How to Trail Run

Trail running is something I’ve been wanting to take up and do more of. For the last several years, I’ve lived a thirty to forty-five minute drive to the good trails in my nook of Colorado. It was a lot of effort that took way too much time; get up super early, dress, eat, drive forever, get at least an hour run in, drive home. That’s half the morning gone! I should have tried harder.

But now that I’m moving to a rural area of the mountains and will be doing all my training runs in my new neighborhood of hilly (understatement) dirt roads and U.S. Forest Service trails, I knew I needed to learn how run safely in the high country. It just so happened that my favorite local running store/brew pub (yes, you read that right), Shoes & Brews, was hosting a trail running clinic with Salomon Running. PERFECT. It was providence for sure!

My new neighbor, Mt. Meeker the Fourteener!

I’m so glad I went. It was helpful and informative, and it took some of the fear out of trail running for me. Here are some of the things I learned. Thanks, Salomon!

  1. Stay Upright Leaning forward constricts your airflow, so keep your torso upright and your head up despite the urge to lean into the hill.
  2. Stay on Your Toes Forget the heel strike. Staying on your toes makes you more agile through the rocks and other trail obstacles.
  3. Run on the Rocks If the trail is dry, go for solid surfaces over loose gravel when possible
  4. Run In The Water Don’t be afraid to run in the rivulets because there’s more loose sediment in wet conditions for your shoes to grip. In wet conditions, rocks can be slippery.
  5. Look Ahead Look 2-4 steps ahead of you to see where to step safely. Your brain can remember up to about 4 steps so stay safe by staying focused of your footfalls.
  6. Hip to Nip Move your arms like you normally would making sure they arc from your hip to your nip.
  7. Power Hike I didn’t know what this was until the clinic. It’s hard to explain, so go check out this great explanation from The Long Run
  8. Flail Like a Fool Flailing arms downhill is totally acceptable. No one will judge you for keeping your balance and not falling!
  9. Slow it Down Walking during trail running is a-okay! Even the pro who was with us, Courtney Dauwalter (who just broke a record for running 155 miles on a track in 24 hours) said so! It’s okay, really!
  10. What Goes Up On the downhill, lean forward a little to let gravity help you, but no so much you fall forward easily.
  11. Baby Steps Take smaller steps if you feel like you’re going too fast

Here’s Ester from Salomon with more tips

 

The trail we did was not for beginners, but it was a fun time and I met another Skirt Sports Ambassador, Becky! Making new friends is always fun, too.

Skirt Sisters!

The group at the top

It’s safe to say that I’m hooked. I’ve been posting gorgeous shots of my recent trail escapades on our Instagram all week. I cannot wait to get out there again this weekend and run where I play!

 

Do you run trails? Where do you run? What’s your biggest piece of advice for beginners? Share it all with me, I’m in desperate need of wisdom!

Spring Time is Trail Time!

This week, I needed an injection of motivation in my runs. I’m training for the Skirt Sports 13er in June, and I’m super excited for the race. Not so much the training. After talking to Mer about how I don’t take advantage of where I live nearly enough, I decided that it’s finally time to start trail running in earnest. I have every hope that will invigorate me to get in a training groove. I know a lot of you run trails. I see your gorgeous photos on Instagram and am so inspired by the gentle rolling hills and flat, heavily treed forests you run through. I wanted that to be me.

NCAR

NCAR TRAIL

I checked out this trail and put it on the to do list.

So I struck out this week. I chose a pretty famous trail in Boulder, the Chautauqua (pronounced sha-talk-wa) Flatirons Trail, for my first foray. That is when I realized I was sadly unprepared for what I was about to tackle. Here are my lessons learned.

The goal is the top of those pointy things.

The best part of my trail run (read hike) was that everyone was smiling and friendly and happy. In general, people are pretty friendly where I live. We smile at each other as we pass on the street. We hold doors open for one another. We say please and thank you to strangers. But the folks I saw on the trail that day weren’t just wearing polite smiles for the sake of being pleasant. No, no, they were positively radiating happiness. Their smiles said “it’s a gorgeous day and we’re alive and we’re free and LOOK AT WHERE WE LIVE. I love everyone I see!!!” It was marvelous! Nature heals everyone’s spirit. I’m not sure about you, but I can always use more of that kind of energy in my life.

north

Just because I’m a native doesn’t mean I’m a natural. I forgot what “trail” can mean here in Colorado. What some folks might call a trail, others would call a hiking path. Emphasis on hiking. I was out of breath less than a quarter mile into the trail. I’d looked at the trail on a map before heading out, but I didn’t pay too much attention to the elevation change. My bad, lungs.

