Saturday, June 23, 2012

Confessions of a Newbie Trail Runner

I am nothing if not pigheaded and stubborn doggedly determined.  After last week’s less-than-stellar showing at the She Rocks the Trails race, I decided that trail running is my new “thing.”  I can and will and must turn myself into the sort of runner who can go up and down steep hills, leap over rocks and be undeterred by wild animal poop.

Here is a list of reasons why I haven’t previously considered trail running to be a viable option for me:

  • It’s really freakin’ hard.
  • I have to get in my car and drive far away to run trails.  Unless you count the 1/4-mile dirt path near my house as a trail, which I don’t.
  • There are wild animals out there.  And they are wild.  And that scares me.
  • Nature is full of bugs that seem to want to do nothing so much as fly into my hair and get stuck there.
  • The likelihood of me getting lost goes up exponentially as soon as I step off the sidewalk.
  • I can’t listen to my iPod (okay, yes, technically I can listen to music, it’s just that it’s a really, really bad idea – I would like to hear the wild animals or mountain bikers before they trample me)
  • HILLS.  ‘Nuff said.
  • It’s dirty.

I’m sure there are plenty of you reading this and thinking that it sounds like a list of PROs, not CONs, and someday I hope to count myself among your number.  For now, though, I’m still at the learning to love it stage.

UltraIronHubs and I set off very early this morning for some “easy” trails up in Folsom.  I was on my feet and he was on his mountain bike because of his stupid plantar fasciitis.  The weather was absolutely fantastic, low 50s and a little bit cloudy (where was this weather when I needed it last Saturday??) with a cool wind.  The terrain in Folsom is rolling foothills, with some steep-ish climbs and descents, but nothing too crazy.  We ran mostly on fire roads and wide trails, with maybe a mile or so total of single-track thrown in.  Altogether a perfect newbie route.

IMG_0552Me?  A trail runner?  Whodathunk it?

IMG_0545This terrain was awesome – hard-packed dirt on a nice, wide path with just enough of a hill to make it challenging but not awful.

IMG_0546The cloud cover was a nice change from last week’s 90+ degrees.

IMG_0547My friends the buzzards came to visit again and flew really, really close to me before I could get my camera out.  They are HUGE!

If I’m being really honest with myself (and you, apparently), I think the thing that is most difficult about trail running is the fact that I have to really pay attention to it.  I’m not so much with the “paying attention” thing.  When I run on roads, I’m free to think my thoughts and just sort of let my legs do their thing.  My city is built on a North-South-East-West grid, so getting lost would take some real effort on my part.  On the trails, though, I have to pay attention to everything – every step, every turn, every fork in the path, every rustle in the bushes.  And what really freaks me out is that even when I think I’m totally paying attention, as soon as I turn around to go back the whole trail looks completely different!

IMG_0549I had to use my nonexistent Girl Scout skills to track my own shoe print on the way back.  Thank goodness Newtons are very distinctive!

IMG_0548The trails we saw today ran the gamut from crushed gravel to hard packed dirt to very soft beach sand.  This was about as rocky as it got.

IMG_0550We stayed in view of Folsom Lake for the whole run – gorgeous!

IMG_0551Not so gorgeous were the constant piles of horse puckey.  Yes, I took a photo of horseshit for you.  You’re welcome.

IMG_0555This was the steepest hill of the day.  I ended up walking some of it, but UIH powered up the whole thing in his granny gear.  That little dot about halfway up is him.

IMG_0553Me and my favorite trail partner!

All told, I ran about ten and a half miles today with about 400 feet of climbing and descent.  My pace was what I will henceforth consider my normal “trail pace” (as opposed to my “road pace,” which is faster.  Oh, well.).  I had a great time and I can definitely see making trail runs part of my regular training.

What’s your feeling about trail running – love it or leave it?


Lancer!! said...

Good for you, P! Looks like fun. :-)

You could also get a "bear bell" at one of your local sporting goods stores, so the critters can hear you coming and skitter on their way. You might need an air horn to keep the mountain-bikers at bay...

Megan said...

I love trail running when I do it, but I don't do enough of it because I feel like I need a buddy on the trails and I can't always get someone to go with me. That trail you were on looks awesome!

ajh said...

That sounds very tough. I am not good at the whole paying attention thing. When I ran in CO (Waldo Canyon) I face planted even though I thought I was paying attention. The other thing I was paying attention to - reptiles. Yuck@

Char said...

It's not too bad that you get bugs in your hair - the alternative is in your mouth and that's not pleasant.

ratherthecouch said...

I'm in the leave it category for now. Mostly because I'm too lazy to drive to run. Also because it's hard. That said, my neighborhood is really hilly. Anything longer than 2 miles is at least a 350 ft elevation gain. My runs include a lot of walking these days.

Heather said...

Great pictures (except the poop). I have done a little bit of train running when visiting my brother in Colorado and it is so fun (and humbling).

Johann said...

That is awesome and I'm sure once you do a really great trail race you'll be hooked for good. I was a road runner for 25 years and since I started trail running six years ago the road races hardly ever see me.