but I think it’s, you know, I have all kinds of Midwesterners or people from the like folks from the south people who live in like big urban sprawls in Europe as well, who, you know, this, the terrain in their backyard does not look like the terrain they’re racing on. And that presents a specific form of challenges that we’re gonna talk about. I think I told you that I have for individuals in UT, M B and of the four of them, one lives in mountainous terrain which is, which is a huge issue. So besides the technicality or lack of altitude, as we kind of both pointed out there with athletes, you know, what other challenges do you see for athletes as they approach this style of racing?

Cliff Pittman (04:58):

Yeah. You know, I think the biggest thing is just the, the fear of the unknown and, you know, we, we see it so often with an athlete that, that goes to a new distance. You know, they they’ve run a 50 mile before, but they’re preparing for a hundred and it’s just like, well, I, I just don’t know how my body’s gonna respond at mile 70 or 80 or, or 90 just because I don’t have that experience. And that’s kind of the same thing. You know, mountains are intimidating altitudes, intimidating, and there’s a big fear of the unknown that creates this lack of confidence, I think yeah, on how we’re gonna respond. And so that’s really, the big challenge is just being able to, to talk through that and being able to say, okay, this is how we can prepare, and this is how we can increase confidence.

Cliff Pittman (05:47):

And this is how theoretically you should respond. And <laugh> yeah, but I think that’s the biggest thing. You know, that, I think the other thing is just maybe a little bit of not employing a ton of strategies throughout the whole training cycle. You know, if we have six months to prepare for a race, well, a lot of these people want to jump in an altitude tent right off the bat and it’s like, well, you know, <laugh> let’s discuss that later on. There’s some other things that we can do. Let’s see if that’s a good idea, but right now let’s just get as fit as possible, you know? Yeah.

Corrine Malcolm (06:28):

A hundred percent.

Cliff Pittman (06:28):

I think those are some of the biggest challenges like idleness. Like why am I not adapting right now?

Corrine Malcolm (06:34):

Yeah. I think I love the point about feeling like, not UN, not under prepared, but the unknown kind of drives that sensation that we could be under prepared. And I think even those who live in the mountains, you know, feel that way when it’s a new distance or gonna be new terrain for them. I mean, I’m afraid of a flat 100, to be honest. Cause I don’t know what it feels like to like heavily Alina sounds terrifying to me or because yeah. What does it mean to run for that long? Yeah. Like I’ve never done that before. I really like hiking. But obviously every race presents its own challenges. And then I think you’re right that point about I’ve got athletes who, you know, months and months and months out are like, I need to get ver I need to get ver right now.

Corrine Malcolm (07:14):

Right. I’m like, okay. Like, you know, slow, like slow down. It’s gonna be okay. You know, trying to instill confidence in their fitness, instill confidence in them being healthy. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> instill confidence in building that fitness. I think all of a sudden becomes, you know, mission critical. And now, you know, I’ve got a, a bunch of athletes for UT M B for har Conna for these kind of fall, these fall ultras where it’s like, okay, like now we’re now we’re invert season. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> now we’re in final prep specificity season, but you’re right. It’s kind of like, let’s get you as fit as possible first. Yeah. And then layer in that those long runs that are, you know, more mission critical, those that, you know, making a camp or a trip out to get more sustained or some downhill in their legs. And I think that’s one that comes up time and time again, for me with athletes is that, you know, the tallest thing in their city is a bridge mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Corrine Malcolm (08:07):

And they’re wondering how many or, or I I’ve had an athlete who the tallest thing in their, in their city was a dam and he would run repeats on the dam and that made him confident. And that’s, you know, we leaned into that for sure. But for athletes that don’t have these long sustained downhills or uphills that seems to be kind of the, the question I get the most from athletes is like, how am I gonna prepare for those long climbs? And I’m wondering if you’ve taken any tactics with athletes who either are terrain limited you know, be it be it race specificity, or just like the, they don’t have as much effort in their backyard. They’re in Florida, they’re in, they’re in Wisconsin, they’re in Iowa. They’re in Kansas. What, what can we do for those athletes? Or what have you done for those athletes to try to prepare them for those sustained those sustained or repeated climbing and descending that we see in these races.

Cliff Pittman (09:02):

Yeah. You bet. I think that goes right back to what we just talked about and something we can probably with, you know, looking at the outline that you sent over, like every, every answer is like get fit, right? Like fitness makes everything better, a hundred

Corrine Malcolm (09:14):

Fitness first.

