Friday, July 24, 2009

Into the woods


I'm beginning to think about my 10K trail race in August. The course looks interesting, it starts at the southern end of a park and the runners move north to the top, double back along the same route and return. Along the way there's a lake to get around. I really love trail running and I enjoy racing but I'm wondering how well the two will mix. The races I've run have all been road runs with even terrain and enough room for everyone to find their own lane. Trail running, I've discovered, often involves narrow paths with obstacles to avoid. What is the protocol for this? How do faster runners get by slower runners when the trail is less than a foot wide? Who has the right of way and what happens in the out and back section when traffic doubles? I don't know why I'm worrying about this now but it comes from what I've learned in the races I have run:

1. Know the course ahead of time. Even if you can't run it beforehand, familiarize yourself with the layout using Gmaps. This provides context for how far is left to go.

2. Use tools like Google Earth to detect marked elevation changes. My April race provided a few unwanted surprises that worked against my race strategy. My end of race sprint reserve was eaten up by a final steep hill 1/4 mile from the finish.

3. Despite the adrenalin rush at the beginning that prompts you to go out fast, be thoughtful about energy conservation for the first couple of miles. A speedy start can work for you on a 5K but a 10K, especially on variable surfaces, will require every ounce of reserve.

Despite my questions about the trail race experience I am very excited to participate in this event. Later today AG will be taking me, my wife and the kids on a nature walk in Stillwell Woods and we'll follow that with a trail run. We'll be putting the Helly Hansens to the test for that and report back on how they perform on Stillwell's more challenging trails.

2 comments:

  1. Here's my limited experience on trail etiquette. My girlfriend and I run the Tahquamenon Falls Trail 10K run each August. Most runners are polite and if someone is coming up behind you on a narrow track I just ask if they want by and I move over with a slight pause. If I come up behind someone (seldom)I ask the same, can I pass by? Faster runners get right-of-way unless it endangers both runners and then caution is played until it's safe to pass. Come to Michigan for vacation and run our trail run with us!!!

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  2. I would love to run in Michigan! The U.P. is so beautiful. If we find our way there I will broadcast our intention so we can run those trails with you. Thanks for the info on trail etiquette. I expect to be passed more than pass others!

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