I am a road warrior, but my new coach wanted me on ‘terrain.’ I was lucky enough to procure a borrowed Garmin to capture my heart rate and I had a camel pack for water, but the good decisions ended there. I didn’t just pick ‘terrain’…I picked a trail that started at the most easterly point in North America.
Now, in my defense, I had a darned good reason for choosing Cape Spear to Maddox Cove on the East Coast Trail system. This trail happens to start not far from where my decision to run endurance races really took hold in my mind: the Cape to Cabot 20km road race. I was attached to both the location and the challenge, what could have been a better choice?
So, it would be in Cape Spear out among rolling hills and roaring winds, I would keep an eye to the rushing waves on my left and my feet on my first bit of terrain. I started out with a good pace, and honestly, this was mostly my desire to get warm. It is well known that Cape Spear is colder, windier, and damper than the rest of the Avalon Peninsula. I had on a long sleeve technical shirt and a light shell, no gloves but my fav running hat, and a pair of compression tights. As per coach’s direction, I was carrying about 20oz of water and had a fueling plan for the first time, which I monitored for time and amount. There were so many little details that were new to me, I don’t think I really gave myself enough time with the basics. I tried to keep an even pace, and I tried to just keep going with the intent of hitting an hour out and an hour back. All in all, the lessons I learned in those two hours of lonesome running are invaluable.
As such, here are the top 10 bits of advice I’d like to share with you:
1. You will have to pee. If you’re a guy, awesome, giv’r. If you’re a lady like me…DO NOT WEAR COMPRESSION TIGHTS. This will make the whole ordeal considerably worse.
2. You have not packed enough water. I know. You think you have and there is that whole mess with having to pee, but you haven’t. And, you need water in the car for afterwards, fyi.
3. Speaking of afterwards, bring dry socks and shoes. You can thank me later.
4. Speaking of shoes, don’t wear road shoes on a trail. They were not built for it and you will stub your toes, or worse, you will roll your ankle. I set out in a pair of Adidas EnergyBoost; I now run in Brooks Cascadia. The difference is worth the money.
5. If you are a road warrior like me, plan on being okay with running at a slower pace. There is a skill to running trails requiring you to constantly scan ahead, assess the trail, and make a plan. When you don’t make that plan, you get hurt. Fast. Slow down, run where appropriate and walk if you must. Just keep moving.
6. Bring fuel. In fact, take extra. Gels are not only awesome (and vegan and gluten free in some cases), they are lightweight and downright tasty if you bother to try a few types. Timing these little suckers can keep the energy dips at bay. I like Hammer Perpetuem’s Huckleberry, but that’s just me. Find one you like, and carry extra. (Remember that extra bit of water in the car, toss a banana or two in there as well. You’re welcome.)
7. Longer runs on trails means you need a back-up plan in case you get hurt or lost. Make sure someone knows where you are, how long you plan to be out, and within what time frame they can expect you to return. I did bring bandages with me, just in case, but I made certain to tell people where I was going. Sure I met people on the trail that could have helped, but you could run the whole distance without seeing a soul. Kayla was my person and she knew the trail well enough that she could navigate it and find me should I hurt myself. These people are invaluable. Shower them with cookies and love.
8. Water bounces. Weird, right? I know I already said take a bit more than you think you need, and more means more weight and more bouncing, but this is an important thing. If you are not comfortable on that run, you are setting out for a few hours of misery. Bouncing means the fabric below your water will rub. Rubbing means chafing. Chafing makes everyone unhappy. Additionally, if you wear a fuel belt, and the water bounces, you will have lovely bruises on your hips, or maybe that’s just me. In any case, the value of a well-fitting and properly-functioning water vest cannot be overstated. There is a reason endurance runners wear them. If you are running serious distance, invest in yourself and get the proper gear.
9. Terrain. The real meaning: rocks, roots, stumps, grass, mud, bog, gravel, boulders, rivers, tickles, moose poop, fields, forest, and logs. All of this I encountered during my run, and I was not mentally prepared for any of it. I have a road warrior’s mind and I see the destination distance over journey EVERY TIME. This attitude can mean relentlessly running towards a distance goal while forsaking how your body feels and what is around you (re: dangerous). I suggest working on abandoning this roadblock, and bring in an expert if you can (thanks, Lorne!).
10. Have fun. Take breaks. Realize it is a part of a much larger goal and enjoy it for what it is: training. I did not enjoy my first trail run. I ran with a disregard for the terrain, a lack of understanding of the importance of gear, and a mindset that kept me from enjoying the journey. I encourage you to avoid this attitude if at all possible.
Maybe the secret #11 is to share the run with people who are as passionate about running as you are.
If you want to check out my run, follow this link to Strava where I’ve started tracking my training for Deer Lake 67.