Monday, November 29, 2010

Trail Run #1: Too happy to fight. Too sore to walk down stairs properly.

I'm sure you remember one million years ago when I said I wanted to try trail running instead of spending the rest of my running days slamming my body and joints against concrete.

You remember.

Well, last weekend I finally - after over a year of saying I was going to and then NOT doing so - went for a trail run.

What finally got my dead ass up off the concrete and shoved me out the door at 8am on a Sunday morning bound for the Santa Cruz mountains? The cold dark foreboding threat of failure, of course.

And by that I mean that I signed up for a trail race that's in two weeks and immediately after signing up for it, knew I'd have to at least go try it out once before race day. I'D HAVE TO. Otherwise, cue the public shame and all.

After hitting 'Register' I also went and ordered trail running shoes, because my good old Brooks Adrenalines weren't going to cut it on the leafy, muddy, rocky, tree-limb ridden trails around here. Oh no. They are cut out best for dodging shitty holiday drivers making sharp rights in traffic while NOT AT ALL looking out for pedestrians.

They also work well for bumper kicking, in the event such violence is necessary (like being nearly hit by a car making a shady right turn, for instance).

But, because I have no imagination/fear change/EXTRA FEAR blisters, I just got the I'm A Tough Guy off-road version of Brooks Adrenalines - the ASRs - with the fancy leaf/snow/rain icons on the lacing rig. They're basically my Adrenaline GTSs, but with teeth. Like, the soles have teeth on them - that's not some clichelicious description of suped up running shoes because that would be sad. And unimaginative. And I don't want to be those things.

Also, comfy ankles in tall socks. WEIRD.

Anyway, I'm not going to go into a full review of these shoes right now because I've only worn them on one trail run, so I don't feel like we're BFF yet. I don't know them like I do my GTSs who are like a best friend to me. The GTXs are like a friend of a friend right now. I like them, because they are friends with a good friend of mine, but they haven't held my hair or made up a good story about why I missed work yet, so they're still under review.

But they did get me through my #1 trail run attempt without a single slip, fall, crash, slide off a mountain side or even a stubbed toe, so they've got that going for them.

My hips, quads and calves though? HOLY.

Dudes, I'm sore.

As it turns out, and much like I suspected, trail running is hard.

And, when you want to be running but you're faced with a switchbacking hillside, the act of running is almost more than my ass can muster. And then there are times when I had to resort to hiking, which is what I called it because I figured if I was in the woods and hauling my ass up a hillside, I could at least call it hiking since there was a forest and mud involved. Calling it walking would have insinuated that there was leisure and comfort involved, neither of which would have been accurate.

So, for the first mile and a half of my big old three mile run (shut up) in the woods, I hiked the uphills as fast as I could, and when the fucking thing leveled out for three steps or more, I'd run again. It went on like this for a mile and a half and when I hit 1.5 Miles on the Garmin, I turned my ass around faster than you can say FUCK THIS and ran down in half the time it took me to get to the top.

Elevation charts shaped like triangles are bad news.

And it was AWESOME.

Let me describe.

You know how sometimes you are watching one of those nature shows on, like, Discovery or something, and they show a deer or mountain lion or wolf or some kind of graceful running creature just dashing through the woods?

The thing, let's imagine it's a mountain lion because that's what I was imagining even though the thought of it freaks me out now a little bit, is just racing along with the trees blurring in its peripheral vision, the wind whooshing by its ears, its legs just kicking out the ground below and spraying leaves and dirt behind?

Yeah, that's how it felt to run down this hill. It was fucking great. Not that I looked like a graceful creature, but I felt like one and that's what matters and since no one else was out there, I'm going to pretend I did.

I'll say this - in all my time running on concrete and sometimes gravel and rarely sand, I've never felt like it was "fucking great". It's been enjoyable, peaceful, relaxing, invigorating and scenic - but never FUCKING GREAT and certainly not legitimately fun.

This was fun.
OK, it looks like "dying", but it was fun. At the end. Running downhill.

Though, the kind of fun you have to earn by first dragging your sorry rear to the top of the hill to begin with. Much like backcountry skiing, where you don't get the benefit of the lift doing all the work but do get the fun of riding down a lovely slope without a bunch of psychos littering your path.

Did I mention that I didn't see one single solitary other person when I was out there? Seriously. Not one.Though that could have been because it was 32 degrees when I got out of the car and it had rained all day the day before, making the trails muddy and slippery and covered in leaves, but whatever. I care not what keeps people out of my face.

Though I could have used some help with the camera on my phone. Slippery bastard.
Had I run the streets of San Jose, I can tell you with 100% certainty I would have seen other runners. And bikers. And people walking three abreast on the sidewalk with double decker strollers and dogs on flexi-leashes strung out over all passable walkways. And then there would have for sure been near misses with crazy holiday drivers who were hell bent on murdering people in a mall parking lot.

But in the woods, there was no one. And, to recall my scary parallel with mountain lions, there weren't any creatures to speak of, really, either. I heard a few hawks and I saw, like, two squirrels, but it seemed like the whole mountain was still hiding out after the rainstorm, so I had the hills to myself.

Which was good, because then there wasn't anyone to be all, "Why are you wearing trail RUNNING shoes if you're just going to hike, there Miss Sweaty Monster?"

And that's a relief because I didn't come ready to fight someone in the woods. I was too happy.

Don't make me fight you!


  1. Awesome. You totally look like you're about to take someone on.

    And I do enjoy running down the mountain, but I'm always deathly afraid I'll turn an ankle. So I bring Jeff with me to drag my sorry ass home if it ever happens. Not that he'd have an easy go of it because I am not a little girl anymore. Luckily, I've always made it home safe. Here's wishing you the same.

  2. When I was a kid, we always had to participate in Fun Family Outings on Sundays, which, because we were ruled by my sadistic (not really) father, always meant hiking. Up mountains. And, memorably, up glaciers when we lived in Alaska.

    I hated it, but one thing I did enjoy and was pretty good at was running down the mountain. Mostly to get home faster, true, but I discovered that if I kept myself at JUST the right level of contained falling, as it were, I wouldn't actually fall.

    Of course, I was like eight years old and significantly shorter and lighter than I am currently, so I wouldn't try it now. Once again, you're a braver woman than I.

  3. I wear trail running shoes for hiking all the time. Ain't no shame there.

    I only went trail running once in my life and it turned out much like your experience. As in, I turned around around in the middle of the uphill portion after hiking most of it. I, however, didn't have fun on the way down. Or, rather, I did until I fell on my face from running too fast.

    And thus ended my trail running career.

  4. My "hiking" is walking near tries on a paved "trail". Mostly because I can never figure out where I am anywhere, so I'd be that asshole on the news lost in the woods.

  5. Dude. You rocked that run. Look at you! And why is it that every single activity you do you manage to pull it off with style?


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