Trail Running Blog

This is where Kim and Phil post some of our thoughts on trail running. Enjoy!

A Fastpacking “dnf” and the best Bacon Blue Cheese Burger Ever

Holiday weekends are a great time for fastpacking. The fun thing about fastpacking is that you can fit a rather long backpacking trip into a few days.

My plan for this Fourth of July weekend was to do 120 miles on foot over two days, Friday and Saturday, and then come home and spend Sunday with my family. It was an ambitious goal. I was planning to leave my car and a tent at Timber Creek campground, where the North Country Trail crosses US-10. That would be the start and finish of an out-and-back trek up to “Little Mac”. “Little Mac” is a foot suspension bridge that crosses the Manistee River connecting the scenic Manistee River Trail with the North Country Trail, so one can hike the North Country Trail on one side of the river and loop back via the Manistee River Trail on the other side. So my plan was to do the loop around both sides of the river and then come back to Timber Creek the same way. I figured I would camp out and get a few hours of sleep somewhere on the Manistee River Trail.

I headed out on the trail Friday morning feeling strong. I soon got a call from my friend Andrew Jablonski, who wanted to join me for part of my trek. I was happy that I would have company for part of the day, so we made arrangements to meet later and run/hike some miles together. My first 30 miles or so went well. I find I can usually run about 30 miles with no trouble, but beyond that, I start to have some ups and downs.

Andrew found me just before I entered the Udell Hills. In that area the North Country Trail crosses the Big M Trail, which is the course for the North Country Run, so it’s familiar territory. In that section I started to feel the effect of the miles and the afternoon heat. I lost some of my appetite, and the food I had with me no longer appealed to me, so I didn’t eat much. I began to loose my energy and motivation, and for the first time I questioned whether I would run the full distance. Andrew was supportive of whatever I decided to do.

We continued North of Udell on a section that was more road than trail, and we did more walking than running. After the road section we got back on trail, and the scenery got better, but the mosquitos started to annoy me. Usually bugs are a minor annoyance, but combined with heat, humidity, and exhaustion, they get to be a major annoyance. At some point I lost my desire to complete that 120 mile route I had planned. We eventually arrived at High Bridge, a major road bridge over the Manistee River. We found that under the bridge it was cool and breezy, there were almost no mosquitos, and the water was refreshing. I enjoyed an extended break there under the bridge.

The break under the bridge seemed to help, and as we continued up the trail I still felt tired but eventually began to catch a second wind. I started eating again, and I enjoyed the views of the Manistee River. While I felt somewhat better I still didn’t feel up to going 60 miles that day. By that time I had decided to go as far as Andrew wanted to go and camp for the night. We picked a grassy spot along the river to set up camp, and went to sleep early.

It was a cool night for Jul, and I wasn’t prepared for temperatures in the forties. I woke up a few times feeling chilly, but I was tired enough that I kept going back to sleep.

We got up, took our time eating breakfast and packing up before we got back on the trail. I felt somewhat refreshed, but still drained from the day before. We ran some but mostly hiked. Along the way we talked a lot and picked wild raspberries and blueberries. By that time I had no intention of going longer than I had to, and I was looking forward to getting cleaned up and going out for lunch. I was craving a big juicy burger and a cold beer.

We finally reached Andrew’s van, recovered for a few moments, drove to my campsite, got cleaned up, and went to Baldwin to find a place to eat. Baldwin is an somewhat economically depressed town, so we didn’t know what we would find. We ended up at the “Barski”, a basic Northern Michigan bar and grill in a very plain building adorned with Coors and Bud Lite banners. We really didn’t know what to expect, but we went in and sat down. I was surprised by the variety of food on the menu and even more surprised by the selection of craft beers. I had four or five IPAs to choose from and found they had blue cheese available under the “build your own burger” option. I ordered a Centennial IPA and a bacon blue cheese burger with lettuce and tomato on a Kaiser roll. I’m a big fan of the bacon clue cheese burger at the Cottage Bar in Grand Rapids, but this turned out to be the best bacon blue cheese burger ever! Combined with the IPA, it was exactly what I had been craving! Maybe it wasn’t better than what I’ve had at the Cottage, but it surely seemed so at the time. I’ve never gotten so much enjoyment from a hamburger. I’ll go back to the Barski next time I’m near Baldwin and craving a juicy burger and a cold beer.

I relaxed the rest of the day, camped another night, drove home in the morning, and spent Sunday with my family as planned.

I now look at this trip as a training run for my next big fastpacking trip, which I’m planning for Labor Day weekend.

