A Rough and Rugged Lesson In Trail Running

I was warned. The pamphlet did say that the run was for intermediate and advanced runners. And I believed them. Which is why I hesitated for a moment before heading to the meeting place for the Wanderlust trail run. But then I remembered: I’ve been running for 8 years. I’ve completed 5 marathons. I can run far. I can run fast. It’s about time I found out if I can run on trails.

Part of me was skeptical that there would be much of a run at all. I’d been to the “Intro to ChiRunning” class the day before in which there was a lot of conversation but very little action, and after my horrific day spent in the airport, I was itching for some action. The class had been useful, of course, in the sense that I discovered I am already 75-80% chi-runner, but other than that it had been a long 2 hours.

When I got to the trail run meeting place, however, the group leader let us know what was up. We’d be running up the mountain. We’d run on part of the Western States Ultramarathon trail. We’d be gone for all 90 minutes that were scheduled for the run. And we’d look out for each other. Any questions?

It sounded good to me. Right up until we started jogging up the mountain. I’d tell myself there would be a flat part at the top of that hill only to find another hill rising up to greet me. And then another, and then another. The ground was dusty and rocky, and while my FiveFingers held up just fine, my sea-level lungs were having a rough time.

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We stopped to rest every few minutes, it seemed, and walked up some of the steeper climbs, as it was just as fast as “running.” By the time we hit the 45 minute mark, we’d gone about 2 1/4 miles and climbed 1,300 feet.

I had been warned.

And then we went downhill. Which was, of course, it’s own brand of slow as we tried not to skid and slide on the dusty trail. Our fearless leader danced his way down, skipping so lightly he didn’t have time to slip. A little salsa on the rocks. I tried to follow his moves, with middling success. I managed to stay upright (mostly) and even “dance” my way past someone. But I’d need to put in some serious miles before anyone would mistake me for “comfortable” on that kind of trail.

By mile 3, however, we’d made it mostly down the mountain. The trail leveled out a bit and we all breathed a little bit easier and smiled a little bit more readily as we were able to stretch our legs and gain some speed. The rocks and roots and branches were more the type I had in mind when I signed up for this trail run.

In all, we covered, roughly, 5 miles in 90 minutes. We stopped and rested a couple of times. We cursed the hills – on the way up and on the way down. It was a rough and rugged trail run. It required much more focus on my feet than I am used to. It challenged my balance and made me question my view of myself as a “hills” person. And it was exactly what I needed feel more like myself.

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1 Comment

  1. What a great experience! I’ve read a few ultrarunning books and I just can’t imagine how they do it! It would be fun to give trail running a try (a really, really short try)! 🙂

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