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Trail running – A Beginner’s Observations

I recently signed up for an 8-week trail run training program.  I thought it would be pretty cool to get off the concrete, see some new sights, get some exercise and train for the Wild Moose Chase 10K trail run coming up on 9/29. (side note: I’m not crazy about the name of that run…I mean really, “Wild Moose Chase?’  Not enticing to a slow runner who is terrified of moose. )

Anyway, next Monday is Week 7 of the training program and, as a new trail runner, I have made some observations I’d like to share with anyone out there who might want to try out trail running.

OBSERVATION #1 – Trails are hilly.  I don’t know why I pictured trail running like this:                           photo source here

Green, lush, soft dirt for my feet to pitter patter on.  Hell no.  The trails I have been running on look like this:

trailrunning1 trailrunning2  hillytrails

If you can’t tell by the pictures, this is some seriously rocky,  hilly and steep terrain.  My feet weren’t quite pitter-pattering on this stuff…they were more like galumphing.

OBSERVATION #2 – Trails are dirty.  Sure, they’re made of dirt with a dash of basalt rock, but I didn’t know I would get so dirty.  I came to the conclusion that if a runner is  doing it right, at the end of their trail run, they will have a nice coating of dust around their ankles and legs.  Maybe even some mud!!   Nothing cuter that taking off your socks only to find a perfect dirt circle around your ankle.  Kind of like an ankle bracelet from nature.  And speaking of dirt, your shoes will get thrashed so don’t even think about trying to keep them looking clean.  Trail running will take your shoes to a whole new level of dirtiness and smelliness.

OBSERVATION #3 – Trail running is harder than I thought.  I assumed that since I have been running for the last couple of years, I would be in pretty spectacular shape (she wrote sarcastically).  Well, not so much.  Running on those trails, up those hills in 90+ degree heat was really hard.  I was huffing and puffing as if I had never run before.  My calves burned, my legs quivered and my sweating was profuse.  I was a hot mess…literally.

OBSERVATION #4 – Trail running can have some dangerous elements to it so running in a group setting is the way to go.  There is safety in numbers! We all have our little quirks and mine is being a runner with an over active imagination.  I can’t help it.  I could never run on trails alone because I would be worried about so many things.  I’d worry about a deer or moose chasing me.  I’d worry that a serial killer was lurking in the woods, stalking me until his moment of attack.  I’d worry that I might stumble on the remains of said serial killer’s other victims.  I’d worry about tripping, falling, breaking my leg and no one finding me for days or weeks.  So, with that said, I believe running in a group, or with a buddy, is a safe bet (safer, at least).

OBSERVATION #5 – Trail running often translates to trail walking.  As a beginner, I can tell you that I do a lot more walking/hiking than I do running.  I kind of feel like I’m misleading you when I say I’ve been doing some trail running.   Truth be told, when I go uphill, I walk.  When I go downhill, I walk (only when it’s steep and rocky).  I try not to get disappointed over the amount of walking I do because I’m new at this trail running business and I still have a lot to learn.

OBSERVATION #6 – Trail running can be hilly, dirty, hard and dangerous but let me tell you….trail running is also spectacular, rewarding, breathtaking and well worth the extra effort!  Last week I completed a 5 mile trail run/walk/hike and when I got to the top of Eagle Peak, I completely forgot the challenges I experienced getting there!  The panoramic view of the valley was amazing!

trailrunningEaglePeak

rantothetop

I made it to the top and was able enjoy the downhill run on the way back.  Most importantly, I was proud of my trail running/walking/hiking accomplishment.

Anyone out there an experienced trail runner?  I’ve got my big 10K trail run coming up and I’m a little nervous and could use your advice.

I Finished My Second 1/2 Marathon!