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Pacing

In most 100 mile races a runner is allowed to have a pacer join at some point in the second half of the race. A pacer is another runner who goes along to give the racer company and moral support. Pacers are not allowed to provide any physical support, but in a long race where staying motivated is half the battle, a pacer makes a big difference.

In my own first 100 miler I went into the race without a pacer, but during the race I met Tami, a pacer whose runner had dropped out, and she volunteered to pace me. At the time I was feeling mentally and physically exhausted and probably moving too slowly to make the cut-off times. Tami watched the cut-off times for me, encouraged me to run at times when I felt like walking, and gave me the motivation I needed to believe that I could finish the race. Without her, I probably would not have finished.

This year I went to pace my friend Ken at the Mohican 100. I was allowed to join him for the third and fourth laps. During the first and second laps I went to meet Ken at a few places along the course, and each time I found him feeling strong and in good spirits. At the end of the second lap, however, he was struggling. He decided to at least go out on the third lap and see how it would go, running from aid station to aid station. Soon he realized that he didn’t have the energy to continue, and he made the difficult decision to turn around and go back to the start. As a pacer I was there to encourage him, but I also didn’t want to push him to do something that might endanger his health. He had to make that decision for himself, and it seemed like a wise decision. I got Ken back to our campsite where he could get some rest. We were both a little disappointed at the time, but now Ken is already making plans to go back next year and give it another shot. “Live to race another day.”

After Ken got settled I went back out to look for another runner who wanted a pacer. Since our campsite was right on the course a couple of miles from the start/finish area, I took off running the course back to the start. Before I reached the start I caught up with Matt, a runner who didn’t have a pacer and was happy to have my company. Matt had run Mohican the year before as his first 100 miler. He had finished it in about 25:30 but had felt really beat up at the end. This year he had decided to run it more conservatively and expected to finish in 26-27 hours but hoped to feel better at the finish. With that intention he started the fourth lap at an easy pace, and I just followed him to keep him company. I thought I was just following him, but he felt I was pushing him. He said that when he was alone he “slacked”, but, just having someone to run with, he felt more motivated. It was exciting to see how, throughout the last lap, Matt kept picking up the pace. Shortly before the last aid station he looked at his watch and realized he could actually beat last year’s time. That clearly energized him, and he picked up the pace to the point where I had to work hard to keep up with him, even though he had well over 90 miles on his legs, and I was relatively fresh. When he caught sight of the finish he took off sprinting, and I could not keep up. He finished in 25:09, a good 20 minutes faster and still feeling much better than last year. Matt thanked me for running with him. I was happy I had the chance to run, and I enjoyed watching him succeed.

Pacing is an excellent way to participate in the sport when you’re not running the race yourself. As a pacer you get in a long run with the benefit of aid stations; and, whether you end up standing by your runner in the tough decision to drop out, encouraging him to finish, motiving him to run up to his potential, or just giving him some company in the long, lonely hours, your runner will be grateful for your support.

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Freezer Training

I run outside year around in all kinds of weather, unless it’s subzero…inside!

I’ve heard of Badwater runners training in a sauna, so for Arrowhead I thought it would make sense to train in a freezer. With that in mind I started looking for someone with a connection in the food industry who could get me into a frozen food warehouse.

Jodee Fisher is one of my long-time runner friends, and her husband, Jay Fisher works for Gordon Food Service. Jay pulled some strings and was able to arrange to get me into their freezer building a few times this summer. I had to sign a waiver, and he had to be there to let me in and out, so I’m grateful to Jay for going the extra mile for me. This morning I did the first of my freezer training sessions.

The main warehouse is big enough that I can run 1/5 mile laps around the perimeter, and they keep the temperature around -6°F. In one corner there is an ice cream room that is kept at -20°F, and I’m guessing that, with the breeze from the blowers, the wind chill is probably -30°F. I spent 2 hours running laps with some 10-15 minute intervals in the ice cream room. I spent about 40-45 minutes altogether in the ice cream room. I actually got “brain freeze” just being around all that ice cream.

In Michigan we can have some serious winter weather, but the temperature rarely dips below zero, so my purpose was to get a little more experience running in subzero temps. The idea was to practice dressing just right to stay on the cool side of comfortable and to avoid sweating. I wore a tech shirt, arm warmers, a Smartwool shirt, a fleece vest, and a running jacket on top, tights and shorts on the bottom, two pairs of socks, fleece gloves with wool mittens, and three hats including a balaclava. I ran an easy, steady pace and felt a little chilly but not too cold. When I finished I had very little sweat on me, although I had ice hanging from my face mask from the moisture in my breath. I had extra layers I could have added but didn’t need to. I did find, as I had expected, that I would need some warmer mittens. It was a good exercise in dressing for the temperature.

