Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Running Secret

I have a secret side to me, a side that only a select few people know about, mostly because they wouldn't understand.

I am a runner. Sure, a lot of people know that I run, they just don't know how much. I plan vacations around running, read about running, day dream about running. It is my passion, maybe even an obsession some might say. It is something that non-runners just don't understand. I love the challenges and rewards of running, the cold early mornings that reward you with a beautiful sunrise. Seeing the world in a fresh way, from a slower perspective than a speeding vehicle.
I have learned not to talk much about my running to non-runners. Sometimes I find myself telling little lies or half truths about my running habits to non-runners. When I sneak out for long lunch breaks to get in a quick five miler, I might say that I have some errands to run. When getting up at 4am to get a run in before work it's like I have a dirty little secret that I don't dare tell due to the the "are you crazy?" looks that I would get. It's that same shocked look that they have after they ask you how far your marathon was and you politely tell them, 26.2 miles. Sometimes that's part of the fun too.

I often get the feeling that non-runners think that running is just a hobby for me. Something that I do in my spare time, an extra-curricular activity that is not necessary. Sometimes these non-runners will look at you funny or think that you are being foolish for trying to arrange your schedule to fit in a run for the day. Some of these same people don't think twice about watching TV for hours every evening or taking 10 smoke breaks throughout the day.

I don't always enjoy running. Sometimes I have great runs where I feel light as a feather and I think that I could run forever. Other times I may have to battle with my mind and body to coax myself along every mile just to finish.
Despite how I may feel during the run, I am always satisfied and feel great afterwards. It is what keeps me calm yet energized. Running gives me strength and confidence to do things that I might not otherwise think that I could do.

There has been pain and suffering caused by running.

Lost toenails
Bloody nipples
But there have been many more great people and experiences!

The Sioux Falls Area Dailymile Crew. I really miss you all!

Great Hy-Vee Runners! (Sioux Falls Half Marathon)

After the Mankato Marathon with Tom.

St. Cloud Earth Day run with the coolest ladies!
 Megan, Jenn, and Jenessa.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Exploring your area

Grand Trace Conservation Area
When is the last time that you looked for someplace different to run? Because I have a coach, most of my runs have specific goals which does not leave much room for many "fun runs". It's not that I don't enjoy the challenge of these runs, but it's nice to be a little spontaneous once in awhile.

I run for several reasons, obviously health, fitness, competition, etc. But another reason I run is to explore the area around me in a way that many people don't do anymore, on foot. It is interesting how different the world looks when you are out on a run as opposed to driving the same area. Even beyond that, there are several places that a run can take you that you would never see in a vehicle.

I have been planning for a couple of trail races in 2011 which inspired me to change up my scheduled workout a bit today. It is about four miles to the Grand Trace Conservation Area from my house. I decided that I would check out the trails a bit in the middle part of my scheduled 10 miles today. It was a chilly 18F with a windchill of about 3F this morning. As cold as that sounds, the temperature really wasn't bad other than running into the wind.
Entrance to Grand Trace

Grand Trace has a gravel entrance off of the paved road. As I was entering the area a truck with a couple of hunters happened to drive by. It is a short road to the start of the trail so I followed them in and flagged them down. After speaking with them a moment I learned that it was the last day of rifle hunting season so I told them to keep an eye out for me because I would be running on the trails. Luckily I never saw a hunter or heard a shot while I was out there! It was a great area to run through, quite the mix of hills and trails. It is all fairly wide open with a couple of stream crossings. Other than scaring up some wild turkeys I didn't see much wildlife.

Trail running is no joke. The terrain is uneven and the hills are challenging.Today's test run was a bit of a wake up call for me. It was very humbling to have to walk up some of the steeper hills after finishing a hilly 10 miler just under 8 minute pace on the road earlier in the week.

My first test will be at the 10 mile distance with the Run Toto Run trail race in Kansas City. My first thought was to run the 50K at this event, luckily my coach advised against using this as my first 50K. After today's run, I am glad because it wouldn't have been real pretty.

I do have my sights set on the Greenland Trail 50K in Colorado this spring. It appears to be about an 8 mile loop that is run 4 times with a maximum elevation of 7,400 ft. It will be interesting to see how the elevation affects my running, not to mention the 31 miles of trails!

Running a 50K or even a 10 mile trail run may seem a little extreme to some. Nevertheless, I want to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone, and run somewhere that you have never run before. Explore your area. You may even have to drive a few miles to find a place like I did, but for me, it has always been well worth it. Most people won't find a view like this on any of their running routes.