Wednesday, December 5, 2012

trail running 101

partner in crime
I've been getting lots of questions and emails lately about how to get into trail running.....and it makes me so happy. 
I would love to see more of you out there on the trail!

I am by no means an expert at everything else I do, I learn by trial and error, and I've been doing this less than two years. Here are just a few tips that will hopefully help you get out there with your feet in the dirt.

How did you get started?
I don't really just kind of happened. I hadn't really heard or thought that much about running trails......I think it was gravity that pulled me right in.
I do remember this--it was almost two years ago, February or March I think, and I bundled up to head out for my run. It has snowed and snowed and snowed and piles were mounded up along the sides of the road. I was running down the street, but since it was so narrow with all the snow, when a car came I would run up and over the mountains of snow. It was different--fun.

The next day I woke up sore....unusual for a easy few miles down the street. But the  ups and downs and slipping and sliding on the ice used new muscles that my street running legs weren't used to.....and I liked it.

I kept thinking about it, and had to get out again.

I found a nearby trail that I knew wouldn't be too snowy, and Charly and I went to check it out. Up and down hills, through trees, over a creek. I was sold. (read about it here)

I'd only ran about 4 miles, and the next day I could hardly move. My shins. My ankles. My feet! My entire core was shot. Tiny muscles I had never used before, worked hard to support me on the trail. New muscles were born that day....I know it. They've been working hard ever since.

Berry Creek Falls
bb11 copy
Why trails? 
It's just a different kind of challenge. It's hard.....but the kind of hard that's worth it. It's so pretty. I just love being out in the trees as opposed to being out in traffic. It smells good. It's dirty. I love climbing mountains. It's easier on my old body. Running on the pavement pounds my knees and hips--I always thought this was just part of running in general. But now that I run more dirt than road, I'm rarely sore after a trail run.You see more. Last March Robby and I had a little time in Big Basin (above), and we knew we could see more of the park if we ran the we did. It was AMAZING.....and he is not one who likes to run, but I have convinced him that trails are the way to go.
(see the full Big Basin post HERE)

What You Need
You will most likely need trail shoes. Unless you will only be running on smooth and well maintained trails--your road shoes will probably then be fine for this. But if you'll be on any rocky, sandy, or wet terrain, then you'll want to get some trail shoes. They are sturdier and protect your feet and ankles against all the bumps in the road. The traction is much better on a trail shoe--you'll want this on rock and loose gravel and dirt. If you are running through fine dirt or sand in regular running shoes they are going to fill up with sand....when I went down to Zion with the girls last spring we ran twelve miles through the desert. Two of us had trail shoes on, two of us did not. The two without had to stop a few times to empty their shoes, my shoes kept the dirt out. I run THROUGH creeks and when I get out of the water my shoes drain well and keep my feet blister free. I run in Brooks Cascadias, but I recommend you go to your local running store and talk to them--have them look at your feet. They'll help you pick out the shoes that are best for you.
Will the mud/water ruin my shoes? If you're running in trail shoes, absolutely not. Another benefit of great shoes. I have submerged myself in water/mud/snow and put my shoes through everything. I hose them off when I get home if they are bad, leave them out to dry and they will be good to go in no time.
Almost as important as your shoe. These will help protect your feet and keep them free of blisters. I have tried a lot of different socks, and SmartWool socks are my favorite for trail running.
You need to carry water. Trail races do have support stations, but they are not as frequent as they are in road can go for miles and miles with no water if you don't carry it yourself.
I have a water belt with with small bottles that I use for my weekly runs. I've learned I don't like to race with it because sometimes the bottles bounce out and it's not always convenient getting the bottles in and out when I'm in a hurry. For my half marathon I used my little boy's camelbak. It was a cool day so I knew it would be enough water for that distance. It worked perfectly.
For the Wahsatch Steeplechase, I knew I needed a bigger pack. It's 17 miles and it was HOT. I borrowed this pack from a friend and loved it. It's on my list to get this one, or maybe even a slightly larger pack for longer races. The pockets were perfect for carrying my extra calories/chapstick, and really easy to access.
GPS Watch. 
Not necessary at all, but I do like to have my Garmin. It's nice to know how far I've gone--especially in races where the milage isn't posted like it is in road races.