Oh hai, rocks.

Oh hai, rocks.

Looking at my FitBit later, it said I’d climbed 48 flights, and I didn’t even make it close to the top of the mountain. I realized I’m not at the fitness level I thought I was. It was hard.

elevation

 

That’s when I wondered if I should stick to flat trails on the plains, at least until I get stronger. My rugged pioneer blood deceived me into thinking the hike was no big deal and I could handle it because I’m from this place. My blood lied.  Also, I needed water, which I didn’t bring. That brings me to …

Always wear your CamelPak. Everyone on the trail, errr, hiking path, had a backpack of some sort. Not far in I was wishing I had brought mine, too. Once I was surrounded by trees, the wind died off and I was hot. Having water and a place to store my pullover would have been awesome. In this area, seeing a black bear or a mountain lion is not uncommon. So in the future, maybe some bear spray or a change of underwear in my pack might be helpful. Just saying.  And don’t forget the sunscreen!

carin

Dress Appropriately. Duh. The day I went it was in the mid 60’s and overcast. The mild wind held a crisp bite to it, though, which is typical this time of year at our elevation. I was wearing capris, a tank, a long sleeve tech shirt, and a fleece pullover. Rule numero uno about living in Colorado, dress in layers. The chilly wind was giving me ear aches and I really needed a beanie. I went back to the car for a hoodie I could cover my ears with and then I was sweltering. There was no winning with the gear I had. It was cold in the open spaces and hot in the forest, so layers are uber important.

Brrrrrrrrr!

Brrrrrrrrr!

Be a Good Steward of the Trail I saw lots of baggies of dog poo lying next to the trail. This is great in that people are cleaning up after their dogs, but hopefully they remember to pick their baggie up on the way back down the mountain and toss it in the trash. I read another trail runner say she always tries to pick up at least one piece of litter while on her run. I love this idea. I will be packing a grocery sack in my CamelPack for this purpose in the future!

 

Looking back over Boulder

Looking back over Boulder

There is Nothing more Calming to the Soul than Nature’s White Noise It is essential that when you’re out there, pounding your feet on the soft dirt, that you to actually stop and take a moment to be present. There is an indescribable sound you only hear in the forest of the Rockies. It’s the sound of the wind whispering through the tops of the ponderosa pines, the hum of a hummingbird as it speeds by, the sound of aspen leaves quaking, combined with the rushing swoosh of a distant creek or river. There is the calm stillness in the forest. A place where technology and obligation are far removed from the fallen tree you find yourself sitting on.  Don’t forget to sit. Take big deep breaths. Look around. Be grateful for this time to connect with our environment. You will leave with a more grateful heart and calm center.

tree

Do you run trails? Where? Which are your favorites? What do you like about trail running that you don’t get out of road running? Tell me all about it in the comments!

 

East Coast Beat the Blerch 10k

In the past I’ve talked about the differences between North and South Jersey. Besides sports team preferences (don’t tell anyone but I give not one iota about sports), city preferences, and the way you say water, there is also a very vast terrain difference.

Which normally is not a big deal. A non-issue really.

Except if you sign up for a run in North Jersey.

When you’re from South Jersey, you’re used to all smooth sailing with the occasional bump that we call a hill down here. But if you sign up for Beat the Blerch at Lewes Park in Morristown you can expect trails, hills, and rugged terrain.

Which I knew when I registered because my dear friend Sharon hosts the Phillips 5k/10k Trail Run/Walk there each year. I’d seen the pictures.

But um, I sorta forgot.

Until we were driving up a deep winding road to get to the parking and the reluctant runner, Jay, turned to me and asked, “So, what do you think the course will be like?”

Not wanting to lie, I said, “Well, I think we’re in for an adventure.”

It's like Jersey, only NORTH!

It’s like Jersey, only NORTH!

At that point we made our one and only race goal: don’t get hurt.

beattheblerch1

We want to LIVE.

Solid plan, right? We decided that we would run where we could and just try not to get hurt and/or hurt anyone else. We arrived early (because we are those people, always) and it’s a good thing that we did because there was a bit of a line for the buses to the race site.

