Went out on Sunday afternoon and did my first trail run. I was alone, on sort of familiar turf and just took it easy. I ran for 45 minutes, took two wrong turns, found lots of mud, rocks, overgrown trails and a creek crossing so high I chickened out and turned back instead of taking it. The feared ankle breaking descents were there but I really took it easy on them and tried to look at the trail on every step.
Trail running is a lot more intense than regular running. You have to pay attention to every foot plant. A missed step on the road is nothing. On the trail it can be life threatening. You don’t get to look up and see nature as much as you would think. A trail running mantra seems to be “Look up, fall down”. It was fun though! Since it was a little muddy there weren’t many people around. Rock Bridge is getting ready to explode into color for fall but it is a bit dull right now.
I found myself mostly analyzing the trails to see if I could ride them. They are mostly passable, with a few spots very rocky or root bound. Easier going down them than up for sure. The harder stuff was on the other side of the creek raging river from where I stopped so I didn’t get to go all the way around.
The biggest “wow” for me was how I felt the next day! I didn’t fall… but it sure felt like I did. Little muscles all over that usually don’t get much use (stabilizer muscles, etc.) were tired and sore. I very slightly tweaked my right quad and it was unhappy. My shoulders were tight because I ran pretty tense. I did find it hard to relax on the run and my back and shoulders showed it!
I guess where I noticed the biggest difference was this morning on our usual Tue/Thur run. We did a route that took us up a BIG hill on a golf course (twice!) and then out onto the road and up another hill. I won’t lie, the two times up that hill hurt. But I felt stable on the wet grass and uneven terrain. The only time I hurt myself was when I stepped on a big acorn ON THE CART PATH. Figures… Anyway, when we got out to the road we went up Stadium, which is usually a tough hill because it’s close to the end. It. just. felt. flat. I was able to hold my pace (just a tiny bit under 8 minute mile) and didn’t feel winded at all. The last half mile was downhill (in 3:30!). It just seemed like I was able to recruit a few more muscles to help get up those hills. My quad twinge went away and I felt really good on the run. Is it possible to see that kind of benefit after ONE trail run? Maybe a little. It could have just been a good run and that’s it. I guess I shouldn’t always try to blame it on something. But I’m going to find out! I’m going to run trails at least two more times this week and try to get out on my mountain bike at least once before I leave for the lake. Oh… and the weather? PERfect!