Last weekend I successfully completed my second 1/2 marathon and I had a blast!    Everything about this half marathon was different from my first half (well, the distance was the same).  The training methods I used, the actual race course, my goals, how I felt after…all different…and I think that’s a good thing!  So here’s a little recap about the differences between my first and second half marathons:

THE COURSE:

  • Half marathon #1 (HM1) was an unforgiving, hilly, exhausting, “why am I doing this to myself” kind of course.  It was all hills and yes, I am exaggerating but I spent a great deal of time walking up hills.
  • Half marathon #2 (HM2) was as flat as a delicious pancake dripping in syrupy yumminess.  Sounds appealing, huh?!  The course was new to me, which was a great distraction, the surroundings were beautiful, and did I mention it was flat…?

GOALS:

  • My goal for HM1 was to finish.  Plain and simple.  Finish it.  And I did.  My time was 2:49:28 but it didn’t matter and I didn’t care because my goal was to finish and I accomplished my goal!
  • My goal for HM2 was to finish it with a time of 2:30 or less.  Keep in mind, this was a lofty goal for me since I’m a slow runner.  That would mean I needed to run at an average pace of 11:27 per mile.  I was pretty sure I could do that.  At mile 1, my watch read 11 minutes.  Mile 2 = 22 minutes, mile 3 = 33 minutes, and it was like that until mile 7.  I was impressed with myself for being so consistent.  In mile 7, two things happened – the math got harder (77 minutes minus 60 = 17 minutes, carry the 1…and so goes my brain).  The other thing that happened is I had to pee.  I have a pretty strong bladder unless I’m bouncing up and down on it for 77 minutes (minus 60, carry the one = 1 hour 17 minutes).  So I waited in line at the porta-potty and used up 2 minutes and 12 seconds of precious time (yes, I actually timed it).  These minutes ended up mattering because my finish time was 2:32:58.  If I could have skipped the bathroom break, my time would have been 2:30:46…which is basically making my goal as far as I’m concerned…who cares about the pesky seconds anyway?!?
  • My other goal for HM2 was to have fun and enjoy the experience.  I accomplished that goal as well!

TRAINING:

  • HM1 training consisted of Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method.  I trained alone, mostly on my treadmill, and I stuck to my plan like nobody’s business.  Ultimately, I ended up doing 3 minutes running then 1 minute walking and that was my race  plan…except when there were  hills.  When I approached a hill, I walked up the hill then ran as fast as I could down the hill.
  • HM2 training consisted of joining a training group.  You can read about this bold decision here.  It turns out, this was a very wise decision.  I learned a great deal, like how to breathe, running form, speed work, all that good running stuff.  There were mentors who helped me along the way.  In fact, at around mile 12.75, I was SO hurting and wanted to walk even though the finish line was right there.  I started to walk and one of the mentors (who had already crossed the finish line) came up to me and said (encouragingly), “You can NOT stop running now.  Is your family at the finish line?”  I replied, “Yes.”  She said, “Then start running, you want them to see you finish strong!  Just follow me!”  So, I followed her and kept running.  That kind of encouragement and motivation is priceless and she really helped me finish strong.  Thank you Staci!
  • With HM2, I had a training plan but I didn’t stick with it as much as I did for HM1.  I did the weekly planned group runs (except for the 11 mile run) but didn’t do so well with cross-training.  This half marathon plan was not a ‘run/walk’ plan.  It was a ‘run/run’ plan so I ran the majority of the entire 13.1 miles…toward the end, I needed to take a few walk breaks because of my hips and knees, but other than that, I ran.

halfmarathonmedal

HOW I FELT THROUGHOUT THE RACE:

  • HM1 was kind of intimidating because it was my first half, I didn’t know what I was in for, I saw a couple familiar faces before the race but not one familiar face was to be seen for the duration of the run.  I felt excited on one hand, but as mentioned above, the course was hilly which really took a toll on me toward the end.  I think in my focus shifted from, ‘Wow, look what I’m doing’ to ‘I’m so uncomfortable, why am I doing this?’  When it was over, I was sore but recovered rapidly and felt great the next day.
  • HM2 I had a mission to “Run the mile I was in”.  I read a great post by Wise Running that talked about just enjoying the mile you are in…don’t focus on what you’ve done or need to do, just focus on the present mile.  I thought of that over and over, I focused on breathing and counting (it relaxed me), and I thought of how fortunate I am to be able to run.  Keeping my mind focused on those things kept me moving.  I felt super throughout the run.  Well, except  when my hips and knees started hurting.  At that point I needed some walk breaks.  After the run, my knee was really hurting and it took a couple of days before I was able to wake up and not feel like my legs took a beating.

