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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!