Running Trails, Eating Plants, and Sharing What I Pick up Along the Way

Running Trails, Eating Plants, and Sharing What I Pick up Along the Way

Sunday, November 2, 2014

011: From the Track to the Trail - 7 Tips to Help with Transition

Having recently transitioned to running (almost) exclusively on trails, I'm still experiencing the growing pains of this evolution. My background in running includes a decade of running on the track; it wasn't until a year after finishing college that I have running trails a shot.

I can only imagine that I'm not alone in being a post-collegiate runner who wants to keep running, but isn't familiar with training outside of the sacred oval office that the track offers.

1. The numbers on your watch don't mean the same thing. I was consumed with monitoring my pace while running track. Now I make sure not to look at my pace, because the numbers can be a bit depressing. Sure, I still run with my GPS watch and upload my runs to Strava, but I'm not as concerned about pace any more.

There are too many variables on the trails: elevation gained, terrain, and technicality of the trail. My favorite numbers to look at now are elevation gained; and I will certainly compare my numbers to yours once we're friends on Strava.

2. Get used to eating while you run. This was tricky for me. When I was training on the track I'd make sure not to eat within two hours of a workout; food wreaked havoc on my stomach while running, Now, while running 2-3 hours and beyond, I've gotten used to getting calories in me while on the run.

Gels and goos are popular among runners, and offer a quick way to get calories while satisfying your sweet tooth and not causing internal issues. I'm not about that life. I don't want to sacrifice my nutritional ideals for the sake of convenience. I eat a lot of dried dates or Clif Bars while running.

I anticipated that learning how to eat on the run would be much harder given my prior experience, but it wasn't so bad. This must be due to the lower overall intensity of a run, because I've not had any issues.

3. Racing isn't all about getting the "W" anymore. This is a broad generalization that isn't true across the board, but I've found it to be mroe true on the trails than on the track. Now, I was a mediocre middle distance runner on a good day, so I rarely had the opportunity to race for the win. I understand running to chase a PR and not paying attention to the guys taking the race out at a pace that I knew I couldn't maintain. I see this in trail races a bit, but it's hard to compare race times to other races of the same distances or even to a previous effort on the same course. There are just too many variables. Most runners tend to be in it for the experience and are happy to finish regardless of how long it takes.

4. Short shorts are only sort of short on the trails. This is kind of a funny one, but I'm used to seeing a lot of leg while training with my teammates in college. 1 inch inseams proudly displaying tattoos with our school logo were commonplace. The shorter the shorts, the better.

When I go on group trail runs I have the shortest shorts in the pack every time. This includes the females present. I'm not ready to give the short shorts up yet, and I hope you're not either. Just be prepared for this culture shock!

5. Trail running isn't quite as free as it seems. Track athletes are used to Nike using stars such as Ashton Eaton or Allyson Felix to tell us that we need the newest color of Frees, but I had different expectations for the trail running world.

Sure, the stars on the trails aren't as well known, and Nike isn't as big in this world (though I do have a pair of Nike Terra Kigers that I train in), but trail running isn't free. Flip through any issue of Trail Runner Magazine and you'll see ads for the newest shoes, hydration packs, supplements, gels, injury rehab tools, and various other over-priced gear. Don't forget about the high entry fees for races - which makes sense because of the aid stations, staff, permits, and crazy amounts of time that organizers put into planning these events.

I'm a pretty minimalistic trail runner; I don't have one of these fancy hydration packs, use supplements, or consume energy gels. I got my watch on eBay, and I hold a bottle in my hand for runs where I need it. This is partially because I don't want to pay for the fancy new things, partially because I can't afford the fancy new things, but mostly because I like the idea of running without a lot of stuff.

6. People who run trails tend to be older. After finishing my fifth year of college I was used to being the old guy when I ran with others. Now, I'm the baby when I run with groups. I love it. Not only do I get to learn from their experience and wisdom, but it's encouraging to know that I can keep doing this for a long time.

7. There is not right way to do this. This is true on the track as well. Different training philosophies, mesocycle lengths, how often to race, different amounts of cross training, etc. are common place in the track world. In the trail running world it seems like everybody does things their own way. There are different ideas about training frequency and intensity, nutrition while running and not running, necessary gear, what numbers to focus on on your watch, etc.

There are people who run dang near 100 miles a month who race 100 milers, and those who put in 100 mile weeks in preparation for marathons.

This is fascinating to me. I certainly don't have things figured out, so this gives me opportunity to experiment with different things and see what works for me. Don't be afraid to try something new and fail. It's part of the fun.

There's no way that I'm the first to write on this, and I imagine that I missed a lot, but I hope that this helps somebody make the leap onto the trails. If nothing else, I hope it was a fun read.

What did I miss? Was I completely off base in any of these thoughts? Feel free to share your feedback with a comment.

Not willing to hang these bad boys up for good yet.

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