Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tricks of the Trail

One of the easier sections of the Wall Lake Trail
Sue and I are planning to run the Yellowstone Half Marathon in June.  The Yellowstone Half is sponsored by Vacation Races, a fabulous racing company – and it’s a trail run.  13.1 miles of dirt road and trail.  Running on trails is different from running on roads, and I find it quite challenging.

My first trail run was Patia’s Race, a 10K trail run in Eureka, Utah.  The race was great –except for a steep downhill stretch where I found myself walking – no, stumbling – as the rest of the racers blew by me.  Why?  Fear of falling.

I have a rational fear of falling.  Along with Blythe Danner, Sally Field, and thousands of other post-menopausal women, I have osteoporosis.  If I fall I could break something – and that would seriously interfere with my running.  So imagine my chagrin when one of the articles I find on downhill trail technique includes this sentence: “Some call downhill running “controlled chaos.” I call it ‘falling in control,’ because that’s more of what it looks like. Falling.”

The author, Doug, goes on to refer to downhill trail running as “dancing with the mountain.”  OK, I can get behind this. Here are his five key components to proper downhill technique.  I am pleasantly surprised at the strong ties to the Chi Running technique I’ve been working on.

1.  Quick foot and leg turnover.  (There’s that cadence again).
2.  Lean forward, not back. (Lean for speed, but apparently also to prevent stress on your legs and quads.)
3.   Look straight ahead – not down.  Keep your gaze about 5 – 7 feet ahead of your steps.  Trust that your brain will process the information and put your feet in the right places. (The concept of Y Chi – focusing on a distant point to channel your running in the direction you’re going.)
4.  Use the upper body for balance.  (Another Chi Running concept – amplified in trail running by allowing the upper body to float as needed to balance your footsteps.  Dancing with the mountain…)
5.  Descend with confidence.  (I think Doug was looking directly at me when he wrote this sentence.  I have all the confidence in the world going uphill; I need to reach out for that confidence on the downhills.)

He closes the article by reminding his readers that they need to practice.  A lot.  And to dedicate time to strictly practice running downhill.  Queue the music - it’s time to start dancing with the mountain.

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