Hitting the Trail – A New Perspective on Running

Sunday, day two of weekend workout 50k training, I decided to use my “short” run wisely and head into the hills.  It was a double-whammy of hill workouts, this weekend; time to change it up, strap on my new trail shoes, and head out the door for some real, butt-kicking, rock and tree-toe obstacle-full muddy trails of fun.  In my brand-new shoes.

Nike Zoom Terra Kiger – my first pair of “real” trail shoes.

The soles of Nike Zoom Terra Kiger have an amazing sticky rubber.  When I tried them on in the store, I sounded like I had just come in from the rain with rubber sneakers on – Super squeaky!  On my mile and a half trek over pavement to the trail, running in these was mildly difficult.  On the one hand, they offer tremendous light support, and on the other – it is SO much more support than I am used to, as I generally wear the Nike Free Flyknit (which may almost feel like being barefoot in comparison).  The girl working in the shoe department was aghast that I ran marathons in the Free – apparently it is not designed for that kind of work.  I like taking the ordinary and making it  extraordinary.  I love my Free’s.

As much as wearing the Terra Kiger on the pavement was giving my calves and hamstrings a stupendous workout, as soon as I hit dirt in these bad boys, it all made sense.  They have enough support to keep your foot solid on the ground, and they feel incredibly stable, yet the sole is light and flexible enough that you can still feel the rocks and dips and bumps in the trail.  My first run in these shoes was eight miles long, five and a half on trails, and I came out of this test run completely unscathed: No blisters, raw spots, or extraordinary soreness.

Yes, I do believe the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger will work for my 50k (Siskiyou Outback, here I come!)

Although the day started out overcast and with a slight chill (which I was grateful for near the end of this run), the forest was gently bathed in a wash of soft, cool light.

The view from the top of the hill at the Pittock Mansion gave me a pleasant reprieve – a place to catch my breath, take in the city, and stop to smell the roses.

The descent down the hill was, of course, much quicker than my climb up to the top.  (This is the stuff negative splits are made of, right?)  51 minutes up, and 43 minutes down.  I was cautious, and took more care to watch for obstacles on the downhill leg of my journey, especially after the warning from my 50k running-mate that morning, complete with a picture of her bleeding knee, offering sage advice: “do try to pick up your feet.”

Overall, it was a great insight to a different type of running.  Trail running is so much more active.  I tend to get in a zone on my daily run, pleasant smile on my face, looking around, observing my fellow runners, saying good morning, and generally feeling at peace, quietly plodding along with joy.

On the trials, the “zone” is a totally different place. It requires focus, constant attention to detail in your surroundings, and persistence.  Less than halfway up my climb, I was out of breath, quads and rear burning with the effort, pulse beating, and my heart beating at my breast as though it was going to jump from my chest in a fit of agony and lay panting on the ground.  I effectively learned on Sunday that I might be a little out of shape for a race that takes place on trails.

But you can bet that I’m not going to let that little fact deter me.  

To all my fellow runners anticipating your next race: Here’s to hill training and working through the pain, because on the other side of that discomfort lies a greater level of fitness.  And satisfaction!

How do you train for a trail race?
How many of your work outs per week do you devote to hills and trails?

with joy in running (and breaking through past limitations),
~Alaina

Family of Runners

The more I run,I learn that running is not just something that I do, it is a part of who I am.  There is a freedom and a joy that comes from running that I find satisfies in a way that no other activity or endeavor can match. When I get outside, head high, feet light and quick, smile blazing on my face, I know I am free. I am on my path and no one can move me. I am a runner. I can do anything I decide to do.

As I sat in my post-12 mile trail run Epsom Salt bath Sunday afternoon, reading the end of Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, the story brought bubbles of joyful giggles and tears to my eyes.  I thought, this is what running is about.  It’s not about the competition, or your next PR, or beating this person or that, it’s about community, cheering one another on, and the camaraderie at the heart of every runner.  We are in this together, and we are invincible when we embrace the joy of running, and move forward on the course with our teammates.

Last Sunday I had the great pleasure of running with my Grampa.  My scheduled run was to be 15 miles, and Grampa was planning about ten, so my plan was to do five prior to meeting up.  As it turns out, I ran two prior to meeting Grampa at the trailhead to tackle ten miles on Wildwood, which later turned into 12 miles on the trail, my morning run netting a neat 14 miles.  I decided to allow myself a break in mileage due to increased difficulty of terrain.  I have never run more than a 10K on trails.  It was beautiful out, but my goodness.  I knew I would experience some soreness after that run!

We ran uphill toward Pittock Mansion, and while taking in the city view, Grampa pointed to the next hill over and let me know we were running over there, up past the zoo.  It was a fabulously cool day.

The trails were stunning.  Lush, vibrant greens surrounded us on the hard-packed dirt trails.  The trails were dirt, gravel, and filled with random tree root or rock protrusions, which kept my eyes trained on the ground before me, and somehow my eye was still pulled to take pictures of the gorgeous surroundings.

We had so much fun running up and down those trails; I learned the route and where to pop off the trail for water stops, and we talked about life and adventures.

When we arrived at the Pittock Mansion for the second round, we found a garden party out of the past overlooking the city…  The attending parties were stunningly attired, and I couldn’t resist a portrait of this couple, which they graciously allowed me to photograph.

On the way back down, the sun had finally broken through the clouds, and the light all around was like liquid gold filtering through the trees.  By this time, it was nearing noon, and the trails were filled with people out for a jog, walk, hike, with strollers, dogs and walking sticks, everyone was on the trail in the forest enjoying the outdoors.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to run with my Grampa.   I feel very lucky to get to go on this marathon journey with my family, training with my friends, being a part of the greater running community.  It is awesome!

Me and Grampa

Keep your head up, a smile on, say hello to your fellow running-mates, and enjoy the run!
~Alaina