Posted by: Matt | June 23, 2009

I could have stayed and watched the stars

Long day at work yesterday so it’s no wonder that by about 7:00 I was grumpy and sullen. Only one cure for that as far as I can tell, so I made ready and headed out the door dogs in tow. The valley was windy yesterday so I wanted to get up into a canyon or a valley where I’d be somewhat protected.

Most of the cattle were near the gate this time around so I drove up the road a bit and parked at the cattle grate. Originally I had intended this to be a barefoot run, but the sun was setting fast and I correctly intuited that I’d be running in the dark later that evening. With that said I dawned a pair of Salomons to avoid banding my toes in the dark and realized that I had my trekking poles in the back of the truck. I self-congratulated and grabbed them as well. Off down the road the three of us went me using the poles to help propel myself forward like I was cross country skiing.

The poles are having a minor effect on my speed according to the GPS:


Speed Data

Average (mph)

Maximum (mph)

Overall Speed


Moving Speed













And my arms, shoulders and external obliques are telling me that I’m doing something with them out there on the trail this morning. Need to remind myself that if these parts are going to be a dynamic contribution to trail travel they need stretching just the same as the rest.

This time I really wanted to get to the observatory at the top of the hill and I had an additional goal to run about eight miles. These happen to coincide pretty closely and you can see from the track log that once I made it to the observatory and rested a moment I ended up running out the end of the road a ways to extend my distance a bit.

The whole time I ran yesterday I was pretty focused on my movement with the trekking poles. I’ve seen plenty of people use these as stability aids while walking or hiking (thereby making them “trekkers”?), but I’ve never seen anyone use poles to help them run. As a runner you get the added benefit of some additional stability at a slight energy cost. After the sun set my pace didn’t slow and I was able to keep my ankles from turning on the rocky, loose volcanic road despite not being able to see the surface as well (I didn’t light up my head lamp at all last night). Placement of poles opposite of foot fall is really helpful because it allows you to have two points of contact with the ground during that precarious moment when normally, we’d only have one with the weight of our body and the impact soon to follow it into the stride. It saved my bacon a couple of times in the dark.

The other thing that I noticed is that I can use the poles to propel myself along. I tried a couple of different classic XC poling techniques last night in addition to the fun I had last Saturday and you can see my speed spike in the GPS log analysis. What’s better is this doesn’t really feel like a sprint so you can maintain it longer than you normally would be able to maintain a burst of speed like this.

So it occurred to me last night that I really don’t have anything to call this “new” technique of running with poles. I’m pretty sure it looks kind of strange and Saturday there were even people asking about what I was up to as I passed them on the trail. I had time to think about this yesterday too (maybe a little too much). It’s not regular trekking because you’re combining two motions (running and pole work), and for the same reason it’s not trail running. Thus I’ve dubbed this new creation I intend to use more often “Fast Trekking”. Even better I’ve begun simmering on a new kind of event that might use this technique.

The rest of the run was pretty amazing. It was cool to finally see the Observatory up close even though there’s no indication of who owns or operates it and no one was there when I visited. Even nicer was the alpine glow on the hills surrounding me when the sun began to slip behind the cloud bank hold up on the west side of the Cascades. Had I not been terribly hungry I could have stayed out and watched the stars.


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