Tips for Trail Running

tips for trail running I have to admit, as a relatively new runner, the idea of running trails made me a bit nervous.

Throughout my life – during the teen years, especially – I tended to twist/sprain my ankle easily. My mom always said I inherited “weak ankles” from my dad. (Is there even such a thing as “weak ankles”? ) Anyway, the potential for sprain or worse freaks me out on the trail. I always envision myself rolling my ankle on a rock or on uneven terrain.

But, say the experts, I’m worrying a bit more than necessary.  “Your body does an amazing job anticipating and making corrections,” said running coach Lauren Evans, owner of Fizio in Reno, NV.

Tina Vindum, founder of Outdoorfitness.com, agrees. “Your brain is recording,” she said. “Trust yourself.”

Kinesthetic Awareness

As a matter of fact, it’s a neurological process, and there’s a name for it. Proprioception. Simply put, it’s the body’s sense of self. Proprioception is guided by receptors  (skin, muscles, joints) that connect with the brain through the nervous system so that even without sight, you know what your body is doing.

Here’s a simple demonstration. Close your eyes, then try to touch the tip of your finger to the tip of your nose.  No problem, right?  That same kinesthetic awareness helps you in trail running.

Focus Forward, Not Downward

Both Evans and Vindum suggest keeping your focus 10 to 15 feet ahead of you.  “Don’t look down (at your feet) because…your head’s 8 to 10 pounds and that’s going to mess up your center of gravity,” Evans said. Vindum added, “You can’t run a trail with your neck craned down looking at your feet, you’re going to hurt yourself.

“Your brain records upcoming terrain,” Vindum continued. “It’s like driving down the freeway, you’re not staring at your hood ornament. Look up and see what’s coming.”

Running Downhill and Uphill

When running downhill, the natural tendency is to lean back and use your heels as brakes.. Evans and Vindum both warn against this, as your feet can easily slide from underneath you. They both suggest leaning forward when running downhill. “What I say is I want your nose over your knees, and your knees over your toes,” said Vindum. Keeping your hands in your peripheral helps you keep balance and also helps you slow down, said Evans.

When running uphill, you want to take “short steps, and keep your cadence up high,” said Evans. If it’s a very steep hill, though, it may be better to walk. “Step out, put your hands on your knees and give yourself a little boost. It really helps”.

Happily, these tips have given me a bit more confidence in trail running. I’m looking forward to exploring my “backyard” this summer.

What trails do you like to run? What tips can you share for running trails? Please share your comments.

 

Rock Tahoe Half Marathon 2017

Shelley's DiaryThis post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through one of these links I make a small commission.

My friends and I ran the Rock Tahoe Half Marathon last weekend. Beautiful views. Challenging race. Great bling. Fantastic post-race party.

But, would we do it again?

The Rock Tahoe Half Marathon starts at Spooner Summit and goes down Highway 50 and through Round Hill Pines, ending with a private pool party at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Stateline, NV.

Most of the registrants gathered in front of the Hard Rock and loaded into buses, which transported us up to the Start Line. Once there, we had about 45 minutes before gun time to stretch, get coffee, check our bags and use the facilities.

Adrenaline and excitement were high. The local fitness club girls led us through warm ups. Then the National Anthem was played on electric guitar, in keeping with the race theme. And we were off.

I’m not a fast runner, I’m usually happy with 11-or-so minute miles. My fastest half marathon was last March – I averaged an 11:10 pace and finished in 2 hours 28 minutes. I was not looking to better that with Rock Tahoe…I knew it would be a tough course, and I just wanted to enjoy the day. My friend suggested I try to keep up with the 2 hour 15 minute pacing group. I agreed that I could give it a try, though I knew I’d drop back fairly soon.

Rock Tahoe Half Marathon 2017

It was a gorgeous day – a tad on the warm side (okay, it was hot). It was hard to believe that only the week before, it had snowed in the Sierras. This weekend, the highs reached the high 80s. The race time temperature was around 60. It felt so good to be out there in the forest, under a cloudless blue sky, knowing that at any moment we would catch our first glimpse of the equally blue Lake Tahoe. And let’s be real; not many races (at least in my experience) start with downhill! All of the runners were giddy…the joy was contagious!

