One with Nature

For those that know me, camping, bugs, snakes, going to the bathroom outside, etc. are not really my idea of a good time. I love being outside, just never been one to want to spend the night in a tent (minus Girl Scouts in 1987).

I’ve also had a fear of trail running for some of the reasons mentioned above. I have also feared the trail because of the time it takes to run and to get to them to actually run, fear of falling/spraining an ankle, and of course, getting lost. So, I’ve avoided the trail (an ankle sprain and hip surgery didn’t really allow for much opportunity in 2012 and 2013 anyway).

Butttttt…when Nuun offers you the chance to run a RELAY, in YOUR city, you suck it up buttercup and look at it as an adventure and another experience of a lifetime. Check it off the bucket list. 2014 is the year of saying YES and DOING and LIVING. Camping AND trail running. Adventure it will be…

I invested in trail shoes (Brooks Cascadia’s) and for the past four/five weeks I’ve made the time to turn one of my weekly training runs into a trail run. If you followed along for a while, I don’t really half ass my training plans. So, in my type-A training world, training for a trail race takes some preparation.

Thank goodness, I haven’t been alone! Abby has been my trail partner and crime.

Our first run was at Lullwater Creek at Emory:IMG_5968

A very easy trail, if you even want to call it that. It was pretty and relaxing, but not very technical. We did make it technical, only to find out that we apparently shouldn’t have….oops.IMG_5967

The next week we drove a little further out (25 minutes from home?) to Sope Creek. It’s VERY well marked and easy to follow. The hills were much harder here than at Emory and there were a lot of climbs that I struggled on.IMG_6079

The coolest part about Sope Creek is that it includes ruins from an old paper mill. I wasn’t quite as brave as Abby…IMG_6075

But, just like Lullwater at Emory, I LOVE the views. IMG_6071The past 2 weekends, Abby and I actually drove out to the Olympic Horse Park where Ragnar will take place. It takes a good 30-45 minutes to get there…so that in and of itself is a big chunk out of your day. BUT, we wanted get an idea of what we were in for.

We probably should’ve checked the race schedule both weekends, but we didn’t. Our first weekend (4 miles) we had to adjust for a Spartan Race, and the last weekend (6 miles) for a mountain bike race. The trails aren’t really marked well, and we spent a lot of time the first go round trying to figure out maps and loops (they will be for Ragnar though).

The Ragnar course is HARD. And it has rocks (these are part of the hardest race leg) that don’t really seem idea for running. Lots of climbs from what we can tell…but pretty. IMG_6129I’m so easily distracted…I had to stop and see where this would take us and I wanted to see the view of the lake.

IMG_6205Please note that the hikers are hiking in the water? Alright…

And since we were technically running at a horse park and trail, this was to be expected. #seenonmyrunIMG_6200

So, my thoughts on trail running with four weeks of experience:

Why I love it?

1.  Can you tell I think it’s pretty? Spend a lot of time outside, taking in the scenes and nature. Not that I don’t think running through ATL is pretty, but there is something about nature that is calming and doesn’t contain cars and pollution.

2. It’s a totally new running experience for me. I’ve enjoyed trying something new and challenging myself, even though I’m not so good at it.

Why I don’t?

1. I can’t catch my breath. I don’t know if my breathing/asthma struggles are because I can’t actually get in a groove. On the road, I can get in a rhythm. The trails is a lot of back and forth and odd steps. There is not a way to settle into a pace. Considering it is sometimes hard for me to climb stairs, I’m not really that surprised that I struggle (yes, I can run a marathon but struggle on stairs).

2. That #1 reason why I love it? The views. Well, you can’t really look around and enjoy it. You have to look down. Or risk eating dirt. In order to take it all in, you really have to stop. That doesn’t really work well if you are running a race.

3. It’s a lot of effort. It’s effort to get there and it’s definitely more effort to run. I go through more fluids on the trails (an entire nuun bottle in 4 miles) than I do on the road and like I already mentioned, it’s more effort on my lungs.