Next time I’ll go with some warmer mittens and spend most of my time in the ice cream room.

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Arrowhead

An ultrarunner is always looking for the next big challenge. It may be a longer distance, it may be a run on more challenging terrain, or it may be a run that involves some extreme weather. A few years ago I realized that there were two 135 mile races in the United States, one in Death Valley in July and the other in Northern Minnesota in January, one in extreme heat and the other in extreme cold. This was fascinating to me, and I began to ponder the question, “Would I rather run 135 miles in Death Valley in July or in Northern Minnesota in January?” I determined that I run better in cold weather than in hot, so I added the Arrowhead Ultra, which starts at International Falls, Minnesota, “the icebox of the nation”, in the coldest part of the winter, to my bucket list.

For a few years now I’ve been gearing some of my training toward the prospect of running Arrowhead someday. Since the cold is at least as big a challenge as the distance, I decided to try winter camping for the first time a few years ago. I can’t say I was comfortable the whole time, but I enjoyed it in an adventurous way. Now I’m hooked, and I make a point to go camping at least a couple of times each winter. Since runners at Arrowhead generally pull their gear on sleds I started training with a sled at about the same time. For the last few winters I’ve made a hobby of tweaking my sled and harness setup, and I’ve done a lot of training runs with my sled and used it to carry my gear for winter camping trips. On one of my more adventurous outings I pulled my sled loaded to 47 pounds 28 miles on the the hilly Waterloo-Pinckney Trail on a Saturday before I met my friend Bryan Dangremond and set up camp for the night. Another time my friend Andrew Jablonski and I hiked about 10 miles including over 2 miles in knee-deep snow pulling sleds. We set up camp in single digit temperatures with wind chill well below zero, but ended up not staying the night because my feet got too cold, and I was worried about frostbite. We had enough sense to get moving again and get warmed up before anything bad happened. That night I swore off winter camping and the prospect of running Arrowhead, but the following week I ordered a pair of big, puffy camp booties to keep my feet warm on my next winter camping trip. I feel bad about not having stayed out that night, but if I went out again in the same conditions, I would be much better prepared with both gear and experience.

For the last three years I’ve been saying, “I want to do Arrowhead some day, but I’m not ready for it yet.” One weekday evening last winter I drove to Yspilanti, about a two hour drive one way, just to attend a presentation that Don Wood did about his experience at Arrowhead. I told Don the same thing, and Don told me I should pull the trigger. He said that, with as much as I do outside in the winter, I was about as prepared as anyone. Earlier that day I had gone for a run with Kim Owens, my friend and co-race director, and she had told me the same thing, that I should go ahead sign up. (I had made a point to run that day because the temperature was close to zero, and I was looking for cold weather training.) With two friends, including one who has done Arrowhead three times, telling me I should go for it, I started to think more positively about the prospect.

At the same time I had been experiencing a crisis of motivation. I assumed I would continue running 100 milers, but I was having a difficult time deciding which ones I wanted to do. There wasn’t one ultra at the time that stuck out in my mind as the race that really excited me, until I started thinking more seriously about Arrowhead. I thought about how it would be a relatively expensive race for my limited budget, when I add up race fees, gear, travel expenses, and time off from work, but now, for the first time, I resolved that, if I could only do one race a year, Arrowhead would be the one. So I decided to go ahead and run the Indiana Tail 100, which I was already signed up for, use it as a qualifier, and not plan on running any other races until Arrowhead, but to concentrate on training and getting my gear ready.

So now I have a plan, and a race that I’m passionate about training for. I won’t know for sure until October if I get into it, since that’s when registration opens for first timers, but I have a goal to get me motivated. If all goes as planned, I will be running my longest distance yet in the coldest weather I’ve ever experienced.

In the next several months I’ll post about the fun and crazy things I do to get ready for Arrowhead.

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Getting lost…

It happens. As a trail runner I know how easy it is to get distracted and miss a course marking or to follow the runner in front of me instead of the flags.

My second time running the Burning River 100 I got caught up in a discussion with another runner about hydration or something, and at some point we realized we hadn’t seen any course markings in a while. We back-tracked and found a clear sign with an arrow that we had just ignored. We probably added about a mile and a half to our race. I felt discouraged, and it put me in a bad mood for the next hour or so.

