The DO Running Journal has a pretty good article about downhill running by John Harding. In it, there are six points to be made about downhill training:

  1. It is a good way to work fast twitch muscle fibers.
  2. It is a good way to develop and improve technique.
  3. It is a good way to test footwear options in different conditions for race day.
  4. It is a good way to build psychological preparation for downhill racing.
  5. The best place to attack is coming off the crest of a hill.
  6. It is a good way to let loose with “little kids syndrome.”

I dislike running down hill. I much prefer running up than running down. It is much easier to hurt yourself on a decline than on an incline, and there is a sensation of not being in control that I just have some small bit of trouble dealing with.

For the last few years, I have been doing a downhill trail 880 workout with the team I used to run with. You start at the top and have about 500 meters of varying degrees of down, a short flat stretch at the bottom, and then you run back up for a couple hundred meters. It was always a great workout because you got to work on your downhill technique and work on converting that momentum through a couple of turns into a nice strong uphill finish. The trail is more forgiving on your legs as you learn how to run on the decline than asphalt would be.

I did the workout again Saturday morning, and it felt good. I was not moving as quick as usual, but that can be attributed to not having as much speedwork, not having anybody to run with, and having a lot less rest time. In the past, my rest was a quarter mile recovery jog followed by a few minutes of standing around while the rest of the team finished their repeat and recongregated at the start line. Saturday, I just did the recovery jog and then started the next one when I got myself to the line.

I think that working on the downhill training aspect over the last few years has helped me a lot. It was a definate weakness in my racing. I still would not categorize it as a strength, but at least I can hold my own and not be taken completely out of a race by a steep slope. When I was in high school, I rolled down the side of a mountain during a race and broke my ankle, so it was easy to psyche myself out on the slopes.

Training with half mile repeats in Baxter Woods has certainly helped me get control of my downhill training and refine my technique. I usually wore spikes on the trail since there are two sharp turns at the bottom of the trail where it would not do to lose your footing; it was dry this weekend so I just used my trainers. The attack coming off the crest of a hill was always something that I’ve used even before I trained with downhill running. Carrying your momentum, my high school coach used to call it.

Take a look at the article, and see if you can apply anything from it to your own training.