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3761 Views 44 Replies Latest reply: Oct 11, 2007 10:33 PM by waltrb 1 2 3 Previous Next
waltrb Rookie 9 posts since
Dec 8, 2007
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Sep 26, 2007 8:43 PM

Descending Tips

Hill workouts....No problem. Grim and bear it, tough it out. Just run uphill, a bunch. Rinse and repeat.

Last trail race I was in, going DOWNhill is where I got dropped like a bad habit...and it hurt, a bunch.

Any tips, workout advice out there on how to better my descending skills so that my calves don't feel skewered?
Thanks
Walt

  • kellywilson Rookie 51 posts since
    Oct 27, 2007
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    1. Sep 26, 2007 9:35 PM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    Your calves feel skewered?  Usually for me it's my quads that get fried.  My advice is to practice the downhills as well.  I do a speed hike up, run where I can.  Once I get to the top, enjoy the view for a moment, turn around and run down.  I live in northern VT and do this on the Toll Rd up Mt Mansfield which is 4.5 miles one way. 

    On the way down I used to do the zig zag thing but now I just go straight. It takes me about a week to recover after the first time each season then the more I do it the recovery gets shorter.

    So find a big hill and don't worry about how long it takes you to get up because it's all about the down. Also, don't be afraid of it-let yourself go and enjoy the break.

    Good luck!

    Kelly

  • rootsrunner Rookie 236 posts since
    Jun 28, 2006
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    2. Dec 27, 2007 2:10 AM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    For running the downs, its less like a stride and more a shuffle. Choppy steps. Gravity does the work. The torso and upper legs remain somewhat immobile while all the turnover is from the knee down. Of course, it depends on the slope.

    On a lighter note, click here for what not to do.[/URL" target="_blank">

    Tough fall. From what I heard, it was at mile 3 of a 50km and the fella got up and finished the race.


    [http://This message has been edited by rootsrunner (edited Sep-26-2007).|http://This message has been edited by rootsrunner (edited Sep-26-2007).]

  • Tom Thornton Rookie 49 posts since
    Nov 12, 2007
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    3. Sep 27, 2007 8:24 AM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    Roots, whatup?  That's a great fall!  Notice how everbody went to help the guy out...  kinda just like in road racing (not!)

    Walter: Downhill strategy begins with the uphill. You need to have enough energy at the top of the hill to blast down the other side. That means walking up or at least taking it real easy. Then at the top, you kinda just "roll" into it, letting gravity do the work and thinking "fast feet, fast feet, fast feet..." Depending on the grade, you can lean forward into the run and just relax your body and run. It takes practice. Most folks, especially road runners, are very timid on the downhills and will want to lean backwards - that's what attacks your quads first. Of course, if it's real steep or technical, you do whatever you gotta do to stay upright.

    You can always tell the road runners who are novices on trails, they are the ones running up the tough hills and gently jogging/tiptoeing down the other side. The ultrarunners are the ones walking the ups and passing everybody on the downs.

    Again, it takes practice. Anybody can walk or run uphill, but really charging the downs takes practice.

    - Tom

  • exciton Rookie 317 posts since
    Nov 2, 2004
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    4. Sep 27, 2007 11:06 AM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    quote:


    Originally posted by TommyT:



    ...

    You can always tell the road runners who are novices on trails, they are the ones running up the tough hills and gently jogging/tiptoeing down the other side. The ultrarunners are the ones walking the ups and passing everybody on the downs.

    ...

    - Tom


     



    And I can always distinguish the novice ultrarunner, because he/she thinks you need to walk or take it easy on the uphills. If you want to be fast, you gotta develop strength and speed on the uphills as well as the downhills. As for developing speed on the flats, it's hard to beat some good road racing.

    The best of both worlds:

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  • exciton Rookie 317 posts since
    Nov 2, 2004
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    6. Sep 28, 2007 10:17 AM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    You had it right the first time Walter. Power up the hills. You have gravity for the downhills, so there's not much saving you need to do, especially if you do some good hill work. If you want to see the supreme example of this, just watch how the front runners run at the Pike's Peak Marathon. They RUN up 7400' and run back down. Those guys who finished the ten miler up front in 1:18 weren't walking the hills, they were running them.