So many questions about safety! Here's how I do it:
Do I run by myself? No. Never. I'm either with Charly or a friend, and I'm always running on well populated trails (bikers, hikers, etc). I don't trail run during the week this time of year because there just aren't very many people out there, and I don't like to be the only one out. I always carry pepper spray and my phone.
Always tell someone where you are going.
And let them know around the time you should be back. This is helpful if you end up lost or spraining an ankle and have to hobble out--if you're not back in time your "someone" should start to look for you.
Getting Lost. 
This has never been a major concern of mine (except for that one time on Lone Peak, whoops). The trails I run are easy to navigate and I know them well. There are lots of people always out to help me out if I ever had any trouble. If you don't know your trails well do your research. You can often find trail maps online (or even at the trailhead), and since you'll be running with your buddy this will help you stay on track.
You are going to come out of your runs with a few bumps and bruises sometimes. You'll roll your ankle every now and then, but that's just all part of the fun. As you run more and more, you're body will learn how to react to the trail and you'll become more confident in technical areas.

How far should I go?
Another really popular question.
Just ease in to it--let your body adjust. It really uses all different kinds of muscles because the ground is so uneven--and especially if your trails are hilly---this will work your body totally differently. Try starting out with a couple miles if your trail is hilly or a bit technical, if it's a smooth path you're probably able to start out with more if you are already running a lot.  Unless I am training for a race, I usually just go out for time, rather than distance. A trail mile takes longer to run than a road mile. I'm happy to get 6-10 miles in during a run this time of year when I have no races planned.

Is trail running seasonal? 
For me, no....It's year round. I usually run less this time of year because I don't have anything I'm training for, but last year was the first year I have really kept running year round--and I loved it.
Spring is fun running--things are starting to bloom and the mountain really starts to become alive. It's muddy.....REALLY muddy. You will end up with mud up your back and into your hair every time.
Summer is awesome! I love seeing others out enjoying the trails. It's too hot to go during the day, but early runs when you start with the sun coming up are my favorite. The air is cool and the views are the best. And it's always nice to have your run done with by breakfast so it doesn't eat away at your day.
Fall running is gorgeous here. Falling leaves, crunching beneath your feet. Perfect temperatures.
Winter. Up until last year, I really didn't run that much in the winter. I didn't know how to dress properly, and didn't like running on slippery sidewalks. I learned how to dress right (see here) and learned that a snow packed trail can actually be a lot of fun (and a crazy workout) to run on.  Last winter we had weird weather and little snow, and most of the trails I ran stayed fairly dry and just frozen. Occasionally I'd have sections of snow, which I learned to run on and learned to love. If we end up with more snow this year, I'm gong to look into getting some extra traction for my shoes.

running in Zion

Where should I go?
Unsure of trails in your area? Google. Find out where people do their biking and hiking. Go in to a running store, or an outdoor gear shop and talk to the employees.

I think that's good for our first lesson.....I hope it helped even a little bit. Please let me know if you have any other questions. I want to work on a trail running 201 post and talk about nutrition, races, and some of the other crazy stuff that goes on out on the trail.

ps. Hey Utah
Would anyone here in Salt Lake/Utah county be interested in a trail running group? Maybe starting up sometime early next year? It could be all levels/paces--but sometimes it's just fun to have others out there with you. Leave me a comment or email me if this is something you'd like to do. If there is enough interest maybe we can all met up a couple times a fun.

I'd love to hear about YOUR trail running experiences/tips/comments!


Rach H @ FamilyEverAfter said...

Oh my gosh... I am headed out to Utah for Christmas, Draper area. It would be a dream to go out trail running with you! It would be my first time, but how fun to get some real life tips from you! I don't know if it would work out, since we're only there for 5 days, and its a busy time, but if you happen to be going sometime before Christmas, maybe I could meet up with you.

