Catching Up

I got knocked down by a pretty nasty cold in the middle of last week, one that started in my sinuses, moved into my chest and still has me coughing gross stuff out of my lungs, getting short of breath quickly, and just generally feeling tired. But even worse than feeling poorly and basically sleeping around the clock is the fact that I’ve been missing all of my favorite rides, runs and workouts! The only positive thing is the fact that Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black was released on Netflix, so I was able to spend some of my waking/drooling hours streaming episodes. Therefore, instead of writing about what I’m up to right now (which would read something like, “to my eyeballs in used tissues”), I’m going to write about the weekend BEFORE the crud attacked. After all, that weekend was pretty fantastic.

I got to do two things I love (run with friends, ride my bike), both of which led to a third thing I like: adventure! I even made the news—which, at the time, kind of horrified me, but I got over that. In fact, after writing the first draft of this post, I had to split it into two: one for the last Saturday of May, and one for the first Sunday of June. There was just too much good stuff to be contained in one trim little post (as if my posts are ever “trim”—ha!).

First up: Saturday, May 31. I joined the Misery Loves Company crew for a run at Valley Forge National Historic Park. I am incredibly fortunate to live nearby, and I never get tired of running there—whether it’s the tried-and-true “loop” (a five-mile paved multi-use path) or whether I get to explore and discover new-to-me trails, I simply love it there. We try to make it over at least once a week.

Saturday’s run was the official “farewell” run for our group’s leader, Pete. Some of us call him “Coach Pete”, some call him “Sensei”, some of us call him “Damnit, Pete!” when he rabbits up a hill that mysteriously appeared on a supposedly-flat run and cheerfully calls out, “That’s not a hill! It’s just an inclined flat!” But you can never hold it against him—he’s also the guy who effortlessly circles back and hangs with the slowest runner (often me), checking in and chatting with pretty much everyone who joins the group for any given run. He’s the one who dispenses good running tips, trail directions, praise and bad jokes with the same easy-going, self-deprecating humor. Pete and his family are moving out of state, and our crew is definitely going to miss his encouragement, inspiration, superior trail-finding abilities, easy-going manner and coaching advice. (I might not miss his nettle-finding abilities, though!)

To send him off, we met at the parking lot at Knox’s Headquarters on route 252 and set out to run, roughly, the perimeter of the park. We ran along Valley Creek, then turned to follow the edge of a rolling meadow where model plane enthusiasts were flying their crafts, crossed route 252, circled around to climb the hillside past the ranger station (where we took a break to brush ticks off our legs — ACK!), bombed down the hill to the lower parking lot to refill bottles and bump into friends who were out running with the local Galloway Group, then crossed route 23 and dodged massive construction vehicles to hop onto “Fisherman’s trail”, a lovely, flowy bit of single-track along the Schuylkill River. We re-emerged behind Washington’s Headquarters, crossed back over route 23 and headed up toward our namesake, Mt. Misery, where the Horseshoe Trail comes through the park. Here, the pack split: some ran up over Misery, and some headed downhill, to the wide, pretty trail that follows Valley Creek back to Yellow Springs Road near its juncture with 252. I was in the latter group, for a couple reasons: this was the longest run I’ve done in over a year (depending on whose measurements you went by, we ran somewhere between 8 and 9 miles; most of my long runs have been in the 5-6 mile range, which barely counts as leg-stretching for many in this group), and I’d rolled my ankle (again) when the trail along the Schuylkill got rockier and more challenging. After that, the easier, flatter trail along Valley Creek sounded lovely.

Happily, my ankle didn’t bother me for long at all. I ended the run feeling energized and excited, instead of tired and over-done, and I had a great time with friends—I don’t think you can ask for better! MLC is definitely going to feel the loss of Coach Pete—but it’s a really great group of people with a great deal of varied trail and ultra experience, and we have more fun and challenging runs ahead of us.

Post-run group picture

Post-run group picture

Next post: Adventure Sunday!