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  • Tom Thornton Rookie 49 posts since
    Nov 12, 2007
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    7. Sep 28, 2007 11:33 AM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    Okay, Exciton, you're the expert with all the experience - I guess.  I think I'll start running all my uphills.  I'll try to remember that I've developed strength and speed as I get passed by all those "slow" guys between miles 60 and 90, who were silly enough to walk the early uphills.

    Of course you can run uphill, I do it all the time depending on the event distance, terrain, my personal goals, and strategy for the day.

    Gosh, I kinda thought I was experienced. Maybe I really don't know so much? !http://www.coolrunning.com/forums/confused.gif|src=http://www.coolrunning.com/forums/confused.gif|border=0!

    - Tom



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  • mudrunner040 Rookie 375 posts since
    May 27, 2004
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    8. Dec 27, 2007 2:10 AM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    quote:


    Originally posted by exciton:

    You had it right the first time Walter. Power up the hills. You have gravity for the downhills, so there's not much saving you need to do, especially if you do some good hill work.


     



    Can't say that I totally agree with this....I am a much better downhiller than uphiller. That is, for the same amount of effort, I get a much better return on the downhills. It is my experience that if I blow my brains out on a climb, then I'm left to recover on the downhill. If I pace myself conservatively on a climb, then I usually pick up more spots through a relaxed/fast downhill.

    Back to the original question:
    If you are a skier, then the technical aspect of skiing is a great reference point & corelates directly to an efficient downhill.
    -lean forward...run down the hill...don't lean back, but get into an athletic stance (imagine that someone is throwing a medicine ball at you & you have to be ready to catch it.
    -keep your arms forward...too many people flail their arms around & they throw off their balance.
    -look ahead...you should be looking two turns ahead of where you are & plan your line accordingly.
    -run like a duck...that is, turn your feet to face outward...I've mentioned this tip before, & it is probably the best single thing to get you running downhill fast & comfortably. The main reason is that you cannot twist an ankle inward. Knowing that you now have your ankles taken care of, you can focus on running faster.

    [http://This message has been edited by mudrunner (edited Sep-28-2007).|http://This message has been edited by mudrunner (edited Sep-28-2007).]

  • exciton Rookie 317 posts since
    Nov 2, 2004
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    9. Sep 28, 2007 4:46 PM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    Man, I just wrote out this beautiful and provocative reply only to have it disappear into the cyber-void.

    Maybe I'll try again tomorrow if the inspiration returns.

    Basically I think this idea that you have to take it easy or even walk on all the hills is a self-imposed limitation. The big dogs do not run that way. Being able to be aggressive on hills does take practice, but you'll never get there if you never try. Etc...

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  • mudrunner040 Rookie 375 posts since
    May 27, 2004
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    10. Dec 27, 2007 2:10 AM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    It all depends on your genetic limitations...some people cannot run a hill without going anaerobic. It's all about managing your abilities. This isn't self-limiting....if you look at a HRM, it's fact.

    Of course, you have to walk with a purpose...not stroll.
    It also depends on the race...I remember it well...I took my 50km pace & applied it to my very first 50 miler with almost disastrous results. By changing strategy to pace on heart rate rather than min/mile (which essentially meant I was walking thye big hills), I came back with a 40 minute PR 2 years later.

    If you ever hang out at the top of Devil's Thumb at WS, you'll see plenty of the "big dogs"....Jurek included...walking the hill.

    [http://This message has been edited by mudrunner (edited Sep-28-2007).|http://This message has been edited by mudrunner (edited Sep-28-2007).]

  • exciton Rookie 317 posts since
    Nov 2, 2004
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    11. Sep 28, 2007 6:49 PM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    Well, I don't think it ALL comes down to genetic limitations. I believe much more of it comes down to what limitations you impose on yourself, especially in training. And I know that there is a point at which running a hill is just not worth it. I've been there and I have walked many hills when I knew it was the smart thing to do, though I try not to. Maybe it's a particularly steep hill or you are in danger of crashing. I still think it's bad advice to impress on someone that one should take it easy on the hills or, as I have heard people say on numerous occasions, that you should 'walk all the hills'. I really think that's bogus advice. And, mudrunner, I think you inadvertently made a really good point when you said that, if you push a hill then you are left to recover on the downhill. That's exactly how it works. I am more of a 50K/50 mile type runner, so my experiences might be colored by this. But I can tell you that Hal Koerner did not get what he got this year by taking it easy on all the hills, whether he happened to hike Devil's Thumb or not.