4. The fear of the hurt. Again, right now, it’s not really worth me risking my race schedule to get hurt. I know that could happen anywhere…but rolling my ankle on a mis-step on a trail seems more likely. I would be real pissed to DNS the rest of my race schedule.

5. Some people can get lost in their thoughts…I can’t. I’m too focused on my footwork and breathing. I just seem to do better running on the roads. The miles seem to crawl. You think you’ve gone 2 miles and you’ve gone .4.

Even though I have a list of don’t loves, I can still tell it’s getting easier and it truly has been a fun experience and I feel very accomplished when I am done. I felt the best on the trails that I have ever felt this past weekend. So maybe all I need is time to get used to it?IMG_6202

All in all, the roads are still my favorite place to run. It’s where I’m confident. Maybe in the future trails will be my thing.  I already know I will love the trail relay simply because of the company and I just enjoy a relay. But, post Ragnar, my trail shoes will probably get a break for a bit to focus on my other races.

Do you trail run? Love it or leave it? Thoughts on why my breathing is off? Suggestions for running trails at night? Do you like to camp? Suggestions on what I need for that?!?!

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  • I’ve shared all of your dislikes about trailrunning and most of them disappeared the more that I did it. Pacing – just let go of it. It won’t be even when the terrain is so variable. I do have goal times – usually from aid station to aid station – but I include the terrain in those times and don’t usually worry about my exact pace at any given second. It is quite refreshing actually!

    And if you stick with it, you will get off the habit of marking individual miles so much and think more in terms of landmarks and chunks.

    I have a Petzel Tikka XP headlamp (~$60) and it served me pretty well during long night running stretches. I have a more expensive one (Petzel MyoXP) that is even better. Whatever you choose, bring extra batteries just in case. Night running is not my favorite thing to do. I have trouble judging the terrain due to reduced field of vision. Makes for harder running IMO.

  • I have never done a trail run. I have tossed around the idea but with my hip injury I’m scared enough of falling on pavement (and I have, always on the bad hip side). So, that scares me with trails too! I’m not overly graceful and have been taught by my coach to not look down when I run. It would take some getting use to looking down so as to not lose my footing on trails. But I do want to try it sometime just to see.

    Can’t wait to hear about Ragnar Trail!

  • I completely agree about sounding like an asthmatic fat kid while trail running. One thing i noticed is that the next day my hips were pretty tight (i didn’t stretch afterwards)- I tried to do an easy 4 mile run the day after 4 miles on the trail and my legs weren’t happy. I do think trails is an acquired taste, but given where my head is at with running, its a welcome change to break up the monotony.

  • Trails really work an entirely different set of muscles than roads – and the more you run on them, the more efficient you’ll become at it. It DOES take more concentration, for sure, and it is certainly hard to enjoy the views when you’re watching your footing. I try to watch a couple steps ahead and sort of know where my next few strides should be, and then take a look around.

    I also have asthma, and it takes some getting used to when you start running trails – for me, it was partly because I couldn’t get into a groove, but also I was constantly trying to run faster and closer to my “normal” pace.

    I love trails, but I am lucky to have access to tons of them very close to me, and a variety of terrain – beach paths, coastal hills, mountains, flat wildlife preserves…. I doubt I would run them very often if I had to travel for them.

    CAMPING IS SO FUN! You can rent good equipment at REI if you want to really make yourself comfortable, without shelling out the money for gear you won’t use.

  • I struggle on both road and trail, but trails win for me BECAUSE of how pretty it is. I too, can run marathons and am out of breath at the top of a flight of stairs. I love the challenge, I love the terrain, I love everything about it.

    25 minute drive to ME isn’t that far to get somewhere. I think that is about average for a good trail for me, and I have TONS to choose from. I of COURSE also have fears of falling and getting injured, but I tell you, for ME, it is worth it. This year I will be hitting the trails earlier in the season so I can enjoy them more 😀

  • Beautiful places to run! I do enjoy trail running but usually run on easy trails. This way I can enjoy the scenery and actually get my little “nature high” in instead of worrying about falling.

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