This was the first time that Beat the Blerch came to the east coast, based on the popular comic by The Oatmeal (if you haven’t read it, stop reading this and go check it out. Seriously. Go. I’ll wait!) so we expected there to be a few snafus on the inaugural race. And there were, but we rolled with it. Because it’s so much easier and we were going to expend all energy on the course.

The 10k was slotted to start at 9:30 but from what I understand, there was an issue with many people getting there in time for the half marathon (which started at 9am) so they pushed the 10k start time back to 10am. A small wrinkle as a 10k runner, but one that if I were a half marathoner, I would have appreciated.

We used the extra time to hit the line of portapotties. Given the size of the event, they probably should have had twice the amount, at least.

Visiting with the Blerch was a must and he even offered us a seat on the couch. What a great guy!

132679-320-031h

All races should have free pictures! MAKE IT SO, UNIVERSE.

Just go. I'll catch up. Never.

“Just go. I’ll catch up. Never.”

We somewhat reluctantly made our way to the start (those couches were really comfy) and soon we were off to the sounds of the Lion King and an announcer in a bacon suit. Mmmm, bacon.

Me = optimist Jay = realist

Me = optimist
Jay = realist

Very, very quickly we realized it was survival mode. Game on. We ran when we were able to. We walked when it wasn’t possible (for us – I’m sure those who run trails regularly were just fine). I stuck to the right hand side, trying not to fall off any slopes and also making myself as small as possible as to not be in the way of those who were confident to run.

I watched the trail runners for tips, their toes pointed slightly out and their quick light feet, especially on the downhill. The trails I have run are compacted dirt and this one was filled with roots and rocks so the tripping potential was high.

The trail was gorgeous but I can’t really say that I got the full beauty feel of it because I was busy looking at the ground the majority of the time. It was also very narrow at certain points so unless you decided to run through the brush (some did, I did not), it was very single file.

beattheblerch2

How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

While neither Jay or I got hurt, we saw people getting busted up left and right. We saw bloody knees, bloody elbows, sprained wrists, twisted ankles. There were emergency vehicles placed throughout the route and they were being fully utilized.

beattheblerch3

This was right around mile 3. After I took this pic I ran up the hill because Jay texted me that there was CAKE.

This was right around mile 3. After I took this pic I ran up the hill because Jay texted me that there was CAKE.

The day was gorgeous but I felt a bit dehydrated throughout. Thankfully it was cool enough and the tree coverage made it less of an issue, but the tiny cups at the water stations weren’t doing it for me. The volunteers were trying their hardest to keep everything filled but I don’t think they were prepared for the amount of people coming through.

CAKE, you complete me.

You complete me.

We took a selfie at the stop, hitched up our boot straps and prepared for the second half of the trail.

Note: while I have the earbuds in, there was no tunes. I needed all my senses out there.

Note: while I have the earbuds in, there was no tunes. I needed all my senses out there.

Here’s where things got a little (more) hairy, because the half marathon and 10k routes converged onto one path. I hugged the right as much as possible while walking and made sure to check behind me if I planned to hit the left to run.

I questioned my sanity multiple times. The miles dragged and while I was fine endurance wise, around mile 5 I was ready for the race to be over.

Soon enough, we came to a clearing and we had about a quarter mile to go. At least that’s what the volunteers told me at the bend. My watch lost signal while we were romping around in the mountains (I might be exaggerating slightly but it felt mountainous).

beattheblerch7

And the Blerch was there, right near the finish line! He quite obviously missed me.beattheblerch8

He tried to sideline me with the offer of a selfie, which I happily accepted. Because when you can take a selfie with the Blerch, even if the finish line is 300 feet away, YOU TAKE IT.

beattheblerch9

And then I politely said, “Excuse me, I have to go beat you now.”

Me = optim

And then I got my medal and my banana (which tastes really good with Nutella) and the aforementioned Nutella and cake and purple drink.

So the good? The medal, banana, Nutella, cake, and purple drink. And free race pictures! And the Blerch! Also the fact that I didn’t die, fall off a cliff, fall in any which way (and trust me, that was a real possibility for me, the girl who falls often).

