by Shuhei Akaba, coach and husband of World Championships marathoner Yukiko Akaba
translated and edited by Brett Larner
Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) training on Boulder's Magnolia Road. Click photo to enlarge and to see other pics from the workout.
This is our fifth report from the 2011 Boulder training camp. This time we'll be looking at Yukiko's long run on Magnolia Road. Last year we took part in the federation's Boulder training camp and learned about this course, where a lot of athletes who train in Boulder do long runs. The road is packed dirt and starts at over 2400 m altitude, going as high as 2600 m within the 11-mile stretch that people run. Boulder itself is at around 1600 m, so when you go up to that kind of height even light exercise leaves you feeling out of breath.
The course has a lot tough hills so it would be pretty rough even if it weren't at altitude, but having an average altitude of around 2500 m makes it harder and something more valuable. Last year Yukiko was injured and couldn't do a long run workout there, instead just jogging it. "I'm going to go out and get a clear mental image so that next year I can train here seriously," she said at the time. Then this year when the time was right and she was ready for the final stages of her training she came back to run this course.
The surface of the road is extremely hard-packed dirt with some rough sections. Like other places at high altitude there is a bewildering variety of weather. At the start of the workout it was nice and cool, but partway through the sunshine became intense and burning. Some parts of the course are relatively flat, but it is mostly continuous ups and downs. The main point of the workout was to run without letting the up-down changes break the flow of her running.
On the uphills it was business as usual. You could tell the effect it was having on her body because on the flat sections she looked like she had tasted something terrible. I could see that this Magnolia Road course wasn't something you could just go run without being prepared. If you are going to go train there you need to be physically and mentally ready. You could say that the point of running on a tough course is to crack the shell. If you can break through it then the sense of accomplishment can help lead to great things.
In this workout Yukiko went all out in her last surge. It showed magnificently how strong and powerful her musculature has become, the solid, crystallized result of focused, intent running on seriously undulating courses. There is no doubt she is ready to roll in the main event. We're now into the last part of the Boulder training camp. The race date has grown close but we're still keeping things in relax mode in our day-to-day life. We want to keep things going all the way to the end without breaking this vibe.