Ski to Sea

Conquering Ski to Sea's downhill run leg

Race coach, veteran Chris Fredlund offers tips at clinic
April 25, 2023 at 10:29 a.m.
Chris Fredlund details the downhill running leg of Ski to Sea April 24 at Fairhaven Runners & Walkers. Fredlund provided tips for before, during and after the leg of the race, now about a month away.
Chris Fredlund details the downhill running leg of Ski to Sea April 24 at Fairhaven Runners & Walkers. Fredlund provided tips for before, during and after the leg of the race, now about a month away. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

Staff Reporter

Running downhill might seem easy to most in short stints, but 8 miles and a 2,200-foot total drop in elevation is a whole other animal.

To help ease the effect on Ski to Sea participants’ bodies during the downhill run leg, Chris Fredlund, a tempo training and endurance running coach who has run the race once himself, hosted a clinic at the Fairhaven Runners and Walkers store on April 24.

“It’s a controlled fall the whole way down,” Fredlund said. “We’re just trying not to fall on our face.”

Fredlund covered the basics and not-so-basics in an easily digestible forum that had just one runner present who had done the race before.

Topics covered included preparation, during- and post-race tips, and much more. For those unable to attend, here’s a snapshot of what Fredlund had to say.


Both in training and right before the race, activation of the glutes, core and quads is key.

To practice, work on doing four minutes of activation exercises — such as lunges — per day or, ideally, twice a day. Building up a tolerance to stress on the body is important, as there will be plenty of it during the race.

As for actual distance training, Fredlund recommends a weekly regimen that consists of a 3-, 6-, 4- and 8-mile run, in that order. 

“That’s a way that we can get volume in the week, without just putting one long run in and short run in,” Fredlund said. “We’re trying to build the durability, build some volume.”

During the race

Form is everything, Fredlund said.

He recommends “running within yourself,” meaning a quicker cadence, shorter stride length and trying to keep your feet beneath you.

“What we want to do is keep everything nice and tight, underneath our body,” Fredlund said. “Find a shorter, quicker cadence.”

Your final time will be quicker than your typical 8-mile run time, which is expected, Fredlund said.

The last “quarter mile or so” is flat, Fredlund said, which is actually the leg’s biggest challenge.

“You are going to feel like you might as well have turned around and went right back up,” Fredlund said. “After going downhill for 8 miles, when you hit flat, you’re fully Jell-O. Be prepared for this because it is an experience you cannot replicate anywhere else.”

Wear road shoes. Something that has relative cushion, a smooth outsole and about a thumbs-width of room in the front.

You must bring the water, drink, or fuel you want for the race with you. There will not be any stations along the race.

Bring a bag — which might carry your pre-run clothes — to give to the skier during the hand-off. Also, send your road biker with a pack that has post-run clothes, water and/or electrolytes and high-protein, high-carbohydrate food items, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

That fuel will be very important after the conclusion of the run, and Fredlund recommends eating something within 30 minutes of finishing.


Most runners will be stuck at the bottom of the race leg until the road is reopened, which could be an hour or two. Coordinate your provisions, as mentioned above.

When you get home following the Fairhaven festivities (if you choose to attend), break out a foam roller and ice. 

Stay off your feet; let your joints and muscles recover with proper nutrition.

“It’s a little thing that will make a massive difference on your recovery,” Fredlund said.

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