I’ve been training for a half marathon in September that may sound a long way off but it has a few things going for it that I have never dealt with in a half marathon race before:
1. Lots of incline (I run up a freaking mountain)
2. Lots of elevation (the Taos ski valley and Fraser Mountain- which we run up- are higher in elevation than most Olympic training centers)
3. Lots of rocks and roots and debris to get snagged on
So what I know is this isn’t going to be the half marathon I ran in San Francisco with music and hecklers and a few road hills. I won’t be running 7-minute miles (I don’t really do hat anymore anyway) or even running parts of it… more like crawling with tears.
I hiked up the first part on a rocky route that I’m hoping isn’t on the official course map and the hike alone left me huffing and puffing and moving slower than my Nana’s old poodle when she fed it too much bacon. Point is I need all these months to train and this is what has to change as I transition to trail and my first race as a 35 year old (my god how did I get to be 35?)
What I need to know (and what you need to know) as a runner transitioning to serious trail running status:
- First of all you do not have to win. Unless you’re a professional and you need sponsorship from Saucony or Brooks, you really can just take your time. Worst case scenario you’re so slow that everyone leaves before you finish and you just chill with some birds and squirrels for a few hours before you take your time returning to normal life off the mountain with a few beautiful photographs for Instagram
- Rocks, roots, trees, leaves: these are all going to be doing their best to knock you on your ass and it helps for traction and peace of mind to get good trail shoes with grip. My favorite for my feet used to be montrails masochist until Colombia bought them and they changed shape entirely. Now I run in Salomon Speedcross (a half size larger than street shoe size for swelling) and they’re perfect. Likewise, it’s important to wear your contacts or glasses so you can SEE the roots/leaves/rocks, and lift your feet.
- On trail, as on road, you have to be mindful of others. On the road you have to avoid careless drivers and pedestrians and on the trail you have to avoid trees and hikers and careless mountain bikers. In a race you’re saved from bikers just as you’re saved from drivers in a road race, but you still have to put safety first. This means plan ahead: aid stations or not, bring water in a camelback, hand held bottle, and/or hip pack. Water is essential. Being able to see well is essential. Wearing wicking layers and socks for sweat, and the optimal clothes (you can always shed layers) for the elements, and even some snacks (a couple espresso gu gels maybe). This may not be a survival race in the Australian Outback but you’re going to be in the trees, mountains, cold or hot climate, and whatever you have to face needs to be visualized, prepared for and ultimately respected. “Don’t fuck with Mother Nature” is my mantra and it’s a relief when you put her first and your race goals second.
That’s it I guess. Trails are more fun. Cities are fun but stopping for red lights and speeding trucks can be a drag. Getting covered in dirt and leaves feels like a return to your roots- literally. I like taking pictures in far off enchanting lands, next to my dogs, steep cliffs and hundred year old trees, and sharing them on my smart phone to the world that doesn’t leave their homes and offices enough. Makes me feel like Shackleton on the Endurance except with more food and less hypothermia. Or just like a badass. A postpartum, 35-year-old, mama in yoga pants, pigtails and compression socks badass.