Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A few Tips on Technique

Technique I:  Roll with the fall.
It is now 88 days until the start of the Tahoe Rim Trail 100.  I have originally developed a training plan for running the Bear 100 in mid September but Tahoe is July 16th and 17th.  I plan my training schedule in terms of "weeks-out" and this last weekend was 13 weeks before the race.  According to my revised plan to be ready for Tahoe, last weekend was supposed to be a 5 hour run.  I could only manage a very difficult 3:35.  (The run wasn't any harder than my normal runs, I just had a really hard time running.) This was the second run after stopping the medication I have been taking since the first of the year, "Flecianide" for atrial fibrillation and I think I was having some residual effects from it.  This weekend I again planned on running 5 hours but instead I ran 5:45 and felt great.  I even took a swim about half a mile from the end of the run.  We had two storms last week and the second, Friday night, (the one that caused so many tornadoes in the southeast) must have produced a lot of rain.  There was water standing all over Oak Mountain State Park. Places I have never seen water.

After 8 hill repeats in the first 3:25 I ran to the other end of the park, to Peavine Falls.  It is always really pretty after a large rain.  Then I ran back the 6.25 mile blue trail to the north trail head where I was parked.  Here are a couple of pictures of Peavine Falls, now just imagine three times volume of water shown in the pictures and that is how it looked Sunday.

There was a small stream about 3 feet wide and 6 inches deep crossing the trail on the descent just over half a mile from the end of my run.  I guess I was looking at the water instead of where I was stepping, because in all the years I have been running at Oak Mountain, I have never seen so much as a damp spot at this particular place.   I tripped and rolled right into the stream, which brings us to the first technique I will talk about.  When you fall while trail running, ROLL.  Actually, I have always rolled when I fall running, even road running.  I don't even think about it, I just roll.  The water it felt pretty good, I was really tired and hot and the temperature was about 80 by then.

I try to be very careful running downhill.  When you are running uphill, a fall in no big thing.  You are running  slowly, I will rephrase that, I am running slowly and about all I have to do is put my hands out and push myself back upright.  Downhill is another story.  If you hang a foot solidly, your upper body is sort of "flung" to the ground.  Going downhill your upper body has more time to gain  momentum before that abrupt stop.  If I tripped on some of the steep, rocky sections I run hill repeats on the results could be bad.  I was running downhill when I fell in the water and the area is really rocky, but either I missed the rocks or my hydration pack shielded me.  I only had a couple of scrapes and a very uncomfortable cramp in my calf.  I ended up on my back in the water and had to roll over a log, downhill to get out.

Most of the time when you trip, it is possible to avoid a fall.  A couple of quick steps or a bounce off a hand (Nathan hand held Quick-Draw bottles help here) and you manage to stay upright.  I have read a couple of articles on falling during trail runs and they do not recommend fighting the fall too hard. They say it is usually best to just go with the fall and ease the landing with a roll.  A sudden long step as you are falling forward can injure a muscle or a joint.  Actually, every fall I have had that did serious damage happened so quickly that I didn't have time to react.

Technique II:
Running up hill.  If you are a skater, you know what a crossover step is.  (Or if  you ever watched speed skating in the Olympics) you know how skaters go around a turn with the inside hand on the back and side stepping around the turn.  When you are running up or walking up a steep hill, try switching to a crossover step as you climb up the hill.  That is, turn your feet out at about a 20 deg. angle to the right of your line of travel.  Exaggerate your arm swing of the right arm and swing it across in front of your body with some force.  Hold the left hand relatively still (just like the skater in the turn.)  After 15 or 20  steps with you feet turned to the right, switch sides.  Turn  you feet to the left 20 deg. and exaggerate the arm swing of your left arm.  What you are doing is taking the majority of the strain of walking or running uphill off the quads and shifting some of that effort to other muscles in your legs.  Your quads have a little rest and you save a little more energy.  This really works.  I use it in all my weekday runs at Veteran's Park on the one very steep, short hill.  I try to remember to use it on weekend runs, too.  I did remember to use crossovers at Wasatch.  Give it a try.  Well, maybe not quite this much of a crossover step.

Technique III:
I don't remember where I read this but it may have been in the same article suggesting crossover steps.  This rule (suggestion) is for running or walking up a very steep section of trail.   If you are trying to decide whether to take one step or two up a particularly difficult section, take three Steps.  Three small steps use less energy than one or two larger steps.  The thing to keep in ming is that your goal is to cover 50 kilometers or 50 miles or 100 miles.  The less energy you use to cover each mile, the greater your chances for success.

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