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Giving myself a “B” on a “C+” ride

It has arrived: the time of year that I run less and less, because I’m pedaling more and more. It’s bike time! This year, “bike time” was kicked off with New Bike Day, and then got delayed by travel, weather and other obligations. Since completing my first century last fall, my goal was to ride three centuries this season — so as fun as some of the delays were, I’ve been eager to get back on the bike regularly and start putting some miles under my shiny new tires.

 

My cycling club holds organized group rides every night of the week. We try to drum up enough ride leaders that each site can launch rides at multiple paces, and a few of our weeknight rides have enough riders and ride leaders that they can break down one pace into multiple groups. For me, riding with the group is an essential part of my training plan — I enjoy the social aspect of group rides and I feel like I push myself harder when I’m challenged by other, faster riders. When I ride on my own, I tend to be a little more conservative with my pacing.

 

Paces are assigned letters, based on average speed for the ride. “A” is our fastest pace group, averaging somewhere around 18-20 miles over longer distances and more challenging terrain; our Monday night club ride hosts paces from “A” to “D”, which is a group that rides at an average of 8-10 mph– geared toward new riders and those riding heavier bikes, like hybrids. To make it a little more complex, we get enough riders at the Monday night ride that some of our regular pace groups are broken down further — for example, we don’t just have one “C” pace group; we have “C+”, “C” and “C-“. The purpose here is just to break the groups up a little — rather than having a large “C” group with 30 or more riders strung out on the roads, we can have three smaller groups, with riders able to more consistently stay together, heading out on different routes. It helps manage group size so that we aren’t contributing to congestion on local roads, at the same time as making sure it’s easier for the groups to stay together at a steady pace.
 

Last summer, I rode consistently with the C pace group, and had a great time. The ride leader, Denise, and sweep rider, Mike, are both great at leading and supporting riders, and the group that turned out weekly was a nice mix of people — so not only was the ride good, but the people were nice to ride with, and that’s about as good as it gets if you’re a social rider like me.

 

However, by the end of last season, I was starting to feel like I needed to bump myself up to the “C+” group. The rides were starting to feel easier — and, while there’s nothing wrong with just enjoying a ride, I tend to feel that urge to push myself a little harder when things start getting easier.

 

This year, both the weather and my own scheduling conflicts have conspired to delay my Monday night rides, and last night was the first time I got out to my favorite group ride. I signed myself up on the C+ sign-in sheet, introduced myself to the other riders gathered there, and convinced myself not to bail on the whole idea when the ride leader rolled up and said, “Hope everyone’s ready for a hilly ride tonight. We’re hitting some big ones!” I started having my doubts about bumping up to a faster-paced group, but there were a couple other people second-guessing their pace choice after that announcement, so I figured it was more likely that there would be a few of us trailing behind the group instead of just me, off the back, all by my lonesome.

 

It turned out to be another good group of riders and a great night on the bike! We did hit some challenging hills, and I did better than expected. I felt like I was close to getting dropped on some of the early hills, but I also had no problem reeling the group back in after we crested — and, as the ride went on and the miles racked up, the group wasn’t attacking the hills as hard as they did at the beginning — but I was, and I started passing people on climbs. (They almost immediately passed me on the next downhill, but perhaps my timid descending is a topic for another post!)

 

Before the ride started, I set myself a goal: don’t be the last straggler coming back into the parking lot. At the end, I was right on the ride leader’s wheel; we got passed by a couple people who were giving it all they had on the final, flat stretch of road, but I came into the parking lot with the bulk of the group, rather than behind. Since I rode pretty steadily, stayed with the group and felt good at the end, I give myself a “B” grade (not a “B” pace!) on the C+ ride.

 

Below is a screencap of my pace and the elevation, as provided by my Garmin.