At around the four-mile mark I was already starting to feel fatigued, I stopped to tie my shoe, and looked up to see the 2:15 pacing group catch up to me and move on. Holy crap…no wonder I felt tired! I needed to back off.

And so the mind games began. Once I realized how fast I had been going and I knew (or believed) I couldn’t maintain that pace for 9 more miles, I dialed it way back. Suddenly I found myself seeking the next aid station as the next goal . (the aid stations were generously placed, by the way!) Once I reached it, I took my sweet time…had some water and electrolytes, used the facility, then moved on. As we continued on, I stopped frequently to take pictures and enjoy the scenery.

Rock Tahoe Half Marathon 2017It was the uphills that really got to me. I tried to ignore that pesky inner voice that told me I should have known better than to start out so fast. I turned my attention to the runners around me. We were all working hard to get to the finish and encouraged each other along the way. The ones who were still running cheered the walkers along. Those of us who alternated between running and walking shared our energy and encouraged one another. We talked about what a tough course it is, but a beautiful one, and how strong we were to be out there finishing it! It was all positive.

Overall, this was my slowest half marathon so far. My Fitbit app shows splits ranging from 9.5-minute miles to 17-minute miles. It was a demanding course. I felt every bit of the altitude and the hills. I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to see a finish line.Rock Tahoe Half Marathon 2017

But the reunion at the finish with my friends was nothing but festive. Hearing their stories and celebrating the fact that we finished strong – and congratulating each other for each individual win – was all worth it. (Make no mistake – we all won!) Soaking our tired legs in the swimming pool at the Hard Rock Hotel felt glorious. And yes, the post-race cheeseburger fresh off the grill was worth the 20-minute wait in line.

But would we do it again?

Immediately after the race many of us didn’t think so. But less than 24 hours later, we were messaging each other on social media about the early bird discount for next year. And not one of us has ruled it out! We may very well return even stronger next year to rock that race!

Rock Tahoe Half Marathon 2017

Did you Rock Tahoe? What has been your most challenging race?

Reno Tahoe Odyssey Recap 2017

Shelley's DiaryThis post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through one of these links I make a small commission.

It has been a busy couple of weeks since I’ve updated. The first weekend in June I ran my fourth Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, and the following weekend was a marathon of concerts with the ensemble I play with, Tintabulations. (check out our website and concert schedule here: we have a handful of concerts left before taking a summer break!)

RTO Recap

The RTO is a 178-mile relay which starts in Reno, loops through the Sierras around Lake Tahoe, into the Carson Valley, up the mountain into Virginia City, and ends a bit past the starting point in Reno. There are almost 300 teams competing (well, really only a handful of teams actually competing; the rest of us are in it for the fun of it!) The majority of teams consist of 12 runners, split up between two vans. There are 36 legs of the relay so each runner theoretically has three legs to run. Distances vary from a few miles up to 8, and range from very easy to very difficult.reno tahoe odyssey recap 2017

It was in training for my first RTO in 2014 that I really began to feel that running was no longer just something I did. Running became a part of my identity. Also, because of the RTO, a half marathon seemed do-able, seeing as how I practically ran one then (over a 24-hour period). Each year has presented its own set of challenges, triumphs, and firsts. This year was no exception!

Team Spirit

A big part of running the RTO is choosing a team name. Scroll through the team roster on the RTO website and you’ll see some very creative names. Ours this year has to be said out loud to be fully appreciated…Hoof Hearted. Let’s just say the name is descriptive of the RTO life in a van with five other people!

reno tahoe odyssey recap

Our teammate Kris designed our shirts. The design depicted a mechanical-looking flatulent unicorn breaking wind in colorful fashion, as one would expect from a unicorn! She also pulled together two sponsors for our team, Bison Construction and Port of Subs, who paid for our shirts.

Tutu Girl, and A First for Me

There had been heavy construction traffic getting to my exchange. By the time we arrived I barely had time to slap on some Body Glide and fill my water flask before our runner came in and I was off.

The first legs of this relay kind of set the tone for the rest of the race. You see what kind of van support you’re going to get and what kind of support each individual might want.

I feel like I’m a “clingy” runner when it comes to this race.  It was a hot day, so I requested team support about every mile and a half of the almost six-mile leg. And they complied, with water guns aimed and ready. Strangers in tutus were generous with their spritzer bottles, as well.  My team also helped support their teammate, nicknamed “tutu girl”, as she and  I leapfrogged each other the entire route! That’s what this race is all about!

