Embrace it!

It's just a little mud...

It’s just a little mud…

If running was easy, then everyone would do it.  That is a catch phrase runners may say so that they feel stronger and more confident about doing what they love to do.  The truth is that not everyone would do it even if it were easy.  You have to truly want to do something first.  However, if it were easy, then I probably wouldn’t do it.  I don’t seem to like things that are easy.  I thrive on challenges, as do most runners.

I slogged through mud yesterday.  I collected about five pounds of mud on each food and attempted to run… in very slow motion.  I didn’t turn around.  Not sure why I didn’t just turn around at the start.  I kept going and my feet got heavier.  I started slipping and sliding.  I even had to walk through a few sections of mud so I wouldn’t end up planting my face in the mud.  There finally came a point when I was able to get off the trail and get on the road.  Then I hated it even more.  I hated running on the road with cars flying past me.  I still felt like I was moving in slow motion.  I wanted to be on the trail, on the mountain, but I was stuck on the stupid road because of the stupid mud.

It’s okay, though.  I will go for another run tomorrow and there might be knee-deep snow to plow through or more mud to slip and slide in.  I have my moments of agony and despair, but most of the time it is all worth it.  I get stronger with each new challenge and I push forward to reap the rewards.  Sometimes it is fun (and maybe even easy) and sometimes it is just pure torture.

Tonight I heard an amazing story of a runner who forged a new path (and I mean that literally because no other runner had been on that trail in quite awhile!) and kept going even when the going got tough.  She took the journey that even I would be fearful of and became mentally stronger because of what she had accomplished.  I am inspired to overcome my minor challenges so that I can face greater challenges.

I don’t know why runners seem to radiate so much inspiration.  It was pretty easy for me to come up with the name of my business: “Inspired Miles.”  Every mile is an inspiration.  Every runner is an inspiration.  We just embrace it all and carry on.  Our miles are filled with desperation, agony, defeat, joy, love, accomplishment and many more mixed emotions.  It is going up and down and back up again.  It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.  A long, arduous journey that teaches us so many of life’s lessons.  Each mile makes us stronger.  Each mile humbles us.  Each mile takes us to places we have never experienced before.

 

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Running to the beat of your own drum

Who needs music when there is entertainment around every corner?

Who needs music when there is entertainment around every corner?

Yesterday I ran 14 miles.  I ran those 14 miles without any music, but that is nothing new these days.  It was a crappy run, but that had nothing to do with my lack of music.  After mile 1, I was too focused on not stepping on any snakes (since I had jumped over a little guy at around mile 1).  Then between mile 2 and 5 I was in a desperate search for a bathroom.  At mile 4, I was battling the gale force winds to get myself to a porta potty I had set in my sights.  At mile 5, I was determined to find a porta potty that actually had toilet paper.  By mile 6, I was just freakin’ relieved to have the wind at my back and a calm tummy.  Why the heck would I need music to keep myself entertained?

Then today I went for a 7-mile run up a mountain.  I still had my mind focused on snakes.  Since I had seen one the day before I assumed that today would be my most unlucky day to meet a rattler lurking in the bushes along the trail.  As I ran into a canyon (with no other human in sight) my thoughts turned to mountain lions.  As I descended into the thick brush and along the narrow path, I scared myself so bad that I had to turn around and opt for the trail that was more open, but went straight up.  On my way, I traversed ice and puddles of oozing mud and then soon found myself staring up at an incline of loose rocks.  At that point, it was a matter of using the run-walk method to get up the slope while dodging rocks.  Sure, it seemed like forever getting up to the top (and I am still not sure if I actually reached the top because it kept going), but I was soon delighted with the thoughts of going down.  The delight turned into determination… determination not to fall or trip on one of those loose rocks during the sketchy descent.  Why the heck would I need music to keep myself entertained?

I won’t lie.  I used to be one of those runners who always needed to wear headphones during a run whether I was inside or outside.  If something happened and I forgot my music, then I would be pissed off during the entire run.  I remember that it wasn’t recommended during the Team in Training runs, but people would still wear them even if it meant keeping only one ear bud in.  It didn’t really make sense to run with a group while listening to music, but we did it anyway.  I don’t think that was always the case, but it wasn’t uncommon.

