Sunday, March 15, 2009

Over the runoff and through the woods, a trail running we go

I may never run on a road again. Or at least not when the option of a trail is available.

I went running on the trails of Afton State Park Sunday, approximately 10 miles worth. The trails were covered with compacted snow that was slow to melt. But melting it was. I soaked my shoes, socks and kicked slop onto my calves.

Afton State Park is on the western shores of the Mississippi. The river is protected by bluffs and hills on either side by hills further inland. Afton is bordered on its western edge by Afton Alps Ski hills. Those geographical characteristics appropriately define the trails within the park's borders.

I ran about 10 miles (16.6 km) over the course of 80 minutes. Up and down hills, almost falling hard once. I ended up starting running down a hill that became steep as I descended and slop prevented me from stopping. High step turnover saved me from a fall, and sped me up the immediate uphill.

Uphills on trails are difficult to run and many ultrarunners walk up them. This is in stark difference to hills on road races. In road races, the roads are designed to that cars can safely get up in all seasons. No so with trails. They are designed for walking, at best an ATV or a horse.

Running the uphills was a immensely difficult and draining on my legs. I understand now why runners walk up them. Fatigue is inevitable, but postponing its onset is key (paraphrased). I was shocked by the energy I expended up the hills; that said, I ran up them to prove try and prove a point. I will continue to run up these, but when push comes to shove I will likely walk up them when the 50 miler comes.

All of this is in preparation for the ultramarathons this year. Trail running is a whole different beast that breathed more life into my already over-excited exercise schedule.

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