I don't claim to know everything about climbing, but what I've learned has been learned the hard way through some painfully steep, long, and sometimes embarassing climbs in which a certain hero of mine slips away like the oxygen in my blood stream. Even still, my experience is that of my particular body (long torso, short legs, 5'10", 153lbs) and my sea-level lungs.
So, at any rate (8-11:00 pace) this is what I consider my best advice for running up mountains.
-The terrain dictates everything, and there is a singularly good way to climb for your particular goals: When you are at mile X of a Y mile race (or training run) with a final Z goal in mind, one stride/cadence/effort level will play into the cumulative equation. With downhills still accounted for, a runner must make their best estimations for their required effort, and then from there balance the stress of the goal throughout the body, not burning the quads, calves, or lungs out too much. In general (and I mean almost everyone but Evan Hone) this perceived effort on a climb is about 5-20% overestimated. Let your spirit dream! Take hill running seriously and set about testing and raising your honest cardiovascular limits daily if you want to improve.
-At the same time, you are actually on the knife's edge when climbing. Perhaps one thing I admire most in the best climbers in the sport, is their ability to flirt with the danger of burning out on climbs. When you're running up a mountain, your heart rate naturally rises rather quickly, and the threshold for burning out on lactic acid is suddenly reached. Everyone knows the sight: inexperienced runners huffing and puffing for 2-3 minutes up a hill, and then finding themselves having to walk the remainder of the hill, or at least wait a few minutes until they can mount another frenzied attempt. The difference between these inefficient attempts and the beauty of an efficient well executed climb is the body control that allows one to go with the ebbs and flows of a hill, and respond quickly to flat or less steep sections. The steepest hills may force you to walk, but when you are confident and in control, there's no exasperation when you transition between run and hike. The best climber is like an expert baker rolling out dough of just the right thickness and surface area for a said task. No holes, but no wasted dough (energy). Keep your heart rate consistently right below burn out through the varying pitches, and you'll make a beautiful climb (pizza) out of it.
-Edge of the knife, world
-Move light, move efficient. Imagine Tony and Geoff at Western States (actually, just look at them). Now imagine Reggie Bush charging up a hill with a tire behind him. The vision I'm going for is a ghost floating up a hill vs. a 7 ton truck. Arms, relaxed, swinging just enough to give the minimum torque to allow the legs to turn over; back: controlled, neither a tight arching back or a hunched over torso, but a controlled forward attack lean. Legs, light, airy, allowing the heels to touch the ground when necessary, but not pushing off the heels but the forefoot. Basically, most of the energy is in the backs of the calves and fronts of the quads, with the rest of the energy being use to keep the feet, back, shoulders, and arms supporting the power coming out of the quads and calves.
-Things of beauty
-Vertical feet per week, per mile. Though a lot of runners have special workouts and favorite hills they run and swear by, there really is no guarantee that anything works other than a substantial amount of climbing being integrated into training. To put it simply, running hills should become normal, and flats should feel weird. Though flat recovery runs have their place, don't expect zooming around in the flat will make you a better climber.. Actually expect that it will deplete some important muscles that you develop climbing. A good goal is to mimic whatever your average feet per mile is in your race is in training. AC: 100mi, 21k up (210ft/mi), WS: 100mi, 18k (180ft/mi), Hardrock: 100mi, 34k (340ft/mi)...
And of course, setting a good example for backing up my espousing:
Monday, 26mi, 4:59, 4600ft - Glenwood to top of Williamson and back. Pretty tired, still through cooper in :76, 1mi cooldown
Tues, 4mi, :38, 500ft - Deer park, crystal cove
Wed, 3mi, :27, 850ft - Treadmill .5flat, .5@15%, 1.0@10%, .5 flat
9mi, :85, 1300 - loop: pacific ridge, up through the valley, slow and easy
Thurs, 8mi, :76, 1100ft - Pacific ridge, 1mi cool down
Fri, 3mi, :27, 1200ft - Treadmill, .5 wu, .5 at 15%, 1.0 at 10%, 1mi at 7:00
Sat, 40mi, 12:00, 9,000 - Wrightwood, 3 mi up Badden Powell, 4 mi down into Sheep Creek wilderness, epic bushwacking, orienteering, and medevac through cabin flat back to Wrightwood just before dark. Not the typical training run, but a good Barkeley-esque 5 miles that gave me my longest time of the year on my feet and quite the tale to tell..
Sun, 21mi, 3:25, 4,800ft - Mt. Wilson Toll road out of Eaton, 10mi saddle in 1:55
Total: 114 miles, 23,300ft
Current favorite pair of shoes right now are the new RC1400
These are more or less a thinned out version of the 890, which is exactly what I wanted when I first saw the 890. The upper mesh is seamless with welded reinforced pannels. The arch and heel lock the foot down moderately well for the size of the sole. The toebox is surprisingly wide (maybe too wide for road runners, but just right for ultra runners. The midsole is filled in through the midfoot for great fire road and singletrack handling, and the toe off is exceptionally smooth and gradual with a thin plastic plate through the heel similar to the Karhu fulcrum. It still feels "minimalist" with a pretty firm cushion, and a 8mm drop (19 to 11mm). This is one of the most natural road flats I've ever worn, and definitely a part of my race plan at Angeles Crest for the middle miles that require a little more heel to better take advantage of the downhill. At 7.1 oz, it actually feels very light for the platform it gives you.
Sebastian - Embody
Gotta get your cross training in around town..