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How to Have a Happy Trail Run

Without warning, it hit me: I really, really needed a good nature fix. I was starting to twitch. I needed more than a weekly, leisurely nature walk that didn’t get my heart rate up enough. I need to be out there longer. Sweat. Climb a damn hill with dirt on it. Burn my quads. Do a snot rocket.

The fiance came out with me for a 4.5-mile hike on the Mossy Ridge Trail at Percy Warner park on Sunday after church. Not more than 50 yards on the trail, it gnawed at me: Where have you been? Why not here? for I am nothing if not a girl in her happiest place on Earth on the trails surrounded by tall trees.

Hill Bench in its glory

I like how they put this bench at the top of one hill and the bottom of another. #foresight

As previously posted, running and I recently re-kindled our relationship and that has included small appetizers of trail running on the safe 2.5-mile Warner Woods Trail. I was secretly ashamed of myself that a short run like that would wipe me out like it did, but only because I know how much I used to tear it up. I wanted to run more and get back to what I used to do, but fear and self-doubt was successful at talking me down. You can’t do what you used to do three times a week anymore like it’s nothing! You’re almost 27. That’s considered your late 20s… Remember the creaking you hear in your knees? Better do some downward dogs instead.

I decided I’d had enough of the negative self-talk; it was time to stick it to the man/myself. I decided to pick up where I left off with trail running and allowing myself grace, I went for a long trail run and bucked any comparisons to my previous altitude-trained, 23-year-old self. And while I had an undeniably awesome, transcendent time (per usual) I did forget some crazy essential tips that could’ve made the beforeduring, and after a little more enjoyable.

Here are my tips for a happy trail run.

Before

  1. Load your car with a fresh towel or two, and a bandanna to bring with you as a sweat rag. Sweat pouring into your eyes and stinging them as you try to dominate a hill is just salt on a wound. Preventable!
  2. Drink up well before the run! Seriously, hydration is and will be your best friend. I’m no scientific expert, but drink enough so that your pee is clear. K? I’d like to make note that this is the first time I’ve talked about pee on a running blog. If you’re a runner, you are so impressed with me right now. Bring along water for after your run, an electrolyte drink (I love Nuun when I have it, or zero-calorie Powerade), and snacks in your car for when runger takes over on the drive home.
  3. Wear an article of clothing with a pocket for your car key. Yesterday, in full rookie mode, I wore no-pocket yoga pants and I improvised. MacGyver skills, while impressive, shouldn’t be necessary when we have been blessed by the existence of pocketed active wear.
  4. Naïveté isn’t cute or safe. Map out where you’re going and check the weather so you know what you’re dealing with. Unless you’re adventurous and have your phone with you, are fully prepared for the elements and have a load of time on your hands, knowing where you’re going and in what conditions are a must.  And since this is trail running, if you can check the elevation gain on the trail, DO. IT. unless you like to learn the hard way that a 4-mile route gains 225 ft. in a quarter mile. Hey, depending on your level of masochism, that may be a picnic! It would be for me on a good day!
  5. Sunscreen and bug spray yourself. I totally remembered this yesterday… totally.
  6. Tell someone who loves you that you’re bad ass and going for a trail run. And/or bring your phone. The good and bad of it is: the world is unpredictable and anything can happen. Turn your phone on “Do Not Disturb” if you really wanna feel like you’re unplugging, but still have a safety net.

    There's no place like a trail that smells like Jasmine

    Right here I had to stop and take a picture because I was breathing really hard but also because it smelled overwhelmingly like jasmine and I felt like I was not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

