Tuesday, March 20th: 10 miles or so, 2:00:00.
Ran from ten to midnight in a cool rain. Felt wonderful!
Saturday, March 24th: 18 miles at Hobbs, 3:33:00.
I've been wanting to run two laps of the Little Clifty Loop at Hobbs for a while and finally got to it today. The Clifty loop is long at nine miles but is fairly easy, at least by Hobbs standards. Its two big climbs are both buggers, but the rest is just rolling hills. Till now, I've always walked the big climbs, at least parts of them, but today I really wanted to run them, which I did. Hard work, for sure, but not painful. I actually surprised myself a little bit!
My other objective for the day was to try out a technique for running downhill which I discovered while poking around on this ultra-running page, a collection of handy postings on various topics from who knows what message board. In the downhill section, someone mentioned using "bounce trees," with no further explanation. The idea intrigued me, not as a final answer to the problem of running down hills, but rather as a stop-gap measure to keep my quads from exploding while I develop a more elegant technique. So far, every cramp I've had on my long runs has been caused by a long descent. I (rightfully) do not have enough confidence in my footwork to just lean into a downhill and run, on rocks, at a super-fast cadence. Being out of control frightens me, so I maintain my mid-foot strike and brake with my quads to control my pace. It sucks! That's why the idea of bounce trees interested me so much. I wouldn't mind being out of control for several seconds as long as I knew I had something available to positively arrest my momentum every ten yards or so. Anyway, the rolling hills of the Clifty Loop would provide plenty of opportunities for experimentation before hitting the two big descents.
For most of the first lap, I tried putting one arm up and then aimed just to the side of the trees, so hitting the tree would result in a slight slowdown and a slight direction change. Sometimes the available trees would be arranged such that I could pinball back and forth from one side to the other. This was how I imagined bounce trees at first, and it seemed to work to an extent, but I soon decided it was risky and probably not a good idea, particularly several hours into a run when I'm tired and my footwork is not very crisp. The direction change upset my rhythmic plod, the rhythmic plod being crucial in distance running.
The second lap went much better. I adjusted the technique from using bounce trees to using "crash trees" where I would put both hands up and run dead straight into the tree, completely stopping all forward motion. It took some practice to determine just how much energy my arms could absorb and still keep my face from impacting the tree. You develop a feel for it pretty fast, though. After that, I would control my descent with my quads until I was just far enough from the next available tree, then I would lean forward, let my legs go, and allow gravity to accelerate me towards the tree, putting my hands up at the last second. It worked great!
The other thing I figured out is that, when no crash trees are available, it's best to use the quads to brake on the shallower down grades and just bomb the short but steep sections. Hitting the brakes on the steep sections trashes your quads! I still have a long way to go in developing my downhill technique, but I learned some good tools today. It's the first time I've run this far without a single cramp!
Total for Mar 19 - Mar 25: 28 miles.