Trail running on a real trail

I finally did it.

The stars, my knees, the weather, and my surprisingly busy schedule all aligned perfectly at last. Yesterday I completed a 7 mile trail run on an honest-to-goodness trail. No more running through a county park on well groomed, wide pathways. This was a narrow, often steep, winding trail through woods and clearcut meadows, zig-zigging up and down across ridgetops with alternating views of strait to the north and mountains to the south.

While the views were inspiring, I could only snatch quick glimpses of them because I had to keep my eyes sharply focused on the trail surface 5-15 feet ahead. There were lots of cobble-type rocks that demanded I set my feet down very mindfully. The trail was no more than two feet wide in most places, and bounded by either hillsides (up/down) or thick brush. In some areas, if I had wobbled just a little off trail center, I would have found myself knee deep in stinging nettles.

This was a tough and challenging workout for me. The net ascent was probably about 600 feet from parking lot to highest ridgetop, but my GPS watch was bouncing around a bit with an erratic satellite signal in the thick trees, so I am not sure of the exact altitudes. With all the little ups, downs, and hiccups my watch recorded 1,200+ feet of ascent and the same amount of descent. I was wearing my hydration pack with a few ounces of water, and I definitely felt the 1.5 pounds on my back. Coming right away from the parking lot, the trail is steep uphill. I didn’t have time to settle into my stride before I got anaerobic and was gasping for breath. I was forced to walk a bit and recover before I could settle into a steady pace.

I was surprised (and a bit humbled) by how slow that steady pace turned out to be. I’d already learned that I’m two minutes slower per mile on the county park trails than I am on a paved trail. Well, my pace on this more challenging trail turned out to be two minutes slower than that. I was out there running 14 minute miles and still feeling like this Amazon woman doing this heroic feat of adventure running!

Well, the fact is that I was the only female out there and the only runner.


My friend was with me on his mountain bike, riding ahead of me and periodically turning back or stopping to make sure I was still upright and achieving forward motion. His actions reminded me of when I’d go on family hikes as a child with our collie Chief. That wonderful dog usually logged 2-3 times as many miles as the rest of us with his constant running between the first and last hiker. Just as Chief was my protector and hero, I felt safe out there on the trail knowing my friend was close by. We saw two or three hikers and three other guys on bikes. Despite my dire fantasies, we did not see any bears.

I figure this 7 mile trail run was a pretty good simulation of the 7 mile trail run out of Ketchikan, which will be the last of the four races on the Great Alaskan Marathon Cruise. Well, almost a simulation… I figure I’ll already be pretty tired by the start of that race, after running three races totaling 19.2 miles over the prior four days. I know now that I’ll be seriously slow — factor in photo stops and I’ll be lucky to finish at a 15 minute pace!! But I also know that I’ll be able to rise to the occasion and do it.

Even if I have to do it one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.

This morning my knees are no more cranky than usual, but I am definitely getting sore muscles in my hips, legs, ankles, and feet. I had a vigorous workout but overall I feel rather great about it. And I’m even more excited about heading off to Alaska very soon!


Posted on July 20, 2012, in Running and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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