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.

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