Monday, September 12, 2011
This run was something I had been looking forward to. I knew that the trails are beautiful since we had checked them out ahead of time. I also knew that it would be much harder than the first Half-Marathon that I ran this March which was all level and when the weather was cool.
This time there were very significant repeated elevation changes, temperatures at the end of the race around 90 degrees and what is considered a technically challenging trail, including very narrow trails, sandy gravel, river rock, tree roots, tight turns.
Several people said this run is harder than a Marathon on the flat and I suspect they are right. I did not have as much time to train for this run as I wanted to by a long shot. I only started running trails about 2 months ago and I also only started running hills about 2 months ago. The main goal was to finish the race without injury which I did. My muscles are slightly sore but everything works. Yeah!
What helped me a lot was reading the book by Danny Dreyer "Chi Running". My running style was already very similar to what he teaches in his book since I run in minimalist shoes (Merrell Pace Glove for this race) and the centering and relaxation techniques described in this book I also use when riding my horse. What was helpful in addition was the suggestion to run sideways on steep uphills to save my calf muscles as much as possible. Running in minimalist shoes, when transitioned to gradually, allows for better ground feel on trails and will strengthen all the muscles in the lower leg and in the feet. This leads to a greater level of natural balance and stability when running on very uneven ground. It will also lengthen the achilles tendon over time, because there is no heel cushion in the shoe to keep the heel from gently making contact with the ground (after the fore/midfoot) making it much easier to run up hills. Running up hills is accomplished more by leaning forward and letting the legs swing forward, not so much by pushing off with the calf muscles. All this allowed me to handle the uphill portions of the race without having trained on hills very much. I did have to slow to a walk because I ran out of breath on the steeper slopes, especially towards the end of the race when it got very hot. Improving my cardio will only happen with much more running over the coming year. The level and downhill portions of the run were pure bliss. Taking in the beautiful sights of trees and plants with the light shining through and the occasionally views of the surrounding Palouse countryside and taking in the smells and sounds of nature were worth it. The feeling of running on the trails was almost one of dancing. Some of the downhills I was probably running at around a 9 minute mile which felt almost like flying compared to the shuffle-jog on the uphills.
I'm definitely hooked on trail running, although most of my practice runs will be more in the 3-5 mile length. This particular run was a little on the hard side for my training level, especially since I hardly ran at all in the last 3 weeks before the race but it worked out very well because I did not give into the temptation to go too fast. During the last two miles I started feeling tired, mostly because of the heat. My Camelbak-type backpack worked well and I used most of my 70 oz. supply of water with Nuun tablets and could have skipped all three water stops except for pouring water over my head.
Now I'll take a look at where there are more trail runs in our area (Eastern WA, North Idaho).