With new races right around the corner and one that will definitely have me pushing my limits both due to climbing and altitude I've been making an effort to hit the trails and hit 'em hard. Along the way I've found myself loving the challenge of trail running but it's been a struggle and I still have lots to learn!
Here are my thoughts on trail running and why I love it so much!
The Good and Beautiful
1. The Beauty - I'm going to start with the easy one to get it out of the way. Running on trails in the woods with birds and trees >>> Running on roads near smelly cars with bikers whizzing by
Trails are gorgeous and quiet. I still take my iPod with me (it's my crutch) but it's still awesome to get out into nature and just "BE". You feel super bad@$$ jumping logs and rocks and you see other hikers and runners out and most say hi! It's amazing. The beauty is the top reason to try trail running!
2. The Sense of Pride - Anyone can run on flat roads. I'm not saying it's easy but it takes another level of crazy to get out there and do some serious climbing and "deal with nature" rather than zoning out on a paved path. The climbing and the path planning are all what make trail running special. It engages the mind more and can just be fun! Sometimes I feel like a little goat springing from rock to rock. There is just more "play" in trail running.
3. It's New - There is just something great about having new goals, challenges, and discoveries and trail running has brought that to me. I've been running for 5+ years now and well this is opening up a whole new chapter in running for me. I get to explore and see beautiful vistas and feel awesome about that. Trail running just makes you feel like a bad@$$. It's crazy and beautiful and that's why it's awesome!
Some discoveries can also be made at the Ranger Huts at the trail head! Fear the beaver!!!
The Things I'm Still Adjusting To
1. The Pace - My "normal" trail run right now requires some serious climbing (about 1.5k each way) and because of this, it started messing with my head.
"Should I be going faster? Should I be going slower? Should I be walking? I'm breathing pretty hard..."
Elevation can be killer...
I know that climbing means I'm going to be slower but I'm still learning what pushes the limit and what just exhausts me and is unsafe. To say that I'm not competitive would be a lie so getting use to 12.5-14 min/miles when I'm use to 9 min/miles was a bit of a mind trip. I had read a book on ultra running (check it out: Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons) so I knew if I was breathing too hard on an uphill I needed to check myself. I also new I needed to pull in my gait while going uphill (which I'm still adjusting to). These tips are definitely helping me now but in the beginning I was making every rookie mistake in my mind.
2. Keeping Your Head in the Game - When I get tired on a run I get spacey. I just want to zone out, but you can't do that on the trails. You can to stay engaged and focus on not catching a toe or turning an ankle. This level of mental focus is taxing when on long runs and is definitely something I'm building alongside my stamina on the trails.
3. Downhill Doesn't Always Mean Fast - I'm a pretty good at running downhill on road, if I do say so myself. I learned how to basically let myself fall down the hills. On roads I power up hills and then fall down them. It's great. On trails downhills don't always afford you this luxury.
On trails there can be large rocks or stairs or tree branches or loose gravel... all of which will mean "controlled falling" will get out of control real fast. I've been learning restraint so I don't hurt myself but it takes it's toll on my poor quads. The controlled downhill is almost as taxing as a steep uphill.
So with this said, I feel like I'm finally hitting my stride (pun intended) with trail running. I love the beauty, difficulty, but ultimately the simplicity of it. I love strapping my hydration pack to my back and testing myself to run up one more hill or challenge myself to hurry up some stairs more efficiently.
I highly recommend you find a local trail and try it out one Saturday, I'm sure you'll fall in love!
I'm, like, almost a real trail runner, guys!
It's all about finding that next thing that adds beauty and positivity to your life!