Salomon offered a trail running clinic through the New England Running Company today. We met up at NERC, in Beverley, MA, laced up some Sense Ride demo shoes that the Salomon folks had brought, and carpooled over to Patton Park in Hamilton. It was a hot, humid day, so it was nice to reach the end of the field and get inunder the trees. Our coach, Mike Ambrose, who had just returned from running the Mont Blanc Marathon in France, stopped us at the bottom of the first hill and laid out the plan: We would be learning about hill running technique (uphill and downhill), plus any other topics the group wanted to cover. It was a group of mostly women of varying experience, all really kind and excited to learn. A few of the NERC employees joined the fun, too.
I’ll skip the play-by-play and go right to Mike’s advice:
-keep on the balls of your feet. Leading with your heel puts undue stress and shock on your legs and can be inefficient.
-swing your arms, “hips to nips,” to give yourself some extra momentum from one step to the next.
-don’t be ashamed to power hike it, stepping heel-first and rolling along your foot. Long races are all about managing your energy. A power hike can be nearly as fast as running a hill, but keeps your heart rate a little lower, readying you to crush the next section of trail instead of needing rest.
-when you power hike, put your hands on your thighs to push off on each step, almost like you’re using trekking poles. Keep your head up to keep your airways open.
-land on the balls of your feet for best stability. If you land on your heel, your center of balance is further back and makes you less stable and more likely to roll an ankle or slip and slide on loose rocks.
-to put on the brakes without leaning back on your heels, do like skiers do: travel back and forth across the slope a little bit to slow yourself down. But also just embrace gravity and hope there’s a nice long run-out at the bottom! (Mike’s words, not mine!)
-use your arms “like a space ship” to help keep your balance. These are words to live by and I will forever picture myself as an X-Wing on all downhills from this day forward. Pew pew pew!
-quick little steps
-“Accept the downhill”
-uphill: There are two ways to use them going uphill: opposite hand with opposite foot (for power hiking) or double pole planting (for short and fast uphill runs).
-really plant that pole and push off.
-downhill: practice this a good deal if you will be doing it during a race as it’s easy to get your legs and poles tangled.
-some races don’t allow trekking poles. Some races say, if you start with them, you must end with them. Ask in advance!
-apparently, in Europe, runners use them all the time.
Mike answered my questions about running downhill on technical trails, which is something I’ve been working on since I met with the Trail Animals Running Club at the Middlesex Fells for one of their Saturday runs. They totally smoked me going downhill and I was astonished at how nonchalantly they threw themselves down steep trails with loose rocks and roots. I think I’ve improved enormously (and Mike said my technique was “great.” Woo!), but my new issue is that my Brooks have ripped almost all the way across (you can see my foot sticking out on both sides now!) and the tread is worn very thin. I need some shoes I can count on for technical terrain, so I was pumped to take those Sense Rides for a test run.
For those who are interested, the Sense Rides have an 8mm drop. The tread was plenty aggressive for the damp dirt, loose rocks, and wet grass we were on. Much better than my Cascadias, which slide back on every step as if I’m running through sand. Admittedly, they are old, but I don’t remember them being much better when they were new. The Salomons we tried today had those single-pull “quick laces” and what they called a “laces garage” (little mesh pocket on the tongue where you can tuck the extra length away). The laces worked themselves a little loose by the end of our 3-ish mile run, but not too much. I was also wearing a half size smaller than I usually do and they fit fine, even with my fairly wide feet. I guess the sizes run a little long.
I felt the water from the damp grass, but the inside of the shoes was never wet or squishy. I asked about the Speedcross 4s when we got back to the store, because I had heard they were Goretex and don’t drain or dry. The rep said that they have several levels of Goretex and that the “Climashield” version was the best option for New England trails. It just has Goretex along the tongue and over top of the toes, to keep moisture from grass or rain from entering from above, but the sides are breathable to allow the feet to dry out if they do get wet from water crossings. I tried the Speedcrosses on and loved the fit, so I’ll have to check out the Climashield models at some point. Running in VT, especially, has taught me the importance of drainage!
This trail running clinic was just the boost of motivation and confidence I needed. Plus, as with all NERC events in the area, I got to know a new location — and one with a nice (killer) hill for me to train on! We even got some goodies at the end, including some sorely needed hydration.
A big thank you to the Salomon and NERC folks. I always recommend NERC to people in the area. Their salespeople really know their stuff and are always friendly. Another thank you to Melissa, who let my stinky self ride in her car, and Alice who, like the excellent professor she is, made sure all my questions got answered.
Thanks, especially, to Mike Ambrose for coming out and answering all our questions. Have a blast pacing Killian at Hardrock next week, Mike!