Around 4 miles in, just after my teammates gave me support and went ahead to the next exchange, I started feeling the urge to pee. I became much more aware of forest and the large trees alongside the road and down a slight embankment, and I began to realize that I would not be able to make it two miles. By this point I didn’t see any runners coming up behind me, nor much traffic. A quick scan of the area yielded no signs of wildlife except the birds who seemed to be mocking me from above. So for the first time ever in my five years of running, I took advantage of mother nature’s outhouse and copped a squat behind a tree. I was so glad I did. I felt much better and able to run in strong to finish my leg.

Mind Games

I really hate the games my mind plays when I’m out there. I’m usually a confident runner and don’t worry much about my pace. But as part of a team, and the oldest on the team, it’s different. Seriously, some of my teammates are the same age as my children! So when I was out there tackling the hills in the heat, thoughts crept in. “yep, you can tell I’m the oldest runner on the team!” “I’m the slowest so far.” “I wonder how long these younger friends of mine will want to have home on their team?” “I wonder if this will be the last year?” “Maybe I should have taken the ‘princess’ legs” (this is how one of my teammates jokingly refers to the easiest legs).

Then I would see my van and speed back to a run while they cheered me on, cooled me off and called me a “beast”!  After my leg was complete, my teammates assured me my pace was strong and steady. Yes, I walked the uphills (no shame in walking!) but made up the time on the downhills and straight-aways.

In my rush at the beginning of the leg, I didn’t start my Fitbit until about a half mile in.

reno tahoe odyssey recap

After we had completed our first six legs and handed off to Van 2, we found a nearby park and gobbled down the Port of Subs sandwiches & chips provided to us. Turkey sandwiches and Cheetos never tasted so good!

Then we changed into fresh clothes, spread out some picnic blankets and relaxed until the time to venture the 30+ minute drive to meet up with Van 2 and run the next set of legs.

Round Two

This is perhaps the most beautiful part of the RTO course, with views of the majestic Lake Tahoe at  sunset, particularly around Emerald Bay. Lake Tahoe never ceases to take my breath away with its pure beauty. Although the legs running closest to the Lake are longer and in some cases, hillier, the scenery is worth it.reno tahoe odyssey recap 2017

My leg in this section was just over three miles. By the time I started running, it was dark. I began in a community called Tahoe Keys, running through upscale neighborhoods without much audible van support, as this was designated a “quiet zone” by race officials. The course then went down the main drag in South Lake Tahoe. Maybe it was because we had to be quiet, and maybe it was because the portion along the main drag was on a pseudo sidewalk and not well lit. It just wasn’t my favorite part of the course. Again, my teammates were supportive and we even hammed it up for some fun pics.reno tahoe odyssey recap

I felt bad for our final runner in this section. Sarah had requested little support, and that’s what she got! Our attentions turned toward discussion of which pizza joints were nearby, and whether we should eat in the van on the way to our sleeping destination! Sarah later quipped that she could have been taken by a bear and we would not have known. (I like to think we would have noticed sooner rather than later!)

We ordered pizza and planned to take it in the van. But the Pizza Hut was comfortable and quiet, and the bartender was very congenial. He brought us all ice water while we waited and invited us to sit at the bar. We were so comfortable that we ended up eating there.

The drive to our next destination was about 20 minutes. The parents of one of our teammates lives just off the route, minutes from the next van exchange point. They are SO hospitable; there were 4 cots with pillows and blankets, along with a double bed and a sofa . In the kitchen there were bagels and cream cheese, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, assorted granola bars, trail mix, and an ice chest filled with water and Gatorade! We thanked them profusely and sleepily as heads hit pillows. At least, I’m pretty sure we did!

Sleep Deprivation Motivation

We were a team of 12, but it sometimes felt like we were two teams competing to allow the other as little sleep as possible. Only a little over an hour after we had gone to bed, unhappy people were yanked out of deep sleep with the call that it was time to meet the other van.

We were highly motivated to finish our third legs as quickly as possible. The faster we moved, the sooner we could return the favor and wake up Van 2!