 

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Race Report: Tyler 10k

My trail running group occasionally runs in Ridley Creek State Park, which butts up against Tyler Arboretum — a few of the trails cross onto the arboretum property, and at least a couple of us have signed up for memberships at the arboretum (I felt bad for trespassing the first time I followed the group through a deer gate into the arboretum property, so I signed up for an annual membership afterward. Plus, it’s a beautiful place with many good programs, so supporting it makes me happy).

Each year, the arboretum hosts a 10k trail race, which is capped at 400 runners and sells out every year. I ran it last year for the first time, and hadn’t done much in the way of trail running (mostly flat, local dirt or gravel trails) prior to the race– that’s a big part of what led me to increasing my time on the trails this past year. I had so much fun at the race that I wanted to come back again and do better.

Race Overview:

The trails in Tyler are really lovely — wide, well-maintained, minimal rocks and roots to worry about (somehow, when I run next door in Ridley Creek State Park, roots and loose rocks seem to magically multiply where-ever I’m about to put a foot down. Does fencing out deer work on rocks, too?) It’s hilly enough to be challenging, but not painfully steep. There are two spots where the trail crosses a stream — and the race course loops back on itself, so you get four total stream crossings. One spot has rocks across the stream, so you can keep your feet dry if you want to balance your way across, or you can just splash through above the rocks. The other stream crossing didn’t have any handy rocks, but it was narrower and pretty shallow — maybe 6″ deep. (I got both feet wet, while my long-legged boyfriend was able to leap it in a single bound.)

Even with the rain leading up to the race this year, there were very few muddy spots on the trail. The trail surface was nice and firm in most areas, with just a couple low spots that actually had good ol’ squelchy, slippery mud.

Of all the hills on the course, the meanest one is at the finish. Not because it’s the steepest, but because you have to bypass the nice, flat area where the start line was set up, then run down a slight hill, cross a bridge over the stream and then run up a wide, grassy slope to finish next to the barn. Last year, this hill was a surprise — I hadn’t been looking around enough to notice that the finish line was not in the same place as the start line, and I sped up too early. This year, I was ready for it.

The general atmosphere of the race is really nice — from the volunteers at check-in to the folks directing you out on course, everyone is positive and encouraging. The folks at the water stations were great, as were the volunteers directing people at intersections and encouraging runners at each of the water crossings (I even saw one guy lending a balancing hand to a runner carefully picking her way across). Since the course does loop back on itself, you eventually reach a point where you’re seeing the head of the pack coming back, and all the runners cheer for each other, too. I got a “Good job, runner!” comment from someone who was somewhere in the top 10 runners, which was cool. (The overall winner finished the course in just over 36 minutes. My mind was BLOWN when I heard that. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be that fast!)

 

My personal race experience:

The forecast for the day included sun and a high temperature of 60 degrees. The morning temperature was expected to be around 48 degrees, climbing pretty quickly to the mid-50’s. I planned my outfit accordingly: lightweight running capris (I kind of hate shorts, and never wear them), and a light-weight, long-sleeve shirt. When I woke up that morning, I was freezing — I just felt really cold from the moment I woke up, and it felt colder than mid-40’s to me when I first stepped outside. My boyfriend also reminded me that, when we got to the park last year for this race, we discovered it was quite a bit colder there. Another running friend confirmed it was “usually” 10 degrees cooler in the park. I second-guessed my clothing choices, and swapped in my Brooks insulated running tights, and a long-sleeve base layer with a light t-shirt over it. I also threw on a lightweight pair of gloves and a headband to cover my ears. Mistake #1 complete! I was relatively comfortable walking around before the race started, and that should have been a blinking neon warning sign that I was wearing the wrong clothing. In hindsight, while it was too late to change pants before the race started, I could have gone back to my car and gotten rid of the long-sleeve base layer — that would have helped. As it was, I kept all that clothing on and ended up over-heating and not feeling well for most of the race. (I did end up taking off the gloves and headband about a mile into the race, and rolled up the sleeves of my base layer, but I stopped short of stripping off clothing so that I could remove the base layer and just have the t-shirt on.)

