Sometimes I Run

Trail Running is Expensive! (But it Doesn’t Have to Be)

I never really thought of trail running as an expensive pastime.

In fact, one of the reasons that running has such a strong appeal to me is its simplicity. All a person really needs are comfortable shoes and clothing — which just about everyone is going to have somewhere in their closet. It’s the act of running, not the gear a person has, that makes them a “runner.”moneyyy

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the message that potential new runners hear. Case in point; an article I came across today on competitor.com (although it was actually published quite a while ago).

I know that the media has space to fill and page views to generate, but sometimes the message that a particular article conveys could be harmful by discouraging some people from running.

The suggestion is that a new runner needs a $200 jacket, an $85 t-shirt, a $160 hydration pack, $35 gaiters, $110 trekking poles, and a host of other pieces of fairly specialized gear (which, all told, will set them back $670) is unfortunate. Most of us know that less expensive alternatives exist for all of these things, and that some are likely to be unnecessary altogether. For example, I never run in trail gaiters, and I’ve yet to use hiking poles during a run.

Unfortunately, using the word “essential” in the title might raise doubts in the minds of new or inexperienced trail runners as to whether they’re putting themselves at risk by not heading out the door for every single run with a expedition sized pack full of gear and equipment. (Well, at least the article doesn’t tell us that we need a new $130 pair of shoes to enjoy the trails.)

Spending tons of money on things to run just puts added pressure on a person (to get the most out of every run in order to justify their expenditures), and can create an expectation that spending more money will translate into a fuller or more complete running experience (which often leads to the thinking that any problems or challenges they experience with their running can be solved by upgrading to newer and shinier gear).

The most valuable thing I’ll ever spend running is my time. Isn’t that the case with most folks? All the other stuff is optional, and often unnecessary.

If you want to be a trail runner, skip the shopping trip and just go run on trails.

Bad Decisions

Sometimes the things that throw us off track aren’t random, unfortunate occurrences beyond our control. It’s not just the unseen root or slippery rock that causes a fall or injury on the trail. Sometimes we just make bad decisions, even though we should have known at the time that a particular choice was bad. But we made it, and have to pay a big price as a result.

DunceCase in point – stupid me. Three weeks ago, in the midst of another spectacularly warm Colorado winter day, I decided to channel my inner hippie minimal runner. So I threw on a pair Xero shoes, threw off my shirt, and headed out the door for a 5 mile run.

Let me say one thing at the outset – I really, really like Xero shoes. I think I’ve purchased just about every one of their models, starting from the completely raw DIY kit, all the way up through the Amuri Cloud. But I’m not always good at using them properly.

We all know the rules about adapting to a new style of shoe, right? Start slowly and build slowly. Moving down to a zero drop (or up to a super maximum cushioned shoe)?

Take your time!

The thing is, I already learned this lesson firsthand a couple years back. I got my first pair of running sandals (after reading Born to Run, of course…), then went through the inevitable growing pains (including minor injuries because I tried to ramp up too quickly), and eventually worked up to being able to safely and enjoyably do 10 mile runs in them.

Xero shoes have never been more than an occasional training tool for me, much in the same way spikes or racing flats might be used by someone who does interval training on the track. But I credit them with saving my running. Not because I’ve embraced the whole “shoes are bad” philosophy, but because they got me paying attention to how I run. Not how fast, or how far, but how. They helped me run smoother, lighter, and with more feeling. And that’s great! But I hadn’t worn them for running in quite a while before that most recent trip out the door.

So you can probably see where this is going…

I put them on and sped off down the sidewalk. The impact felt fine, and all my joints and muscles were doing well. But the toe post started to irritate my feet about a mile in. It got bad enough for me to cut the run short, turn around, and even take shoes off for fear of developing a bad blister. Unfortunately, the sidewalk and a lot of sand and small pebbles, and my bare feet – fairly unaccustomed now to the feel of the ground, tensed up against the sharp bits of detritus.

My feet hurt pretty badly by the time I made it back home. Just a little over 2 miles, but I really screwed myself up. In an effort to protect against blisters (a relatively minor issue, to be honest), I changed my gait and my foot fall, and ended up doing much more damage instead.

For the past three weeks I’ve been dealing with hot and on pain in the ball of one foot, and a weird tingling/pain in the three biggest toes of that same foot (mainly the tips of those toes). And now I’m worried that I won’t be normal enough to start the Umstead 100.

It’s been hard enough not running much over the past 21 days. But the possibility that I screwed myself for my big goal race for 2015 is almost too much to bear. I’m trying to find a silver lining in this situation, and have decided to call it a big “learning experience.”

Lessons learned:

1.    Don’t be stupid. Ever. I was stupid in thinking that even though I hadn’t actually run in my sandals for… Jeez, probably a full year… I could jump right back in and assume that I hadn’t lost any of the skills I previously developed. That’s stupid, and I should have known better.

2.    I’ve got to get better at functioning when I’m not 100%. Perhaps this is the big risk in doing races. When I have a running focus that points to a specific day in the future, having inevitable hurdles and challenges come up right before that date can be devastating.

If I had no races planned this year, then my thoughts might have been “Oh. Ok, I guess I need to cut way back or even take a break from the running for a month or two.” But since I have something important planned on March 28-29, I’m not quite so calm and relaxed about it.

I figured my first 100 mile race would be a challenge. Now it looks like it’ll be a little extra challenging.

The Five Hour Marathon (#2 and #3)

Here’s a not-so-secret secret about the Front Range of Colorado — we sometimes get  spectacularly nice days during winter. Although they’re not often as nice as they were today and yesterday:

Monday Weather

Yesterday’s Weather

Tuesday Weather

Today’s Weather

I had these two days off work, so I decided to try back-to-back five hour training marathons.

