Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Art of the Dance

Sharing again...because this pic says everything I'm about to write here, and more....PC: Sarah Seads
You can take a girl out of the mountains, but you can't take the mountains out of the girl. As the days get shorter and colder here in central Canada, I again struggle to find my running mojo while running in a very flat and soon to be cold place. There are many advantages to running here.  Leg speed.  Temperature fluctuations. Wind resistance.  Great people.  However, I find myself revisiting memories of great runs past even as I already start to plan for 2017 ~ plan for runs in the mountains.  Why do I continually feel pull back to the mountains?

Trail running.  Mountain running. Dancing.

When I first moved off the roads and started running mountain trails on Vancouver Island, I simply couldn't believe that people actually RAN up the trails my friends were taking me on.  Every run burst my lungs, left me with burning quads, and a deep sense of inferiority as the mountain won battle after battle.  I entered trail races with names like "GutBuster" and "Perseverance Trail Run," continually pushing to succeed at running gnarly mountain terrain.  It was work, it was hard.  I was young, tough, and determined.  I grew to tolerate it.  Even got good at it, earning a few podium finishes. But I still didn't really like mountain running.

But it wasn't until I stopped pushing, and started working WITH the mountain that I fell in love with it.  When I read back over things I've written about my best days running, dance metaphor keeps popping up over and over.  From a woman's perspective, a great dance partner leads you confidently.  You can relax and flow with the dance as you match your partner step for step, perfectly in sync.  When you and your partner apply just the right pressure against each other, you move as one to create a beautiful picture of human movement (which is much easier said than done.)

I'd like to suggest that trail and/or mountain running well executed is the exact same thing.  The mountain is your partner, and you need to work together.  As I talk with my running friends and the athletes that I coach, often hill training is met with dread, and races with lots of elevation create anxiety.
Learning to climb in Squamish, BC:
A perfect example of needing to work with the mountain rather than against it
I have watched so many people attack a climb as if they have to beat it into submission, or lean way too far back on their heels on a descent, fighting the pull of gravity down the mountain.  If you push too hard against that climb, it will push back.  If you resist the pull too much as you descend, it will pull harder. If you commit too heavily to a step that isn't quite right on a gnarly trail, it will drag you down.  You need to match your partner step for step, reacting quickly to stay in sync as the path leads you along.  If you don't start dancing the dance the ground wants you to, you'll either blow up on a climb, trash your quads on a descent, or trip and fall.  Not enjoyable.  Not pretty.  Definitely not art.

One of my favourite joy runs of the year - Cumberland Community Forest
But when you fall into step with the mountain trail and let it lead you, the dance becomes easy and the thing becomes a part of you. Kilian Jornet, arguably one of the world's greatest mountain runners, recently posted this video as a perfect example of what I'm talking about.  It wasn't until I grasped this delicate piece of the equation that I started to truly enjoy and eventually fall in love with mountain trail running.  Mountains, hills, trails - these are things not to be conquered, or attacked.  They are to be flirted with, and they are continually inviting you to dance.  And if you accept, I challenge you to join together with nature to make each run an artful masterpiece of fluid motion.  Not a painful picture of warriors clashing as they battle to the death.  Then that summit will be shared and appreciated as much as it was earned. And it'll have you coming back for more.

Now go out and find somewhere to dance.