Running Trail Races By Yourself

Following up on last week’s discussion about long training runs and how to safely plan them out with self supported aid, we talked this week about trail races that you do without a support crew.

If you’re not familiar with support crew, it’s basically 1 or more people that meet you at a point, or points, on the course to give you water, food, or anything else you might need (and have hopefully given them beforehand!).

This isn’t something that you generally see on courses at the half marathon and below distance – mostly due to the shorter time requirements and the fact that most people can carry or go without much more than water and a little food for that type of distance and time.

However, once you start getting up to longer distances it becomes more important to have things figured out before hand with a plan in place to get you through the day.

Having a good drop bag in place, for example, can really turn your day around or help you continue to sail on down the trail.

On the opposite end, missing some critical items can be a problem…

In the end, a lot of this is based on what you personally need – so you’ll figure it out over time and with a bit of planning you’ll get the process down.

Check out the replay video above to hear about how we do it and some recommendations we have for you.

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Long Run Training And Self Support

Getting in those long runs is essential for being able to run longer distances – and while the physical portion of the training can be difficult enough (and fun!) there’s more to it than just hitting the road or trail and running for several hours at a time.

Something we quickly discovered as we were ramping up mileage for our longer runs several years ago was the utility of having pre-planned “aid stations” that sometimes were nothing more than a stashed water bottle in a tree or bush.

Having this type of “support” is a little easier on road runs, at least outside of an urban environment, but you can do it with trail running as well.

In the video above we talk about how we dealt with going on longer runs while staying safe and making sure we stayed hydrated.

Of course, there are many ways to go about this – if you’ve got a favorite method let us know about it!

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Planning Trail Runs And Trips With Family And Friends

It’s not always easy to plan on trip or a long trail run when you take into consideration family and friends, is it? Sometimes it’s a matter of timing or maybe it’s just that they might not understand why you want to get up at 5 am to go running for several hours…

The good news is that it doesn’t always have to be difficult and there are a lot of ways you can involve others in your trail running adventures so that trips don’t seem so “you” focused and so they might even be excited to come out in the future!

Now, we know that some families really do enjoy coming out for events and traveling to trails – and this information is also useful for them. After all, don’t you want them to enjoy themselves as much as possible and have their own adventures?

You can get some great ideas by watching the video above – some of the best ideas include:

  • Involving others in the planning – maybe finding a couple main activities and sending them the links before the trip and ask them what they think
  • Go on a hike or walk with them and then take off on your run
  • Same as above, but run in a loop or out and back manner so that you see them more than once
  • For children, if they are old enough, ask them what activities they know about in the area (if they’ve never been, it’s good time for them to start researching!).

The bottom line is that getting everyone involved helps give them “ownership” and makes them really feel like a part of the trip or team – which they are!

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Knowing how to map out a trail run has all sorts of advantages and once you know how to do it you can make it out, get elevation data, and more in just a few minutes. There’s no reason not to and you’ll get a lot of good information before your run about elevation changes, total distance, and several additional related data points.

So – how do you do it? Well, the easiest way is to watch the video! You’ll see an over-the-shoulder view of how you can take data from a mapping program, get your own GPX file (commonly used mapping file with position and elevation data), and then take that file and import it into a data visualizer to find out elevation gain and anything else you might want to know.

If you haven’t mapped a run before just know that it is very simple to do – you can use the resources listed below to get started. It’s basically a matter of clicking at points on a map in order to connect the dots and make your route. The more points you put, the more accurate it will be. This is important when considering trail runs where you might have large elevation changes in short periods of time – it pays to be more accurate with your route placement in these areas!

Best of all, the tools you need to map your trail run are free and simple to use. There are other ways of doing this, the method I show in the video is just the way I do it.

One of the reasons we like to map out our routes is to get a sense of the total distance along with total elevation gain. There is a huge difference between a 20 mile run with 3,000 feet of gain, and the same route with 6,000 feet of gain! Not only in total effort required but in the time it will take to complete the route. For planning and letting people know where you are going and how long you’ll be gone, mapping is out trails is the way to go.

Other Uses

You can also generate your own GPX files and then import them into online tools like Garmin Connect where you can then push them to your GPS watch so that you have the route on your watch.

Resources

Here are the resources mentioned in the video:

Google maps
https://www.google.com/maps

Gmap pedometer
https://www.gmap-pedometer.com/

Important GPX file to view elevation data (if wanted)
http://www.maplorer.com/view_gpx.html

 

Do you have a preferred way of making your trail maps? Let us know.

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Trail Races Can Take Off The Pressure And Bring Back Joy

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For anyone that has been running on trails for more than a short period, I’m sure you can identify with the following anecdotes from a road runner turned trail runner.

The vast majority of trail runners I know started out running on the road. That’s not to say that they didn’t run trails, but the most time they put in was on the road either for school, to get in shape, or for some other reason.