BEST RACE MOMENT:

  • HM1’s best moment was finishing the half marathon.  I was very proud to finish, to remain uninjured and to walk away knowing I wanted to do another half marathon…just not THAT particular half marathon!
  • HM2’s best moments were:   Finishing, of course, and doing so in a time I was proud of (and setting a personal record, to boot).  I loved the fact that I saw familiar faces all throughout the run.  I saw runners from my training group, I saw the coaches cheering us on, I saw my BFF and her family on the course since they were race volunteers.  And best of all, I saw my family at the finish line.  My son was in the crowd running along with me for the last couple hundred feet.  I yelled out to him, “Keep running with me, you’re keeping me motivated!!”  When I crossed the finish line and met my husband and son there, I said to my son, “Thank you so much for running with me!”  He said in his matter of fact tone, “Mom, I was just walking.”  Oh, ok…so if he was walking, and I felt like I was sprinting, I guess reality lies somewhere in the middle 🙂

Thank you to my family and friends for all your support during my training and my second half marathon!  Sometimes it takes a village 😉

postracedogkisses My family provided me with post-race Krispy Kreme donuts, an ice pack and some ibuprofen.  Finn provided me with dog kisses.

halfmarathon post pic

Has running taught you any great lessons?

Two Weeks of Running “Firsts”

These last two weeks of running have been filled with many firsts and it’s refreshing to know that even at the tender age of 45, opportunities for “firsts” are abundant!

Here’s my first “first”:

I am participating in a group training program. I recently posted about joining a training group which was a pretty big deal for me (issues folks, I have issues).   I was worried about being the slowest one (I’m not).  I was worried about getting separated from the group and never finding my way back (hasn’t happened…yet).  I was anxious about talking to people during a run because A) I wouldn’t be able to breathe while talking and B) I would not hear a word they were saying because of my hearing.  Turns out, when someone talks to me, I can just smile and throw in a couple of “uh-huh’s” and “really’s” and call it good.  No one needs to know.  Other than faking conversations, my group training experience has been great!  The mentors are full of helpful advice and it’s great to run with an energetic, supportive group.

My second “first”:

I ran my first night run.  I know, I lead such a sheltered life.  Last week, the training group went on a night time run and it was so amazing!  We ran downtown around the river and it was perfect.   Imagine my surprise when I finished the run in one piece…no kidnapping, no mugging.  It was a good night.

My third “first”:

OK, this is a biggie.  So, I’m a slow runner, and that’s just fine, but I am trying to improve my time from like a 12 minute mile to 11 minutes to 10 minutes…and let’s just stop there for now.  For the first time EVER, my time started with a 10.  It doesn’t matter that it was 10:45, I just like to focus on the 10 part.  I think the group runs keep me motivated.  At some point during the runs, it’s inevitable that I will get separated from the bulk of the group.  When that happens, I get nervous that something sinister will happen (I have an overactive imagination) so I move faster to keep up.  In fact, during this morning’s run I saw two homeless guys in the park.  One was sleeping while sitting up and the other one was passed out on the grass with an alarm clock right next to him.  I hope he wasn’t counting on the clock to wake him  up because, well, he was in a park with no outlets.  Anyway, I felt bad for those gents but I have to admit my pace picked up as I tried to run past them and catch up to the rest of the group.  Bottom line, my time is improving but really bizarre things motivate me. 

