Tips On Mountain Running & How I Barely Survived The Hot Top 10K Trail Race

As I mentioned yesterday, I survived my trail run!

I know that normally Mondays are all about the show, however I really wanted to share this experience as it was the second hardest race… in my life (the first is still the 17k Trail Run). I promise next week will be back to normal!

crowders mountain

On Saturday morning, 3 friends and myself headed to Crowders Mountain, right outside of Uptown Charlotte for the Hot Top 10K Trail Race.

I had been warned by the race director that it would be tough, harder than any trail run I had done before. And while I took his comments to heart, in my mind I kept telling myself:

“The last one was a 17K and this is a 10K… how hard can it be?” 

Why do I set myself up? It proved to be hard… very hard.

I love trail running because it’s so humbling. Just when you think you’re getting faster or becoming a stronger runner, trail running tosses you down and reminds you that there is always room to get better, stronger, faster.


Before and After: Ashton, Me, Tam, Julie

The race horn blew at 9:00am sharp and all 75 racers (that as the max allowed) headed into the woods and were immediately greeted by an uphill climb.

A climb that would last for 1.5 miles. By the time we reached the summit my calves and glutes were on fire. The view at the top was gorgeous and I wanted to stop and take a few pictures, but knew that if I did, I wouldn’t want to keep going.

The rest of the course included insane declines (pulling me down so fast, I was certain I would face plant), rock jumping, more hills (no more mountains thankfully) and a final descent to the finish-line.

uphill hot top race

I know the idea of running downhill sounds magical, however when the angle is so steep that it’s pulling you down as if you’re on a roller coaster, it’s scary. Add in gravel and keeping your eyes open for tree trunks/roots and you’re praying the entire time to make it down safely.

One slip and I would be slidding down the rest of the way on my stomach.

Thankfully, I made it down safely (as did my friends) and finished in one peace.

This is my favorite picture of the day posted on the race’s facebook page:

The entire second half of the race I had been neck and neck with some guy, and at the end I knew we would battle it out with a sprint finish. I was right.

The best way to end a killer race… and yes, I finished by just a few seconds.



I finished 7th overall woman and 3rd in my age group! Not too shabby.


Who’s Kindal?

I also finished having a new respect for mountain running and I can’t wait for my next trail run in November!

How To Run Mountains

Running hills/mountains is much different than running flats. From the second I started my ascent, I focused on form to make sure I was running as efficiently as possible. Running on the flat ground is effortless for me, I don’t concentrate on form and often just find myself getting in “the zone”. That’s close to impossible for hill and mountain running.

1. Shorten your stride. This will happen naturally, so don’t try to fight it. This allows for a more rapid turn over to power up the incline.

2.  Pump your arms. I tell this to all of my clients and athletes that I coach: the faster your arms move, the faster you move. Keep the hands relaxed, and our arms should move slightly across your body. Imagine a line going down the center of your body. Your fingers will cross this line, but barely.

3. Stand tall when running. Leaning over too much at the waist can lead to lower back pain and overworks the hamstrings. Standing up tall allows you to engage the glutes to get your butt (literally) up the hill in front of you.

4. Keep your head up. Keep your eyes fixed forward. Do not look up and definitely do not look down…  dropping the head allows can result in several inefficiencies in your form. By hunching, your lungs have to work harder and don’t open up as well. You want ALL the oxygen you can get into those babies when you’re climbing!

5. Breath! Don’t hold your breath as you pump your arms on your sprint. Concentrate on taking deep breaths. By controlling your breathing, you control your heart rate and your perceived effort.

6. Make that hill your biotch. This I learned from Tina… don’t let the mountain or hill intimidate you. Instead look it straight in the eyes and make it your biotch. You show that hill who’s boss! Then conquer it. Give it all you’ve got and when you get to the top, don’t pull out any stops. Celebrate with fist pumps and Rocky bounces.

crowders mountain run

Why Should You Run Hills? 

Why would anyone want to purposely run hills?

Because doing so will build new muscle fibers to make you a faster, more efficient runner.

I recently read an article that compared hill running to bench pressing. If someone wants to get stronger with their bench press, they don’t use less weight for more reps. They add weight to the bar in order to cause strain to the muscles. That strain creates damage and that damage leads to new muscle development.

The same is true for hill running, it’s how a runner should add intensity to workouts and make their lungs, legs and the rest of their body stronger.

I fully understand how helpful hill runs are, but I hate doing them. They are hard, they burn, and they raise your heart rate faster than I can eat a chocolate chip cookie (which is extremely fast).

But after this weekend, I actually have a new respect for them and for my body. I felt the benefits and am driven to make biotches out of a lot of mountains and hills in my future. I might not have many around in Charleston, but isn’t that what an air conditioned gym with treadmills is for?

Do you like hill runs? 

What’s your least favorite form of training? 


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