Sunday, April 21, 2013

Becoming a Trail Runner

I've gotten into trail running lately.  That's my new focus because I feel like I've plateaued in the 5K and HM distances.  There is more potential there, since I can do a 5:48 mile, but I'm ready to mix things up a bit.  My marathon also has a lot of room for improvement (3:36ish can potentially become 3:23ish), but after hovering in the same range for 3 marathons and missing out on a BQ again in November, it's been good to take a bit of a break from the rigid schedule of marathon training.  Also, I've been thinking more about getting into ultras.  I purchased the Unbreakable DVD, which tells the story of the 2010 Western States 100.  I was also mesmerized and inspired by the TalkUltra podcast's description of the Comrades Marathon in South Africa (a ~55 miler).  Plus, I have a huge crush on Killian Jornet.

I used to be all about PRing and finding the fastest legit (non-downhill) courses.  But after plateauing, it's been fun to mix it up with races where it's solely about tactics and beating the competition.  It's a completely different mindset... a completely different take on the sport.  It's intriguing, too.  There's psychology, reading people, and reading yourself.  When do you go at your own pace?  Do you put in a surge when passing competition?  Do you push the pace a bit in order to catch up to someone up ahead, or gradually reel them in, or just hope that they blow up?  Do you look back to see how close the people behind you are, or do you resist the temptation in order to show that you're confident?  Do you take an opportunity to draft, or do you go at the pace that feels most natural and lose the draft effect?

My first trail race was the Camp Croft Half Marathon in 2011.  I finished in about 1:45, and I was completely spent at the end of it.  I really like the feeling of being emptied out like that.  It's weird, but true.  At times when I'm not running, I sometimes crave that feeling.  You bring your heart rate up and work your muscles up to the max.  Your heart's pumping, and at that point, you feel the most alive. 

My Trail Runnnig cycle this time started with the Dupont Forest 12K on March 30th.  The goal race would be a new 30K in the Blue Ridge mountains.  I figured that I'd do pretty well there, with my base endurance as a marathoner.  18 miles is a lot, and  I haven't run that much in about 5 months, so I'd need something close to a marathon buildup for it.  I wouldn't train as seriously for it as I would a marathon, but I'd try to get my LRs up a big higher.  In between, I found the Dupont Half Marathon... that was a nice progression... 7.4 mi, 13.1 mi, and 18-ish miles.  So, we'll see how it all goes!  It will be fun to try this trail running thing, and at the very least, I'll build up hill strength, which was a weakness at the Philly marathon.

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