Cliff Pittman (09:15):

And so just kind of talking through how that translate, like, you know, the fitter you are, the more you’re gonna be able to problem solve and, and be able to, to work through these issues on the course. And you can be slightly under prepared in one aspect of specificity. And if we have enough fitness that, that can really make up for it and go a long ways. But I think as far as specific strategies, you know, if we, if we have enough time to, to plan out and if we do a long range plan, that’s, you know, say six months out for one of these events, then we can start circling weekends on the calendar when it’s an ideal time to get out to the mountains, get out to you know, even if it’s not you know, if someone’s racing Leadville, if they can’t get out to, to Colorado, well, what’s the next best thing regionally for you.

Cliff Pittman (10:05):

And then the third is like, well, what’s the third best thing that you have, you know, in your area, like you talked about with the, the bridge or, you know, I’ve had an athlete that, that did the exact same thing in a parking garage and it’s just up and down a parking garage, you know, with the ramps. And so I, I, I think it’s just a matter of getting, getting creative to, yes, there’s the, the physiological adaptation there, but there’s also the, the, the psychological component of, okay. I feel better because I had this training intervention that checked the box, even if it wasn’t apples to apples. But I think the big thing is just getting out into the mountains. If you can, you know, four to six weeks out or seven weeks out and planning that, that three day training camp or finding a, you know, a B race and experiencing altitude experiencing the mountains so that you can say like, okay, I know exactly what I’m getting into.

Corrine Malcolm (11:05):

Yeah. I think that’s really that that’s really important. And I think if, if you’re signed up for a goal and this is gonna kind of tie into our next topic, if you’re, if this is man, if this is your, the race that you have wanted to do, it’s that UT M B or whatever it is, where it’s, it’s taken time to get into the race. Maybe you don’t know if you’re gonna get in again, like trying to dedicate a weekend here or a weekend there to, to bump into some more mountainous terrain, I think can go such a long way. I just have two of my Texans in UT M B, I’ve got two T Texas guys. And they both went to different Colorado races this past weekend to, I guess, two weekends ago now to get in kind of a, a long day on their feet to get in to, to get their quad sore, to have that experience of being, you know, eight or 10 hours into something.

Corrine Malcolm (11:54):

Because I do think that one, you know, there there’s that physiological component. That’s a pretty good time out from race day, but at the same time, the other part of that is it’s confidence, right? Yes. It’s like, I feel confident in my preparation, I feel confident in my prep, I feel confident in my fitness and my ability to troubleshoot. And so I think that’s really, you know, that at the end of the day, you’re right being fit is kind of form being fit and being healthy are kind of the two, the two big ones that I, I preach to my athletes as well. Yes. So I’m glad that I’m glad that’s something that we’re all doing that that’s good. Yeah. That’s good. We’re on the same page. The, kind of the next piece of that puzzle. Oh, I guess one question before we jump into the next kind of big issue for a lot of these athletes is have you utilized or have like personally, or with athletes utilized strength as kind of, you know, obviously we’ve got athletes doing repeats on bridges and, you know, parking garages and that kind of thing, but what about, you know, are they doing anything in the weight room to build that confidence outside of running if they have the time and capabilities to do that?

Cliff Pittman (12:54):

Right. So I have a, I would say probably about 75 to 80% of my athletes do strength work. But I wouldn’t say that we’ve, that any of the athletes that I’ve worked with have used that as a specific training intervention for this specific adaptations for improving downhill running you know, maybe we get, as we get, you know, into that like phase where it’s sport specific with the strength training that we might add some eccentric strength training in there to, you know, that nice little bump, but that really gets pretty far away from specificity. And maybe those adaptations translate, maybe they don’t. But the best thing we can do is like, like, right. Yeah, exactly. The best thing we can do is find the adaptations in running and the, the specific mode that we’re gonna be utilizing and on race day. So I’ve ti I I’ve tended to kind of shy away from that and, and don’t wanna over promise an athlete that, okay. Yes. If you do these specific exercises, eccentrically, it’s gonna translate to better downhill running.