During

  1. Taylor’s Heaven on Earth = trail running with an eclectic mix that puts her back in Colorado. This includes, but is not limited to: Sam Bush, Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad Earth, YMSB, String Cheese Incident, Punch Brothers, Greensky Bluegrass, Grateful Dead. If you want my playlist, I’m happy to oblige. NOW: The important part of this that I MUST stress is keep the volume low enough to communicate with others on the trail. Guys, I was coming up behind this girl yesterday with her Beats By Dre turned up and although I was kindly alerting her that I was coming up on her left in plenty of time, she had NO CLUE I was around until I had to slow down and squeeze by her (and give her the stink  eye, because REALLY?). Not only for your own safety (hi, random attacker!) but also for the courtesy of others – keep your volume down so you can still hear what’s going on around you. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. Be kind and let people know you’re coming up behind them. Call out a little ways out with a friendly “Hey there! On your left!” Don’t whiz past them like they’re in your way – trails are for everyone to enjoy responsibly. Practice the Golden Rule here. Make friends. Be good.
  3. Pick up your feet! Trail running is not without things you will be challenged to negotiate quickly! Get into a zone and pay attention to what’s ahead of you. You will be amazed at how your brain works to anticipate what’s to come and how your body responds. If you find yourself timid to go too fast down a hill littered with roots and rocks, take it slow but prepare yourself for next time by doing some drills: running stairs, high knees, and butt kicks, or lateral exercises like shuffling and grapevine. Strength training helps, too. Now, give me 10 squats!
  4. HILLS – try not to look at what you have ahead of you too much for too long – it will mess with you mentally. Just take one step at a time as you ascend. Yesterday, I was halfway up a hill before I realized I was running up a HUGE one, and guess what? I had enough (mental?) energy to take me to the top! Then, at another hill, I sized it up as I approached it and didn’t make it up without psyching myself out. Trail running is a mental game, like anything else, and there are ways to hack it.
  5. Stop and smell the flowers. Don’t hold yourself to a strict time limit. Allow yourself to stop and soak in the nature and beauty around you. That’s what trail running is about! Recognize you’re blessed enough to be where you are, feel the burn in your lungs and the pulsing of blood in your legs. THIS IS LIFE! THIS IS WHAT IT IS ABOUT! And then keep going.

After

  1. That towel you packed? Sit on it and save your car seats. Wipe the sweat and dirt and mud off ya, if you got so lucky.
  2. Luxuriate with these. Especially if you want anyone to actually come close to you when you get home. Or, any baby wipe will do.
  3. Drink water, eat something. Avoid headaches, literally, and thank your muscles with carbs and protein.
  4. Check for ticks. Lyme disease ain’t no joke.
  5. Foam roll within a couple hours of your run so you’re not out of commission for the next three days with Icy Hot as your main squeeze. Foam rolling can really ruin a DOMS party in your muscles.

I won’t admit to how many of the above I had to re-learn yesterday, which was the real impetus behind this post. But that’s what I get for staying away so long!

Returning to the trails to run them made me feel more than ordinary; I was no longer a boring person with a desk job. I sank into my zone, listened to each and every note in my hippie music and didn’t do a whole lot of thinking otherwise. It was simple: I had a happy trail run, and after reading this if you go out and try it, I really hope you do too.8926bb1859448aa8bd7cdcc00995a5c6

 

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What’s “off season”?

After finishing Chattanooga 4 Bridges, my go-to reaction has been to find the next race. Whether it’s been another marathon, or another half, my fiendish impulse since I’ve bursted into a serious runner has been to search for, nail down, and train for my next race, and write a blog about it. I mean, that’s what addicts do, right? Search for their next fix? (I mean, I guess some of them could write blogs…)

But. I’ve had a nagging feeling of “what’s next?” Instead of relishing in the ubiquitous thirst to nab another goal, the nagging feeling has been just that: NAGGING. I have been reluctant to it. I don’t want that feeling. I don’t want “what’s next?” yet. I want it to leave me alone.

Because of this reluctance, I’ve been wondering what’s wrong with me. Since January 2012, I have been training for something; it has become a huge part of my identity, and one of which I am very proud. For 21 months, I’ve trained for half marathon after half marathon, then trail half marathon, marathon number one, marathon number two, marathon number three (turned half marathon) with even more races in between.

Luckily the impending identity crisis was avoided today when I happily found my answer to “what’s next.” It’s what they call “off season” and I hear it’s pretty common, even for elite superstar runners like my hero Kara Goucher.

Yeah! Off season! You know, a time where you cross train, go to Disneyland, race for fun in a tutu, move down to your villa in Miami (unless you’re LeBron James and you already live there. Which makes me wonder: where does LeBron go in the off season? I digress.), stay out late at smoky karaoke bars and not worry about feeling good for a 12-miler at 7am, eat pancakes because you want to, not because you have a massive hunger after running 20 miles.

So that’s what’s what, guys. I’m in the “off season.” I wish I could say I’m going to Disneyland or moving down to Miami, but I haven’t convinced my boss that bluegrass is prevalent down in Miami. I mean, let me know if I’m wrong, and you’ll be my favorite person in the world. I’ll call up LeBron and we can all chill, my treat.