It wasn’t until I moved to Colorado just nearly 2 years ago when I decided to try running sans music. Most of the people in the run club didn’t wear headphones and we ended up talking a lot more on our social runs.  There soon came a point when I stopped wearing headphones even if I went for a run by myself.  Like I mentioned, I always seem to find a way to entertain myself.  I think I had reached a new level in my mental strength.  I could run fast and run far even without music.  I understood depending on it before when I needed a distraction from the pain and boredom (or so I thought it was boredom when I think it was actually my lack of true joy for running).   I do have that sense of pain and boredom when I run on the treadmill, so the headphones are still my crutch as far as that goes.  Either that or a magazine or t.v. show.  I haven’t quite gotten to that level of mental toughness yet.

Maybe introverts are better able to adapt to running alone without music.  I don’t mind being inside my own head for 3 hours or more.  I can always find something to talk about… with myself.  I make plans.  I develop ideas.  I solve problems.   Not only that, but I feel like I have more of a connection with nature when I am not trapped in a music bubble.  I can hear that squirrel moving around in the bushes (or at least I imagine it is just a cute, sweet little squirrel) or the birds chirping in the trees.  I can even make contact with the other runners who pass by and respond politely to their friendly “Good Morning.”

If this doesn’t convert you, then maybe the idea of overall safety will.  I would not be able to hear the rattle of a snake, the grunt of a bear or the flick of a switch blade if I had headphones blasting music into my ear.  Even if you don’t run in the wilderness, keep in mind that it is more difficult to hear cars and psychos when you listen to your music out on the roads and sidewalks in your neighborhood.  At least keep one ear bud out.  There are just too many cases of runners being molested, kidnapped and killed.   There is no point taking chances that just aren’t necessary.  You could be smart like me and run alone on a wilderness trail and get mauled by a mountain lion.  At least I carry a knife and leave my headphones at home.  Stay safe my running friends!

The Novice Trail Runner

Breathtaking views courtesy of the Centennial Cone trail just 10 miles or so from my home.

Breathtaking views courtesy of the Centennial Cone trail just 10 miles or so from my home.

I will just start this blog by saying that I am not an experienced trail runner.  Sure, I am an experienced runner (even a running coach), but the trails and I only started having a serious relationship a few months ago.  I do remember walking into a running store many years ago (back when I lived in the Bay Area) and told the running shoe expert that I wanted a pair of trail shoes.  Did I ask for trail shoes because I had started running on trails in the local area?  Um, I guess if you count that one trail race I did.  I was the idiot who bought the shoes for no reason and then I never wore them (at least I never wore them on any trail).  

Then I moved to Florida.  The thought of running on trails and getting attacked by a snake or alligator just seemed scary.  Yeah, I never really considered it.  All my friends ran on the road or paved trails.  Well, I moved to Colorado after that.  A wonderful place full of many trails within and right outside the metro area.  I actually live right down the street from a trailhead that goes up and over the mountain right behind my house.  Still, it took me over a year to get my feet on the real “get yourself dirty” trails.  

Now that I am roaming wild and free, I figure I will pass along a few tips I have learned within the past few months.  Here they are:

1.  PATIENCE is very important when running on trails.  If you are used to zooming along on the road, achieving personal records and finishing a run in time to get the chores done, then you will be extremely disappointed with yourself when you hit the trails.  I had a friend just ask me what my pace is on the trails.  Um, somewhere between 8:00 min miles and 18:00 min miles.  Don’t expect to be fast and don’t try to run fast or else you will not be able to make it up that last hill.  If it normally takes you 60 minutes to run 6 miles on the road, then you can expect to be on that 6-mile trail for an hour and twenty minutes or more.  

2.  If you can’t embrace HILLS, then the trails are not for you.  Sure, some people might argue that the flat dirt trail running through downtown is a “trail,” but that is not the kind of trail I am talking about here.  Trails take you someplace where you can witness nature firsthand, scale summits and explore new areas.  Those types of trails usually include hills.  There is really no escaping them.  

3.  Be prepared to battle the elements and trail conditions.  If it starts pouring, you can’t duck into your friendly neighborhood convenience store.  Watch out for the wind that might knock you off the summit or the warm, sunny day that suddenly turns dark, cold and menacing.  You just have to suck it up and roll with it.  You never know when you might encounter a sheet of ice, a foot of snow or a puddle of mud.  And you can forget about any bathrooms out on the trail.  Find a tree and pop a squat (but this is really nothing new).  

4.  In the city you might need to be worried about getting mugged.  On an isolated trail you need to not only worry about crazy humans, but also about wild animals that call that place home.  I still have a fear of running certain trails in the summer because “Beware of Rattlesnakes” signs are posted everywhere!  I have seen deer, rabbits, elk, snakes (supposedly harmless ones), prairie dogs, coyotes and other random living creatures.  I carry a knife with me on my runs.  It wouldn’t hurt to have a can of pepper spray.  If you have a fear of encountering wildlife, then trail running is not for you.  A trail running buddy is ideal, but not always possible (or always wanted… sometimes it is nice to run in peaceful solitude out in nature).  

