What a difference the trail makes!
With my first marathon completed and a week of doing very little (a bit of yoga, a spin class -which I took very easy) and lots of sitting around doing sod all, I decided that I needed to get out and do a run, and with a 50K trail race coming up in June I felt the pressure to get out there and run some distance even though I had also said I would rest for two weeks before doing anything significant B'ah! I could do it, or so I was telling myself!
So - I have been planning to make a lot more of my weekend runs, trail runs so that I can become more familiar with the terrain and different endurance requirements. I have been reading ‘Discover Your Ultramarathon’ by Doug Hays of Rock Creek Runner (www.rockcreekrunner.com). I didn’t want to head to my first ultramarathon with no idea what I was getting myself into so have been taking on board a lot of the tips and recommendations he gives in this book –(worth a read if you too are considering taking on your first trail ultra too) and one of his big tips includes getting out onto the trails as much as possible.
I know some ladies who have had LOTS of trail running experience so asked around for a recommendations of where to head out to first and company. Despite the weather predicting rain, I was going to take the plunge and we headed out to Difficult Run (more ironic even than it sounds)!!
It was dry when we headed out but quite squishy under foot. No matter, we were having an absolute blast! We planned to head out for 6 miles before we headed back and boy was it different to what I was used to….
We scaled up & down rocks, slid down muddy hills & hopped rivers - not necessarily in that order!
Posed for photos at Great Falls… just a little!
Then headed back to do it all in reverse - it was beautiful
Thank goodness I headed out with experienced friends though - It wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun alone and it would have been really easy to get lost too! I was struck by how different trail running is from road running. Now, I absolutely love running and I love to challenge myself to run further and faster on the road, just to see where it takes me and so find out what I am capable of. I would also REALLY REALLY love to run in some new destinations (maybe some destination races too at some point), so this is part of my journey. However, unless you try it, you can’t really imagine how it could be so different. For me, the whole focus was so very different. Speed on the trail, certainly for a newbie trail runner like me went completely out the window. I needed to focus on my footing and staying upright, especially as it was slippery and even sloppier on the way back when it actually started to rain quite heavily. I actively tried not to look at my watch for my pace as I knew I was going a lot slower that I would be on road and I couldn’t push harder to run faster because there were some parts of the trail that were just not safe to do anything but walk or hike. I loved that the ‘pros’ kept reminding me – there’s no shame in hiking and hell, sometimes you have to just conserve your energy for later. I would almost certainly have twisted something had they not been there, I just always want to steam ahead! Just being honest here!
I learned SO much that day! I really did pick brains for tips about anything and everything, be it the training I should do before the race to the gear I should wear (from wicking shirts to the type of trail shoes & the best hydration packs). It’s not all we talked about obviously, but some things need to stay in Vegas ;-0! I also learned a lot about myself and my own strengths and limitations (as well as the limitations of my darn watch which cheated me out of nearly a mile – stupid GPS)! I loved the varied scenery, the camaraderie of the trail run, helping each other out and teamwork and I loved scaling rocks next to the river! The lack of speed I am told, you get used to. I am still not sure how I feel about that though if I am honest.
I think it is safe to say we were all buzzing when we finished and all went home smiling. Apparently all the experienced trail runners thought I was hardcore being so keen to get out there on a really rainy day – actually I had no idea that trail runners usually avoid trails on really rainy days – logical – YES! Had that crossed my mind – uuuhm, NO! It wasn’t me being hardcore, it was me being completely naïve!! LOL! Lesson learned!
My white shiny runners (made for the road, and clearly nothing else), were now satisfyingly grubby – time for some new ones!
ONE MORE BIG LESSON
Post trail run update –
I learned another serious lesson post run. I was buzzing about my new experience for the rest of that day but the following morning (Sunday) I woke up and my right ankle was sore and swollen – right on the 4/5" scar where I had surgery many years ago. I had not slipped or tripped or twisted my ankle that I was aware of but I clearly had an issue and being that it was in an area that was going to be a weak point (old surgery), I can’t ignore it -not that you ever should of course, but we've all be tempted right - now be honest!
So, long story short, I found out that you really do need different muscles to trail run than you do to road run. The uneven ground has irritated the old scar tissue, which has become really inflamed. It needs rest but if I am to take on a 50K I need to start logging some serious miles again, preferably on the trail for experience as well as needing to strengthen my ankles by doing some focussed training. The truth is that I still feel like I am recovering from the marathon and don’t feel ready to ramp up the miles yet (finally learned to respect the distance), so I have had to reassess my goals.
I still want to complete a 50K
AND I want to run the MCM marathon in the Fall of this year
.....BUT I also want to keep running long term and not end up knocking myself of the game through injury and pushing too hard....
So, with a little sadness, I have decided to pull out of the 50K in June and downgrade to the half marathon. It has been a REALLY hard decision to make but this time I think it is better to make a decision with my head rather than with my heart.
There's always next year.
Have you ever tried trail running?
What do you prefer?
Have you ever had to pull out of a race or change distance & how did it make you feel?
Do you know of any 50K road races-I'm thinking that might be a better option for me to try?