The run yesterday was the same 5 x 5.25 mile laps around my neighborhood as last time.

Monday.

Lap 1: 56:51 (HR: 125)

Lap 2: 58:46 (HR: 123)

Lap 3: 58:39 (HR: 128)

Lap 4: 59:51 (HR: 132)

Lap 5: 58:22 (HR: 135)

Lessons Learned:

  • Maybe I need to give more thought to running some of the initial miles at Umstead in lighter shoes. Rather than the Hoka Conquest (13.05 oz) I wore on my last five hour marathon, yesterday I wore the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante NYC (8.45 oz), and I felt like that let me put more energy into moving forward rather than battling the weight of the shoes.
  • I played around with walking techniques and found that, at least on flatter terrain, focusing on lengthening my stride (rather than trying keep a higher cadence with a shorter stride) let me move noticeably faster.
  • My movement patterns generally consisted of more running at a slightly quicker pace, along with more walking, than last time. This seemed less stressful on my body than a steadier but slower jog.
  • I used a handheld instead of my single-bottle HydraQuiver, and it seemed to work just fine. Perhaps I’ll alternate hydration methods at Umstead.

 

Tuesday.

I didn’t want to cover the same ground again today, so I mapped out a nearby 4 x 6.55 mile course that was dirt trail, and had a bit of elevation thrown in for good measure (1,300′ total climbing today vs. less than 300′ total yesterday).

Lap 1: 1:14:36 (HR: 123)

Lap 2: 1:13:21 (HR: 122)

Lap 3: 1:13:26 (HR: 127)

Lap 4: 1:12:49 (HR: 131)

I’m quite happy with this run because most of the time difference lap to lap can be attributed to gear changes and bottle switches. For example, I did my first lap in a pair of Vivobarefoot shoes (in the hopes of establishing a relaxed gait that would carry through the middle and later parts of the run), and then switched to Montrail Rogue Racers, which added a minute to that first lap time.

It was tough to not just slap on the Hokas at the start and say “I ran long yesterday, so I need more cushioning!”, but I’m glad I did — I felt great without the foot bulk and I think it helped wake my legs up.

Lessons Learned:

  • Maybe I don’t need Hokas as often as I think I do. They sometimes feel really good, perhaps even necessary, but in what circumstances, and at what time/energy cost?
  • My average HR was a little lower on Tuesday, despite an extra 1,000 feet of climbing, and some fatigue at the beginning of the day. Maybe to some degree a little more climbing and descending makes for an easier run than a flat course?

New Questions:

  • When the temps got to the mid-60s, I began to feel it. Are there any steps I can take before Umstead to prepare myself a little better for warm temps and humidity?
  • How sore are my legs going to be tomorrow?

About Me:

My name is Jake Wyatt, and sometimes I run. Sometimes I jog. Sometimes I power hike. And sometimes I walk with very little power whatsoever.

I don’t know if that makes me a “runner” or not, but I don’t think the classification matters much. Whenever I’m moving forward I’m happy.

Race Results:

This is a largely incomplete list. I did a fair amount of running in the pre-Internet era, but have no record of my times from races back then. The only forgotten race I’m curious about is the Mountain Masochist 50M – I ran it in the fall 1991.

I’ve done the Triple Bypass and the Copper Triangle, as well as a few bike races (including the Leadville 100 MTB and the Mount Evans ascent) in which I finished solidly near the very end of the field. I also did a couple adventure races in the late 1990’s, and DNF’d a few as well. (I really thought adventure racing would take off more than it did…)

2014

• 9/27 – Bear Chase Trail Race 50 mile (10:52:29)

• 8/31 – Breck Crest Marathon (5:41:49)

• 7/19 – Tahoe Rim Trail 50M (13:42:00)

• 3/15 – Run Through Time Marathon (5:29:48)

2013

• 9/2 – Breck Crest Marathon (5:20:17)

• 7/14 – CMRA White Ranch Trail 10k (54:16)

• 6/1 – Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k (7:40:45)

• 5/4 – Greenland 50K (5:15:21)

• 2/16 – Red Hot 55K (6:53:38)

• 2/9 – CMRA Forty Furlongs (5M) (35:04)

• 1/5 – CMRA Lake Arbor 5K (20:54)

2012

• 12/8 – CMRA Cross Country State Championship 12K (55:59)

• 8/18 – CMRA Elk Meadow Trail Race 5.75M (46:56)

• 7/12 – Tahoe Rim Trail 50M (14:14:14)

• 6/30 – Rollinsville Rail Run 10M (1:21:13)

• 5/12 – Quad Rock 25M (5:09:32)

• 4/21 – Mt. Carbon Trail 1/2 Marathon (1:54:18)

• 3/24 – CMRA Spring Spree 10K (43:29)

• 1/7 – CMRA Lake Arbor 5K (20:59)

2011

• 11/12 – CMRA Stone House (2x) Triple-Cross Trail 8.5M (1:06:58)

• 10/9 – CMRA Coal Creek XC Challenge 5.72M (43:01)

• 9/17 – CMRA Hildebrand Ranch 6.6M (50:14)

• 9/4 – Breck Crest Marathon (5:54:27)

• 8/10 – CMRA Fairmount 5K Trail (22:11)

• 7/16 – CMRA White Ranch Trail 10K (56:52)

• 6/18 – CMRA Sand Creek 5 Mile (39:17)

• 6/4 – Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k (8:03:47)

2007

• 6/16 – Mt. Evans Ascent 14.5M (3:16:04)

• 4/29 – Boulder Distance Carnival 15K (1:20:11)

2001

• 6/30 – Finger Lakes Fifties 50K (6:13:43)

1997

• 10/26 – Marine Corps Marathon (4:56:13)

1996

• 11/5 – ING New York City Marathon (3:57:37)