Reflecting back on a trip to the Sierra Nevadas, I remember what it was like to fall in love again. It had been a long time since I’d been hit with such beauty, power and serenity at the same time. I also knew that with this “one”, total focus, finesse and determination would need to be harnessed in order to reel it in. In case you haven’t figured it out, this wasn’t another woman who grabbed my attention (my wife has that locked down), but rather the sport of trail running.
Through the wild flower lined meadows I ran, leaped and trudged past pristine lakes, up the crumbled rock mountainside and finally to the lung-ripping 7800 ft. summit of Mt. Elwell. The descent was no easier as it required laser focus and quickness to avoid ankle-breaking mistakes. On return to the base lodge, the scenery was so powerful and rich, I was plenty breathless. This, combined with my snowmelt dip in Long Lake, was more than enough to erase the pain in every fiber of my quads. I reconnected then and there to my days as an adventure racer – pavement felt miles away.
As Spring is upon us, we should begin lacing up our trail-runners to hit the woods, mountains or parks. Here are my trail running 101 tips for everyone:
- Preparation: Find the appropriate terrain and distance for your fitness ability. You may even start with a local park or familiar trail system. Build up your off-road run distance. This will allow the body to adjust to moving a bit differently than on the road and tune your ability to handle various terrain.
- Safety: Trail running shoes are your first step to help prevent injury or strain. Find a comfortable pair – you want something protective and “grippy”. For longer or more complicated routes, study and bring a trail map. Carry a fully charged phone that can often act as a GPS location option and no matter how familiar you are with a trail, let people know where you intend to run. Stick to that plan. Bring sunscreen, water and food appropriate for the distance and duration (less than 45 minutes and moderate temperatures, may not require that.)
- Skill: Trail running is not just about how fit you are but also how skillfully you can navigate loose rock, roots, altitude, water and wild animals (hopefully not!). Don’t forget Newton’s law. What goes up will most likely require an equal descent that can be very taxing on the knees and quads.
- Technique: Look where your foot is going to land, not where it is landing! This is key to ensure you pick the best line avoiding potential trip ups or slippery spots. Be light on your feet and think of trail running almost as if it were a dance. You will not always be moving forward or taking the same stride length. Pace yourself. If its’ too steep to run, check the ego and hike it to keep the heart rate from exploding. Then put that saved energy into going longer or harder later on.
One reason I truly love trail running is its meditational quality. You can’t think of much else; it’s pure focus, incredible beauty and a worthy challenge, all at the same time.
P.S. Don’t forget to take in the view!