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Gnarly trails and magic roots (Read 825 times)


You'll ruin your knees!

    For those who don't know, the author of this essay is an accomplished ultrarunner. I know some of you already have a good appreciation for running on trails, but given some of the recent posts (slow down, for example), I thought it might be a good piece to share with the group. Yep, you generally go slower on trails, maybe due to the (gnarly) terrain. I submit that some of the "slower pace" may be due to simply following Matt's line of thinking (although he ain't slow!). Enjoy, Lynn B Gnarly trails and magic rocks By MATT CARPENTER www.skyrunner.com I remember that first gnarly trail to this day. I found it on my standard out/back run from the dorm. What looked like a little path turned into quite the discovery! Soon the whole cross county team started running it on a regular basis. In the past we had always sought out new training runs sometimes resorting to taking a van to distant places to log our miles. But this trail was different. We could run it over and over but it never got old. We called it the gnarly trail because it had everything: hills, creek crossings, mud, rocks even a few Tarzan vines. Time had no meaning because we never bothered to look at our watches. Simply put — this trail was fun! Now, almost fifteen years later, I find I spend most of my running time on trails. I have grown accustomed to hours passing without notice. The excitement of never really knowing what lies around the next corner. The hunt for the next gnarly trail. But then again I am a trail and mountain runner. What’s in it for the road runner? The next time you go on a run take notice of what happens when your foot strikes the ground. What happens when the next foot strikes the asphalt? And the next? If you are like most people the same thing happens again and again. The repetitive nature of running on a road can bring about our least favorite word — INJURY! Contrast that to a trail run. I am talking trail here — not a paved bike path. Each individual foot strike is just that — individual. Throw in some rocks, slanted trails, and gravity defying curves and you give your feet and legs a well deserved natural break. The same goes for the rest of your body and mind. On the road your running form seldom changes except for interruptions — cars, intersections, and the occasional whatever that always seems to break your zombie like trance. Even your mind rarely gets much excitement on a road run. After a while you may find yourself thinking of everything you were trying to get away from when you went on your run in the first place — work, bills and all those nasty little thoughts that creep in unless you run so hard that you only think about stopping. This tedium and monotony can bring about another not so favorite word — BURNOUT! On a trail you must lift your knees to get over the rocks, torque your body to keep from falling over on the slants, and swing your arms wildly to keep from flying off the curves. Most of the time you are thinking about only one thing — the trail! You rarely end up in a zombie trance without having to pick yourself up off the very trail you so rudely forgot to think about. The workout a trail run gives you may leave you feeling beat up but it will never leave you feeling beat down. A good trail run has an invigorating-one-with-the-world-who-cares-what-the-neighbors-say feeling. However, to get this feeling a good trail should have one or more of the following elements: Magic rocks and roots the ones that trip you but you can never find afterwards. Surprises the occasional fallen tree, psycho mountain biker, bear, horse poop, etc. Scenic stopping points something so awesome that you actually feel OK about stopping for a few seconds and saying wow! Note: The actual time will vary depending on your little understood obsessive compulsive gene (OCG). A small dose of risk lets face it, magic, and not so magic, rocks can hurt you. A small dose of fear of getting lost and ending up in another state. Remorse a good trail always makes you feel sorry that it is over no matter how tired you are. After you find a trail with some of these elements — or a gnarly trail with all of them — you may find yourself not wanting to get back onto the roads. It’s a risk with many rewards! Wherever I travel I almost always manage to find an off-road adventure that has something new to get excited about. Even the biggest cities often have a park or a river with a trail around them. Sometimes however I find myself back on the roads where it seems like I constantly look at my watch. I am never quite sure if I am timing how far I have run, or how much longer before I get to stop.

    ""...the truth that someday, you will go for your last run. But not today—today you got to run." - Matt Crownover (after Western States)