The following year at Kettle Moraine my friend and I took a wrong turn. There happened to be a horse-riding event going on the same day. They had signs in the trees for the horse riders, and our race had chalk arrows on the ground. If I had read the description of course markings on the website I should have known better, but I followed the sign for the horse riders. My friend and I got deep into conversation before we realized we hadn’t seen another runner in a long time. Eventually a horse rider caught up to us and told us we were going the wrong way. We estimated that by that time we had gone about 3 miles off course, and we back-tracked 3 miles to the last aid station. This time I chose not to let it discourage me and, instead, took it as a challenge. I spent the rest of the race catching up to other runners and finished my 106 miles in 28:36. I figure at that pace I ran 100 miles in about 27 hours, which would have been a PR, but instead I finished with a story to tell and a new longest distance! In the ultrarunning community that’s called “bonus miles”.

As a race director I do my best to mark the course clearly so runners won’t get lost. I try to anticipate where runners might go the wrong way and mark those places especially well. But it happens. In almost every race someone takes a wrong turn somewhere. Sometimes others follow. As a race director I feel bad when it happens. Some runners get discouraged, upset, or even angry. Some take it in stride or even laugh about it. I understand all those feelings because, as a runner, I’ve been there myself.

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Fastpacking Dam to Dam

I’ve been a trail runner and an ultrarunner for about six years now, and I’ve enjoyed camping ever since I was a kid, so the idea of combining trail running with camping appeals to me. That’s just what fastpacking is. Fastpacking is a style of backpacking where you try to pack light and go long distances by hiking fast or even running. When I started reading about fastpacking I knew it was for me.

Last Christmas I bought myself an Osprey Stratos 34 daypack, a Eureka Solitaire 1 person tent, and a thin fleece sleeping bag that would be my basic gear for fastpacking. As soon as the weather was warm enough to survive in my light sleeping bag I started getting into it with some shorter overnight trips. For example, one weekend I parked in Middleville on Friday night after work and ran/hiked the North Country Trail down to Yankee Springs where I camped for the night. To train for fastpacking I did most of my running with my backpack. Running with the pack obviously adds weight and changes your balance, so I figured I needed to train for it.

When I decided to get into fastpacking I made myself a goal of at least 100 miles over 3 days this year, so I started planning. I found that there were about 128 miles of the North Country Trail running south to north through the Manistee National Forest. That route actually runs from Croton Dam to Hodenpyl Dam, so it seemed like a neat point-to-point course. At the North end by the Manistee River the trail splits into the Manistee River Trail on the East side of the river and the North Country Trail on the West side. I decided to take the Manistee River Trail, which adds a couple of miles, but I heard from many people that it was the more scenic route. I liked the idea of saving the best scenery for the end of the journey, to give myself an incentive to finish. So I had my plan, and I spent several months dreaming about it.

Finally the time came. On Saturday before Labor Day I parked at Croton Dam and head out on the North Country Trail. It was nice to have Lecia Selzer join me for the first 9 or so miles, since I would be alone for most of the rest of the weekend.

Running and hiking with the pack went well the first day. I had close to 30 pounds on my back at the start, about half of which was food for three days and about 5 quarts of water. This was more weight than I would have liked, but, not knowing where the good sources of water would be, I wanted to carry plenty. The morning was uneventful. I ran and hiked quite steadily for the first 25 miles or so. The terrain was relatively flat, and the ground was a nice soft surface of sandy soil with decaying pine needles and oak leaves. In the afternoon the heat and the miles started to wear on me. I was glad I carried as much water as I did because I came close to running out in the middle of the afternoon, but then around 4:00 P.M. I came to a cold, clear, sandy bottom stream and stopped to replenish my water, which I would treat with iodine tablets. While I was there I took the opportunity to soak my feet and cool off in the creek. It was heavenly. I saw a heron perched at the top of a tree above the creek, but it flew away before I got a chance to take its picture. When I left that creek I felt like a new man and ran well for a while again, but by the time it got dark I was ready to be done for the day. My plan was to stop around 9:00 P.M., and at that time I was near Highbanks campground. I could have had a nice campsite there, but for the full wilderness experience I decided to go a little further and just find a spot in the woods to camp. By the time I set up my tent, all I wanted to do was sleep, and I slept pretty well in my little one person tent on a bed of pine needles and leaves. I covered roughly 50 miles the first day.

