Hit the Trail

Spring is a great time to add trail running to your training to take advantage of spring weather and enjoy nature. Here are my basic tips for getting started with trail running.

First, find a good trail. No single trail is the same. From wide, crushed rock trail like the airline, or rail trail, to single track cutting through trees, trails offer a wide variety of running surfaces and scenic options. In Connecticut, we are lucky to have an amazing trail system including the blue blazed trails, Joshua’s Trust trails, and a variety of town-maintained trails. Get to know your trail by researching online, or by asking other runners and hikers.

Trail running

Once you’ve found a good trail, prepare for the hazards you might find on the trail. If it has tall grasses or thick underbrush, consider wearing pants or tall socks to deter ticks. If your trail is sandy or has small, loose stones, tall socks or gaiters will help keep debris out of your shoes. While many trail runners use specially made trail running shoes, which have more aggressive tread and a closer to the ground feel, they aren’t always necessary. Consider how “technical” your trail is when selecting your footwear and gear. Generally, a more technical trail is one that is, more narrow, winding, steep, or has trail hazards like roots and rocks. Use good judgment in planning your trail run in order to match your trail with your ability.

Next, focus on safety. Take your dog or a buddy, or write your route out and share with a loved one. Make sure someone knows where you are going and how long you’ll be gone. Consider carrying water and a snack. Carry your cell phone and identification for emergencies. Once on the trail, keep your eyes on the trail so avoid rocks and roots. Focus on looking three to four feet ahead to create an imaginary “line” of travel, a plan for where you going to step for the next few steps. This will keep you focused and alert to potential hazards. Finding a line will become easier as you become more comfortable running on the trails. Make sure that you’re alert and be aware of landmarks and trail markings.

When trail running, it’s best to run by time, rather than distance to begin. Trail running can be exhausting at first and it can take much longer to cover the same distance on a trail than on a road. I generally add one to two minutes to my pace per mile, even on trails I know very well. Slow your pace and take time to look around and enjoy the beauty of the trails. Run by time, effort level, or heart rate and avoid comparing your trail pace to your road pace.

Finally, work to improve your trail running performance by including strength and balance exercises into your training two to three times per week. Exercises that strengthen the calves, ankles, and feet are particularly useful. Consider adding lunges on a pad or stability disk, single leg squats, bridges, dead lifts, calf raises, and other exercises using a wobble board or stability disc to develop foot and ankle strength and stability.

Once you’ve tried trail running, grow your confidence by running on the trails at least once per week. Try new trails and make friends with other trail runners. As you grow in your confidence and strength, tackle more technical trails, or sign up for a trail race. Trail running can be a great way to see new sights, meet new people, and enjoy Connecticut’s natural beauty.

Enjoy the trails!

On The Run: Des Moines

I’m on the run again, this time to Des Moines for the RRCA National Convention. I got in late last night, but was sure to get up early for a run along the Des Moines River with some running friends. I love running around a new city. There is simply no better way to see a new place than on foot. My group met early and ran toward the Des Moines River, where there is a lovely trail system. The paved trail goes along the river a ways, past a ballpark, over a very cool pedestrian bridge, and to a Japanese garden.

Spring in Des Moines

The flowers were in bloom and the weather was perfect for running. It was gorgeous! Later, we will take in some of the Drake Relays and I will run in the Hy-Vee Races. I can’t wait for a weekend totally dedicated to running!

Brother on the Run: Random Travel Running Moments

My amazing brother on the run has been traveling for work and has had a few hilarious runner experiences. In this post, he shares a few fun anecdotes. I know many of you can relate. Here’s Troy:

Running during a business trip can be a challenge or at least it can be for me.  Between the longer hours, tiny hotel gyms, and odd settings; getting a run in doesn’t always happen.  However, I tried during my last business trip to make the most of warmer weather and get a few runs in.  Oh Texas, always an adventure.

Pulled Over for Running

While staying near the Kemah (TX) Boardwalk, I tried to get 4-5 mile runs in every other day.  Unfortunately, this meant having a running day come during a monsoon – it was pouring rain and kept most people indoors.  I decided that I had a run to get and I was going to get it in.  Dr.Rachel has always pointed out that race day might not be perfect weather so training in sub-par weather can only help you prepare.

Fully dressed in running gear (half my stuff is fluorescent orange) including water bottle and Garmin I headed out for my 5 miles.  I was about half way through when a local cop pulled up to question me!

‘Was everything ok?’   ‘Did I need a ride somewhere?’ ‘Did I realize that it was raining?’

It was very nice of him to check on me (and I do appreciate it) but considering I have never been pulled while driving, being pulled over while running was a bit odd.  It took two days for my shoes to dry.

Most ‘Runner’ Thing Ever

After a hotel change, I was in a new city and still needing to log some miles.  I decided to do something new, something different for me.  I got dressed in all my running gear and headed to the local running store.  One question “where do you run?” was all I had for the clerks.  On The Run (Webster, TX) was great and showed me maps for both in city and trail runs in the nearby area.  I have never felt like more of a runner than going to a running store in a new city for course suggestions.

Bayou Trail Runs

The above conversation led me to the Armand Bayou trails in Pasadena, TX for a quick 5 mile run.  Not but 100 feet into my run a walker warned me about the trail ahead being ‘wet’.  It hadn’t rained for days so I thought nothing of it and continued on my way.  Mistake.  What was supposed to be a solid tempo run became some kind of crazy fartlek run where I sprinted for 100 yards and then walking through bogs and swamp pits in an attempt not to lose a shoe or fall in!  Trail runners probably laugh at this; this path is flat and covered with crushed gravel for the most part with only some slightly flood-ridden zones.  I just might not be much of a trail runner after all.

Treadmill or Beer?

I ended my trip back to the old standby: the hotel treadmill.  The particular chain of hotels I stayed at offer a cocktail reception once a week, a reception that just happened to fall right on my run night.  There is nothing like the joy of running 4 miles when, through the glass, I can see the other guests enjoying drinks and appetizers.  When I say 4 miles, I really mean 3.27 miles before I needed an ice cold beer also.  Running is hard, running when you could be drinking a beer by the pool is impossible.