Monday, March 7, 2011

Trail of Fears

Despite the fear of impending death and potential arrest for attempted assault, I came away from this run with great anticipation for my next trail run.  Sunday was my first real run on trails.  It was by far the most enjoyable run I have ever had.  I didn't set out that afternoon planning on going for a trail run but luckily I had on my Merrell Trail Gloves because they were definitely needed.
My run began just like all of my runs. I headed out the door planning to do 6-8 miles of road running on my normal route.  However, on this day I noticed a small sign off in the distance that had a large "WARNING" written on it.  I ventured over for a closer look and it was a trail maker telling hikers to be careful of "steep drop offs" and "parent supervision strongly recommended".  Despite not having a parent nearby for supervision and the slight fear of falling to a brutal death, I decided to proceed and began my first ever trail run.  Obviously, I don't have a lot of experience with running on trails but I'm not sure if I could have picked a tougher, more exciting, or more dangerous trail.

The first part of the trail was pretty docile but things quickly changed.  There were numerous times where my heart was in my throat.  For most of the trail, the only thing between me and falling a hundred feet to a certain death was a single wired fence and great traction from the Vibram soles on my Trail Gloves.  I did a couple loops on this particular trail and then found a few more that were considerably less intimidating but no less enjoyable.  On one occasion I popped out of the woods onto a semi busy sidewalk and nearly scared a woman walking her dog to death.  Keep in mind that I was in full ninja garb, including my balaclava.  I gave  her a smile and a quick wave before darting back into the woods.  After that encounter, I listened closely for sirens, fearing that she had reported a masked man hiding in the woods looking to snatch up innocent women or children.  Fortunately, I never did hear any sirens and continued to finish up my run in peace.

I have always heard about the benefits of trail running and I can attest that they are all true.  One of those benefits is how your legs often feel later that day and the following day.  It has been several weeks since I had run over 4 miles due to a sore right Achilles.   I was sure after putting over 8.5 miles on my legs that I would be extremely sore.  I actually didn't even think I would be able to run more than 6 miles but because of the varied and soft terrain, my legs and feet felt great.  I did have some soreness but it was not the normal soreness I get after running on hard even pavement.  The soreness was in different areas of my legs and feet which are consistent with trails working more of the stabilizing muscles and tendons in the legs and feet.  Trail running also greatly reduces the risk of overuse, repetitive injuries.  When running on roads and sidewalks, the foot often lands the same with each stride but in trail running, the foot rarely lands the same from stride to stride.  This also ensures that more muscles and tendons are engaged and being strengthened.

Towards the end of my run my legs felt much stronger than normal. They felt so strong that I was able to push out a very quick (by my standards) last half-mile.  From now on, trail running will be a staple in my running routine.  I strongly recommend that if you are out on your normal route and you see a trail, take it.  See where it leads you.  It might just lead you to the best run of your life.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Getting Started

When I decided to start running, I did what most beginning runners do.  I picked out a short race few weeks away, found a training plan (Smart Coach on Runners World), bought new running clothes and high dollar running shoes.   Also not uncommon is that a couple months later I was injured and barely able to walk.

The first mistake I made was planning to run a race too soon.  Having a race planned is a great motivational tool but it often leads to rigidity in a training schedule.  Often when we runners have race coming up they feel that they have to stick to their schedule with no exceptions.  I was no different.  I pushed myself through every scheduled run without exception.  I hadn't learned to listen to my body and take days off when I was sore.  If I would have picked a race several months away instead of weeks, I probably would have listened to my body and taken a few more days off.

The second mistake I made was my choice of shoe and how I came to that choice.  With my obsessive personality, I didn't just go to a local running store an listen to some "salesmen" on which shoes to buy.  Instead I did research on pronation, this lead me to do the wet foot test.  I found my arch height and determined I needed a stability shoe.  I did research on some of the best stability shoes and decided on the Nike Zoom Structure Triax+ . How can you beat the sound of that shoe? "ZOOM"  "STRUCTURE" "TRIAX" (whatever the hell triax is). They even worked with my newly purchased Nike IPod + sensor kit to tell me how fast and far I was going, well sort of. Either way I was sold.  I dished out my money and waited impatiently for them to arrive.  As soon as they came and I put them on and they felt amazing, so soft, so comfortable.  I felt like I could run forever in those shoes and my feet and legs would never get sore.  As it turns out, that is the exact problem with those kinds of shoes (more on that in posts to come).  I took them out for a run immediately and things were great.  Unfortunately, it wouldn't last. I was able to get through my first couple of races but when I stepped up the race distance, I was forced to walk off the course in severe pain while once again, two of my sisters and girlfriend finished while I waited at the finish line.  To make matters even worse they received GLORIOUS MEDALS and all I received was more shame.  Eventually I would begin to figure things out but it would take me reading a very popular running book, several more injuries, a philosophy change on running shoes, and a transformation in my running form twice. I will go into greater detail in the days and weeks to follow.
Glorious Medal