5.  Stay off the trails if you don’t know how to navigate.  Sure, you might find a few trails that are one loop or only have one trail, but honestly, these are usually the trails meant for the out-of-towners who are looking for a quick hike near the city.  Yep, that means that they are usually pretty crowded.  If you want to really get out there, see wildlife and explore new territory, then you will have to delve a little deeper into the forest or climb a little higher up the side of that mountain.  That takes some navigation skills, whether you can read a simple map printed off the internet or use landmarks to find your way.  Remember, if you get lost, then you are adding on some extra miles you probably didn’t intend on.  And did you bring food and water?  Maybe not if you are used to running through the park downtown where drinking fountains can be found every mile.  Dang, you are totally screwed if you are lost without food and water.  

6.  If you were a hiker back in the day and just recently started running trails, then you probably won’t be able to look at trails the same again.  Why hike a trail when you can run it?  If you try to hike again, then it will be very LONG and SLOW and take all day.  Might as well run it and get home in time for dinner.  

I think that is enough information for now.  If you haven’t tried trail running, then you should because I am pretty sure that I made it sounds like lots of fun!  I am not quite sure why I waited so long to try it…  

 

Running is Never Boring

Most of the time I only only competing with myself.  In this case, I used all of the remaining energy I had to pass the guy right behind me.  In response to whatever he said that annoyed me, I activated my fast twitch fibers and showed him.

Most of the time I am only competing with myself. In this case, I used all of the remaining energy I had to pass the guy right behind me. In response to whatever he said that annoyed me, I activated my fast twitch fibers and showed him.

There is always a new challenge waiting around the corner.  I know most people would assume that you just go out and run and there isn’t much more to it.  Well, those people are obviously not runners.

Do you remember when you took that first step after you decided to find out what running was all about?  It was an accomplishment to run one mile without walking.  Then you moved on up to the ranks of the 3-mile runners.  And hey, if you could make it 3 miles, then why not sign up for your first 5K?  It becomes almost addictive once you have been at it for a while.  At first glance, it might seem like these runners posses more Type-A personality traits, but just because you might not be hard-core competitive doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the new challenges that running brings.  I encounter many runners who are in it for the fun and social aspect.  They team up with a buddy or a group and find new routes to tackle or new races to finish.  Running is a sport that is well suited for all personality types.

The challenge might be to find a race that offers the most swag or maybe a race that is in a desired destination.  Whatever keeps you running, right?  Why not keep running fun by finding races that allow you to do a bit of wine tasting at the finish line or have zombies chasing you down the street?  Sure, these challenges don’t suit everyone’s desires, but those runners who love the entertainment are definitely not bored.

I know I don’t fall in that category because I am pretty certain I have some Type-A personality traits in my blood. I enjoy a bit of competition and it is usually with myself (or the woman in my age group who I am trying to catch up to and pass).  My first few races were all about the fun and socializing, but then I started to challenge myself with new personal records.  I ran my fastest 5K, 8K, 15K and half marathon.  I could always run faster if I trained hard enough.  Yet, before I got bored with the fast goals, I decided to focus on more variety.  I started participating in triathlons.  My love of running only blossomed as I realized that I could swim a mile, ride my bike 56 miles and still finish a half marathon (not in record time, but pretty darn close).

Then it was back to a focus on running.  I had my eye on achieving my fastest marathon.  I stayed the course and was able to move beyond my goal and achieve a time that I never thought possible.  And why not run another marathon 3 weeks later… this one with a 2,000 foot climb.  It was that marathon that brought me to where I am now: enjoying nature and all of its beauty.  Might as well throw in the challenge of running up endless hills to the tops of peaks.  I thought about the trails in my own backyard.  I’m here, in Colorado, so why not take advantage of what nature has to offer?

My next challenge does have something to do with speed.  A much slower speed up and down hills, over rocks, through forests, in snow and over ice.  Yet, slow would not be a new and exciting challenge all by itself.  It needs to be combined with distance.  So, my next goal is to run an ultramarathon… 50 miles to be exact.

At this rate, I don’t think I will ever get bored with running.  There are so many new routes to try, new races to travel to, new distances to explore, faster speeds to tackle and many more new running buddies to acquire along the way.