Monday, July 9, 2012

Trail Running - My Thoughts

What a week!  After not having gone out of town for a race or work in far too long, over the past 7 days I’ve found myself twice in the mountains. (Not to be confused with having my head in the clouds or having junk in the trunk)  I was previously in Heber, AZ and over the past few days in Colorado Springs.  This time instead of hanging out in a cabin I would be serving as butler for my post-op sister. Well, and maybe I’d try to get some running in too.

Fortunately for me, my sister is on loads of pain meds so she did a lot of trying to not swallow her tongue sleeping and resting.  That offered me plenty of time to get the runs in that I needed.  The first day I was there I went on a normal boring 7 miler that had moderate ups and downs.  Of course, by “moderate ups and downs” I mean:  holy hell, where is a ski-lift when you need it?!  What was supposed to be an easy run turned into an all out hill session. Good for my legs, soul crushing for my morale.

But, on the second day I was there, I decided to hit the trails – I ran 8.5 miles in the Garden of the Gods park.

To be clear, I’m not a trail runner. I don’t like to eat potato chips while I run an easy 5 miler, I don’t own any gaitors, and I’ve never even puked while running! It’s like I haven’t lived.  In fact, I’ve only done “real” trails a handful of times.  The reason isn’t because I don’t like nature or I don’t like getting dirty but instead because I am LAZY.  I can walk out my front door and find literally miles and miles of sidewalks that I can run on.  From the moment I put on my running shoes I am running in 30 seconds.  But to go trail running? That requires driving. It likely requires at least 30 minutes of driving from where I currently live.  To me that is time better spent watching reruns of House Hunters: International. Ding dong!

But, since there wasn’t much on TV I had few responsibilities and was within 5 miles of one of the prettiest places in the USA, I decided to suck it up and hit the trails.

The run was half on traditional “trails” that were frequented by tourists looking at the rock formations in the park.  They were pretty up and down with lots of stairs built into the natural environment.



As I was running along the trail, I found myself constantly wondering how fast I was going.  My pace would jump around like crazy.  At times I’d be running 6:30s, but other times I’d have to slow down to a near walk to skeeter (that’s a word, look it up) down washouts or over big rocks.  Overall the trail portions averaged 9:00/mi or so, but it felt MUCH faster than that.  The trees seemed to be wooshing by at breakneck speed but I never seemed to be covering much ground.  3 miles on the trails seemed like 5 on the roads.  I think the reason might be because I wasn’t able to zone out while running like I do on the roads. I was always thinking to myself: “Is that a snake??  No, curved rock”.... “Oh, that is pretty secluded, I’ll bet I could totally poop there”... etc.


One thing that was nice about a rather relaxed run was that I didn’t feel bad about stopping and taking some pictures at the major touristy rocks.  Which is good, because the trails were very hard to follow at these major intersections.  More than once I found myself next to a beautiful red rock with my hands on my hips thinking... “well shit, where the hell do I run NOW?” In fact, I actually opened google maps on my phone at one point to see which way the trail went from my current location.

Rocky trail


Eventually I’d find my way and I’d be off – all the while staring at my pace and looking for good spots to poop. (Not that I even had to go...but...you know...just in case.)  Eventually I got to one side of the park and found myself at the bottom of a fire road.  Since I still had lots of miles to run, in my oxygen deprived state I decided that it would be a good idea to run straight up it.  1.75 miles and 700 feet later I decided that I had tortured myself enough.  6850 feet is high, and running down the hill was fun. Likely what I imagine being a bobsledder is like – without John Candy or any dread locks.

Top of the mountain!

Overall elevation. (Read: ball busting)


So, overall I liked getting out into nature and getting my ankles dirty.  However, I doubt that I will become a full time trail runner.  I turn 31 in a few weeks and I am all too conscious of the fact that my ass jiggles now more than it ever has the handful of years I have left to get faster.  By my estimation I probably have 3-4 more years of running to which to get faster – at which point I’ll likely try to maintain.  Maybe more years than that I suppose, but certainly no more than 5-6.  I’ll do an entire post on that soon, but essentially I am not sure that I want the challenge of hills, roots, naked campers giving each other “love hugs”, and rocks right now.  Right now, I want SPEED. I think trail running has it’s place in any training plan but going full time trail running would be like going full time Triathlon.  In my mind, it’s just a different sport.

Has anyone else tried trail running?  Do you like to be able to poo in the woods and not have to worry about someone coming out of their house and realize that you’re poo’ing on their front lawn?

26 comments:

Lisa said...

What a beautiful place to run! I imagine you were hot as hell.

There are so many great places here in Oregon to do trail running and yet I haven't tried it. I want to, but then I realize two things:
1) I am worried about my ankles running on uneven ground and
2) I'd have to run with a buddy and it's difficult to plan that with most of my friends.

Someday. Someday...

Chad Chisholm said...

I'm glad you ran with a camera. Were you drafting this blog post in your head while you ran?

Whitney said...

You know, I read this whole post and all I can think now at the end is: You've never puked while running? How in the crap do you run those disgustingly fast paces in the heat and not throw up?