To keep up with my fitness (because I can’t sit still, even if it is the off season), I’m enjoying the gym rat status and getting lost in new beatz I’ve loaded on my Shuffle: Lady GaGa’s “Venus” makes me giggle like a school girl; Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” is my jam; I pretend Drake is serenading me in “Make Me Proud.”

I’ve been modeling my workouts after the Tabata method, going hard on one exercise for a certain amount of time, resting a short amount of time, and jumping back in for another set. This has made my overall gym time shorter,  but I’ve walked away feeling like I’ve worked harder and I have rendered myself quite sore as a result.

I’ve relied on treadmill and Stairmaster intervals for cardio, as well as short sprints around the indoor track, which give me a lot of confidence when I pass by all the walkers and “joggers.” Yoga has been practiced a lot more, making me wonder why in the world I wasn’t a yoga practicer in Boulder. I’ll never know.photo

I fully believe there is a season for everything, so this concept of an off season shouldn’t come as a surprise to me. But I’ll be the first to admit: I have been swept up in the race craze. It’s not hard to want more, to dig deeper, and to put another tech tee in your drawer. While this is also the season for being thankful (which should be an exception to the whole “season” thing altogether) I am thankful to say that I’ve discovered that the time is right for an off season.

Ten songs I hope I never get tired of hearing

1. James Taylor: “Fire & Rain”

2. Paul Simon: “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”

3. Debussy (as played by David Oistrakh): “Clair de Lune”


4. Neil Young: “Heart of Gold”

5. Ray LaMontagne: “Jolene”

6. Laura Marling: “Sophia”

7. The Black Keys: “Little Black Submarines”

8. Punch Brothers: “Rye Whiskey”

9. The Avett Brothers: “Laundry Room”

10. Bruce Springsteen: “Born to Run”

 

Rewind: January

Man, if every month is like January, 2013 will most surely kick my ever-lovin’ butt.321473_10151400568661469_1163135713_n

January came with a few ‘firsts’ for running and me. 

-First (and second!) 20-mile run.

-First long run in the rain.

-First time experimenting with energy gels (not bad, but not awesome. Trying raisins on this week’s 15-miler instead).

-First time running with water (i.e. a handheld water bottle). Up until now, I’d be okay to go on 10-13 mile runs without hydrating. Maybe not the smartest way to train but you live, you learn, right? Plus, I’m cheap and gear is not.

This past week of training really kicked things up a notch, and I finally started feeling it. Case in point: After a hearty (read: high incline, tempo) 6-miler last night, I almost ran into the sliding glass door at the gym because it didn’t see me walking up fast enough.

And then I found myself in bed at 9 pm.

So I decided to look back at my mileage; what was Hal-Higdon prescribed, and where I took some liberties. 

The magic number for January was 204; no wonder my calves and hamstrings have started twitching lately…

I love monitoring my own progress, however, and haven’t really kept track before, so I will now start posting my monthly mileage here. Whether or not it will be interesting to read, I’m not sure. Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

Anywho, I’m kicking off February with 7 miles after work tonight and I’ve already got a playlist cued up.

On it?

Everything from Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown, to Miranda Lambert, to Jay-Z. Because that’s how I roll.

Cheers!

Relationship status

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Enough said.

Four weeks (and a couple days) ’til the big day!

‘Til then, my tunes consist of:

Alt-J (My new jam, ‘Breezeblocks’)

The Devil Makes Three

The Eagles (Specifically ‘Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975′)

Dave Matthews Band ‘Away From the World’ album (This song)

run happy

Songs for hills

steep-gradeHills. The doctor called yesterday, and he prescribed hills.

So I did hills.

I ran with the East Nasty Running Group and I tend to ditch the headphones when other people are around, so I ran the hills sans beats. It cured what was ailing me (thanks, Doc.) but had I brought the tunes, I would have put on this playlist produced precisely for a challenging, gritty, lovely hill workout.

Sabotage by Beastie Boys

Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll by Foxy Shazam

Younger Us by Japanroids

Marathon Runner by Yellow Ostrich (I’m a little obsessed with this song; it’s on another playlist.)

Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With That by Robert Randolph and the Family Band

Here I Come by The Roots

Wicker Plane by State Radio

My Name is Jonas by Weezer

10 A.M. Automatic by The Black Keys

Salute Your Solution by The Raconteurs

Black Leaf  by Cave Singers

Cousins by Vampire Weekend

Girl Named Tennessee by NEEDTOBREATHE

Countdown by Beyonce (Yes, Beyonce.)

Hill repeats, anyone?

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