trail running

The Trail to your Goal - A matter of Perspective

The Trail to Your Goal – A Matter of Perspective

By Tammy Roen


I remember my introduction to trail running and how I made that first leap from pavement to the feel of the earth… the actual earth… beneath my feet.  In my time running, racing and chasing my goals, I’ve had the good fortune to meet many great fellow runners along the trail, so often offering kind and encouraging words to me as they went by.  As I think of the many faces I’ve come to recognize on the trails and at events, and how so many have shared their own goals and dreams with me, I can’t help but note the diversity and the commonalities among runners.  Oh, certainly there are differences in gender, age and other obvious factors, but I’m actually referring to the diversity of motivation and what gets each of us out of bed at 0500 to light up the trail even before the sun does.  For some, it’s all about that desire to compete… to test one’s metal against a field of worthy competitors and ultimately stand on the podium.  For others, it’s simply the satisfaction of completing a course… perhaps checking another box on that bucket list of trails to be run, or improving on a previous time.  For all, it’s a time not just of personal accomplishment, but of enjoying the beauty of nature and accepting the challenges it can present.  I am no exceptional runner!  In fact, if I am ever called an “elite,” it will most certainly be followed by the sound of my alarm, waking me from my dream so I can begin my daily run.  Most events find me in the middle to the back of the pack, depending on my recent training.  Yet, over the years I’ve come to embrace some special joys that can be found there.  Not feeling any time pressure, it’s not unheard of for me to simply stroll along for a bit and become a “Trail Angel” for others who are perhaps at a low point and may really need one.


I was once asked by a friend if I ever placed in races.  I told them that I always placed… sometimes 52nd, but everyone who finishes places somewhere!  For me, I think it would be more accurate to describe my “place” in a run from the perspective of what I was able to impart to others and what I was able to take from the day.  I’ve admittedly lost the trail at times, but I’ve never lost heart.  I will always stand in awe of those runners who lead the pack and tame the trails like I may never quite be able to, but if I can stop along the trail and offer assistance to someone who is cramping, sick, or sitting on the side of the trail wanting to stop, there is a special type of good feeling I will take away from helping them out… and perhaps even a new friendship.  Sometimes, all that’s needed are a few words of encouragement to persuade them to just walk with me to the next aid station and reassess things there.  In fact, that may be all it takes for them to find the motivation to finish their race.  I love sharing the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years regarding heat training, nutrition, gear opinions, or how to recover or prevent some injuries as we continue along the trail together.   A shared journey is always an opportunity to trade information about other courses, upcoming races, or the benefits of volunteering with an organization such as TROT, which is a fairly recent endeavor for me, but one I have thoroughly enjoyed.  It gives me great pleasure to cheer people on throughout the race via high fives, kind or motivating words or just telling them “Come on let’s do the next mile together!”  Perhaps I’ve found my calling out there while sweating and trotting along toward the back of the pack.  For all of you who run the trails, I would simply say this – whether you are just starting out, or whether you are nipping at the heels of that elite level you’ve worked so hard to achieve, always take time for a little introspection!  You just may find that the trail to your goal is lined with the dreams of many… and they are absolutely amazing!

Why trail run and what should I know before a trail race?

 

Guest Blogger: Marc Henn

 

Most runners don’t normally  start off as trail runners.  In fact, there are a lot of road runners that are actually kind of scared to try trail running because they insist that they are more likely to hurt themselves on the trail.  Sure there are roots, rocks, and other obstacles but the reality is people don’t fall or twist their ankles all that often and you are more likely to sustain injury road running vs trail running.  How can that be?  The answer is the repetitive motion of road running is far more likely to causes an overuse injury.  Even worse, statistically, you are more likely to get injured on a treadmill or track because of overuse injury.

 

Our bodies were made to walk and run on the uneven surface.  There are lots of different stabilizer muscles that often don’t get used or atrophy when you run in a straight line on even surfaces which then make you prone to imbalances and then injury.  So don’t be afraid to unlock your inner primal beast and go for a trail run. 

 

OK…so now you are running trails and maybe you want to try your hand at a trail run or even an ultra?  Awesome!  You will find the trail racing experience different than the road racing experience.  Sure trail runners can be just as competitive as road runners but on the trail, you’ll find that it’s also about the overall experience of being in nature and seeing the beautiful surroundings. 

 

So what should you know really?  Well first off, don’t be intimidated at all.  Trail runners are like one big family and really look out for each other.  So ask lots of questions…I’ve never found a trail runner….or runner in general for that matter that doesn’t like talking about running and if you ask them a question they will be more than happy to talk to you.  Here are some other tips:

 

·         Do your research before a race. Yes…you know all those emails and race documents that the race director takes the time to put together, list on their websites, and email you…yeah go ahead and read all of it.  Look at the course map…figure out where the aid stations will be and what will be on them.  Also, keep in mind trails are not like roads so weather can have an impact causing an RD to change the route or other details of the race so stay informed and watch for updates.  You spend hours and hours training spend an hour researching the race you want to run.

·         Bring your own hydration system.  Depending on the race you may want to use a handheld, hydration pack, or a belt of some sort.  What you use is a personal choice.  Unlike road races where you might have an aid station or water stop every mile, mile and a half or so in trail races it’s pretty common to go 4 or 5 miles between aid stations….sometimes shorter and sometimes much longer depending on many factors.  Some races are held in remote areas where it’s very difficult to set up aid stations.  In addition, some like all Trail Racing Over Texas races are cupless so you have to have your own water container.

·         Don’t litter!  In a road race, runners will run by aid stations, grab a cup, take a drink, and throw it on the side of the road.  No…not so in trail races, in fact, littering can be grounds for getting a DQ in many trail races and in my opinion rightly so.  If you see something on the ground it’s also not a bad idea to pick it up even if you didn’t drop it. 

·         Don’t complain!  Every race will have it’s adversities and that challenge is actually what you seek.   As they say….Embrace the suck!  Races where really bad weather or conditions make for better stories.

·         Take care of yourself and your fellow trail runners.  Not everything always goes right for a runner in a race.  Remember on the trail you could be in a spot that is remote so if you are not feeling well, in bad shape, injured, etc….let someone know.  No race is worth long term injury much less getting into a life threating situation.  Scared…don’t be it’s unlikely to happen but so is getting into a car wreck but we still wear seat belts.  If you’re running along and find someone else who is in bad shape offer aid…again your race isn’t more important than the overall wellbeing of another person.   Most of the time people don’t need much and just need to take a breather but, if appropriate, you may need to go ahead to the next aid station and alert a volunteer.  Get the runners name and bib number so the volunteer can alert the RD in able for them to help the runner.

·         Volunteer!  To me when I run a race it’s my day…it’s about reaching my own goal and facing my own challenge.  Clearly that is very rewarding but it’s taking.  There is nothing wrong with taking but every now and then try to give back by volunteering.  The reward of volunteering and helping others reach their goals is also very gratifying and fulfilling but obviously in a different way.   Some RDs offer nice rewards to volunteers like t-shirts and discount to future races which is a very nice perk.

Clearly these tips are not exhausted, I could go on and on, but hopefully it’s a starting point.  If you’d like to dip your toe in and run a trail race then just do it.  You’ll soon find yourself hooked on trails!