Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rocks and roots

I've been interested in trail running for a couple of years, and after an awesome 8 miler the other day, I just wanted to share some of the great experiences I've had on the trails lately. 

The photo to the right was taken when I was visiting Maine for the 4th of July. Despite the 80-90 degree heat (even up there!), I wanted to get a run in, so I flipped through a hiking book and found a nearby short hike loop that looked like it would have a nice view. Because of the bright sun and the baking heat of the blacktop, the idea of running on the road just wasn't doing it for me. 

The trail was steep and muddy in places, so it wasn't the best for running, but when I got to the top, the view was so rewarding! The pace was slow, I was dripping with sweat, and mosquitoes and flies were harassing me, but it still felt good to get out, see a new place, exert some energy, and relax at the top with that view. 

Not too long before that, I had run a local 5 mile trail race and won 2nd in my age division. I had been diligent about training for that race, and the intention was for me to continue with the training so that I'd be prepared for a 10-mile run in August. That seemed very reasonable after having finished a half in May.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I'm getting married! in September, so wedding planning and a last-minute and very time-consuming move in July prevented me from dedicating much time...ok, any time....to training.

Last week I looked at the calendar and got a shock when I realized that if I didn't get out for some long runs soon, there would be no chance of being even slightly prepared for the 10 miler. So I've been getting out for a lot of 4 or 5 mile road runs, and last Friday I took the dog to a state park to run trails.

I have run a lot on trails in that park, but there were several that I hadn't tried yet, so we went on a little adventure, turning down trail off-shoots when ever we came across them and just finding out where we ended up. The park is small, and I had my phone with maps on it, so I wasn't afraid of getting lost. I was never too far from a park road, the rail trail, or a major road or landmark. I kept the pace very slow and kept the mindset that I was going to just run the trails and see where they went - not focusing on time or distance.

Running just for the experience of it made the miles go by faster and easier. By the time I was approaching 8 miles, I was pumped because I felt great. The pup was dragging, so we had to finish up and let her jump in the lake, but I felt strong and injury-free and am no longer dreading the 10 miler. I don't know exactly when I'll fit in another long trail run, but I know to take it slow and easy and that I can do it.

Maybe I'll post later about meeting with a trainer, which I did to evaluate my stride and correct injury-causing imbalances. In any case, one thing she said was that trail running may really be my friend. With the changes in elevation and and the constant shifts in stride, the same muscles are not being pounded over and over again, which is important if your natural stride lands you oddly and puts stress on weak areas. It's also great interval training. I have to agree on all points. I enjoy road running and actually intend to focus on road racing speed this fall, but trail running will always be a big part of my running experience.

This coming week, I'll be hiking Camel's Hump mountain in Vermont (weather permitting). Let's see how well the trail running has prepared me for it!

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