    As an aside, I apologize if I seem like an arse. That's because I am quite opinionated and frankly, I am somewhat of an arse sometimes. I just believe that you get to your own potential by being aggressive, expanding your abilities, and taking risks. The first ultra I ever heard about was the local Mountain Mist 50K. It's a brutal, ragged course and at first I did not believe people actually ran those hills. Now I know that they not only run the hills, but the front guys torture the hills with wild abandon. Sometimes they crash, like Dave Mackey himself did back in 2006. Yes, the hills got him. But he came back in 2007 with the same aggression and ran an unfathomable, inexplicable 3:46. I was proud of my 4:46. To think he was almost two full minutes faster per mile. I heard he even ran up the Waterline. For anyone who has seen that grade, it's really unimaginable. Am I Dave Mackey? Clearly not (yet), but I will continue to work the hills until I am as strong as I can possibly be.

    Anyway, peace. We all have experience (but I still haven't run a 100M) and we're bound to disagree. This is a good discussion.

  • formationflier Rookie 974 posts since
    Oct 13, 2007
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    12. Sep 29, 2007 7:21 AM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    quote:


    Originally posted by exciton:

    Man, I just wrote out this beautiful and provocative reply only to have it disappear into the cyber-void.

    Maybe I'll try again tomorrow if the inspiration returns.

    Basically I think this idea that you have to take it easy or even walk on all the hills is a self-imposed limitation. The big dogs do not run that way. Being able to be aggressive on hills does take practice, but you'll never get there if you never try. Etc...


     



    Well, I walk few hills myself, but I do disagree with running hard
    on any early hills in an ultra. No matter what, one should be slowing
    down according to the grade and picking up quite a bit going down.
    Walking is the most common approach to that.
    That's running at an even level of effort. Otherwise, you're effectively
    throwing in sprints early in a race. Each early hill you take hard
    will be penalized with a much greater delay later than you saved
    by running hard! Downhill running takes training, but once you get
    it down, you can easily make up for uphill walks.

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  • exciton Rookie 317 posts since
    Nov 2, 2004
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    14. Oct 2, 2007 3:05 PM (in response to waltrb)
    Re: Descending Tips

    After thinking about this a little bit I have come to the following conclusion. Bear with my simple logic.

    Racing is about covering the entire course in the shortest possible time. You should not push a hill if this pushing will cause an overall slowdown, obviously. The optimum strategy for some people on some hills is to walk, because the alternative is to build up a fatigue that you cannot overcome and your overall time will suffer. On the other hand, if you walk hills that you should be running, then your overall time will suffer again, because you spent too much time taking it easy.

    I have noticed that the optimum strategy for the fast guys is to run the hills. This comes from my observations of my own running, from training with runners who are stronger than me, and from talking to stronger runners about their race strategies. I am not elite, but I'm somewhat quick now and again, and in my best races, I am able to push hills throughout the race. (Incidentally, in my best races I am also the one who does the passing in the final miles.) An elite will run up a truly tough hill and by the time the pursuer crests the hill, Ms. Elite is already booking down the other side with her superior technical downhilling style as she recovers from the recent effort. On the next hill she will pull away again. When Ian Torrence set the previous Mountain Mist record, he remarked how difficult the final hill was and how he was seeing stars as he ran up it.

    So in the big picture, I believe the best long term plan is to build the strength necessary to run hills. A lot of people limit their own potential because they settle for always taking it easy on the hills. They even do this in training! (Of course, some people are not so concerned about racing and will always be happy taking it easy in races. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all and this discussion would hold no sway with such a runner.)

    If you want to race well, then train hard, have confidence in your abilities, and determine to expand the range of terrain that is runnable for you. Train in such a way that your optimum strategy increasingly involves more fast running, uphill and downhill.

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