I was pretty frustrated over that newbie-style mistake — how many seasons do I have to make the same clothing mistakes before I learn to trust the temperature/weather guidelines instead of my instincts — but that wasn’t the only newbie mistake I made on Saturday. The other one? Not retying my shoes.

No, I’m not joking. At one point, just after the race started, I thought that my left shoe was a tiny bit loose, and maybe I should re-tie the laces. But we were in the thick of the crowd, and I didn’t want to end up all the way at the back of the crowd before we hit the natural bottleneck of the first stream crossing, so I kept going. Were there better places along the way, after the crowd was more spread out on the trail, where I could have stepped off to the side to redo those laces? Yes, there were. Did I do that? No, I did not. By the time the crowd thinned, I was moving along at a good, comfortable pace, focused on running the trail, and completely forgot about my shoe. I twisted my left ankle three or four different times in the first four miles, and I remember glancing at my Garmin to check the distance, seeing 4.19 miles and thinking, “I am going to be walking the last 2.01 miles. THIS SUCKS.” At this point, my boyfriend had dropped back to run with me, and I had to turn my face away from him — I was struggling not to cry. My ankle hurt every time I put my foot down, I was feeling a little nauseous from being overheated, and I was angry with myself for not doing better.

And that’s when I remembered that I had thought, early on, about retying my shoe. I stepped off the trail right then and did it, figuring at least the bit of extra support might help mitigate the pain of my ankle, even if I still had to walk the rest of the way. I was surprised at just what a big difference it made, and was able to pick up the pace again and continue run/walk intervals the remainder of the distance. (To the rhythm of, “IF ONLY YOU HAD DONE THAT TO BEGIN WITH, YOU IDIOT” in the back of my mind.)

With my ankle feeling a little better, and my boyfriend running with me, my spirits picked up considerably. I crossed the finish line to the cheers of a friend who had finished ahead of me, then stayed there to cheer for two other friends (and everyone else who came up the hill to the finish line). Finishing a race at a run instead of a walk is pretty much all it takes to put me back into a good mood, no matter how rough the race itself was, and I can look at any difficulty I had or mistakes I made from a better mindset and move on to the next challenge.

Now that I’ve run the race twice, next year might be my turn to volunteer. Not because I don’t want to run it again, but because I know how hard it can be to find volunteers for an event — and it doesn’t matter how many people register if you can’t wrangle enough volunteers to support them!

30-Day Squat Challenge

Yesterday, a couple of completely unrelated conversations came around to the same question: do I squat enough?

I’m not talking about the repetitive exercise of squatting, with or without weight. I’m referring to a resting squat: feet flat on the floor, knees tracking over but not beyond the toes, and buttocks against the calves (or, as some would say, “ass to grass”). In many cultures, this is a natural resting position that is even more common than sitting. I see it in the smooth, natural way my young nephews squat down to play with toys on the ground–while we, the adults, collapse down to sit on our butts, unable to hold the same position.

Think on that. Think about how much you sit and stand, and how hard it can be to fully squat and get yourself back up again. When you squat, do your heels touch the ground? I do squats as a regular exercise in my lifting routine (my favorite is goblet squat), but the idea of just hanging out in a low squat for a long time isn’t appealing to me — because I do things that cause a system of muscular imbalances, like sitting (contributes to weak abs, tight hips, weak glutes and a less flexible spine) and wearing high heels (shortens the Achilles tendon). I stopped wearing high heels almost two years ago, but other than doing a few stretches suggested by my chiropractor and generally trying to strengthen my core and improve overall flexibility, I haven’t really focused on my Achilles and tight hip flexors and psoas.

Enter: Ido Portal’s 30-day squat challenge.

We’ve all seen those challenges where you pick an exercise — push-ups, planks, burpees, whatever — and gradually increase the number you do every day, for 30 days, right? In most challenges, the goal is to do 100 repetitions of the exercise in a single day by the end of the challenge period.