Corrine Malcolm (14:01):

Yeah. I feel like that’s just another thing that we’re adding to be like, well, maybe this could help. I think another thing I’ve seen in a lot of athletes do pre pandemic goes a little bit easier depending on where they live, as far as gym access, but man, the Nordic track treadmills have gotten pretty good. Yeah. And think I’m allowed to drop brand name there <laugh> but it’s like to be, to be able to crank it up to, you know, pretty steep inclines and do sustained hiking on them. Yes. It’s, it’s great for athletes that are injured. But I’ve seen athletes living in like, particularly like the Midwest or like kind of the south and Southeast mm-hmm <affirmative> in the us, or it’s the winter and they’re training for a hilly spring race where they can’t run on vert for whatever reason. I know I found that living in Bozeman, Montana for a long time, couldn’t run any vert in the winter cuz everything was snow. You had to ski getting on a treadmill and getting on an incline treadmill seems to be once again, is it the most specific thing maybe, maybe not, but having that in your back pocket of like, oh, well I’ve been on the treadmill and I can hike, you know, I’ve been able to hike for 30 minutes or 60 minutes in a row seems to, I think, prompt some of that, that confidence in some of that, I think it can get fairly specific, which is nice for an athlete.

Cliff Pittman (15:13):

That’s such a good point and you know, even throw on, throw on the vest, carry all your mandatory gear, load it up with your, your fluids and your nutrition and, and get a feel for, you know, that weight and, and get on the treadmill and, and crank that thing up. So

Corrine Malcolm (15:27):

Yeah. I wouldn’t advise bringing your PO your poles in treadmill. It’s it’s good. It’s good for practicing a, a power hike without poles. Yeah. I definitely would not bring your poles in the treadmill, but that I think the gym will definitely be really upset if you show up with your, your running poles to get on the treadmill, this

Cliff Pittman (15:43):

Rumor about this outdoor treadmill that has like rocks and everything in the, in the belt. That that could be one of those, you know, spoofed things too. So who knows?

Corrine Malcolm (15:53):

That’s cool. <Laugh> there, there are like T like, you know, like treadmill climbing walls essentially where we use those in, in the lab before, but also there’s a number of bouldering and climbing gyms that have those for endurance work too, which feels like you’re just on, you’re on a wall that never ends. Yeah. It’s pretty cool. Exactly. Man, we’ll do weird stuff. Coming prepared and confident for things is kind of what I get out of these conversations. Yes. And I’m like, if anyone is listening, who’s new to ultras. They’re also gonna think we’re insane. Right. the other piece of the puzzle, besides being worried about the vert and worried about the climbing and descending is obviously not every mountainous race is at extreme elevation, but you know, oftentimes those things go hand in hand. Even modest elevation can seem really intimidating whenever we ran camps outta Colorado Springs for trail and ultra runners, everyone thought that they were gonna be the slowest.

Corrine Malcolm (16:44):

Everyone thought that they were gonna be the worst at altitude. And it turns out, you know, altitude is hard for a lot of people, many times and we can get in our heads about it. But you know, you mentioned you’ve got one athlete living in a van. That’s pretty cool. That gives them a lot of flexibility for going out early for staying at altitude, et cetera. But what about for, you know, what else are we working with here when we’ve got athletes who maybe don’t have that flexibility when it comes to getting out at an ideal time? Pre-Race

Cliff Pittman (17:11):

Yeah. You know, I think one of the most elementary things that we can do that often gets overlooked when preparing for any extreme environment is just having RPE rate of perceiving insertion, very dialed in because you know, your, your heart rate zones, your pay zones, all of that goes out the window with all the variables at, you know, physiological and technological variables <laugh> at, at altitude. But you know, if you’re, if you’re, if you get RPE five dialed in, then RPE five is the same at 14,000 feet as it is at sea level. <Laugh>, it’s the same at 110 degrees as it is at 30 degrees. And so just, you know, learning how to be really in tune with your efforts and being able to train by RPE, having that really well calibrated, and then being able to translate that on race day, when you get into the mountains, I think that’s probably one of the most elementary things that we can do.

Cliff Pittman (18:14):

And it’s non-scientific right. And it’s really hard like for athletes that have like for myself, a track background, like that was really hard for me to transition to RPE when I got on the trails. But it, it makes sense like cyclists, right. You know, you have the most precise measurement of output with power. Like you want me to go based off how I feel? <Laugh>, it’s, it’s a hard transition for a lot of athletes, but it’s so, so important to be able to properly manage your effort when you’re in extreme environments and that’s especially true at, at altitude.

