Atacama Crossing Blogs 2020
View All Posts 2020 From : Robert Ripley
27 June 2020 10:55 pm (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time(US & Canada); Tijuana
A Run in the Woods (Part 1)
My last posting was about walking in the woods. And, as much as I like a good walk, and, as much as I know that I will spend a good deal of the Atacama Crossing walking, I am training for a running race. So the woods that I walk in are also the training grounds for my nascent career as an ultra-runner.
As you can see, I am still spending a large chunk of my training time on my bicycle. But I have been gradually ramping up my running mileage.
My last run was 21 miles (nearly 34 kilometers) and 20.5 of that was in the dirt.
(note that my recording device is a Garmin Forerunner 235, which doesn’t have an altimeter, so the elevation gains/losses are estimated with GPS)
My run started in the woods where I take my morning walk and gradually worked its way up into the foothills of the Sisters volcanoes. One of the challenging aspects of the Atacama Crossing is the altitude. We live at 3400 feet (a bit more than 1000 meters), and I train up to about 6000 feet with the summits of the volcanoes still another 4000 feet above me. This gives me some advantage over the racers coming from sea level, but I will still be feeling the scarcity of oxygen when we start the race at 10000 feet! Another Atacama challenge is the variety of terrain: Atacama gives the runner the opportunity to test their footing in sand dunes, stream beds, water crossings, rocky jeep trails, and even the infamous salt flats.
Central Oregon is pretty much devoid of sand dunes and salt flats. I will probably have to head to the Oregon coast for some dune specific running this summer. But I am not sure if I can find salt flats here. The salt flats have the potential to put the runner through miles of crackling unstable footing. The best simulator that I have been able to find is running through pine cones.
Additionally, my runs take me on miles of sandy single track which I share with horses, dirt bikes and the occasional elk herd. This keeps me on my toes, literally and figuratively, as I try to keep my running balanced under continually shifting footing.
When we first moved here from the city and I started running in the woods, I would come back all dirty with bloody knees and palms. Nancy would take a look, “Running trails again, huh?” As I expect that anyone who runs in the woods will tell you, it’s not like running on the bike path. You always have to be on the look out for the rock or the tree root that’s waiting to trip you up.
Things I have learned:
1) Always be looking out toward the trail about 10-20 feet in front of you.
2) Try to pick up your feet an extra inch or so.
3) Try to keep your cadence fast and your stride a little shorter.
4) A midfoot strike gives you a more stable platform to react with
Not expert advice, just a few things that have kept me upright and less bloody.
(Thankfulness note: I am thankful that I can socially distance while doing what I love, running in the woods.)