One of my athletes (and friends) Wilson aka “Beef” (if you aren’t reading his blog you should be) joined me and a couple of friends for a 10 mile trail run this past weekend. He asked me if he could join us and of course I told him he was more than welcome. He had never been on a trail run before, but I knew that with his attitude and drive he would be just fine.
This isn’t an incredibly hard trail, but there are a few spots where if you make a wrong turn you could end up running a good bit more than you planned on running. For someone that’s not run a whole lot of distance, this could potentially be pretty crappy. Wilson told us that he had no intention of “keeping up with us” and just wanted to get out there and run on the trails. We ran probably a half mile and I looked back and didn’t see Wilson. I thought about turning around in 5 miles and then backtracking to make sure he hadn’t gotten lost. However, my experience with Wilson told me that he’d press on and be just fine. We went on and finished our 10 mile run.
I sent Wilson a text message to check on him when we finished our run. He never answered. I called and he didn’t pick up. I knew he had his phone with him so I started to worry a little. I brought another athlete of mine out to this same trail a couple of years ago, and she had gotten lost and ended up running several miles more than she had intended. So I started to worry a little more. I imagined Wilson out there on the trail cussing me up and down and calling me all sorts of creative names. The rest of us decided to split up and walk back down the trails to see if we could find him. Maybe 10 minutes later my friend Brad sent me a text and said he found him. “He’s fine,” Brad said, “He wants to finish his ten miles!” I was incredibly happy! A few minutes later I saw Wilson exit the trail head and he was grinning and super happy that he had finished this run.
Wilson made a post on Facebook that got me to thinking. He said, “After coming home and showering I’m hurting in places I didn’t know I could hurt.” This got me to thinking that there are probably a good number of people out there wanting to go run some distance on trails for the first time and don’t really know a few key tips that could make their experience WAY better. So here we go. A few of my tips for new long distance trail runners. If you’ve never ran on trails before and have never ran in the double digits hopefully this will help you out a little.
Lube up. This might be the most important piece of advice I can give you. On higher mileage runs I always make sure that all the spots that can get chafed are nice and greased up. You have a couple of options here. I have always used Vaseline, but have recently been giving a product called Body Glide a try. It seems to work pretty well, but if you’re cheap like me Vaseline can do the trick.
Pick up your feet. On the trails there are roots and rocks and all kinds of other things. If you aren’t mindful it could mean catching a toe on a root and ending up with a nasty fall. Depending on the terrain this could potentially be pretty bad. Everybody takes a spill every now and then, but if you pay attention to pulling your feet off the ground and watching out for obstacles you’ll be better off.
Get a good pair of trail shoes that work for you. Remember, different things work for different people. You’ve really got to take some time to figure out exactly what shoes work the best for you. If you’re running on a pretty flat and mostly soft dirt course, then you can probably get away with running in your regular running shoes. However, if you’re running on steep, rocky, and mountainous terrain I recommend looking for a really good trail shoe. My picks and what I’ve used in the past are Salomon and Altra Zero Drop Lone Peaks (I have the 1.5).
Fuel properly. This is something else that will be different for individual athletes. Some things will work for you and others won’t. You need to try different nutrition plans and see what your body responds to the best. Having no plan is a bad idea on long runs (trail or not). Typically during Ultra races on trails there are aid stations with all kinds of food, electrolytes, gels, water, etc. I always take full advantage of those aid stations. I usually take a look at what’s available and whatever looks appealing to me I eat it. Usually that’s PB&J, Pickles, Pretzels, or Brownies. Outside of the aid stations I carry a water bottle and usually eat gels. I’ve been trying to get away from the gels and just eat food and workout (protein) shakes, but haven’t completely gotten away from the gels yet. Another product I use a lot are S!Caps or Salt Stick caps. These have come in super handy to avoid cramps and other problems. Whatever you decide to do, make a plan and stick to it. As an example, here’s a plan I usually in 50 mile races (assuming aid stations are every 5-6 miles):
- Refill water bottle every aid station alternating with water and half electrolyte mix half water
- Drink every 20 minutes
- Eat every 5 miles (could be a gel, roctane/gu)
- If something looks good at an aid station, eat it
- Take an S!Cap every 30-ish minutes (Depends on heat and how I’m feeling could be more or less)
- Carry some extra food (Honey Stingers, Chomps, etc.) just in case you find yourself needing to eat with no aid station around
- Have a workout/protein shake half way
There you go. Again, what works for me may not work for you so you need to come up with your own plan and stick to it. If you have any tips or wanna share your own plan with me, share it with us on Facebook or Twitter. I hope this helps you when you get out there on the trails. If so, please let me know and share with your friends!