Friday, October 2, 2015

Taking Advantage of the Downhills

8th Annual Lake Spivey Road Race
I would be lying if I said the Lake Spivey Road Race (LSRR) 15K was a flat or fast course.  Often race directors will describ a course as "fast" or "PR ready" to attract runners.  PR is runner lingo for personal record, also known as personal best (PB).  The LSRR 15K course is not that kind of race course.  The route has runners skirting around two lakes, Lake Spivey and Lake Jodeco, the course undulates up and down like waves on the ocean.  Runners accelerate down into the trough to just above the lake's waterline and then back up to crest the next hill, then down and up again for the duration.  It's a perfect storm of heart pounding uphill climbs followed by knee busting downhills.

The course has 597 feet of elevation gain in its short 9.3 miles around the lakes.  The worst of which, in my opinion, is the steep downhill at mile marker 2 on Lost Valley Drive at the marina.  The short 0.07-mile, steep 10.7% downhills grade should be approached with caution lest your knees will pay the consequences.  The worst uphill might be the 0.4-mile long 4% grade from below the dam at around the 3-mile point to the top of the hill just before Jodeco Road.  It's not a steep climb but the hill seems to go on forever.  Neither of these should discount the steady stream of ups and downs on Jodeco Drive and Emerald Drive, both roads are on the south side of the lakes between mile markers 4 and 8.

I've often thought about what is the best way to tackle such a challenging course and after reading an magazine article recently I realize that I've been doing it all along. The article in Runner's World magazine is Kill the Hills written by Alex Hutchinson.

What Mr. Hutchinson stated in his article and what I've tried to do when I run is to take advantage of the downhills.  Everyone suffers to some degree on the up hills but it's on the down hill side of the climb where some runners tend to maintain that slower pace and where runners that have trained properly can benefit.

To take advantage of the downhills I will 1) improve my fitness, and 2) stretch.  That should lengthen my stride and improve my pace by minimizing breaking as I go downhill.

As I raced in the Hill Country Trail Run 15K last year two weeks after the Lake Spivey race I saw some of the downhill racing improvements I've been looking for.  As I neared the 7 mile mark I could hear a runner right behind me.  He was there one minute as I climbed up a hill but then I'd hear him fade away as we descended.  This happened several times until he eventually passed me.  I gave him kudos to which he replied - you'll just pass me on the next downhill.  He was wrong.  I didn't see him again but it was still nice to hear.

The 2015 Lake Spivey Road Race is Saturday, October 10th, 2015.

Thanks for reading.