Running the Mountains
Trail running is a relatively new undertaking for me, and one that I’m not quite sure how I’ve gone without. I remember a few years ago when my friend Barb was running the trails of Virginia almost daily, I remember not getting it. In hindsight, I really missed out on some great quality time with an amazing human on those trails. Three months into the experience, it’s something that I never want to be without. THE CHALLENGE
My first trail run was in the Flatirons just outside of Boulder, CO; a short 1-mile loop marked as “advanced” by Strava and so many other trail sites. At the time I was working on my 10K time and thought “It’s only a mile, how hard could it be?” I changed my mind less than 3 minutes in.
In much of Colorado trail running is defined differently than it is in a place like Virginia or Maryland. In Colorado, it can more closely be related to a mix of brisk climbing and controlled falling, with very little margin for error (razor shark rocks, cactus, hidden snakes..) The first time I ran Redrocks it was more of a slow shuffle. Even at that pace and with my 10K honed endurance, the ascent and elevation were enough to keep me between HR zones 3 and 4. It was hard work! The rocks, snake danger, and strained breathing aside, there was something magical about that first fun. MUSIC OFF
When running through the streets of whatever city I happen to be in at the moment, I rely on my AirPods to help bring some peace and rhythm to the chaos surrounding me. Though I can’t get enough of energy pulsating through these busy urban areas, when I run, I need to find my “workspace.’
On the trail I find music to do just the opposite.
Instead of delivering my mind to a place of structure and focus, it is a distraction. Not only from the rock and snake danger (in case you couldn’t guess, I snake scared the hell out of me yesterday. They’re fresh on my mind!) but from the opportunity to soak in all that is around. THE SERENITY
Speaking of what is around, the next time you’re on the trail take a moment to really be present. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell?
Yesterday I was able to pick up on the sound of the wind blowing through the tall grass and birds; I saw the cool pattern in which the rain of the day prior had eroded the edge of the trail; and I smelled the nasty odor from old Nike running shorts from having washed them one time too many. 2 for 3 isn’t bad. The point is, trail running gives you an escape to a place where many of us don’t spend much time. A place of solitude, serenity, and peace. CONCLUSION If too much time has passed since your last trail run, or if you have never tried one, take a minute and find some good off-road routes near you. I prefer to use the Strava segment explorer function, but there are several other good options as well (for example, Trail Run Project.)
A few things not to forget:
Good shoes: it gets slippery on the rocks, and your runners probably wont cut it
Take water: Hydrate or die! Literally.
GPS: though most trails are well marked, others can be rather confusing. The track-back feature on my Garmin Fenix 6X has helped me more than one.
Let someone know where you will be and when to expect you back. Don’t be one of THOSE news stories!