This is not that.

Reminding us that a static, low squat is a natural resting position for our body, Ido challenges us to spend 30 minutes per day in a resting squat, every day for 30 days. He suggests setting a timer to 30 minutes and starting it every time you go down into the squat throughout your day. Pause it when you are coming up. Keep doing it throughout the day until you can stay in the squat position longer each time.

This is a heels-on-the-ground full squat. I can’t get my heels to the ground without putting my feet really, really wide. It’s uncomfortable.

I wonder how it will feel 30 days from now?

For more on the 30-day squat challenge:

  • The post on Ido Portal’s Facebook page, here.
  • A suggested squat and mobility/stretching routine posted by Ido to Youtube, here.
  • A dedicated FB group for all participating in the challenge, here.

 

Just another day learning the trails

As an admitted temperature wimp, I have been struggling to convince myself to get out there and just run. I’ve been doing most of my running around my neighborhood, where I have to do two meandering loops to get in 3 miles — and, frankly, it’s boring, which doesn’t help when I’m feeling unmotivated. Add a fresh dusting of snow over some of the ice and old snow along the edges of the local roads, and I really don’t feel like just getting in the quick, local run.

That said, yesterday was a day to run. While the temperature was just barely over 20 degrees, the sun was out, the sky was bright blue, and there was no breeze. I knew that, once I got out there and got moving, the sun would feel great.

Needing a change of scenery — but not feeling brave enough to tackle any challenging trails alone, since most of them would be covered in snow — I hopped in my car and headed to a nearby trailhead for the Perkiomen Trail. It doesn’t sound like much of a change from my local route — a flat, paved rail trail — but it was exactly the change of scenery I needed, and it ended up being an excellent trail workout!

We’ve had snow a couple of times, with some warmer temps (40 and up) between snows; plus, we had another dusting of snow — not quite an inch — overnight.  The trail hasn’t been cleared between snows, so the snow has been trampled, partially thawed, re-frozen, then added to by new snow, and seen a lot of additional traffic — cross-country skiers, hikers, runners, folks out walking their dogs, and even someone on a fatbike, judging by the tracks I saw. Add the new snow, and it made for an uneven, but somewhat forgiving, surface — a great way to practice some skills I’m going to need for some of the rocky, uneven trails I want to be running, without also dealing with hills and other terrain at the same time.

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I found that, just as on some of the more challenging terrain that MLC has taken me, the uneven snowpack forced me to focus on two particular aspects of my form:

  1. Foot strike — I needed to keep my center of gravity balanced over the ball of my foot and my toes. Every time I took a “normal” (heel-striking) stride, the hard, rough surface of ice and compacted snow would deflect my foot aside and I’d roll my ankle. But if I focused on staying on my toes, and picking my feet up as quickly as possible, barely letting my heel touch at all, I got all the cushioning benefits of the snowpack and protected my ankles.
  2. Stride length — in order to get my feet up quickly, and keep my center of gravity stable, I had to significantly shorten my strides. Every time my stride lengthened, it meant I was putting a foot down well ahead of my center of gravity, and there went my ankle again.

My overall pace was pretty slow yesterday, but my heart rate was up in a good range and I was generating enough body heat that the cold stopped bothering me pretty quickly. I took two walk breaks in my 3.8 miles, both during the second half of the run, when I was starting to have trouble staying up on my toes. As soon as I felt myself coming down on my heels, getting sloppy with my strides, I would walk for about 30 seconds and stretch my legs, and then I’d be good to go again.

In addition to getting a much better trail workout than I expected, I also got the benefit of almost an hour of sunshine (I had to walk back out for some pictures!) and some truly beautiful scenery along the mostly-frozen Perkiomen Creek.