The “needs improvement” category is basically just logistics. The Interwebs rumblings are that transportation company that was originally supposed to work the race backed out. There were 6 school buses that were making the rounds for a lot of runners to get to and from the parking lot to the race site.

The line to get to the race was a bit long but bearable.

The line to get from the race site back to the cars was much more tedious.

Additionally, there were just too many people out on the course for the size of the trails. If everyone were going the exact same speed, I don’t think it would have been a problem (or maybe less of a problem?) but it was tough with everyone at different skill levels – it felt very “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

But despite all that, I beat the Blerch. And for that I call it a win!

beattheblerch10

Have you Beat the Blerch? What do you prefer, roads or trails? North or South? East or West?

Happy Trails

Howdy there, Scooters! Jenn here with a hearty thank you for spending some time with me today, and for welcoming me to Scootadoot. Being invited to be a Chick couldn’t have come at a better time for me from a personal fitness perspective because, well, I have a smallish problem/confession to reveal.

I haven’t been running since July.

I know! I know! I feel horrid about it, and I know that if I can go anywhere for advice/perspective/empathy, it’s here with you fine, understanding, people who are also pretty. *Bats lashes*

Here’s what happened. Late this summer, I hit a bit of a fitness rut. Three things were working against me, the worst of which was some rather uncomfy heel pain in my left foot. Worrier that I am, I diagnosed it as the beginnings of plantar fasciitis, because I’m not a doctor. The remedy I chose was to stop running for a spell and stick with walking, deep tissue massage, and a gait analysis at the Boulder Running Company resulting in a new pair of New Balance kicks. Turns out, I was over pronating on the left, and my old kicks, which I loved otherwise, were too narrow.

 

Old Kicks, Blue Kicks

Old Kicks, Blue Kicks

Pink Kicks, New Kicks

Pink Kicks, New Kicks

The second evil keeping me from my fitness goals is school. The semester started in August, and since I work full time and go to school part time, fitness time is super hard to come by. Enough said because really, I know I have to make time. Lastly (and I have a feeling this is one you have likely encountered), boredom had a firm hold on me. I was bored with running. I was bored with my playlist, bored with the jarring repetition of bouncing, and most of all, I was super bored with my usual, close-to-home route. My routine had become stagnant, and I just wasn’t feeling it anymore.

With my first 13.1 race at the 2015 Atlantic City April Fools Half looming on the horizon, it was time to make a major change. So this week, I did something I’ve wanted to do since I started running, I hit the trails! Well, actually it was only one trail, the Davidson Mesa Loop in Louisville, Colorado. It’s a trailhead that I’ve driven by countless times over the course of my life and have never explored. And because I’m brilliant, I did absolutely no research on the trail before I got there. The only thing I did know was that the views were fabulous. Without a thought to terrain difficulty or elevation changes, my trusty running companion, Coco, and I were in the car and off for an adventure!

Coco is ready to go!

Coco is ready to go!

As expected on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon , the trail was busy with cyclists, walkers, dogs and their humans, and a handful of fellow runners. The adjacent dog park was bustling with the expected sniffing and fetching and blurs of flowing fur romping about. Coco would have none of that silliness, thank you very much, and we turned to the trail spreading wide and open and prettily before us. The freshly dusted snow-capped Indian Peaks sparkled behind the Flatirons overlooking Boulder, and it seemed as though Coco and I had the trail all to ourselves. We were off, and set a brisk walking pace to warm up.

Davidson Mesa Loop

Davidson Mesa Loop

Luckily for me because, like I said, I’m brilliant and do no research, this trail was cake. The gravel path was wide, clean and well maintained. It’s a short, flat 2.7 mile loop that runs through an open space on a mesa overlooking the Boulder valley. Most importantly for my out-of-shape boot-ay is that the elevation change is a mere 67 feet. This is muy importante because in Colorado, a “trail” can be like the Manitou Incline and increase in elevation 2000 feet in 1 mile with a 40% grade. Lesson learned here was to research the trail before you drive 15 miles to get to it. Because duh.

Grateful that we were on a flat, easy, soft path, Coco and I jogged at a leisurely pace. The weather was beautiful, in the mid-60s and the breeze carried the sounds of chirping birds and happy, yipping dogs. With each footfall, I could feel the magic of running return. I contemplated my connection to the earth beneath my feet and how I depend on it to catch me and propel me forward. Coco looked back at me with a smile, happy to be running again and exploring new territory. We came to a bench, and I noticed an inscription.

