More Than Splits: How Grayson Murphy Mastered the Trails to Win A World Title

In her second World Mountain and Trail Running Championship appearance, COROS athlete Grayson Murphy dominated the field and came away with her second World Championship win during the Mountain Classic race on June 10th, 2023 in Austria. Only days before, Grayson achieved bronze in the Vertical Race over a grueling 7.5km course with over 1,000m of ascent.

Grayson Murphy has an impressive background as a professional track athlete, road runner, and trail runner. She’s made a US Olympic Trials final in the steeplechase, and she’s qualified for the 2024 Olympic Trials in the marathon. Her diverse athletic background has allowed Grayson to excel no matter what distance she’s running, and has given her a tremendous advantage when competing on the trails.

Read below to see the COROS data leading up to her win, and learn how she masterfully manages the steep climbs and descents of mountain running.

Grayson Murphy’s Training Leading up to World Mountain Championships

It might be surprising to learn that prior to racing, Grayson only did one trail workout during her entire training cycle, and it was the day she left for Austria. The rest of her workouts were road and track intervals.

“I like those better because I feel fitter doing that, and I think you can get fitter doing that and that’s what I’m used to doing,” she explains. When strategizing with her coach David Roche, they agreed that it just made more sense for Grayson based on her background. Grayson could focus on speed on the roads or track, while doing some of her easy runs on the trails to get comfortable on the uneven terrain.

“I don’t want to get too far away from [speed]. If you start to get slower on the roads, it’s pretty hard to get back to that. So I like to keep that fresh,” she says.

Beginning late December of 2022, Grayson started increasing her training loads as she prepared for her spring racing season. Her COROS Base Fitness increased by 70 over three months, and she maintained this fitness leading into World Champs.

Beginning in late December, there is a steady increase in Grayson’s Base Fitness according to her COROS data. Her Load Impact (the amount of stress she was putting on her body over a 14-day span) exceeds her Base Fitness (42 days of Training Load), allowing her to gain fitness over time. Then, she maintains Base Fitness leading up to the Mountain and Trail World Championships.
While the COROS Race Predictor times are geared towards flatter courses on the road or track, versus an unpredictable trail race, Grayson’s chart indicated she was in strong form leading into the World Mountain Championships.

Grayson Murphy’s Top 3 Tips for Racing On Mountainous Terrain

The Mountain Classic race was held Saturday, June 10th in Innsbruck-Stubai in Austria, concluding the 4-day series of championship races. The 15km course included 751m of ascent and involved 2 loops with a steep climb up to Gramartboden, and then a long descent on root-covered trails back to the city. The race finished on a flat road section, giving Grayson an exciting sprint to break the tape.

Going into the race, Grayson said she felt recovered from her 3rd place finish in the Vertical Race, since it was more of an aerobic challenge uphill and there wasn’t much impact on her legs. Her strategy was to go with the front pack, control the race, and take the lead at some point when she felt ready.

  1. Make sure you know the course elevation profile first.

“It’s really important to know the course profile with trails. In roads if there’s a big climb at mile ten then you can adjust for that, but with trails you really need to know ‘am I climbing 3000 ft. at once then descending all at once, or is it broken into smaller climbs?’ ”

The Mountain Classic race featured 2 loops, about 400m of elevation gain and loss each time. It was important for Grayson to learn the course profile beforehand, so she could anticipate how to manage efforts.

2. Don’t go too hard on the downhill too early.

One of the biggest mistakes trails runners can make is underestimating the downhill impact on the legs. 

“My coach reminded me that I can’t blow up my legs on the first downhill, because I had to go up then go down again, and that did influence my race plan,” says Grayson. “That’s why I let Tove go when she passed me on the first downhill. We still had a lot of racing left to do.”

3. Focus on a consistent, controlled effort.

Instead of focusing on pace, Grayson says it’s all about effort on the trails. While speed is important, racing smart is about managing effort on steep terrain, so you have plenty of gas in the tank throughout the race. 

COROS Effort Pace is a proprietary metric for COROS, which evaluates effort on hilly terrain, so athletes can focus more on effort, rather than pace when running on hilly courses. You can add Effort Pace to your watch display, so you can see in real-time how hard you’re working.

Unlike a road or track race, where splits are usually only a few seconds off from each other, Grayson’s splits vary by a range of 7 minutes due to the drastic changes in elevation and challenging Mountain Classic course terrain.

What’s Next for Grayson Murphy

For Grayson who has mastered the track, road, and trails, nothing is off limits. She has several more trail races coming up, including Sierre Zinal, Pikes Peak, and Mammoth Trail Fest. Once her trail racing season is over, she’ll be preparing for the 2024 Olympic Trials next February, where she’ll debut in the marathon. We’re excited to see what she does on the trails and the roads, and how her strengths on different types of terrain play to her advantage!
You can follow @racin__grayson on Instagram, or subscribe to her YouTube channel.

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