Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hill Running - Accents and Descents

Victor, Tim Long, and Lucho
So as I had stated in previous posts, one of the areas that I really need work on is my descents.  I am fine with short distances; however, if I am running hard downhill for a few miles my quads are useless three to five days after.  I know that a lot of it has to do with conditioning; however, a lot of it has to do with technique. 

 So I really was excited when my wife signed us up for a hill running clinic that Tim Long's (a.k.a. Footfeathers) was conducting in the Marin Headlands.  He brought friends to this clinic, Tim Waggoner (a.k.a. Lucho) and Victor Ballesteros, so you got a full breadth of experience.

Climbing our practice hill.
Lucho, was still recovering from his record performance at the Leadman series, so he was still recovering.  It was nice to see though that these guys are mortal and go through some of the same aches and pains that we all do; even though his effort was a magnitude 11 compared to the magnitude 5 that I am used to!

It was a pretty cold day; however, there was a pretty good turnout.  In fact there were several that had run the Rocky Ridge half-marathon and 10K the day before, so we were in great company.  

Even Victor got into the action.  Notice one foot stays on the ground always.
Tim Long took us up a hill above Rodeo Beach and demonstrated downhill technique.  Basically, you keep your upper body perpendicular to the hill while you are running down in a sitting position.  The best comparison is adapting mogul skiing technique to running.  Your feet are not extended out but make very short but quick steps, with one foot on the ground at all time so that you minimize the force of all of your weight on one leg.

Tim Waggoner illustrated his method, which was similar with the exception that instead you are standing a bit more.  Short quick steps again, keeping one foot on the ground also.

After everyone took turns with feedback from Tim Long, we worked on our ascents.  Basically it is very much like speed walking up hill; however, using your upper body to propel you up the mountain.  Tim Waggoner then showed the method currently being used on the European circuit, which is basically done by placing your hands on your knees and pushing up.

After the clinic, everyone went for a run towards Tennessee Valley. I ran with them a bit; however, decided to cut back to meet Beth who was exploring another part of the trail.  All in all, it is definitely worth the $30 and I learned a lot. Tim does a series of these clinics every month or two and cover subjects like hill training, nutrition, and race planning and strategy.  Check here on a regular basis if you are interested.

Truman is a very happy pup with Cat Corbett!  Photo Brazen Photographer
However, my training wasn’t complete for the weekend.  As I mentioned on my Rocky Ridge post; I was able to run some of the race with Catra Corbett and her dog Truman.  For downhill she recommended that I Google pose running.  Basically it is where you again lean forward, perpendicular to the hill.  You can also find videos on YouTube. The key here is that your feet stay below you so that you are never pounding your quads.  I actually tried this during the race and did not have any quad problems .
So ideally, for me, I will be using the method that Cat Corbett suggested for long downhill firetrails and the Tim Long and Tim Waggoner’s method for technical stuff. 

 At the end of it all, everyone develops their own technique; however, it is great to revisit and refine it every once and a while.

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