Morning came on day 2, so I packed up and got back on the trail. My plan for hydration was to alternate Gatorade and water, but for my first bottle of the day I had Starbucks Via Instant Iced Coffee. Since I love my coffee, that was a good way to start the day. The morning started off well, but by late morning I was already noticing the heat and humidity. I began to walk more than I ran, and I took some extended breaks to try to keep cool. I kept hoping for a creek as cool and refreshing as the one I had found on Saturday afternoon, but I wasn’t that fortunate. I did meet some cool people on the trail. I met a hiker named Andy, who had hiked dam-to-dam a few years before, and I ran into Chris Koster, who is one of my son’s cross country coaches. Meeting people tended to lift my spirits for a while, but by about 8:00 P.M. I was thoroughly exhausted. It started to rain, and, while rain might have been refreshing earlier in the day, at that point I didn’t want to get wet, so I found a spot to camp, set up my tent, and crawled in. I felt cozy lying down in my little tent listening to the rain come down while I stayed dry. As I lay there I reflected on my slow, tiring day and decided I would be OK with shortening the trip to about 100 miles. I only covered about 35 miles on the second day.

I woke up on day 3 feeling rested. The morning was cool and crisp as I got moving again. Between the cooler weather and a good night’s sleep I ran well and probably felt the best I had felt during the entire weekend. I began to think that if I had a really good day, I could still finish my original goal of 130 miles. Providentially the weather stayed cool, cloudy, and breezy, and it drizzled a little bit off and on. This was perfect running weather. It also helped that my parents met me at the Udell trail head a little before noon. I was able to lighten my load by leaving my tent and sleeping bag in their car, and seeing them boosted my spirits. People who run with me know I like hills, and I had the most hills to climb on day 3. It was fun to see familiar territory when I went through the Udell Hills/Big M area where the North Country Run is held. The hills got bigger when the trail started following the Manistee River. I found myself high on the banks of the Manistee River overlooking the valley. I love that kind of terrain. At Red Bridge I took the option of crossing the river and following the Manistee River Trail the rest of the way. I now know why that trail is so popular with hikers. It featured some spectacular views of the river and the hills on the other side, as well as some lovely waterfalls in the streams that feed the river. The beautiful scenery, the cool weather, seeing my parents, and the thought of reaching my goal all combined to make day 3 the most enjoyable day of my trip. I covered about 45 miles on the third day.

In the evening of the third day I reached my destination! Shortly after 7:00 pm on Monday I reached Little Mac, a suspension bridge built for hikers to cross the river from the Manistee River Trail to the North Country Trail. Just beyond Little Mac the Hodenpyl Dam came into view. This officially marked the finish of my dam-to-dam fastpacking adventure.

While I was planning this trip I kept wondering whether 130 miles of fastpacking over 3 days would be harder or easier than a 100 mile ultramarathon. My conclusion: not to diminish the challenge, I think the fastpacking is slightly easier than the race, because you get to sleep at night. After a long day of running and hiking it feels wonderful to crawl in my tent for a good night’s sleep. Each morning I felt rested and ready to take on another long day.

I will definitely do more fastpacking in the coming years. For someone who loves both trail running and camping, this is a great way to take the adventure to a new level.

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Winter Running

The first serious snowfall has inspired me to share some of my thoughts on winter running.

I love winter running. The snow falling from the sky and covering the trees is beautiful, and with snow on the ground and the leaves off the trees you can see the contour of the land much more vividly than in the other seasons. Snow can also make a wonderful surface to run on.

I also love running in the winter because I run better when I don’t overheat. Of the six 100 milers I’ve finished, my fastest one was by far the coldest one, the Creemore 100 Mile Challenge this December in Ontario. I had very little of the stomach issues, exhaustion, sleepiness, and blisters that normally plague me in a 100 mile race, and I attribute that to not overheating.

The important thing in cold weather, of course, is to dress right, at that’s the tricky part. You need to dress warm enough, but you don’t want to overdress because if you overdress you sweat more, get chilled from sweating, and you risk becoming dehydrated just as you might in hot weather. If you can tolerate feeling just a little chilly most of the time, you won’t sweat much, and you will likely have a good run. The key is to be able to adjust. Wear layers that you can add or subtract. Wear clothes with zippers that you can open or close. I even like to wear two hats, because adding or subracting a layer on my head can make a huge difference. As you warm up from running, or the sun comes out, or you get into an area where you are sheltered from the wind, the temptation will be to bask in the warmth, but the best thing to do when you start to feel warm is to open a zipper or take off a layer to cool off. If you can stay cool and minimize sweating, you can better control your temperature, and you will be better off in the long run (pun intended).