This leg for me was just over three miles, all uphill to Silver City (about halfway up to Virginia City). This time the only van support I wanted was “moral”. I didn’t want to stop for water or rest. I just wanted to push through and finish!

Somehow in my sleep deprivation, I started then paused my Fitbit for the first three-quarters of a mile. You can see the gap in the screenshot. But I pushed up that mountain!

Reno Tahoe Odyssey Recap

Speaking of sleep deprivation; it was here that I realized that our loss paled compared to the Race Directors’. They were at the Start Line. They were at the “Donner’s Downfall” exchange mid-afternoon when my husband volunteered there. We saw them at the Lake Tahoe van exchange at dusk and the Carson City exchange at dawn. As I ran up the mountain to Silver City, head-honcho Eric passed me and cheered me on. And they were at the finish line. I can only imagine how late they stayed after the finish line festival. Do race directors earn medals, too?

Run-Eat-Rest

It’s a rite of passage for Van 1 to celebrate completion of its portion of the relay at the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City, with Bloody Mary’s. We decided to forego this tradition at that early hour, and instead headed back down to Reno for a full breakfast.

Notice the recurring theme here. Run. Eat. Rest. We ran as well as we could have, I believe. The food was consistently the “best ever”. The rest could always have been better, or at least longer!

The Big Finish

reno tahoe odyssey recap

Our team was consistent and ran strong. We may not have had much sleep over the course of the race, but the trade-off was that we crossed the finish line before noon on Saturday! It was fun to watch for our final runner, then run into the park together and cross the line as a team. It was rewarding as Team Captain to hand out medals and reward stickers to teammates. We had our official finish line photo, post-race drinks, and enjoyed visiting with one another for a little while before heading home. Many of us had never met prior to this race. Now we have more running buddies, and you really can’t have too many of those!

Each year the RTO is a new and different experience. I think this one was my favorite so far. I’m looking forward to next year’s relay and wondering which legs I’ll be doing then!

Maybe I’ll go easy on myself and do the “princess legs”!

reno tahoe odyssey recap

Global Running Day

Happy Global Running Day!

Global Running Day 2017

The first Wednesday in June is Global Running Day, which is a day for people all over the world to celebrate running. The idea is to share your passion for running and to inspire others to keep moving.

Just Run

So how do you celebrate Global Running Day? How else … by running! Just run. Wherever you want. As far as you want. With whomever you want.

Global Running Day
Make a Pledge

If you want to be more formal about it and find out more information about the global initiative, you can make a pledge to run here. The only information requested is your first name, how far you plan to run and what is inspiring you to run. That’s it. You can even create a personalized bib if you want.

Fundraising Option

And although you are under no obligation, there are also links to fundraise for your favorite charities through Charity Miles and Crowd Rise. I am downloading the Charity Miles app as I write this, and plan to start using my miles to raise money for great charities such as the ASPCA, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and more.

I’ll be celebrating Global Running Day by running about 3 miles with my pups. My inspiration is to stay healthy and keep moving.

What’s your inspiration? Who will you run with today?  Maybe today will be your first day of running? Or your first day back after a break? I’d love to hear about your celebration! Please share your Comments.

Happy Running!

Monday, Monday

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I’m not sure what I was thinking last night when I texted my friend and suggested we run this morning. I don’t normally run on Monday mornings, but I’d had Sunday to recover from the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey (recap forthcoming). For some reason, I was antsy to get out there.

I may have been a bit too hasty.

I almost begged off when my alarm sounded at 4:45 this morning. Instead, I took the snooze option and the nine extra minutes must have given me the boost I needed.

Maddie and Milo were more excited than usual. I don’t know how my husband and son sleep through the racket that goes on while I’m getting ready to run and the pups are almost literally climbing the walls.

At any rate, we were out the door at and heading down the street at 5:30 sharp. We had barely made it to the corner when my upper quads were protesting vociferously.

The complaining never really stopped, but we worked through it together, taking it slow and easy, as confirmed by my Fitbit snapshot.

Fitbit 6.5.17

It felt good to get out and move, and I enjoyed catching up with my friend.

Although early morning running normally sets me up for a productive day, today I just felt sluggish. Was it because it was Monday, or just too soon after the big weekend relay?

How many rest days do you take after a big race or long run? Please share in the Comments.