Legs and lungs screamin’.
Approaching two hours and over 2,000 feet of mostly continuous climbing up Angel Fire Mountain during the Angel Fire 50km. Getting so close to the nearly 11,000 ft crest.
The course led us runners next to the chairlift taking mountain bikers to the top of the mountain. Oh, the conversation they must have had watching all us runners slowly working our way to the same destination but…by foot.
The foot race veers left and we grunt our way up a loose, gravel type road/trail that has its own gnarly pitch.
Traction becomes an issue.
Move your weight a little too much forward and your foot loses traction and slides out from underneath you.
Move your weight too far back…well, that would hurt.
It was slow going.
A fellow runner slowly and progressively moves by me during the climb. We wish each other well with the small bit of air we were willing to give to such a task.
The grade continues to increase to such a level that my heels were not able to touch the ground. My forefoot was the only contact point which further reduced my traction and control, and also put some crazy tension on my calves. It was like doing constantly loaded calf raisers.
Have you been on such a trail?
You have to laugh. Then swear. Then laugh some more. At least the calves haven’t cramped.
And then this idea bubbled up.
I rotated my feet/legs outwards 45-70 degrees away from my direction of movement (straight in front of me).
I was then able to get my entire foot in contact with the loose surface which greatly increased my traction and stability. Cool.
I looked a bit like Charlie Chaplin trying to climb a mountain but without the cool cane, hat, and signature stash. (Btw, big Chaplin fan.)
Continuing the Chaplin technique, I quickly noticed how much easier the effort felt while also moving along the crazy pitch much faster than I was pre-Chaplin.
Once through the 10-15 minutes of nasty grade, I returned to my somewhat normal movement patterns but couldn’t help but reflect on the benefits I noticed with this movement tweak:
- More traction and stability.
- Reduction in perceived effort.
- Increased pace.
- Looking a bit silly to those behind me…laughter is a good thing. Bonus.
While most trails aren’t at such a steep grade but for those that are, this will be an approach I will pull out of my trail running toolbox again.
If you ever play on some trails with dirt hugging steep sections of swear worthy goodness, the Chaplin technique may be worth a try. And causing others to smile never hurt either.
Talk Dirt Hugging Trail
What other approaches have you used to get through super steep sections of trail?
Be active – Feel the buzz!
David – EnduranceBuzz.com
[Photo Credit: Insomnia Cured Here / https://flic.kr/p/3kKKoN ]