Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Riding The Ridge

Sunday's run would be in the morning and I decided on some hills to counter the flat running the previous day. Zane agreed to come along and do some hiking while I ran over at Pleasanton Ridge. This is a great place for some good hill running. It has some nice uphill, but almost nothing as steep as Mission Peak and there is plenty of down to match with the up as you go. This is a popular place for mountain bikers which I always find motivating, especially when they challenge me on the uphill. The first biker was some skinny young guy who blew right past me on the way up the Oak Tree Trail. It made me think that maybe the trail wasn't steep enough for me to hang with the bikers. However the next guy was more my size. He passed by me, but was huffing and puffing a bit. As the trail steepened a little, I caught up to him and then pushed hard to pull ahead and pass some hikers up ahead. He stayed on my tail the whole way up, but never actually caught me again. As the trail curved around and I headed up the Ridgeline Trail, he stayed on the more level Thermalito Trail. Ridgeline is the best hill training. It is basically a serious of hills each one a bit steeper and a bit higher with short level breaks in between. There are always bikers resting at the top of these hills and as I passed them I began to think about how much my past mountain biking has taught me about running hills. So, here are the mountain biking skills that I have translated into running mantras:

  1. Cadence is key. Finding the right gear for the terrain and then maintaining a consistent leg turnover is what it's all about.
  2. It's OK to push it anaerobically up a short hill, but on the longer steep stuff you need to learn how to properly use your "granny gear".
  3. When cresting a tough hill do not immediately "shift gears" and try to accelerate as soon as it flattens out. "Spin it out" a little and give your legs a few seconds to recover, shifting gradually and naturally into the new pace.
  4. Do not overuse your brakes on the downhill. Gravity is your friend. With practice you will find that you can actually maintain better control by using the acceleration that gravity gives you. Besides, you really don't want to burn out your brakes (knees).
  5. When going down more technical terrain, focus on balance and technique. Look down the trail and anticipate obstacles. Bank the turns and then accelerate through them.
  6. If a downhill leads into an uphill try to use your momentum, but be prepared to shift into an easier gear (pace) as the hill steepens. Nothing will zap your energy reserves more quickly than charging too hard up a big hill after a fast downhill or flat section.
  7. Finally, it's OK to catch a little air and even let out a happy "whoop" now and then. Remember, it's supposed to be fun. There's nothing wrong with letting those around you know just how much!!!
With these rules in mind, I had a great run and I managed to do the entire Ridgeline Trail and then the Bay Leaf and (steep) Sinbad Creek Trail loop before returning. I managed to surprise myself by knocking off the whole thing (close to 12 miles) in under 2 hours. This was especially satisfying as I did one of my first "big" trail runs here almost 4 years ago. I remember struggling and having to walk slowly and painfully up the Sinbad Creek Trail and even stopping to keep myself from throwing up part way up. This time, I simply cruised through this section at my slow shuffle-run pace (i.e. "granny gear"). My overall pace for the run was almost a minute and a half per mile faster than back then. It's good to look back sometimes and see how much we've learned.

1 comment:

olga said...

It's wonderful to look back! Especially when it means you're improving:) Way to go on the hill!