Then, something happened.

Maybe a friend invited you to a trail run.

Maybe a running group chose to run a trail one Saturday.

It doesn’t matter how – somehow you started running on trails, checking out a trail race, and maybe toeing the line at an ultra to see what it was all about and if you could handle it.

I really like hearing these stories and thought this was one worth sharing:

I’ve been a road runner since about age 14, when I started running track. The goal was always to get fitter and faster and see what I could do. I pushed myself through and past injuries and miscarriages and pregnancies and every other thing that happens in a life. I had months and years where I was just happy to be out there, and chose not to stand at any starting lines.

Trail running was pretty foreign to me.

I think that trail running is pretty foreign to most people that pick it up who didn’t have mountains or rough trails in the backyard! Just the idea is strange to some people, and while I was lucky and grew up near mountains, huge forests, and more, I know that not everyone did.

Until I decided that a marathon wasn’t quite far enough, and I wanted to try an ultra – any distance beyond 26.2 miles. There’s a lot of them, and they are growing in popularity. To train, a few of us began running more and more gravel roads, looking for a softer surface and a change of scenery. There’s only so much bike path one person can take.

I cannot imagine an ultra on road. I suppose I could really make myself contemplate it but it just sounds painful. And boring. That’s just me – I know people out there do it.

Eventually I was talked into a few trails at Great Bear with my friend Natalie, who does ultras and almost exclusively trail runs. Just like anything, if the timing is right and the teacher is patient, it can open up a whole new world. And that’s what happened.

I fell in love after my first actual trail race – a 50K in Omaha put on by the Greater Omaha Trail Runners. The feeling at the race was completely different…

And when it came to trail races, I fell in love with that, too.

People seemed more laid-back, relaxed, with less of the hopping from one foot to the other and tight nerves of a road race.

Yup. A big part of continuing to race trails for myself is the community. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know people all over the world who share the love of running trails.

Fast, slow, racers, self-motivated runners, the vast majority of the people we’ve met through trail running have been interesting, fun, and easy to be around.

Here’s to more good trails!

I’m also interested – what got you into trail running?

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The Manitou Incline – Tough Trail!

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Tough trails? Sure, we like them! And strangely enough, the last time we were in Colorado Springs, we somehow missed out on this brutal mile long climb up an old railroad bed that has been drawing in runners and hikers for the past few decades after the rail shut down in 1990.

We’ve also been on a tough “Manitou’s” course – you can read Jeney’s race report on Manitou’s Revenge in 2015 (a 54 mile trail race in the Catskill mountains) right here: 2015 Manitou’s Revenge Race Report.

However, based on the description of this shorter incline we’re pretty sure it would be a definite leg burner:

When it comes to describing the Manitou Incline, there’s no mincing words. It’s relentlessly steep and a ferocious challenge for anyone who tries to hike or run it.

Situated near the base of Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs, Colo., the Manitou Incline rises more than 2,000 vertical feet in less than a mile. It’s unyieldingly steep—68 percent in some places—but that’s why runners and hikers from near and far have been taking the challenge for years.

68 percent…yup, seems steep! With a distance of only 0.88 miles we’re going to have to stop in the next time we’re in town and give this a shot. I don’t think we’ll be breaking any records (men’s record – 17:45!) but it’ll be fun to give it a shot.

The only secrets to the Incline? Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It helps to look down at the steps—don’t consider enjoying the view until you reach the top. And never underestimate the effort. The Manitou Incline – Tough Trail!

Good advice for any incline or run – I think we’ve all been at the point where just picking ’em up and putting ’em down is what gets us to the finish.

 

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Western States 100 Finish Shows Difference From Most Running

I’m sure that by now everyone has heard at least once that the 2016 Western States first place finisher was a bit of a surprise!

While I feel for getting sidetracked on a course and losing time – I do like to see that it still impacts races like these (hopefully the lost time wasn’t due to people pulling down course markings, etc) as it throws a bit more randomness into the mix and shows that trail races still involve more than just “if you run the fastest you win” that most people not familiar with running as a sport seem to think is the basic idea behind every single race!

Jim Walmsley was in the lead with 32 kilometres to go and on pace to destroy the course record at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run on Saturday in California. The 26-year-old, however, took a wrong turn, which cost him more than an hour. That left the door open to 20-year-old Andrew Miller to become the youngest winner ever at the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race. Read more at Costly mistake opens door for youngest ever winner at Western States 100

Regardless of time to finish it’s an amazing accomplishment, especially given the temperatures that many face during this race. That alone can cause many to DNF and is something that people train for on it’s own.

We’d like to check out the course sometime, if not to run it, then to hike or check out the race sometime. Have you run WS100 or part of the course? What’s your favorite section?

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