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Winter Running

I started running in 2010, using a treadmill at the gym and following a Couch-to-5k program on my phone. I participated in my first outdoor races in April and early May of that year, then embarked on a more formal (and outdoor!) training program in mid-May. I still did some of my training runs on the treadmill that year — but at the minimum, my long runs were all outdoors. Every weekend, I would meet my training group and run on one of the local rail trails, either the Perkiomen Trail or the Schuylkill River Trail. The closest I came to actual trail running at that time was when I would traverse the gravel portions of the Perkiomen Trail.

I ran my first half-marathon that November and, as the days grew shorter and colder, I assumed I’d be spending my winter trying to maintain a treadmill-based running program. Running outdoors in winter? In the dark? Worst of all, in the cold? No way, no how! I couldn’t do that!

And yet, members of my training group were planning to keep running together during the off-season, and were planning to run outdoors. The group had been a huge part of my motivation, and I didn’t want to miss out on group runs. Before I knew it, I was shopping for extra layers and meeting people for runs when it was 40 degrees … 30 degrees … 16 degrees outside. And then … it snowed. Well, that’s it, I thought; no more running outdoors. Once again, I was proven wrong. Fellow runners pointed me to Yak Trax, and waxed poetic about the beauty of running in the snow. I was suspicious, but let’s face it: I was hooked on running AND hooked on my great running group, and I didn’t want to be left out! I bought my Yak Trax. I showed up for the run.

Friends, it was amazing. The trail looked like some cross-country skiers had gone down it, and parts of it had obviously seen snowmobile traffic (which created a really nice, smooth snowpack) and we pretty much had the morning to ourselves. There was a lovely hush around us, and running on the packed snow felt wonderful — like I could go all day! Of course, there were a few rough spots, where prior snow and ice had compacted under foot traffic, and the new snow was concealing that very rough surface below. I remember twisting my ankle several times that morning, but still completing a total of six miles and being amazed at the fact that I could still walk — when I was younger (and less fit), a twisted ankle would have meant the end of my day’s fun.

As introductions to winter running go, 2010 was about as gentle and kind as it could be. This year, however, I’ve challenged myself to avoid the flat, paved trails in favor of more challenging terrain — and winter makes those trails even more difficult. A little over a week ago, we received some snow — and last Friday, I ventured out onto one of our easy local trails, a flat dirt and gravel path that runs between the river and the paved Schuylkill River Trail. There are some side trails off this smaller trail that I often see mountain-bikers using, and which I got to explore with Pete from Misery Loves Company a few weeks prior. I thought this would be a great introduction to winter trail running — I could start out on the flat trail, explore some of the side trails and, if the going was too hard, reconnect to the flat trail.

The flat trail had seen a lot of foot traffic since the first bit of snow, and there was a hard, rough layer of compacted snow and ice — almost like running on cobblestones with lots of deep gaps. I was really glad to have my Yak Trax! Many of the side trails were invisible under the snow, but I did find a couple spurs that I remembered running with Pete. These were a mix of snow to break through, or slippery spots where mountain bikers had already compacted the snow. The wind that day was the real killer, and that’s what eventually drove me back to the flat trail — I was less exposed there, and the wind didn’t seem as bad.

Today, I met up with Pete and some other MLC runners again. This time, we were heading for a more challenging course: trails in Evansburg State Park. I’ve never run there before, and was really looking forward to exploring some new scenery. Pete originally rated today’s run a “4” on his 1-10 scale of difficulty. (Pete also has a tendency to tell us a run is mostly flat, with only one hill, then tell us all those other hills we ran were just “slight rises”.) When we gathered in the parking lot, he asked us if we wanted the good news or the bad news first — the good news was that there wasn’t a lot of mud; the bad news was that there was a lot more ice and snow than he expected. When I left my house, the temperature was in the upper 40’s and climbing quickly into the 50’s; I wore capris instead of full-length tights, and left my Yak Trax at home, expecting muddy trails. Somehow, Evansburg decided to keep its chill; when we met, it was still in the 30’s there! I was not a well-prepared runner.