Alison said...

Thank you so much for this! I've done a few trail runs and loved it every time. It would be great to have an option beyond street running. I finally found a trail running group in our area, just working up the courage to give it a go.

travisrichardson said...

Great post. I've loved the few times I've been but never feel sure about navigating the trails. I think a trail running group would be awesome. Count me in.

Monica said...

Are wasatch county girls invited :). Ali and I hit the trails when we get the chance. We want more! :)

Monica said...

Are wasatch county girls invited :). Ali and I hit the trails when we get the chance. We want more! :)

kylie said...

6-10 miles when you're not training? my oh my i dont wanna know what the rest is like! ha!

i love trail running. i havent gotten shoes yet but i use my regulars and i seem to be alright. i go a lot in parks around LA and usually dont go more than 3 miles, yet... still easing back into it.

All Things Neville said...

I want to join this trail running group! I am currently a BYU student living in Provo, but I am getting married in May and moving to Salt Lake in August. I would love to start or join a group then :)

Anonymous said...

A trail running group is a fab idea! I live in the draper area & there are so many trails that I never utilize because I have no one to run with! Love your blog & all your hiking/trail posts! They are super helpful! Keep up the great work!

Jackie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jackie said...

Awesome trail running post! My boyfriend just seriously got into running trails this year...SpeedGoat...insane. Was crazy to see all those men and women going up and down mountains, also inspiring! I am looking to get into it and running the Steeplechase this coming June, so I'd be up for a running group! :)

Olya said...

I'd love to be in the trail running group! I am in Salt Lake, but my issue is that I don't drive. So if there's anyone in Salt Lake who will be joining the group and wouldn't mind giving me a ride, I'd be forever grateful!

melissa said...

a trail run sounds awesome about now! nate's been gone during any hours of light lately (not that it's hard, december) so i've resorted to a TREADMILL.

ps talk your soon-to-form running group into a field trip to smithfield. i have had an impossible time finding running buddies up here!

and also, i love these pictures of you running through the seasons! doesn't it make you happy to look at them?

Megan said...

I am primarily a road runner because it's so convenient to run right from my front door, but the few times I have been on the trails, I have absolutely loved it.
I would love to be a part of a trail running group.

Megan Bradley

PS can't wait until spring so we can start up the couples mountain bike rides again

Elle said...

So I just stumbled upon your blog and I love it. I would LOVE to trail run, and did a couple times a month when I lived in Utah, but I moved to Boston in the summer and there are not trails here! So sad, I have resorted to running most days on a treadmill, even worse than the road! Love your trail running posts!

Jarica said...

Count me in on the trail-running group. The only thing holding me back, at this point, is not having a buddy to run with.

Hayley said...

what a killer post sheena! makes me want to get my feet in some good shoes and hit the dirt!

Cali said...

I live in Lehi, and I would love to join a trail running group. I haven't done any trail running before.. but Can't wait to try it!

Karlee Turner said...

Thanks for the tips! I went trail running for the 1st time a few weeks ago and it was instant love! Why did I wait so long to try it?? I'd definitely be interested in a trail running group...let me know what becomes of it!

Organic Runner Mom said...

What a wonderful blog. Found your blog searching for trail running on google. Loved reading about how you got started with trail running. I do a ton of trail running here in Northern NH and VT but would love to try some trail running out west! Happy running!

p.s I hope you'll stop by my blog

Melissa said...

Thanks for all these tips! We are moving in a month to a more trail-friendly town so hopefully I can utilize these great tips once we are settled in! :)

Unknown said...

So I just ran across you blog and am totally interested in trail running!! That would be awesome to have a group to go with!! I live in Draper my blog is

Amy said...

Would love to do some trail running with you guys! I don't feel safe out there by myself, so I have to stick to the road/treadmill 95% of the time :( I'm in South Jordan.