Peace

Yes.

Looking up, I took in the vista and felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

DavidsonMesa

This is what keeps me running. The connection to the environment when I’m out there with my thoughts and my pup and my freedom. I always forget how much running benefits my mental health, not just my physical health. This is what I need to remember when I feel like I don’t have time, or when I’m cozy warm in my bed and don’t want to get up early to run, or when I’m just plain being lazy.

Eager to keep exploring, we started again. My pace was poor and Coco was so happily enthralled in all the new things that she kept pulling me off my gait. It didn’t matter. I was out there, in the sunshine under a brilliant blue sky and the fog was lifting. I wasn’t in front of my computer. I wasn’t stuck at home doing math problems. I was out in the world being human. I was free!

Stopping to tie my shoe, my Momentum shoe tag reminded me that what I perceived as the main obstacle to running, my lack of time, is really an excuse. I must make time for running. I need to make time for fitness. I have to make time for myself.

nownever

True story.

How do you fight fitness boredom? What unexpected benefits do you get from getting out there? Tell me in the comments!

All I want for Christmas…is a runcation.

Today’s the day.  People all over the United States are engaging in the frantic nocturnal scramble for commerce.  There will be some running involved, hopefully no running over.  Maybe a little kickboxing.  Some deep breathing exercises.  All in the effort to save a little cash.  And believe me, I need to save a little cash!  This year, I’ve spent more money on runcation and race entry fees than any other non-essential expense.  Quicken showed me this cute little pie chart and the category of “Race Expense” was the third biggest piece, right after “Mortgage” and “Household”.

I don’t how this happened, I had a race budget!  But you know, after SoCal Ragnar, I had to do Napa so I could get that double medal.  And all my friends were running in Washington, I couldn’t let them have fun without me.  And I had to do the Wine and Dine after Tink, because of that Coast to Coast medal.  And there was no way I was going to run in Disneyworld and not take my kids to other happiest place on earth.  Oh, and after experiencing the awesomeness of the ROC race in San Diego, I just had to do it again in Anaheim.  And so the story goes.  I have a hard time saying no to races and when I do say no, I’m green with envy when I see my running mates posting pics on facebook!

This year, I don’t want a lot for Christmas.  There is just one thing I need…are you hearing Mariah Carey yet?  All I want for Christmas is to race!  So here it is, my Runcation Christmas List.

1. Any East Coast Ragnar or any Trail – I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile now.  And I’m dying to get the Scoot Chicks in a van.  D.C., Cape Cod, and Ontario are high on my list, but really any of them would be amazing.  The trail race is a new series.  Instead of a van, you camp and the race trails loop out from the camp site.  It’s a different kind of relay but I’m anxious to take it on!

2. E.T. Full Moon Midnight Half-Marathon – Sci-Fi is kind of my thing.  Just ask my X-Files and Star Wars ringtones.  This course runs along Highway 375, which was named Extraterrestrial Highway by the federal government, in the Nevada desert in the middle of the night.  Oh, and did I mention it borders Area 51?  The whole idea of this race gives me chills.

3. Spartan Sprint – It seems like everyone I know loves these races.  And I love dirt and I love adventure so I think I might love this race.  Of course, I also think I’ll need to beef up before I attempt something like this.  My upper body strength sucks.  So push-ups, here I come.

4. Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon – It’s pretty simple…music is awesome, running is awesome, running to music is double awesome.  The best part about this race series is that it is EVERYWHERE.  Madrid, Scotland, Ireland…oh, how I dream of the day I can run in a foreign country!  I might have to settle for L.A. this year, but one of these days…

5. Challenge Nation – This is the Ultimate Urban Scavenger Hunt and like a lot of these races, it’s everywhere.  I can’t think of a better way to explore a city I’ve never been to before.  It’s part physical, part mental, and a whole lot of adventure.  The race part is a 5k and there’s prize money to be won. If I can’t be on Amazing Race, then I’ll gladly settle for this!

6. John Muir Trail –  This isn’t a race but it’s top on my list of things I must do before I die.  The trail is 211 miles long and runs from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney in California.  It’s a hike, you carry your stuff on your back and sleep in a tent.  No showers, no bathrooms, just me and the Sierra Nevada Mountains…and probably some other people because I can’t see myself doing this alone.