My fourth “first”:

I went running with my puppy, Finn, for the first time!  Normally I would say, “I took my dog for a run,” but in this case, 8 month old Finn took me for a run.  We did a quick two miles around the neighborhood and I cannot believe how great he did.  He was so focused, didn’t get distracted, didn’t trip me up and didn’t stop to pee on everything in sight.  He was great.  My favorite part was the way he would look at me while we were running.  I couldn’t tell if he was thinking, “You can do this!!” or if he was thinking, “You can do this??”  Running with a dog changes the dynamics of a run in a very wonderful way.  I am looking forward to more runs with Finn!

finn on a walk

While I’ve only been running a little over a  year, I love the fact that there is so much to learn and that I can look forward to many more “firsts” in my running adventures!

relaxingwithpups

Slow Girl relaxing with Fast Dogs!

If There Was A Comfort Zone Cliff, I’d Be Jumping Off It Right Now

Like many humans this time of year, I have been battling a super annoying cold these last five days.  So what productive things have I done while lying around hacking and sneezing?  Well, I lathered myself up with some Vicks VapoRub, took a deep breath and did something out of character…I signed up for a training group to prep for an upcoming half marathon this May.

I know signing up for a training group isn’t earth shattering for most people but you have to understand that I am a loner runner.  I’m not a loner in other parts of my life…just running.   I have several concerns about running/training with a group:

  • I’m slow.  What if I’m the slowest one?   Who’s the poor person that is going to get stuck ‘mentoring’ me?  I know the slow pokes will be grouped together, but what if I’m the pokiest?   I just don’t want to be the one that everyone has to wait for…Please God, please have one other person there who is as slow as I am!
  • I don’t want to talk to anyone during a run.  Sounds anti-social but I need all the oxygen I can get and a casual conversation with a fellow runner could be disastrous for me during a run.  One of my biggest challenges when I run is getting winded quickly.   If I have to engage in polite conversation, I won’t be focusing on running…I’ll be focusing on trying to catch my breath (insert  Kelly Clarkson’s “Catch my Breath” song here).
  • This goes hand in hand with not wanting to converse while running – My hearing is HORRIBLE so I wear hearing aids…except when I run which means I really can’t hear jack $h!t when I’m running.  So, I must pray that there’s not a lot of running chit chat that takes place because I won’t hear it.  As a result of my hearing issue, a great deal of my focus is devoted to being visually aware of my surroundings.  I will wear my iPod while out on a run but being the deaf and paranoid person that I am, I spend a great deal of time checking things out.  I’m always asking myself if there are cars behind me, is anyone else out running, are there any suspicious deer hanging around, is anything out of the ordinary?   I suppose these are things all runners should take into consideration, hearing impaired or not.

On the flip side, I envision a lot of positive aspects to joining a running group:

  • I’ll be dealing with people who have a great deal of knowledge and insight.  These experienced runners will be able to coach me in a hands-on way that reading a book could never accomplish.
  • I will have regularly scheduled runs twice a week with the group.  This is a great way to stay motivated and hold myself accountable.
  • I will have the opportunity to enjoy outdoor runs.  Sometimes I’m too chicken to run outside alone so it will be wonderful to know I’m running with a group…safety in numbers!
  • I will be inspired by others’ successes.
  • I will enjoy the company of other runners, which can only be a good thing!
  • I plan to set and accomplish new goals that I may not have been able to accomplish on my own.

So there I go…..Weeeeeeee!   I put my insecurities aside and jumped off the comfort zone cliff.   If I can just get the trainers to talk REALLY loud during the instruction time and make sure I don’t have to converse with anyone during the run time, then I’ve got this in the bag!

comfortzonecliff

Have you jumped off your comfort zone cliff lately?  Did you land softly?

Side note:  I asked my son about the “artwork” above.  Conversation went like this:

  • Me:  “Does this look like someone jumping off a cliff?”
  • Son:  “Yes.  Who drew that?”
  • Me:  “I did.”
  • Son:  “You’re not thinking of suicide are you?”
  • Me:  “No, honey.  It’s a comfort zone cliff…I made it up.  Thanks for asking though.”

I thought it was sweet that he asked.  He was relieved that I wasn’t thinking about jumping off an actual cliff and I was relieved that the drawing was so amazing, he knew what it was.  Yes, I will keep my day job.