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Adventure as a Training Plan

Brendan Leonard

September 29th, 2023

4 min read


A couple years ago, I signed up for three very different races within nine weeks of each other: The Rut 50K in Montana in September (a steep 31 miles with 10,500 feet of climbing, up to 11,000+ feet), the Mines of Spain 100K in Iowa in October (62 miles, 8,400 feet of climbing, much closer to sea level), and the New York City Marathon in November (which is, you know, the New York City Marathon).

A wiser person would probably have wondered: How am I going to train for all these races? Which is a great question. Perhaps before asking that, the wiser person would have asked: Wait, should I sign up for all these?

I am not a wise person. I was not even smart enough to look at a calendar before scheduling all that stuff. I just thought all those things sounded fun and oh, welp, we’ll see what happens. Fortunately, I am not trying to “win” races, or even “perform well,” or clock a “goal time.” I am trying to “survive,” without “embarrassing myself” or “getting injured,” and “have fun out there.”

I did, though, have a plan. It was not a training plan, mind you, just a list of fun things I wanted to do in the couple weeks of fall in Western Montana when we have great temps, no wildfire smoke, and a decent amount of daylight.

The Plan

The plan: I would bike, run, and hike to the summits of seven mountains I could see from our neighborhood—down the ends of the streets where I walk my dog, and on the horizons to the north, east, and south. It was a play on the idea of The Seven Summits, the list of the highest mountain on each of the world’s continents—except, you know, instead of going to Alaska to spend three weeks in the snow climbing 20,322-foot Denali, I’d ride my bike to the Rattlesnake trailhead and run/hike up 7,791-foot Stuart Peak. And so on.

Where did this “Seven Summits of My Neighborhood” dad joke/idea come from? I don’t know where ideas come from, but I can tell you one thing: Over three weeks in July 2021, Anton Krupicka rode his bicycle from Boulder, Colorado, to climb Kings Peak (the highest mountain in Utah), the Grand Teton, Granite Peak (the highest peak in Montana), Cloud Peak, Gannett Peak (the highest peak in Wyoming), and Longs Peak, before riding home to Boulder. He got home on July 26th, and on August 21st, he ran the Leadville 100 and placed third.

I’m not saying that a) this was some sort of training plan for him or b) that I have anything in common with Anton Krupicka as far as athletic ability goes. I am just suggesting that casually observing his Strava activities that summer might have been in the back of my head when I put together my plan. Or: It gave me some vague feeling of justification about riding my bike to climb mountains around my hometown when I probably should have been focusing on training volume or intervals or tempo runs or, you know, running.

The Result

I ran The Rut, survived, and then planned to bike/run/hike all my peaks over an 18-day period, with some other running mixed in. On October 15th, I ran the Mines of Spain 100K, and survived. On November 7th, I finished the New York City Marathon without injury or incident.

Had I unlocked some secret formula, in which cross-training became the optimal training? I think that is very doubtful. But it definitely helped my motivation and morale. I had fun doing a bunch of different adventures on the roads and trails. I have, at least once, been in the middle of a months-long training plan, looked at the week ahead, and been not very excited about running all those miles, on those particular days. And with this “Adventure Training Plan (That’s Not Really A Training Plan),” I never felt like I was in a rut. And maybe that was the discovery: figuring out how to keep it interesting. Or maybe I just got lucky.

How did the Seven Summits of My Neighborhood go? Well, I made this film about it:

Check out @Semi_Rad on Instagram for more from Brendan on the Seven Summits of My Neighborhood.

3 thoughts on "Adventure as a Training Plan"

  1. Melissa says:

    Best trail running shape I ever was in was when I submitted all the volcanos in WA in one week (except glacier peak…) I decided to do it super last minute and it was the most fun I’ve ever had. I love adventuring-as-training, way more fun than a plan!!

  2. Lisa says:

    Yes! You ultimately do what you train to do. If you train to get bogged down in slavery to the logistics, you do that while racing too. If you train to have fun, you have fun!

  3. Rebekah Trittipoe says:

    What a fun adventure! Love it that you captured the essence of the 7 sub-adventures.

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