How To Train For It: Hot Hot Hundred 10K

Tricks, Tips, & Suggestions For Running The Hot Hot Hundred Individual 10K

In the “How To Train For It” blog posts we will take a deep dive into a specific race distance to explore training tips, suggestions, and even sample training plans from the Race Directors and past runners of that race.  The “How To Train For It” blogs will include sample training tips put together by the Race Directors along with actual training plans used by runners in their current or past training cycles.

Hot Hot Hundred 10K

The Hot Hot Hundred truly is one of a kind. It is a race that draws road runners, trail runners, outdoor adventurers of all types to the Kentucky foothills for weekend of camping, running, eating, and laughing. Few people are laughing, however, while they are out there on the insane 6.2 mile looped course. So what makes the Hot Hot Hundred so challenging?

The. Freaking. Hills.

Let’s get this one out of the way right off the top. The Hot Hot Hundred takes place on a working timber farm, and the course makes use of paths that are more or less bulldozed through woods by the logging equipment. That means two things:

  1. Each year the course is slightly different because we follow new paths that have been cut through the forest during the previous logging cycle.

  2. Those hills go STRAIGHT UP! When the logging equipment needs to get from the valley to the ridge, the loggers take the most direct route to the top: a straight line.

So the Hot Hot Hundred’s hills are not so taxing because of their elevation. In truth each climb only gains roughly 300’-400’ in total elevation. It is the grade that makes most people cry (or laugh out of disbelief). So how do we deal with it?

Runners beginning the second big climb of the 10K. Slick mud and straight up! Photo by: Al Fryman.

Workout

Run hills! That may sound obvious, but the only way to prepare for the steep climbs and descents at the Hot Hot Hundred is to get out on similar terrain and train your body for climbing up hills. Don’t be fooled, however, into thinking that simply getting from the bottom of a hill to the top will prepare you for the Hot Hot Hundred 10K. It won’t. Because of the steep grades and uncertain footing at the Hot Hot Hundred runners will need to really build their leg power, power hiking form, and breathing.

  1. Power - Leg and core strength will go a long way to getting you to the top of the Hot Hot Hundred hills. Squats, leg presses, and other strength exercises will be highly beneficial. When running your hill workouts, really push the pace and don’t be afraid to repeat short hills over and over again. More important than finding a long hill is finding a STEEP hill.

  2. Hiking Form - Very few people can actually run the Hot Hot Hundred hills. You will be power hiking most of it. Practice the most efficient way to hike up a hill based on your comfort level. Get out in the woods with a heavy pack on and just go for a hike. When hiking uphill, make sure you keep your shoulders back and your chest expanded. This will ease your breathing.

  3. Breathing - Don’t forget that the Hot Hot Hundred is a summer race. It gets hot. It gets humid. In the weeks leading up to the race, don’t shy away from getting outside for a run even in the hottest, most brutal part of the day. Even if you are hiking up the Hot Hot Hundred hills on race day, you will quickly be out of breath. Condition your body to breath efficiently under stress in these tough summer conditions.

Downhill Running

As tough as the climbs are, the downhills are equally taxing. They are just as steep in many places along the 10K route as the climbs can be. Runners need to be careful to keep sound footing and avoid a nasty spill down the shale-covered hillside. The final downhill can be very debilitating if a runner does not leave enough in the gas tank. 10K runners reach the bottom of the final hill - a long, steep, and rocky descent - with just over a mile left in the race. The final mile is flat, but many 10K runners fly down that hill way too fast. They then reach the bottom with quad muscles that just don’t want to work anymore.

A perfect example of leaning back too far and risking having my feet slide out from under me!

Workout

Practice your downhill running FORM! Find a good trail that has a relatively steep grade and practice running down it over and over. Don’t focus on speed. Instead, focus on your form and foot placement. One mistake that new runners make when it comes to descents is they focus too much on trying to slow down. Constantly trying to put on the brakes can be very hard on your body. The constant hard impact of trying to fight against gravity can put incredible stress on your spine, ankles, hips, and knees. Here are a few tips for descending during your workouts:

  1. Bend Your Knees - This may sound obvious, but I often see runners standing up really tall and leaning back in an effort to stay upright on steep downhills. This can work against you. Instead, keep your knees bent and raise them high to avoid getting your toes caught on a rock or root. Your knees should act as shock absorbers, not brakes!

  2. Shorten Your Stride - Instead of bounding down a hill with long, lumbering strides shorten your stride into quick steps that take advantage of your new shock absorbing knees. This will greatly decrease the impact of each step and will ultimately result in less energy loss.

  3. Sit Down - Not literally. Running posture on steep descents is critical to balance and efficiently reaching the bottom. Our natural inclination - in order to balance and lean away from the danger of falling - is to stand up tall and lean back. While this might make you more comfortable because you think you have a lower likelihood of falling, it will make running downhill exhausting! Instead, lower that booty so that your center of gravity is closer to the ground. This will help you maintain your balance and will go a long way to helping you maintain those bent knees we talked about in item #1.

That’s it! Sounds simple, right? Of course, there are many other factors, but having witnessed this race for the past three years I’ll tell you that if you can master those hills (up AND down) you’ll reach that finish line smiling!

Have you run the Hot Hot Hundred 10K in the past? Do you have training tips to share with Hot Hot Hundred rookies? Comment below!