Conquer the Baldy Hill Climb: Expert Tips for Your Best Performance
By Morgan Arritola
photo credit: Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation
Whether you’re a hard-core competitive athlete or simply wanting to push yourself with a serious endurance test, The Baldy Hill Climb – coming up on September 28, 2019 – is a fun fitness challenge that will get your heart racing and work your quads to a pulp. Hosted by the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, the grueling 1.86-mile race course rises 3,140 vertical feet from the base of Warm Springs to the top of Baldy. But don’t worry: If you haven’t hiked up Baldy once all summer, you still have time to prepare.
Of course, it’s hard to give blanket-statement training advice because everyone is so individual in their goals and fitness levels. But here are some basic tips to help you do your personal best whether you’re racing or competing just for fun.
Be consistent in your training. You don’t need to, nor should you, hike to the top of Baldy every day. That’s where habit and training are very different in terms of bettering yourself. Each week, your workout routine should include a mix of stress and rest from a physical adaptation stand-point. That means, one to two days a week, you may do a high-intensity workout such as a hard hike up Baldy or a spin class. One day of your week may be a very slower-paced, long-distance activity such as a long easy run, hike or bike ride. You cannot reinvent the wheel in the next month, but you can certainly break it. So if you haven’t done a lot of training, don’t try and make up for lost time now. Instead, be consistent and listen to your body.
Hike to the top.
The Baldy Hill Climb isn’t a running race, it’s a hiking race. Running isn’t really efficient unless you are incredibly fit. Personally, I have never run the course. When hiking, be sure to keep your chest up and really use your arms. The arms drive the legs. For The Baldy Hill Climb, practice hiking uphill at least once or twice a week.
Whether or not to use poles is a personal decision, but I find them helpful when used properly. Poles enable your arms to help with upward propulsion, taking some stress off your legs. Lightweight, collapsible trekking poles such as Leki or Black Diamond (or even old Nordic ski poles cut short, which is what I use) are recommended. When holding my poles vertically, I like my elbows to be at 90-degree angles. There is still time to practice using poles. But if you haven’t trained with poles, don’t use them on race day.
Pace is very individual. I am almost always a slow starter. Pace and ego can work well or horribly. You can’t win the race inthe first 200 meters but you can certainly ruin your race. Although, you may make the front page of the paper! Pace is learned and again, that’s learning your body and being confident in running your own race.
Fuel up properly.
Food and drink are very individual. Practice is the only way to know what works best for you, but just don’t do anything different or new on race day. On a day when you have time, plan doing a hard workout on the mountain and practice eating before the workout to see how you feel with timing, food choices, and hydration. I always eat the same thing: a bowl of granola and yogurt with a banana. If it’s a later start, I will consume a sports drink or a coffee Gu if I think I need it, but every day is different and it’s a short event so you won’t run out of fuel. Again, knowing your body and what it needs comes with practice. If you want to use a hydration vest, it’s a great way to be able to get a little drink, if needed.
Soak in the view.
Climbing mountains is easy to take for granted when we live in an area like Sun Valley but realize you get to hike up a mountain. You can hike up a mountain. It’s such a great way to spend time outdoors, push your body, increase your fitness, and enjoy a new vantage point of the place you call home.
In 2010, Zenergy-sponsored athlete Morgan Arritola set the standing Baldy Hill Climb course record for women, with a time of 39:53. This summer, Arritola earned a spot on the USA Track and Field Mountain Running Team that will compete November 15 and 16 in the 2019 World Mountain Running Championships in Argentina. To inquire about her personalized online coaching, contact Morgan at email@example.com.