Running Form: the Key to Uphill running (part two)
Continuing my Uphill running effort at Mt. Ashland, my ChiWalking identity soon became the major player in its collaboration with ChiRunning. It seemed a rational strategy to conserve energy for the many miles ahead by ChiWalking at a fast pace rather than ChiRunning at a slow pace. That seemed to be the way I could cover the overall distance in the least time – and isn’t that one of the primary goals of a “race”!
So, there I went, switching into ChiWalking form landing in front of the heel and peeling the foot, relaxing my lower body with legs in a support role, using my upper body focus with a reduced arm swing angle as needed, retaining an overall increased lean from the ankles into the hills, and increasing my cadence as much as I could without increasing my perceived effort too much.
Somewhere about mile 10, the dirt road became a single, winding steep trail. At this point I started to draw upon my lateral running/walking form where I turned my body to 2 o’clock or 10 o’clock continuing with my small running or walking steps, feet still landing flat, using my lower arm swing to help me up the hill. It was also during this phase that I drew upon the y’chi focus up the trail letting the energy pull me forward. At this point, the views were incredible and the big “ball” at the summit had come into tantalizing view.
Approaching the ski lodge at mile 12, I paused long enough at the aid station for some sport drink for the final push. Just over a mile to go. I was happy to see my lady friend, Kathy at the aid station, with a big encouraging smile as she had driven up to that level and had lots of energy to get me started on the final steep uphill. I, on the other hand, was very tired and I was starting to experience some cramping along the outside of my lower right leg and ankle joint. For a minute, the muscles simply locked so that I was immobilized. It took an adjustment in my running form to free up the muscles and from then on, I had to stay especially aware of that muscle group. One change in running form I made was to use the “hands on quads and push” approach as it seemed the only way I could keep progressing up the final ascent.
But there was even more of an uphill challenge ahead as with a half mile remaining, a sign at a fork in the trail gave us two ways to the summit: 1). “Shorter, steeper, very hard”, and 2). “Longer, steep, hard”. I took number 2 as I wanted to be sure to make it to the top. One of the few running form focuses I could still successfully implement at this point was to increase the turnover rate of my very short strides, leading to my surging toward the top which now just yards away – and then I was there. Whew! I had conquered Mt Ashland– well, sort of – and now I could let it all out. What a relief – to laugh, cry and catch my breath. Let’s hear it for uphill running – and the running forms of ChiRunning and ChiWalking!
Postscript: As it turned out, a quarter of the starters stopped at the ski lodge. Overall, I finished a respectable 110th, 4th in my 60 – 69 age group, in 3 hrs 48 minutes. For more on Running form, check the ChiRunning Library.