This workout from the U.S. Ski Team’s (USST’s) Noah Hoffman definitely falls into the “don’t try this at home” category – or at least not without some modifications.
Hoffman, an up-and-comer on the U.S. distance squad, brings overdistance workouts into a realm usually monopolized by ultramarathoners. On long runs hitting the six- to seven-hour mark, Hoffman does in a day what many weekend warriors do in a week.
But these workouts are not just about putting in the time. For Hoffman, it is a chance to explore, and enjoy the process.
This might involve pulling out a map and plotting a new route, or stringing together a series of familiar trails into a big loop.
“When I am in Park City, I get a National Geographic map, and I’m like ‘this trail looks fun,’” he said. “Sometimes, I get on these trails that are super-overgrown, super-hard to find, crossing streams constantly. You just have to commit to being soaking wet, because you are not going to get through it otherwise. That is my favorite.”
On of his go-to routes is a circumnavigation of the stunning Maroon Bells mountains outside of Aspen, Hoffman’s hometown.
Known as the “Four Pass Loop,” the run is exactly a marathon in distance, 26 miles, and climbs over four mountain passes all in the 11,000 to 12,000 foot range. With the valleys no higher than 9,000 feet, there is no shortage of elevation.
“It is just spectacular out there,” says Hoffman.
These long workouts also provide the opportunity to take advantage of travel. Recently, Hoffman took a trip with his parents from Aspen to Durango. Between those two towns is the substantial Snowmass Wilderness Area, and cars must drive the long way around. So Hoffman got out of the car in Snowmass Village, ran through the wilderness area, and met his parents on the other side—for a total of 17 miles.
“I really like doing stuff like that, making the drive shorter—and then you are tired when you get in the car,” he said.
Generally, Hoffman does these long runs alone, but not out of a desire for solitude.
“It would be really fun to show people [these routes], but they are so long that oftentimes it’s hard to match up with other skiers,” he said.
The idea, as with most overdistance workouts, is to stay at level one, but Hoffman readily admits that he strays at times. “Every once in a while, I get stubborn, and I just refuse to walk any of it. I really should be ski walking, but I just don’t do it. So I run the whole thing, and am probably in lower level three at that point. But it is not the end of the world.”
Even when pushing the pace somewhat, Hoffman doesn’t treat the workout differently in terms of repair and recovery—with the exception of skipping an afternoon workout, of course. And usually, such runs are scheduled before an easier training day.
Hoffman doesn’t even follow a substantial feeding regime on these runs. He travels with two bars in the back pocket of his shorts, and a water bottle with filter that he carries with one of the hand straps preferred by long distance runners, filling it at stream crossings.
“Generally I can get through 6 or 7 hours with just that,” he said.
Hoffman is not sure how much physiological benefit he gets from pushing these workouts beyond five hours, noting the Kris Freeman now stays below that threshold for just that reason.
But the psychological benefits make it all worth it. “I have been doing these since I started training,” Hoffman said, “before I even had a training plan…they are just so much fun.”
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.