My introduction to trail running
If you read my "about" page then you will know that my favourite thing to do when I'm not working away in the kitchen is running, hiking, cycling or swimming. Since moving to Châtel I have totally fallen in love with trail running. I always thought that all of those ultra marathoners were just absolutely crazy people because they just run sooo far and not only that, but they run up MOUNTAINS too!? What!
Although I am not doing any ultra marathons (yet), I now understand how they run so far. I think the main thing about running in the mountains is that you don't really think about your pace anymore. It is totally different from running on the flat where you can actually stick to a consistent pace. When you have such a changing elevation, sticking to a consistent pace is just impossible. Even sticking to a consistent effort can be impossible too depending on the terrain and the technical difficulty of the terrain. Sometimes kms and kms go by and you don't even realise because you are so focused on not tripping over a big rock or working out the best route to take. Of course it is still tiring, especially when you are climbing up >30% elevation, but it is always interesting.
I still have a lot of learning to do, but i'm improving. I remember when I first moved here I don't think I ever thought I would be running (or trying to run) up the routes that I always just hiked up before. I have also gotten over my fear of loose gravel on downhills (well almost). Actually when you try to go slower down on the bits you think you might slip, you are more likely to slip. Or maybe that is just me.
Things I have learned about trail running in the mountains:
-Running downhill is FUN!
-Running downhill can be dangerous if you don't know how to control your speed (sometimes running into a tree is necessary haha!)
-Although it is called trail running.. sometimes it is not always possible to "run".
-Trail running is super technical, don't expect to run at the same pace as you would on concrete.
-Running batons/sticks exist
-Bringing food and water with you on new routes is important (you are going to get lost sometimes, and maybe end up hungry or thirsty).
-Long runs in the trails take a long time but time passes by very quickly.
-Trail running shoes are really useful.
-Finding the right nutrition that you can digest easily during a run is important. If you are planning on doing a long race that you are going to need to take on nutrition, then make sure you practice during your training runs. Find something that isn't going to give you a sore stomach or stitches for the rest of your run. I find gels that are more watery (not too thick) go down quite well. I quite like the citrus HI-5 or SIS gels. So far I have not had much success with any form of bars. What do you like to eat during a long run?
Useful equipment/clothing to have if you want to get started with trail running:
-Trail running shoes: if you are going to be running on gravel, muddy areas, or any type of really mixed terrain, trail running makes such a difference. You won't slip half as much as you would with normal road running shoes as trail running shoes give you really good grip. My favourites so far are the "Salomon Speed-cross." Although I would like to try out others. If you have a favourite trail running shoe, please comment below!! I love recommendations from fellow trail runners.
-Running Bag: A light-weight running backpack that you can put your snacks, water, keys, phone, jacket/extra layers, money (maybe your trail running route has a coffee stop?) etc. Why not just a normal rucksack? If you have ever tried running with a rucksack then you will know that it will bounce about and drive you crazy. Particularly if you have lots of things in it. A running backpack has clips and straps that you can adjust so that it fits tightly to your body and minimises any bouncing about. Usually they will have compartments that you are able to access easily if you want to grab one of your snacks on the go. If you have just started trail running and you are not going long distances where you need to be carrying anything then you don't necessarily need a bag. Although practicing running with a bag can be useful if you want to build up your distance to start running for longer.
-Water bag/bladder: A water bag is super useful if you don't want to stop lots of times to take your bag off and get your water out every time you would like to have a drink.
-Running batons/sticks: These are definitely an optional purchase and depend on how much elevation is involved in your trail runs. If you are somewhere with significant elevation like me in the French Alps, then running batons can be super useful. When you are a steep bit where you need to hike, you can use the batons to give you an extra push, and take some of the effort out of your legs. If you are doing a long climb, then these really save your legs for the rest of your run.
-Running belt: If you are not going for long distances and just getting started then you probably don't need to be bringing a bag. A running belt is useful to put your phone, keys, some money and even an energy gel incase you end up running longer and need an energy boost.
-Shorts with a zip pocket: Instead of a running belt you could also use shorts with a zip compartment. These can sometimes be hard to find as phones these days are a lot bigger and often the pockets in shorts are too small to fit your phone. Or if your pocket is too big then whatever you have in your pocket will just bump about. Maybe that wouldn't bother you, but I find it waaaaaay too distracting.
-Headband: This is also an optional purchase, particularly for boys I would think. For me, it is essential!! I have super long hair and using a headband to keep my hair in has been a life-saver (or hair-saver?) I always found that after a run my hair would get so bunched up and matted that I would spend hours trying to brush out all of the knots. Now I don't have that problem. I put my hair into a pleat or bun and tuck this into my headband. It keeps my hair from bouncing about and now I have no tugs. EXTRA TIP: brush some hair oil through your hair before running and this also keeps your hair from getting knotted after a run and keeps it in good condition.
-Massage wax: If you want to avoid blisters, this is the one for you! Before you go for a run, rub some massage wax onto your feet wherever you are prone to getting blisters. This will keep your toes or feet from blisters caused by the friction of rubbing against your shoes/socks. For me this has been a major lifesaver from blisters. I use the highland wax company "reflexology" wax, it is amazing! Definitely check out the highland based company if you live in Scotland. It is a great price too and lasts for a super long time.
If there is anything other essential items that you use for trail running, comment below!
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Lots of Love,