When one must Hike
Not all of us are able to channel our inner Killian and run every step of every climb. (I say that half joking because even the Spaniard must resort to the power hike now and then.) And those times will come in varied race distances, and even in fun runs. The good news is that often it is more efficient and faster to power hike than it is to run. Often it is the grade that determines the switch from running to hiking, but also, distance into a race/workout, or the technical difficulty of the trail are also factors. Here are a few of my tips on how to tackle my favorite part of running: hills.
HIKE WITH PURPOSE. It’s easy to get into an easy walking pace on climbs. It feels like a point where you can eek out a bit of recovery. However, this is also where much time is lost and mental fortitude it tested. When I approach a hill, I pick the point at which I’m going to transition to hiking. And when I make that transition, I do so with drive. There is no gear-down to a stop, rather just a change in tempo, footing, and arm swing. These targeted points help me transition without losing precious momentum. I start with a powerful, big first step, followed by a powerful arm swing. I then pick my uphill line, as if I were heading down. This helps keep my focus on the climb instead of the soon to come sudden spike in breathing and heart rate. HIKE WITH PURPOSE. It is a mantra. Once you start, it should ring in your ears to keep you moving forward and upward.
RUN IN SPURTS. Some climbs are long, very long, like from Boomtown to the top of Peavine at the Silver State 50/50. There you have around 8 miles of climbing. That is just too long to hold a good solid hike. To keep my muscle memory focused on running, I’ll pick spots within the climb to throw in short bursts of running. This technique makes it much easier to switch back to running quickly once you crest whatever hill you’re charging.
LEAN IN. Erect posture is not really your best friend on steep climbs. I find it compromises knee drive and throws balance into question. Instead, I practice a technique that is well demonstrated by Javier Castellar. As you can see in the picture, he has a balanced forward lean, a focused path and is leveraging his body with his hands on his quads. It is a technique practiced by many of the top mountain runners around the world. What I also like about this technique, is that it forces focus. There is no room for getting lazy on the climb or compromising purpose.
Climbs come with the reward of a peak or summit or some sort of crest. Conquering each and every climb should always be a celebration. It’s a personal victory to ascend a mountain top, or the JP trail in Coldstream, or the 30 second climb outside your back door. The climb will make you stronger, faster, fitter.
Coach Peter Fain offers custom coaching services and guided trail running. Find out more at RunonDirtTruckee.com.