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!

Gear Review: Pace Crops

Spring is here! I experienced one of my favorite springtime traditions recently – the switching of the running clothes. I keep out of season gear in big boxes in my basement, and, twice each year, that means that I get to switch seasons of my athletic gear. The switch almost always leads to the purchase of a few new items to add to my collection.

Given my deep an abiding love of all things Lululemon (and, full disclosure, my Ambassador status), Lululemon was the logical destination for new gear. I am in love with the Pace Tights and decided to try their sister crops, the Run: Pace Crops. I bought the black/frond pair and have now tested them on a number of runs (and one race!).

Pace Crops

I like these crops. Honestly, I was a bit confused by the crops the first time I wore them. I expected them to fit and feel like their Pace Tights sister, but they’re more like distant cousins. The Pace Crops fit differently and look distinct from the tights. But, the fit and feel are great. They are primarily Power Luxtreme, with a very lightweight feel. The back of the knees has Circle Mesh venting. I like the added touch of the Circle Mesh. It keeps the material from bunching behind the knees for a comfortable stride. The crops have two gel pockets in the front waistband and a zipper pocket in the back waistband. The inseam is 17 inches, or just below knee length.

I have worn these crops on several runs. In the cool and humid conditions that are typical in the spring in my area, the crops were just the right weight for running comfort.  The lightweight feel of the material was perfect for the soggy weather. The Power Luxtreme material was quick to dry and stayed comfortable, holding its shape even when wet. The waistband felt secure and the circle drawstring enabled me to get a good fit around my waist. The flat seams ensured that my skin was chafe-free. I appreciated the small, reflective strip on the side of the leg. It was just right for lower light running. Overall, I love my Run: Pace Crops. They fit well, they’re lightweight, and they perform in a variety of conditions.

Grade: A

Suggested Retail Price: $86 on the Lululemon website (Direct link here) – and they now come in adorable, bright colors!

Details for Rachel’s outfit, above: Lululemon pullover in frond (they don’t make this one anymore – sorry), black Lululemon Speed Demon Run Hat (I LOVE this hat and its sister, the Shady Lady Run Visor), Brooks Pure Flow shoes. And, don’t worry. I’m not going to die in the picture, I’m just squinting at the finish line clock.

Spring has Sprung?

We’ve been having nice weather all week and I’m convinced that it must finally be spring. Hooray! I love spring, and spring running. There’s something so nice about running in shorts, without 3 layers, a hat, ear muffs, mittens, etc. And, this early in the season there aren’t mosquitos, black flies, gnats or other creepy crawlers.

This week, I did one of my trail runs near a shallow lake and I saw a sure sign of spring – the first little sprouts of lilly pads!

 

Though most of the trees still don’t have leaves, it finally feels like spring.

Even more than spring, I’m looking forward to the spring training season. I need to get to work if I’m going to achieve my goal of reaching my pre-surgery pace this fall. Here’s hoping….it always seems easier to be optimistic in the spring.