Afternoon Adventure: Downhill Sprint


I present the following at the risk of revealing what a truly silly person I am. I think delaying our Utah trip and being strapped to this laptop for an extra week is soaking in to my synapses a bit. After failing to round up a hiking partner on short notice yesterday, I finally just packed the dog in the car and headed for the hills for a late afternoon jaunt. We made our way up into the Sangre de Cristos, stopping at a Forest Service trailhead that follows a creek up into New Mexico’s highest mountain range. Due to our late start, time was not on our side, and we would be losing sunlight fairly soon, so we were going to have to cram as much adventure and exploration as possible into about two hours. I needed to release a little frustration and feel a bit of adrenaline to scratch my itchy feet until next week’s trip. 

For almost an hour, we made our way up a moderate incline through gorgeous groves of golden Aspen that would have seemed unthinkable to any visitor that had watched me leave my home on a high desert mesa populated largely by sagebrush less than ten miles to the West and a few thousand feet below us.

When the sun had finally set and it was time to turn around, I knew this was my last chance to blow off a little steam. So I sprinted that downhill as fast as I could.

This is one of my favorite hiking-alone pasttimes that few people seem to understand, and most orthopaedic surgeons abhor.  But, what simpler way is there to manufacture a sense of danger (with admittedly, a bit of stupidity) than to fling yourself down a rocky trail through the forest and over rushing streams as fast as possible?

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I’ve often wondered if there is such a thing as downhill sprinting races. It is a popular component of many athletes’ training regimen, but downhill sprinting as a standalone event would be quite different than the typical endurance races that include downhill sections. A good downhill sprint requires an entirely different set of muscles than most other forms of racing with a focus on speed, agility and instincts. I guess it just seems like something I could do without spending 80 hours a week training. Although, I’m sure the folks that kick ass in the endurance races would also whoop it in a standalone downhill event.

As it turns out, downhill races have been run in New Zealand, with competitors airlifted to the top of a mountain, and racing down the side. The winner crossed the finish line in about an hour, but the event wasn’t too popular. The obvious problem with all this, of course, is that flinging yourself downhill means you are constantly battling both gravity and the force of your own weight to prevent yourself from falling, and all that stress lands on your knees and ankles. Not something many chiropractors would recommend.

So in the interest of responsible reporting here, I’ll close with a link to some tips on downhill racing from RunningTimes.

Happy trails, and look out for that roc…. Ooops. Too late.