    dillydoodles


      Hi Lynn. Thanks for sharing that story. Trail running sounds great! We have access to an awesome gnarly trail not far from home, about a 20 minute drive away. We've hiked parts of the local sections many times. It can be quite rough, and much of it has a sheer drop off along one edge (scary), but I may just have to try some (slow) trail running this year. ~ Arlene The Bruce Trail runs from Niagara to Tobermory along the Niagara Escarpment, over 800 km (500 miles)! Pretty much anywhere along the Bruce Trail offers great terrain for trail running. There is some double track and road routes, but the Optimum Route is primarily single track that can be quite technical in some areas with breathtaking vistas and scenery. The Niagara Escarpment In 1990 The United Nations proclaimed the Niagara Escarpment a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. In company with reserves like the Everglades, the Serengeti, and the Galapagos Islands, the Niagara Escarpment is recognized as one of the world's unique ecological environments. The ancient formation of the Niagara Escarpment shelters a rare bio-diversity of life-forms and eco-systems which have attracted visitors from around the world. The Escarpment is home to more than 300 bird species, 53 species of mammals, 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, 90 species of fish, and 100 varieties of special interest flora, including 37 types of wild orchids. Eastern White Cedar trees over 700 years old are found growing from its cliff faceone. Essentially, the Escarpment is a ridge of rock several hundred metres high in some locations, which forms the outer ring of the Michigan Basin; it was created through a long, complex geological process which includes its having been in the Silurian period, a sea. The Niagara section of this (rough) ring, capped with dolomite, stretches 725 kilometres (450 miles) from Queenston on the Niagara River to Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. Today, in Ontario, the Escarpment contains more than 100 sites of geological significance including some of the best exposures of rocks and fossils of the Silurian and Ordovician Periods (450 to 500 million years old, from the Palaeozoic Era) to be found anywhere in the world.
      princesspoppit


        Thanks for the article. I used to love running on trails (back when I was running regularly). I used to run with a group that did its long runs on unmade trails. The coach used to say it was great for our stability muscles mainly around the ankles. It seemed to work as I never had lower leg injuries. Now I only run on footpaths or on the treadmill and I constantly have sore feet/ankles. The only down side of trail running is seclusion - I get scared Cry We don't have bears but we do have creepy people and deadly snakes. I remember running over a black snake, it didn't move until i had just passed it - one way to measure your maximum heart rate Tongue Poppit
        A peacock who sits on its tail is just another turkey.


        Now that was a bath...

          Great post Lynn. The more I look at races available here in New Zealand the more my mind is turning to trail/adventure/mountain racing. I have put a lot of thought this last couple of months into distance racing and you know the idea of plodding the pavement for 26.2 miles with thousands of other people feels like a goal - but not a life experience. Reading that was great because it verified a lot of what I thought - particularly "Even your mind rarely gets much excitement on a road run. After a while you may find yourself thinking of everything you were trying to get away from when you went on your run in the first place — work, bills and all those nasty little thoughts that creep in unless you run so hard that you only think about stopping." I can see that happening if I keep running suburbia for years. And I do want to run for years. In 2008 (and assuming I can find someone willing to join me as they don't let people run it solo first time) I would love to run The Tararua Mountain Race Don't suppose you fancy a holiday here in NZ and you can come run it with me. Plenty of time to save Big grin Claire xxx
        • jlynnbob "HTFU, Kookie's distal tibia"
        • Where's my closet? I need to get back in it.


          You'll ruin your knees!

            Claire, That is an awesome looking race. One thing you may want to consider is to sign up as a volunteer in this year's race. This will be an experience that you won't forget. You will get to see the course up-close and personal, meet those of a trail-running persuasion and get a much better idea of what trail running/mountain running is all about! You should plan on a run on the race course either before or after the actual event (not the entire distance, just an out and back from the point you are assigned). You are an amazing runner and you have lots of options available to you, based on what I sense is a free-spirit in you, I predict you will love the trails! I would love to come to NZ and running with you would be an added bonus! I still have lots of places within North America that I need to visit first! Lynn B

            ""...the truth that someday, you will go for your last run. But not today—today you got to run." - Matt Crownover (after Western States)

            Scout7


            CPT Curmudgeon

              Hey, Lynn, there's a couple up in PA, if you ever wanna swing by here. The Megatransect is supposed to be a pretty decent one....
                Cool article. I entered my first trail race this Fall. Since then I've tried to incorpoate some trail running into my workouts. For scheduling reasons, I'm primarily a night runner so it's tough but, I can totally get where the author is coming from. The Bruce Trail sounds awesome. So does, Tararua. Myself, for the moment I'll settle for the occasional jaunt into the Groton Town Forest & Leominster State Forest. Maybe on my next day off...

                If ye like the nut, crack it.

                 


                You'll ruin your knees!

