I have never made any bones about the fact that I am a road runner. I do not mind being dirty and sweaty, I just prefer firm footing and that fleet feet feel you get when you are cruising along a paved surface. Well Sunday I veered off the beaten path for a little trail running with some wonderful people, and I got a little bit of schooling!
One thing I learned this week is; do not overestimate your running abilities and do not underestimate the difficulty of an easy trail. There were times I was hanging with some of the front-runners feeling pretty good about myself when all of a sudden my legs started to feel heavy. We were only about 8 miles in and were averaging about 9 minutes a mile, but the effort I was putting out on these non-technical trails was really challenging me. Part of the fun was definitely the challenge!
The best part of being a runner is meeting other runners. I am typically a pace/effort obsessed guy. I almost always have a specific goal for each workout. I was told that this was going to be 12 mile or so run. Well that was just to the turn around. It seems that these particular trail running ultra-runners were not worried about pace (they get annoyed talking about it actually), or the amount of miles. They were happy to be out there enjoying nature. It was definitely a learning experience. I mean at one point I am running along going sub-8s on the trail, struggling to keep up and the next thing I know I am standing still lost in a conversation about a great spot for a rope swing. It was awesome. We get to the turnaround point and there is a van there with refreshing cold drinks and food to fuel us through the second half. They were literally prepared for everything. It was such an eye opening experience! I learned that in my ultra-competitive, ultra-driven running lifestyle there is some room for ultra-appreciation!
I thought the most particular conversation was about shoes. As little as they cared about pace and distance, they talked and obsessed about shoes. One of the guys even took his shoes off at a water crossing because they were new. But it all wasn’t technical talk about heel drops and stack height, it was mostly good-natured ribbing about color schemes and size. I ran in my Skora Phase, and they were just as reliable on the trail as they are on the road. I didn’t even have to take them off at the water crossings!
If you were expecting me to end this by saying that I am now in love with trails and I am making the switch, you are going to be a little disappointed. I feel like I still have a ton to accomplish on the roads but I am grateful for the experience and will definitely make trail-running a regular adventure. I am even running a trail race at the end of April so there is still a chance, but I highly doubt it. To J.J., Will, Chip, Christian, Jennifer, and Kristin; thank you for letting me tag along, educating me on trail etiquette, and keeping me hydrated when my water supply for 12 miles ran out nine miles short of the last mile.