Thanksgiving day trail running- Slow is smooth and smooth is fast

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Thanksgiving morning, my brothers (Mike and Justin), a friend (Eder), and I decided to go for a little trail run in order to burn off some calories before the night’s feasting would begin. We went to the Anaheim Hills trails and explored some new trails that we hadn’t been on before.

Some of the trails were pretty difficult and it felt like we spent more time going uphill than anything else. There was a lot of climbing and not a lot of running. Since we were traveling slow, we got a chance to talk.

Justin was telling me about all these books he reads on ultrarunning, running, endurance, survival and other stories about people really digging deep and finding strength in them that they didn’t know they had until they really needed it. He was saying how he tries to learn something new from every story. He told me the story about how this one guy stared for hours into a microscope just to see if anything would change. He compared that to looking at how other people run to see if he was doing something different than they were, for better or worse. He advised that I do the same and try to learn from others who have already done what I am now trying to do.

He explained to me that “Steep hills” are the great equalizer in races. There will certainly be people that are way faster than me on downhills and flat terrain but hills cause everybody to slow down. Hills are also a great way to recharge and rest, if used correctly. He noticed how I was taking huge steps (like lunges) on my climbs. He said that I would tire myself out because I was basically doing a strength workout on every hill. The secret to climbing hills is small, light steps. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

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I took that into consideration and it did seem to help. When I did Tough Mudder the first time, I blew out my quads (not literally but I was exhausted) because I was lunging up the hills, and braking on the downhills so I was working my quads in both directions. These trail runs will really help me train in tackling the hills so that when Tough Mudder comes around, I’ll be ready.

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It was a great day to be out. We ended up doing around 8 miles. Just a few more miles and it would have been a Tough Mudder which is good but when I got to the truck, I was thinking “92 miles to go” because I’m not worried too much about TM, I’m worried about the Born to Run ultra in May.

I also learned a very important lesson of not quitting or cutting it short during training runs. At the end of our day, we were on the final leg of the trail. My brother Mike told me that all we had to do was go a little ways up, turn left and head to the truck. We looked up and Justin and Eder were walking up past the turn. They were headed (I mean climbing) to Robber’s Peak. My choice was clear: Make the climb or just head to the truck. I thought to myself that during a race I will be tempted to quit a million times and if I easily quit during a practice run it will be just that easy to quit during a real race. I made the climb and I was rewarded with an amazing view of Catalina island and downtown Los Angeles.

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Moral of the story: Learn all you can about whatever it is you want to do and don’t quit.