When you dress in layers it helps to think about the function of each layer. The inside layer should always be of a good wicking material to move the moisture away from the skin. The middle layers are added insulation, and the outer layer should always be wind resistant and, if you expect to get wet, water resistant.

Even when you maintain your core temperature, the extremities may get cold, and there it’s good to wear layers as well. To keep my toes warm I like to wear two pairs of socks, a thin wicking liner sock inside a thicker wool sock. The liner sock helps wick the water away from the skin while the wool insulates well even when it’s wet. At times it’s impossible to keep the feet dry, but with the right socks you can keep them comfortable. For the hands I like convertible mitten-gloves, gloves that have a flap of material to pull over the fingers. The alternative that might be even better in very cold weather is to wear mittens over gloves. Mittens insulate much better than gloves, but sometimes you need your fingers free to open zippers, unwrap food, or tie shoes. So I recommend layers everywhere.

Winter can be a great time to run if you dress right for it. Of course, every individual is different, so you need to experiment and find what works for you. And don’t forget to look around and take in the beauty of the winter wonderland!

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Running Through the Four Seasons

I love the four seasons! I love the way the weather and the whole appearance of the world change with the seasons. It keeps life interesting, and it keeps running interesting as the nature of the sport changes with each season.

In the heat of the summer I enjoy the feeling of sweat rolling down my face. I enjoy sweating and drinking lots of Gatorade. I embrace the challenge of keeping my energy level up as the sun beats down on me. Perhaps the best part of summer running is sitting in the creek and drinking a beer to cool off after a run.

If I ever get burned out from a long hot summer, the cooler temperatures of fall cause me to fall in love with running all over again. I can wear the same light shirts and shorts I’ve been wearing all summer and feel comfortable. Along with the refreshing temperatures, the beautiful display of colors make fall the most pleasant time of year to run.

Winter running was a struggle at first, but it has grown on me every year.  I feel most alive when I’m staying warm by generating my own heat on a cold day.  With the leaves off the trees and snow on the ground I enjoy the clear view of all the hills and valleys, and there is nothing more peaceful than watching big snow flakes fall against a background of evergreen trees. As for getting a good workout, running in snow builds strength and stamina even as one runs fewer miles, and I’ve come to believe that running on ice improves form and balance.

When spring comes I find how much stronger I’ve become over the winter. As I find myself on dry ground again and dressing lighter, running suddenly gets a lot easier.  I do some of my best running in the spring.

I have always enjoyed living in a place where there are the four distinct seasons, and running has helped me appreciate the seasons all the more!

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In the beginning

I have always enjoyed running.  When I was a little girl I would run with a soccer ball underneath my feet.  As I got older I realized I could drop the soccer ball and just run.  I remember being injured during a soccer practice in high school and my coach telling me to go run.  So I did…for two hours around the soccer field.  Even though it was grass and not true woods and single track trail, that was the beginning of my transformation into what I would later call myself(18 years but who is counting) a trail runner.

I was introduced to trail running and mountain biking at the same time, but to this day I still consider myself a trail runner first.  One of my greatest friends, David introduced me to all of this trail stuff.  I still remember my first run at the Cannonsburg Ski Area.  After huffing and puffing with my head about to launch off my body from overheating he says to me, “So do you like trail running?” I paused for a few moments to allow the oxygen to come back into my brain and I said, “I LOVE IT!! and I want to do it again!”  Immediately after the run I went home and passed out on the floor.  Thus began my love for trail running, mountain biking, and adventure racing.  There is nothing better than being in the woods doing what you love.

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Why I prefer trail running

Six years ago I started running on roads and discovered trail running a little over a year later. I still enjoy both, but I have really come to love trail running.

Running on trails, I get to experience all the natural beauty of the outdoors. Running for me is not just a physical discipline, but a way of enjoying the outdoors. I see running in the same category as hiking, climbing, camping, hunting, fishing, and so on. My favorite way to get away for a weekend is to camp at a park like Yankee Springs, Waterloo, or Pinckney, and spend a day or two running the trails.

Besides the beautiful places a trail runner gets to run in, trail running also has physical advantages. Since dirt is softer than pavement, there’s less impact in trail running. Also because the ground is uneven, the foot comes down differently with each step, so a trail runner uses a wider range of muscles and is less prone to repetitive motion injuries. In fact, trail running is a better workout, because a runner uses more different muscles, including the core, to stabilize himself on the rough terrain.

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