The anti-coasting strategy to optimize downhill running
Downhill running is easy, right?
Just coast and enjoy the ride!
Eh, that is a perfectly acceptable strategy if you just want a "reward" for the difficult uphill effort.
But, if you are trying to optimize your performance and finishing times on race day, you should pay very close attention to your downhill running.
When running downhill, a tremendous amount of braking forces are absorbed by the body.
If you are not suited to handle these braking forces, these become your limiting factor.
How does this affect your race plan?
Let's consider two race day scenarios.
In both scenarios, your goal is to maintain an even power to ensure you have an optimal race.
If you can withstand the braking forces of running downhill, you can run at an even power output.
You can likely do this on very slight downhills, but not many runners can do this at more extreme downhill grades.
If you cannot withstand the braking forces, you need to slow down on the downhills.
Instead of running to your metabolic capability by maintaining an even power, you are now running within your mechanical capability at a lower power.
By slowing down, you are ensuring that you do not beat yourself up too much and can continue your 'even power' strategy once you are back on flat ground.
You can even afford to slightly raise your power target up for the rest of the race to compensate for the slightly slower downhill if the downhill was long.
So, you have two choices to optimize downhill running:
1. You can improve your downhill running capability so you are not mechanically limited and can keep an even power target on downhills.
2. Or, you can optimize your race plan by accounting for the recovery period on downhills.
For either of those efforts, Stryd will be helpful for setting that power target.
Stryd can tell you if you are getting too beaten up on downhills with the help of a mechanical fatigue metric.
Stryd can also tell you how much energy was saved on downhills so you can bump your power target up for the rest of the race.
You can get that here: https://store.stryd.com
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