Downhills are the hidden key to success in 100 mile races
It's really important to prepare your body, and legs especially, for long descents. This is key when your goal race has long downhill sections, you are moving up in weekly mileage, or moving into ultras/trails from road running. Gradually building up your intense downhill mileage is as important as working on your uphill speed and strength. Practicing long fast descents will help you build the strength around your joints to support fast and efficient downhill speed.
Kill the Downhill Workout & Mindful Breathing
Elevation Gain/loss: 1,000-4,000 feet
Uphill Miles: 2-5
Downhill Miles: 2-5
It is important that those who have not done a workout like this before start with lower miles and ease into it. Always make sure you are warmed up before doing the downhill section. Experienced ultra runners can begin by doing a 10 mile workout. Beginnners make sure this workout isn't any longer than 1/3 of your weekly long run, so if you normally do a 15 mile long run, this workout shouldn't be longer than 5 total miles. For newbies, pick a downhill that is not too technical so you can focus on speed rather than dodging rocks and roots.
Pick a hill that has about 500-1000 feet of gain per mile. Again, 1,000 feet of gain per mile is more for the experienced runners, whereas 500 ft of gain is better for beginners. You will run or hike at a moderate pace on the uphill. This will be a good warm up. Once you reach your turn around point, or the downhill section you will increase the intensity so that you are running hard. Watch the video in this post to see good downhill form. Each mile you will increase your pace by 30 seconds per mile. If you run the first downhill mile in 8 minutes, the second mile should be 7:30, third mile 7 minute, fourth mile 6:30, and so on. Be sure to start at a pace that you can increase the pace as you go.
Add in Mindful Breathing
Part of the challenge of this workout will be to really bring your deep, calm breathing into it. As you increase your speed make sure you are breathing in a calm, controlled manner. This technique should be added to ALL your weekly runs. Be mindful of whether you are holding your breath. I often find that I hold my breath when I get tense/tired or if I am on a technical section. When you notice yourself doing this begin by breathing more deeply.
For downhill technique please see this blog post and watch the video
From Ultra U Fitness, here are the main points of good downhill form:
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