                  Cool article. I entered my first trail race this Fall. Since then I've tried to incorpoate some trail running into my workouts. For scheduling reasons, I'm primarily a night runner so it's tough but, I can totally get where the author is coming from. The Bruce Trail sounds awesome. So does, Tararua. Myself, for the moment I'll settle for the occasional jaunt into the Groton Town Forest & Leominster State Forest. Maybe on my next day off...
                  Some of my absolute favorite runs have been at night. Particularly when I can match up with a full or bright moon! Trails rule! Lynn B

                  ""...the truth that someday, you will go for your last run. But not today—today you got to run." - Matt Crownover (after Western States)

                    I really enjoyed this trail-running manifesto- the sentiments ring true to me and I have some more of my own thoughts about it– trail running is my way of connecting to nature while living most of my life in the midst of suburban lawn expanses and rock-hard cement sidewalks. I’ve been known to drive half an hour or more to run through the woods on a trail. I honestly scour maps for nature reserves and parks wherever I travel in hopes of experiencing a new trail or two. When I see a trailhead that I haven't seen before, I mark it in my mind to come back later. Cross country races always held my heart though I was better on the track distances. Yes, you may run slower on a trail, that doesn’t reflect what is actually happening out there. More often I feel like I am flying on a trail than I do on the roads. When you’re running a gnarly trail, your footfalls are calculated, sometimes shorter, sometimes longer, sometimes zooming down a trench and up over a hill. And sure I’ve taken some spills running these, but over time my ankles, knees, and stabilizing muscles have grown strong and sure, protecting from both acute and overuse injuries. You build a different kind of strength running trails than you do running track intervals or even hill repeats, strength that I think translates even to nicely-paved flat road races. This doesn't mean to take away from those who run on pavement all the time - trails are, very sadly, hard to come by in a lot of areas - but it's usually worth the drive, I'd say. Just a few thoughts, because I am always pushing trails on my runner-friends. -Sean BTW Arlene, I was visiting Niagara this weekend and meant to find the trail you mentioned, but never got a chance to run. It was pretty bitter cold, but the falls were beautiful this time of year.
                    dillydoodles


                      Hi Sean, I'm glad you got to see Niagara Falls in the winter. It's really awesome at the end of February when the ice bridge forms across the river. You would not have been able to find the trail in "the Falls" though. The Bruce Trail begins 5 kilometers farther down river from Niagara Falls, in Queenston, Ontario. The cairn marking the start of the Bruce Trail is near Brock's Monument on "Queenston Heights" (atop the Niagara escarpment). So... next time you're in Niagara Falls be sure to head north along the Niagara River to Queenston ... then you can run on the Bruce Trail. It's kinda buried in snow at the moment :-) ~ Arlene
                        Some of my absolute favorite runs have been at night. Particularly when I can match up with a full or bright moon! Trails rule! Lynn B
                        The two trails I've been using are in Town Forests that are closed at night, I wonder if I'd get ticketed or towed. I also wonder how long I'd have to be missing before my wife & daughter would start looking for me in the woods. Actually, I wonder that even on my evening runs around the neighborhood. Sometimes I get home & they've gone to sleep already & they're always locking me out of the house.

                        If ye like the nut, crack it.

                         


                        Dog-Love

                          OK...I have to add my latest trail run (today ) with my gal friend and my dog friend Rusty. We were 1 mile into this trail that right now is snow covered and runs through a forest to a alrge lake when a black wolf startled ahead of us. Of course we stopped to look and Rusty bolted to play. When we rounded the corner to catch up Rusty and the wolf were still playing but the wolf loped off. About a 1/2 mile later we ran into another runner on the trail who told us to look behind us and it turns out the wolf was following us/Rusty. To be honest..this wolf has been hanging around the area for years and is spotted on many occasions by locals with dogs. He seems to be lonesome for companionship and dos are as close to wolves as they get. Anyway it was a great run punctuated by a rare sighting.
                          Run like you are on fire! 5K goal 24:00 or less (PR 24:34) 10K goal 50:00 or less (PR 52:45) HM goal 1:55:00 or less (PR 2:03:02) Marathon Goal...Less than my PR (PR 4:33:23)
                            Crabby? Didn't you just tear your meniscus? What are you doing out dancing with wolves? Shocked

                            Roads were made for journeys...


                            Dog-Love

                              Well I am running with my sport doctor's wife and he knows I have a hard time not running. So I run with a bit of pain and a whole lot slower than my normal times. Plus I can't stop!!!!
                              Run like you are on fire! 5K goal 24:00 or less (PR 24:34) 10K goal 50:00 or less (PR 52:45) HM goal 1:55:00 or less (PR 2:03:02) Marathon Goal...Less than my PR (PR 4:33:23)
                                Addict. Tongue

                                Roads were made for journeys...

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