What can trail running teach us?

WOW, what a morning. I headed out to Lapham Peak, hoping to get some easy miles on the black loop. No luck as those trails were still completely covered in snow and ice. I even saw a few XC skiers desperately trying to lengthen their season. So I headed across the street to the Lapham mountain biking trails. And I was off …

The trail footing was sketchy at best but that leads to my first lesson trail running can teach us (I could write a book about everything trail running can offer us, today I’ll stick to 2 lessons)…first, TRUST. You have to have trust in yourself. The footing at spots was scary and I was completely new to these trails, had not set a foot on them before today. When you are on the roads you pretty much know what you are running on and have a much better clue of the direction the road might take you. Not so with trail running. There were areas of snow, frozen mud, holes, soft slippery mud, and soft dirt. Perplexes me to think of how such an area can have all those conditions simultaneously. Oh well, that’s for another person to answer. I also had to have trust that I indeed would end up eventually at the same place I started. Trust me, at times the weaving trails made me think I might never see my car again. But I had to trust the journey and know I would be lead by my Higher Power.

The other lesson trail running can teach us is PACING. When you are on the trails, hills (sometimes steep) seem to appear from nowhere. You are cruising and you hit a turn and look forward and see not a small incline but a steep hill. No, you can’t turn around and run the other way, nice try 😉 but you must push forward, shorten your stride, pick up your knees a bit higher and persevere. A great coach once said, “Hills are speed-work in disguise” but they can also teach you pacing. Sprint to the top and there is a good chance your pace and HR will suffer. Maintain rhythm and keep moving forward, then if you want pick up the pace when you crest the top go for it.. Long trails runs simply become torturous without proper pacing. For example, you plan to run 14 miles. Run the first 5 as fast as you can and I promise you the last 9 will hurt. Take your trail runs one step at a time, enjoy being in mother nature, away from the hustle and noise that tends to create stress in our lives.

(Brooks Cascadia trail shoes and Brooks Infiniti capris)

(Picture…. after 2 hours of trust and pacing on the trails, NOTHING is better than a long run on trails)

I take both these lessons with me as I head into rehab., knee/hamstring surgery this coming Friday and 3-4 months of rehab..I will have to find trust in myself that I will be able to maintain the level of fitness I have worked very hard to achieve and I will have to pace myself as I make another MAJOR comeback. I will be back without doubt. Stronger, faster, and with ultimate stamina.

There is a huge sense of achievement that our sport offers. Whether you run 2 miles or 22 miles, whether you run at a 12:00/mi pace or a 6:00/mi pace, the achievement is in your belief in yourself and the passion you have in what you choose to accomplish. There was no doubt in my mind I could accomplish what I did today. It is that belief and an uncomprehending ability to use a “state of mind” that allows me to pursue my passion. To this day, it can’t really be put into words.

So believe in yourself… treat yourself after ever accomplishment.

My Hammer Heed was waiting at the car (a treat) and so was a pair of sandals. Then it was off to Starbucks for my “real” treat a Grande Soy Latte and Banana.

But really the treat was the accomplishment and the high of endorphins felt after the run. The treat was the time on the trails, running through ice and mud, climbing steep hills and picking up speed on the downhills. That was the treat. All the other stuff are just the “toppings”

I encourage all runners (especially if you have not found the trails) to go out on the trails. The change of footing, the hills, the change of scenery, etc.) will not only enhance your running performance but it will increase your love of the sport.

Now if I can only figure out how NOT to kick my inner ankle over and over while running….. well, I guess we always need something to work on 😉 LOL

Happy Running

-Cristin

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2 thoughts on “What can trail running teach us?

  1. Great post! I kick my inner ankle too. How did you NOT get muddy and dirty out there today? It was an absolute swamp when we started and only got worse from there! Do you run up those steep hills? We walked them 🙂

  2. Yeah it was mostly frozen mud and icy on the mountain bike trails. Footing was super sketchy. I usually run the hills as I like hills but sometimes walk if I think it would be faster and less taxing. I really love the trails and find they make road running/racing a lot easier. Keep up the great work!

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