April 05, 2011

Tips on downhill trail running

This Sunday I did an orientation run for the Tenderfoot Boogie, a trail race (28km, 50km or 50 miles) from Squamish to Whistler on May 14.

Race director Gottfried Grosser had marked the 25km section from the Adventure Centre in Squamish to the Tenderfoot Fish Hatchery with tape, orange with black polka dots.

I was one of 15 runners who showed up for this training run, which are free and open to anyone to attend. It was great to meet Gottfriend and the other 12 runners I hadn't met before.

The first part of Sunday's section was flat and went along trails through Squamish. I'd run these before though never in this particular order. The trails on the second half, near Brohm Lake, were new to me and fantastic.

The second half involved some uphills, and some downhills. As a relatively novice trail runner (I've been venturing onto trails regularly since May 2010), I am still struggling with doing the latter.

When I asked one of the runners, Mitch, for advice, he said:

1. pick as straight a line as possible by looking ahead;
2. take very small steps with a quick leg turnover;
3. put as little weight on your feet as possible.

Mitch said his experience as a rock climber came in handy. He said he assumes a rock will move when he steps on it. By taking small steps, he's able to correct himself quickly if a rock does move or his foot slips on whatever he's stepping on.

He said that by picking a straight line while looking ahead, he not only saves time but also avoids overanalyzing the ground right underneath him. Zigzagging on the trail to avoid roots and rocks is a recipe for twisted ankles, he said.

He recommended practicing the above, which I plan to do indeed. If you have any tips on downhill trail running, please feel free to comment. I'd love to hear them!

It was a great run, so thanks very much Gottfried! If you're keen to come this Sunday for a 30km run from Brohm Lake to Brandywine falls, please check the website for details and make sure you email Gottfried to let him know you'll be coming.

1 comment:

and.e.aitch said...

Hey, I was there too! You and I ran the last bit of the course together on Sunday.

When you asked how I run fast down hills, I believe I said something to the effect of "lean forward and take a leap of faith." I agree with the advice you posted, although I try not to look or plan too far ahead. I like to keep my eyes just a bit in front of me, maybe two steps into the future. I also try to turn off my brain and go on instinct. If I'm looking too far ahead or over analyzing the situation, that's when bad things happen. Nothing ruins a great downhill bomb like the realization that you're plummeting, nearly uncontrollably, down the side of a mountain. I'd also add "stay loose", although that's pretty close to point #3.

I had a good time up there in Squamish, hopefully I'll be able to make a couple more of the training days.