Beth said...

Gorgeous views! I'm not a trail runner (totally clumsy and I'm afraid I'll fall on my face), but scenery like that could turn me into one.

Are your quads totally dead now? Just looking at all of that downhill on your elevation chart makes mine hurt...

Half-Crazed Runner said...

Love (& miss) John Candy! Great pics. Thnx for sharing.

abbi said...

I love running on trails but hate the driving to find them as well. So much easier just to walk out the front door but I try to get out on them as much as I can!

Heather @ Just a Colorado Gal said...

I love trail running and try to go as often as I can :) My only thing is that I'm not strong enough now to do the type of mileage on trails that I need to do to marathon train, so I'm lucky if I get in a few trail runs a month. I just love the environment-- being on the trails relaxes me :)

eric said...

As a founder of www.trailsroc.org yes..i love it. Mostly though for being anle to poop.

Redhead Running said...

Garden of the Gods is no joke! I've hiked there with my family, long before I became a "runner" and give you major props!

You should talk to Spike about his thoughts on trail running...

Deb said...

I like trail running, but I am so slow it is more like a fast walk hike. The rocks are my challenge. And kudos for going from Phoenix to CS and running trails. I love going to AZ (in-laws are there) and feeling like I had all the air I need (I also live in CO)! Your Garden of the Gods pics look great. SO glad no hint of any more fire! Hope your sis is doing well and your butler skills were not tested too much. Safe travels home.

ajh said...

When I ran in the Garden of the Gods 10 MIler a month ago I even took pictures I was going so slow. That is seriously hilly and hard.

Jeff Irvin said...

That looks like an amazing place to run - great pics!

I love trail running. I'd do it every day if I didn't live in SE Texas where poisonous snakes, wild hogs, and gators flock instinctively like the Salmon of Capistrano. So it is limited from October to March.

Oh, I love the trails for hill work - busting ass up those crazy assed inclines make you a man!!

Kate said...

I love trail running. And not just because it helps justify my pitiful paces. I love the challenge of having to really pay attention to where you're putting your feet, the confidence I've developed in tackling more technical trails, and the views. I'll run on the roads if I have to, but I vastly prefer the trails.

Yo Momma Runs said...

I love trail running! The only bad part is that hey don't offer babysitting like my gym.:(

Mike said...

Great pictures Adam! I love trail running specially in the cooler months.

Sue's Ramblings said...

Sorry not a trail runner nor doubt I'll do it unless absolutely necessary. I just don't like getting "dirty". Yes, have tried them and got "dirtied".

Nelly said...

Looks like a great run! Awesome scenery!

I love trail running and try to do it as often as I can. Nothing quite like being by yourself out there with only nature around. I also think that trail and hill running is great cross training and strengthening to help avoid injuries. Hill running seems to use way more muscles than road running, so it seems like it helps to do it occasionally.

pensive pumpkin said...

I'm almost exclusively on trails right now, but I don't fuel with potato chips.

Yet. I look forward to it...

Jess said...

I would love to run trails, but in South FL, there really aren't any. Just sidewalks, swamp and beach here. I take the sidewalks.

Brian said...

I went for my first real trail run (I don't count the flat, local rail trail where I run a lot) on Saturday, and it was fun. It was a 3ish miler through the woods and around a local lake, but it was fun because 1) lots of shade on a super-hot day and 2) just a nice break from the routine.

I need to start adding distance back into my routine, so that'll keep me to the roads, but I'd like to do more trail running. A paralyzing fear of snakes will keep me from ever being a super hardcore trail runner, anyway.

ThaMessenjah said...

I LOVE TRAIL RUNNING. Trails are one of the best places to go if you are looking for stronger legs that will ultimately result in faster times. Get out on the really technical trails and you will notice your ankles are stronger, quads are stronger, hips are stronger, etc. Embrace the trails :)

Heather said...

I love the trails. The pace is always slow since we don't want to break our ankles but it's good since it does force us to run at a slower pace for our long runs. There are always runners on the trail so I feel confident if I was alone and broke my ankle someone would be by with in 5 minutes.

Shannon said...

I love trail running, although I am not particularly good at it. Hell, I am not particularly good at running at all.

Love that part of the world though. My husband and I were out there last August to run Pikes Peak. Hubby did the half (Ascent) and the full marathon (two separate days). I just did the Ascent - but it was fantastic. We hope to get out there again in a couple of years to do the race again.

M said...

Hey there's a run UP Pike's Peak every August...since you seem to be enjoying the elevation :)

I like trail running but I am so slow it doesn't matter...I live where I can do either but no matter where I live it is always up hill on the way home because I live on a hill.

Jill said...

Welcome to my neck of the woods :). Next year you'll be heading up Pikes Peak! :)

James said...

I love trail running. More and more, I find myself searching for new trails to try rather than roads. I just finished my first trail marathon and I have to say it was far more gratifying than my first marathon, but MUCH slower. BTW, that places looks awesome! I'm going to refer my sister to it (She lives outside of Phoenix.