One of the fastest races in South Dakota, the Crazy Horse Half and Full isn't as easy as the net downhill would let you believe.
Let's tackle some of the ins and outs of this rails to trails course!
Considerations for Both Distances
Long Headwinds are Possible
Nearly the entire half marathon and the final 16 miles of the full marathon head north, which means you could have 13-16 miles of a headwind. Of course if it's a light breeze it will cool you quite well during the downhill finish, however a brisk wind can still slow you on the decline.
If there's a strong northern wind, recognize this and be aware that just like if it was an extra hot day, you must manage your event expectations for a slower time.
Gravel is simply not as economic of a running surface as pavement. Your feet will slide a tiny bit with each step, sucking up precious energy. It also takes a bit more work from your muscles to stabilize your body on this slightly slippery surface.
Extra Tips for the Marathon
Proper Pacing Prevents Poor Performance.
This is especially true when you have that short uphill at the start and the long uphill in the middle of the course. Make up a bit of time on the long downhills, but ease it back a bit for that uphill. Don't push your pace too much, you'll have 10 miles of downhill to make up time.
How to Train for Run Crazy Horse
Long Runs with some Gravel
Squeezing in some gravel miles during your easy runs will make a world of difference, this is especially true if you can do your long runs on flat gravel roads. Bonus points if you live local to the Black Hills and can visit the course a number of times to run on it.
Include Downhill Workouts
The gravel helps dampen some of the downhill blow to your quads, but over the miles it will still add up. If you can include some long downhills in your training you will condition your legs for the course.
Ways to do this would be to do tempo workouts on downhill sections. another option would be to do hill workouts going downhill instead of uphill during the hard repetitions.
How to Run the Events
Let's start with the half, you have a single real uphill at the start. It's rolling right to the hill, so you can take that first section at a good clip. When you approach the base of the climb, it's likely best to ease up a bit and not over-exert yourself going up. Once you hit the top, you have roughly 10 miles of downhill!
With the marathon, it's also best to take the climb at a conservative effort. You'll have downhill to mile 10 where you should feel fresh and fast, even at an easy effort but good downhill pace. You'll have about 6 miles of a gradual climb, take this at a relaxed pace. You may be temped to run a bit harder for this uphill since you have a downhill finish, but I promise you that taking this uphill slower will let you pass many runners who have expired during the final 10k of the marathon.
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