Corrine Malcolm (18:48):

Yeah. I think that’s great. I think that’s a really, really valid point because our other answer would be like, well, fitness, fitness comes first, but the RPE thing is a really great thing to lean back into cuz you’re right. You know, RPE five is gonna be RPE five, no matter where you are, it’s based on how you feel at that intensity. So that is something to definitely pay attention to one, getting to altitude. The other thing that I thought was could be useful for athletes. And as I mentioned, the tech, my Texas guys who just went out to Colorado, you know, we kind of had the, the double, the double whammy there. We got in a practice race, we got in a practice race that had vert and we got in a practice race that took ’em to altitude. So they could experience like, you know, what does it feel like to eat and drink at elevation mm-hmm <affirmative> what does it feel like when I show up maybe an UN ideal time, maybe 48 hours prera or 72 hours pre-race yeah.

Corrine Malcolm (19:36):

A little bit kind of that, that in between zone that we try to avoid, or even the day before, you know, kind of building once again, building that confidence or at least getting ready to troubleshoot in that environment. You mentioned an altitude tent earlier with the athletes kind of being, you know, chopping at the bit to utilize technology like that. Is there anything that you have advised athletes to do or not to do? Or is it real? I mean, it’s obviously very individual when it comes to altitude prep and what the athlete is available to them, but I’m kind of, I’m kind of curious if there’s anything else besides that kind of RPE, like really leaning into that, that you might advise an athlete to do pre at higher

Cliff Pittman (20:11):

Elevation. You bet. So the first thing is just the, exactly what you mentioned with the training camp or the, the B races getting out to altitude in advance. You know, another thing is, is the race specific strategies. So are you gonna arrive super early? You know, are you able to get there a week out? You know, how high is the race that it’s going to determine how early you need to get out there? And if you can’t because not everybody can then, you know, maybe it’s best that we fly in the night before we get there the morning of, you know, and hopefully we can avoid that window, that 24 to 72 hour window where your body really starts to go through those adaptations. And you, and you feel, you know, sick. So I, I think that just the timing of it all, which is something that we should, you know, really plan out far in advance before we have, you know, our, our travel itinerary nailed down to, to kind of know, okay, it goes back to the confidence piece too, right? Like, well, if I know that I’m gonna get there 10 days in advance, I can kind of just file away this, this whole adapting to altitude throughout the training process, focus on getting fit, work into the specifics when the timing is right. I know that I’m gonna get there in time for my body to adapt to the stress of altitude. So I don’t have to worry about that so far out.

Corrine Malcolm (21:39):

Yeah. I think it’s a, there’s a, there’s a big psychological component to altitude and to heat. I think with a lot of athletes, like acclimation is a real thing. Physiological changes do take place when you’re exposed to those extreme environments. But I think a lot of us really get in our head and we say, oh, I’m always bad at altitude. I’m always bad in the heat. And it’s like, okay, well, that’s not gonna set us up for success at all. So I think you’re, I think spending more time out there if, if possible either early ahead of the race or via those training camps, I think helps to promote some of that changing the narrative of, oh, I’m bad at X, Y, or Z. So I think that is important for us to remember kind of, I mean, a lot of us learn from experience, some of us I would say that most of us in the, the ultra world definitely learn from experience you know, outside of education, that’s kind of what you have to, to adapt and grow from. And so I’m wondering as you work with athletes, you know, what personal experiences you might be drawing from as far as making mistakes, when it comes to showing up to a, a mountainous race or showing up to a race it’s at more moderate to higher elevation.

Cliff Pittman (22:44):

Yeah. You know, I think just the magnitude of how much our, our sweat rate or how much we need, how many fluids we need to drink is impacted. You know, if we think about just the kidneys are, are working over time, the extra urination the, the respir increased respiration the cool dry air might dry the, the sweat a little bit, you know, faster we’re down here in the humidity in the south. It’s like, well, we know how much we’re sweating, you know, cuz it’s not going anywhere. <Laugh> yeah. And so that’s, that’s kind of a, a personal example that I just learned from one of my athletes that I didn’t drive home. Hey, you’re gonna have to, you’re gonna have to intake additional fluids to account for these, these changes and the sweat rate. And he ended up taking in less because he didn’t think he was sweating as much.

Cliff Pittman (23:37):

Didn’t think he needed it. Oh, wow. And so that was just a few weeks ago at the last call fifties. And you know, that’s at fair play, that’s like 10,000 feet just right there next to Leadville. And so we learned a valuable lesson that we’re gonna take into Leadville <laugh> and it was a, it was a good learning experience. But, but definitely something as a coach that I’ve, that I’ve gotta drive home of, like, this is, this is what to expect. Yeah. We’ve got a sweat rate dialed in at a hundred degrees is likely gonna be the same thing, you know, whenever you get up to altitude.

