Back Into the Woods

This summer I've been doing something different with my running—I'm training almost exclusively on trails. No more 12-mile out-and-backs on bright, baking roads. No more level pounding on uniform surfaces. Instead, I'm now constantly alert to what's 5-10 feet in front of me: checking for obstacles and angles, inadvertently using different large and small muscles with every foot placement, and always dealing with "terrain," i.e. uphills and downhills. I'm in the shade and feeling cool(ish) and adventurous.

Trail running is hard. Trail running is slow. And trail running makes me feel happy. Why happy? I've been operating on a woods deficit for many years. Being in the woods, especially the woods of the northeastern United States, is my happy place. In high school I'd take long bike rides and just go sit in random patches of woods. It was quiet and dappled, and seemed full of possibility and peace. Being there was a necessity. When I moved to a city for college, then started in the office-y world of grownup work, I'd still try to spend some time in the woods when I could (or if not, a cemetery would do), but it wasn't easy. Moving to Vermont helped, but by then making time for the woods was no longer part of my PRACTICE.

This photo is taken from one of my favorite trails, looking through the woods to the interstate. When you're driving at 72mph you have no idea there's a tranquil trail just metres away. This thrills me for some reason.

Trail running has brought back my habit of seeking woods. I run anyway, but I can't believe it took me this long to figure out that "trail running" equals being in the woods. All these years later, it turns out to be one of the most natural and pleasant things that I can do for myself. And this summer, I have logged hours and hours on the trails. I am in love!

That first sentence used the word "training" like I'm up to something. That's true... I have a goal in mind. Since reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall I've gotten a little obsessed with ultrarunning. I switched my magazine subscriptions from Runner's World to Trail Runner and from The New Yorker to Ultrarunning. Endurance running on trails fascinates me. I pay a lot of attention to The Ginger Runner and twitter hashtags like #ws100 and #bm100. Of course, I can barely run for over 3 hours before all of the bones from my pelvis on down start to hurt.

But anyway... I signed up for a 6-hour endurance race that happens in less than a week. It seems like a perfect start to ultrarunning (anything over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles) because I can stop at any time and be close to safety and sanity. The course is a 2.2 mile loop and I can run it as many... or as few... times as I want in the span of 6 hours. So it's all up to me. Will I be able to reach my A goal of 13 loops (26.4 miles)? My B goal of just keeping moving for 5 hours, which is over an hour longer than I've ever moved before? (I say "move" because part of trail running involves power walking on difficult bits--another reason to love it.) Or C goal of running a 25k, basically anything over 15.53 miles? I would be super happy with any of these. Really really happy!

I'll let you know how it goes, rain or shine!

Have you rediscovered any old or deep-seated loves this year? 2015 seems to be working out pretty well so far! TOUCH WOOD.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wishing you all the best for the endurance race!