This is a great piece featuring a couple elite athletes. It draws on their transition to trail running and for that matter; trail ultra-running. Sage Canaday and Alicia Shay share a few of their most valuable pointers for those of us looking to enter their first 50k or 50 miler. Trail races are so much more fun and so much healthier for your body than pounding away on the pavement. Get in one and see for yourself!
Trail running will challenge your athleticism and ability to move in different planes of motion, says Alicia Shay.
Trail races are generally low-key affairs. From self-seeded starts resulting in top runners and first-timers all milling about together before a race, the sense of adventure that comes from setting off on an unknown route based upon a photo-copied map encourages a sense of we’re-in-this-together camaraderie — which is beneficial when racers get lost…because that does happen. Whether runners are more focused on the view, oxygen depleted because of a tough climb or course markings are hard to decipher, racers can go astray. Personal responsibility as to awareness of the markings, landmarks and a general familiarity of the course will keep you from running more than planned.
(sponsor) Get Up to 50% Off SKINS Compression Gear
Sage Canaday’s Top-3 Tips
I’d say a main difference with trail racing is that you need to be physically and mentally prepared for hills. Trails tend to not be very flat and therefore you have to prepare your muscles for being able to climb up steep slopes and withstand the pounding of flying downhill.
2. Traction & Weather
Another thing that differentiates trails from the road is traction. Depending on the trail you could be running through water, sand, dirt and/or sharp rocks. Weather plays a bigger role in trail running over road running too, as rainy conditions can turn a dry dirt trail into a mud bath. Shoe selection becomes more important because certain trail shoes are going to have better traction in more extreme conditions.
3. Effort instead of time
Trails vary a lot in terms of how rocky they are, how wide they are, and twisty they are (some are like rollercoasters!). You have to be used to rolling with the extra challenges that trails dish out and be more conscious of your effort rather than a certain mile split or pace.
Alicia Shay’s Top-3 Tips
1. Mental Adjustment
Mentally it is important to prepare for the ebbs and flows of being on a trail. If you are used to the predictability of typical training paces on the road and track, it’s best to either not wear a GPS or pay little attention to exact pacing. Just focus on covering the terrain as quickly and as safely as possible while soaking in the beauty of the surroundings.
2. Training Intuition
Since the terrain lends to a wide variation of paces compared to the roads, it is extremely important to really listen to the feedback your body is giving you. I like to refer to this as running intuition; you want to have the ability and confidence to adjust effort according to breathing, muscular fatigue and the course you are running. It’s extremely rewarding when you learn to run in sync with the flow of the trail and use different gears and mechanics on various sections–a little like driving a manual verse an automatic.
3. Technical Skills
Trail running will challenge your athleticism and ability to move in different planes of motion. You use your muscles and mechanics in a different way as you twist and turn, power up and down steep hills and mover over rocks and roots. It’s a little like mixing in plyometrics and speed drills in the middle of a run. Adding in extra strength work in the gym will help the transition from road to trail running by making you a stronger and more well-rounded runner.