Corrine Malcolm (24:12):

Yeah. I, I like that. We, I mean, mistakes are, are good mistakes. Like we, we, we hate for them to happen during a races. That’s why B races are a wonderful idea. But yeah, I remember rolling into my first hundred was Leadville. And as you know, as one does, my first 100 was Leadville and I was convinced that I could eat a bunch of things that I definitely could not eat. And I was like, I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have saliva. <Laugh> like, you know, I was taking like handfuls of Skittles down the trail and they would just ball up in my mouth. And so really trying to find, you know, like you’re right, like everything dries out a lot quicker up there. And so I think there are these little things. I’ve also had a lot of athletes now, and this is not, this is not like, I feel like this could be fear monger, but I’ve had a lot of athletes now at higher Dr.

Corrine Malcolm (25:00):

Races, you know, have things with their, like their throat hurts after a certain point. Like eating becomes really hard because you’ve been rest. You’ve been, you’ve been ventilating, you’ve been breathing a lot. And this really, this really dry air, maybe it’s dusty or maybe it’s cold. And all of a sudden you kind of have these other things that you have to troubleshoot through that after you’ve done it for the first time, you’re like, oh right. Like my throat might hurt at a certain point. So like I brought a ton of lozenges to bad water. It’s not very high at Badwater, but it’s really dry and it’s really warm. And I knew from, you know, running the haha rim trail, running Leadville, like at some point, like my athlete’s throat was gonna like start to kill ’em. Yeah. And so I had my baggy of loss Andes ready to go.

Corrine Malcolm (25:38):

Yeah. Because you know, I’ve witnessed these things happen. So I think, you know, it can be intimidating. It was your first high altitude race or your first mountainous race, but, you know, that’s, that’s the, the learn from the mistakes. The I’ve got an athlete right now where I was like, go find all the old race reports for this race. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> read some old race reports from people who, you know, who had, or have blogs. Absolutely. Because they’re gonna, they’re gonna tell you the mistakes they made for the most part, because ultra running is rude with them. So I think that’s kind of a, should make, I, I hope should be, you know, kind of confidence inspiring or boosting for those listening, just because it’s, I think it’s easy to worry that you’re gonna make mistakes. And the truth of the matter is, is like you’re likely going.

Corrine Malcolm (26:18):

Yeah. So yeah. You know, try, try to learn from your, your friends or your, your trail, your trail, you know, your trail community about what mistakes they made. Say, what did you not know going into this race? And what could I, what could I avoid? I found it Leadville too. At a certain point. I couldn’t run and eat at the same time. I just, I needed too much oxygen to do those things. So there’s a photo of me somewhere standing at the top of hope, pass eating a oatmeal cream pie because I could not, could not hike and, and consume food at the same time cuz I needed to breathe. So I would say, you know, go easy on yourself and, and recognize walking in. You’re probably gonna make mistakes. And that is okay, cuz it’s gonna make the next one that much better.

Corrine Malcolm (27:00):

But I think kind of, you know, one of the reasons why I, I pinged pinged you and pinged coaches for this conversation was, you know, we, I’ve got a bunch of athletes who are looking at races, you know, four or six, eight weeks out right now. And that’s the time where you really, I think start to panic, you start to question like how am possibly gonna be ready for this race? Yeah. In only six weeks. I feel that way about fall racing right now too. And so I’m wondering, what can we, what are you telling athletes? What, what can we tell athletes listening to this, you know, to, to ease, ease those fears and, or be like just, you know, kind of check these boxes and you know, in the next, the next month or two and you’re gonna be okay,

Cliff Pittman (27:41):

Yeah, go make some mistakes. Right? Like <laugh> get yourself in a situation. If you can get out to the mountains or, or similar get yourself in a situation where you can accumulate some personal experience and learn so that you have more tools in your tool belt to strategize for race day more experience, those mistakes that you make, that we just talked about. This is the ideal time to get out and do that. You know, you’re four to six weeks out. This is the time to go out and, and do a training camp. And yeah, I think, you know, for example, the, the athlete that I’m working with, that’s, that’s racing Leadville. You can do the last call six weeks out and then four weeks out, he came here to, he wasn’t able to go back to Colorado. So he came here where I live in Northwest Arkansas and the Ozark mountains mountains.