We slipped and slid our way onto the trail. I tried to run to the edges of the trail as much as possible; I had better traction when I was breaking through the snow than I did on the compressed, icy trail. We managed a few creek crossings without incident, and broke through some thinner ice on muckier portions of the trail to our discomfort — my left foot got well and truly soaked early in the run, and my right foot matched it by the end. We all got mud-splattered at one point or another, and I’m pretty sure we all took our turn at flailing for balance as we slid over particularly well-frozen portions of trail. Steeper portions were particularly challenging, and there were a few spots where I could feel myself sliding perilously toward the edge of the trail (and therefore toward the creek), but we all made it through without anyone taking a dunk.

It’s a whole different ballgame, this sort of winter running. As I type this up, hours later, my legs are sore in a way that I only experienced in my longest runs when I was running on flat, paved surfaces. I can’t help but think that this is a good thing — I’m waking up muscles that have grown accustomed to pretty mindless, straight-forward running, and challenging them (and my brain!) to an entirely new method. I hope that, between my strength training program at home and repeated trail excursions, I will be able to build myself up to the increasing challenges of the trails.

(At the end of today’s run, Pete allowed that the icy conditions bumped his rating up from a 4 to a 5.)

Learning the Trails

I’m not sure what it is in me that causes me to be drawn to things that are going to be difficult, possibly even painful. Things at which I will likely never excel, but will instead push through with stubborn (and possibly dumb) determination. Some people react to being told, “You can’t do that”, or “You’ll never finish that”, or “That race is beyond your abilities” — but I don’t even need to hear any of those things before I’m mulishly butting my head against it.

I took 12 months off from distance running, never running anything over 10k (at least, not on purpose– there was one run that went to 7-ish on a day I simply wasn’t paying attention) and then I greatly reduced the frequency of my running while I increased cycling mileage to prepare for my first century ride. As I resumed running earlier this Fall, I started looking for interesting events that I thought would help keep me motivated.

Around the same time, I decided that I needed to find a way to better balance my two sports and that I didn’t want to do as many road runs. To avoid road running, I decided I’d try to make more runs with my crazy trail-running buddies, Misery Loves Company. Then, I started to plan out ahead and put some events on my calendar so that I would have things to train for, both for running and cycling.

I’m not a natural trail runner. My initiation to the trails, thus far, has been both kind (the MLC crew really are great people) and a little painful. I haven’t injured myself beyond turning my ankle a few-dozen times, and the only injury to my pride is the one I’m used to: I’m usually the slowest person in the group.  I’ve attended several “newbie”-focused runs with MLC, and even tagged along for a tricky, spooky night-time trail run (the week before Halloween) that was certainly beyond my abilities. (I measured success in two ways that evening: I did finish under my own steam, and none of the blood spatters we saw along the trail belonged to me — or anyone else in our crew.)

And yet, all this data aside — my slowness, my general clumsiness, my struggle to adapt my form for the light step needed on the trail — I somehow decided that the event I need to prep for is the hilly, challenging Quadzilla 15k. Currently, the only reason I hold out any hope for finishing this race is the fact that I have seven months to train for it. However, I may end up regretting that when race day arrives and the temperatures are in the 90’s!

The next trail race I’ve registered for is in April, the Tyler Arboretum 10k Trail Run. I ran this last year, and had a lot of fun — I think this event is behind my decision to do more trail running, honestly. 

After Tyler, my original plan was to ramp up the cycling mileage and prepare for another century ride at the end of June. Now my new plan is to find a way to balance trail running and cycling, so that I can complete a century ride followed two weeks later by the Quadzilla, which will be my longest (and, from all reports, most challenging) trail race ever.

I may actually need to take the time to work up a formal training plan. Whether it’s stubbornness or just plain dumbness that gets me into these things, I’m going to need to train smarter if I want to finish and feel good about it.

If there are any trail runners reading this, what are your favorite tips for new trail runners?