Happy Hump Day!
I’m still working on the Imogene Training Recap (detailing my thoughts of training for this 17.1 race over a 13,000+ foot mountain), but mostly working to tone it down so it doesn’t scream, “I HATE THIS RACE” quite as loudly because the world does not need my negative shenanigans. I’m ALMOST there.
In the meantime…it was the best of times, it was the worst of times (figured with a title like that, I had to throw in a Dickens quote).
Since we are doing a mountainous trail race, we have started doing our long runs on trails, and we now have 2 under our belt: the 15 miler that resulted in the camping trip last weekend, and the 12 miler that we did on Saturday. One sucked beyond my wildest imagination (that’s way overdramatic. It obviously could have been worse, but at the time I wanted to punch trail running in the face). The other one sucked considerably less to the point that I would say it was almost enjoyable.
The 15 Miles From H-E-Double Hockey Sticks
Last weekend, we did a 15 mile trail run near Lake Heron in the north central part of the state during the camping trip mentioned last week. At one point around mile 13, I almost started crying because I was so frustrated with the run. At mile 14, both of us did far more walking than running because we hit the wall and kept ramming ourselves back into it for more torture.
We didn’t fuel properly for the amount of time that we were out (mostly because we didn’t think it would take 4 hours and 20 minutes to run 15 miles), a torrential downpour the night before (that we experienced from inside a tent) turned the trail into a mud run obstacle course, and sometimes the trail was more of a river. Also, aside from a 3 miler, this was the longest I’ve ever tried to run on a trail, and road running really doesn’t translate very clearly to trail running.
Among the sites, a swingy bridge and a staircase up the hill (going down was fun, but going back up at mile 12 killed my spirit). We also found a fresh track that I’m convinced was either a bob cat or mountain lion. Because what better way to end a bad run than with a mauling?
I really have not loved training for this race, but this run made me seriously regret signing up for Imogene. I’ve never considered quitting, but I did feel overwhelmed and unprepared to jump into something so different. It’s not like ambulances are readily available at the top of mountains.
This run was also what convinced Aaron that I needed to forgo most other speed workouts and easy runs and focus on getting my body accustomed to trail running. I don’t have the stabilizer muscles developed to glide effortlessly through frequent obstacles and changes in direction. I don’t have the confidence in my step to not tip toe around every rock and tree root And I don’t have faith in myself to get up the damn mountain without an emotional breakdown.
All of that needs to be fixed in the next 4 weeks.
ONTO THE GOOD!
The 12 Not As Terrible Miles
This past Saturday, we had 12 miles on the schedule, so we headed up to Santa Fe to run a trail that ends up at the Santa Fe Baldy Peak (second highest point in the state). Our run started at 10,000 feet and worked its way up to 11,600 (you could go even higher but we didn’t). This trail was gorgeous from beginning to end with majestic pine trees and whimsical mushrooms (perfect for gnome houses) and babbling streams! And it wasn’t muddy which made things much easier.
Aaron also let me in on a secret training method that really helped my approach: WALK.
So simple, yet so scary. I have never walked during a race. (I did stop to use the bathroom during Chicago, but I figure that’s kind of different). In my mind, walking equates giving up, so I don’t do it (I know that is a big fat lie).
Half the time, when attempting to run up a steep hill while navigating trail obstacles, I am going about as fast as I would if I were walking, but using more energy (running is a really inefficient way of getting around). So why would I waste more energy going just as fast (or slower)? IT MAKES NO SENSE.
So, with that in mind, anytime I noticed my pace dropping on the uphill, I walked until I could feel my legs relax, and then I’d run again. A lot of times this meant running for about 30 seconds and walking for about 30 seconds. I don’t think I actually ran a full mile in the 12 that we did, but I felt great, and even the high elevation really didn’t kill me in ways that I thought it would. We did bring more fuel (this is important), and the trail was in better condition, but overall I felt so much better on this run than I did on the 15 miler.
I’m still not completely confident about my race performance though. We have 2 long runs left before we taper down, and I’m hoping that both of those will help my body get even stronger.
But, aside from the misery and the extreme slowness, how beautiful is trail running? A good portion of our 12 miler time was spent standing at the tree line, swooning over the amazing world around us. I’ve had some amazing runs this year with some incredible scenery, but nothing quite matches the feeling of standing so high above the world and knowing your little tired (and thoroughly harassed) legs have actually carried you up there.
And having every hiker (who were all amazingly friendly) stop to comment about how badass you are for running this trail is pretty dang cool.
Overall take-aways for long trail runs:
1. Even though I can sustain myself on 1 ClifShot during a regular 15 mile run, trail running takes a lot longer and requires different fueling needs. Having a sufficient fuel stash ready will help make those last few miles much less terrible. Also, low glycogen levels actually spin your emotions out of control, so not fueling properly might actually make you cry.
2. Walking is cool, especially if you are going the same speed that you would be while running. And walking uses less energy while allowing for a bit of recovery.
3. These training runs at elevation are important! I am so glad that I didn’t go into this race without practice because I don’t know if I would have been physically ok to do it. I still don’t, actually…
4. Mantras are just as helpfult, but for me, they need to be a bit different. “BE THE GOAT” is what seems to be working to get me up the hills, but it wouldn’t make any sense sprinting down a city street.
5. CORE STRENGTH and strong quads: These are always a big deal for runners, but when you are going down a steep downhill stretch, gravity will throw you off the mountain if you don’t have a fine tuned brake system. I’ve had more scares than I care to admit.
Trail Running: Love it or hate it?
Favorite trail running shoes? I’m likely going to go with the Brooks Cascadia, but I could use suggestions for a more supported trail shoe.