Cliff Pittman (28:36):

So like if you’re listening to the audio version of this, its I just did air quotes for mountains because they’re, they’re not, you know, they’re nothing like, you know a lot of the larger mountains around the United States, but anyways, he was able to come out and get very similar like training with, without the altitude, but with 105 degree heat index. And he was able to still get seven mile climbs and seven mile descents on gravel mountain roads, which he ended up getting more climbing and descending than he will get at Leadville. So that worked out well for him to come out here and have a three day training camp. And I got to connect with him, which was great, you know, support him out there. But I think that if you’re four to six weeks out right now and you’re like, oh, I’ve gotta, gotta be real productive with this timeframe.

Cliff Pittman (29:23):

Do your best to get out and, and, and make some mistakes, learn from them, go into your race more knowledgeable with that personal experience and start problem solving. Now I think that’s something that, you know, I like to tell my athletes like the week of race, like, okay, that this week we’re gonna do as much problem solving as we can before the race so that, well, if we’ve imagined every, you know, negative possible outcome, you know, on race day, then we’ve already imagined it and we’ve already problem solved for it. Then that’s less mental, you know, hamster wheel that you’re on trying to spin the wheel on race day trying to problem solve. And just that confidence, you know, it always comes back to confidence. I think if we have the confidence on race day to say, okay, if this happens, I can work through it. Something happens that I haven’t thought of. I know that I can work through it, which is like my definition of confidence. It’s not having all the answers. It’s just a belief in yourself that you can work through it and that you can get to the point where you find the answer.

Corrine Malcolm (30:30):

Yeah. And then I think the only thing I’ll add to that is, you know, I think it’s really easy to get hung up on. Did I do the, the one long run I was really supposed to do or did I do the one workout that really mattered type of thing. And, and I try to remind athletes that, you know, once again, kind of going back to that fitness piece, like your summation of all of the training you’ve done, there’s not a key workout that’s going to make or break your race. It’s not gonna be, oh, I had to get this back to back in or I had to get this long steady state run in or whatever it might be like, you are a summation of all the training that you’ve done and that, you know, don’t get hung up in the next four to six weeks on, you know, things being perfect because you’ve been putting in months of training, you know, the hay is the hay has been piling high in that barn for a long time, couple years. We’re just trying to stuff just the, a little bit more in, right. Like we’re in the, we’re in the minuscule, like last bail or two of hay in the last four to six weeks, given your athletic history. Yeah. So

Cliff Pittman (31:28):

It’s never gonna be perfect. It’s really right. It’s never gonna be perfect.

Corrine Malcolm (31:32):

Yeah, no, it’s not. Oh my goodness. So that is a fallacy balance and perfection are both. I agree. Awesome. Okay. Is there anything else that you would like to, that you don’t think that we addressed or that you think a athlete might have concerns about?

Cliff Pittman (31:48):

I think that we can just drive home that point of, you know, what you were saying of like the accumulation of just all the training that you’ve done throughout this training cycle, but really over the, over the years and just lean on the experience, you know, whatever experience you have, it doesn’t necessarily have to be ultra running, like lean on experiences that you have in life because I guarantee you, if you’re listening to this and you’ve overcome something significant and it doesn’t have to be in a race you’ve overcome something significant and you have a reason to be confident and you have a reason to be proud of yourself. And even if your fitness, isn’t where you want it to be, and you feel that you haven’t checked all the boxes that you wanna check that’s okay, because you can get out into an environment like this and you can figure it out. You can find your way through it, even with some things that you feel aren’t right with, you know, your training and that’s, that’s totally, totally okay. It happens all the time when people show up and they’re not fully prepared and they put out a really masterful performance and they surprise themself.

Corrine Malcolm (32:50):

That’s perfect. That’s your pep talk folks. That’s all you got. That’s your pep talk. You’re gonna re just listen to that last like minute or two right before race day. And you’re gonna be just fine. Cliff. Where can folks find you on online if they, they wanna learn more about you or more about you?

Cliff Pittman (33:05):

Absolutely. So Instagram is the best place to find me. The handle is at coach cliff Pitman, and I’m pretty active on there.

Corrine Malcolm (33:14):

Sweet. And we’ll put those in our show notes for everyone listening as well. Cliff, thank you so much.

Cliff Pittman (33:19):

That was, yeah. Thank you. I appreciate it was, it was great to be on here.


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