I’ve never been a fast climber and am much stronger on flat terrain in both skiing and other sports (like biking). This year I competed in both the Birkie and the West Yellowstone Rendezvous 50km skate races (starting in wave 1 of both races). I paced myself well in both races, but in the last 10 k of both races, my muscles burned on the climbs and generally left me exhausted. I had no problems with muscle fatigue on the flat sections or any short hills requiring burst of power in the later portions of these races. I’m wondering how I can adjust my training to generally improve my climbing ability, and in particular to stave off muscle fatigue on hills later in a marathon.
I’d approach it on three fronts, technique, strategy/pacing, training.
Technique, when you come to the uphill, stand up taller to help get your hips forward over your feet. This will make it easier to take smaller skate steps, moving more quickly from foot to foot. This keeps the skis moving. You won’t get bogged down as easily, and will be able to keep the skis gliding with less effort. Also standing up with your upper-body helps you breathe more easily.
Strategy / Pacing, this has to do when and where in the hill you put your energy. Focus putting energy where you get the most speed in return. Use your energy to maintain your momentum as far up the hill as possible, but then back off in the meat of the hill. Stand up taller, breathe and settle in to a relaxed rhythm. Then a few strides from the top, over the top and a few strides down the other side put in a bit more energy to build momentum through the transition and into the next piece of terrain.
Training, lastly and probably most importantly, put these tactics into practice. Training with focus helps improve those things, but also helps you be in the zone while you are training – more focus on what you are doing, more improvement and a deeper enjoyment. Also, working on the hills with a specific focus will help you both physically and mentally to take them on.