Scouting trip: Potawatomi Trail run

26 Jan

Click on any photo to launch the gallery.

Narrow trails, steep hills and slippery footing; sounds like fun!

I’ve spent a lot of miles on the road over the past 10 years, training for and competing in 17 marathons or half marathons.  But trail runs and ultramarathons are a whole new challenge. So if I’m going to tackle the Potawatomi Trail 50 in April, I figured I needed to reconnoiter the course.

And, boy, was it enlightening.

Here are a few of the things I learned on a short trail run on Saturday:

  1. 1,600 feet of rise is quite a bit. The race’s website said that runners will experience 1,600 feet of elevation gain during one 10-mile lap. I really had no context for that number. But after a 5-mile test run, I learned that means there are plenty of hills. There are quite a few very steep climbs on the trail, as you can see from some of the photos in the gallery above. Barb suggested I should add some workouts on the stepper into my routine, and I think that’s a pretty good idea.
  2. Trail speed and road speed are different. A review of lap times from previous years had me stumped. For the 50-mile race (they have a 100-mile and a 150-mile race, too), the fastest runner finished the first lap at about the same pace that I run a 10-mile training run. I know that I won’t be among the fastest runners, but I wasn’t quite sure how to judge those times. But after seeing the switchbacks, the steep ascents and descents, the slippery footing in what is probably some of the best trail conditions, I could understand why the times were so much slower.
  3. A single track trail will offer challenges in footing. This wasn’t a surprise, really, but today’s run put it in some perspective. There had been no recent rains or snows, and, with temperatures in the mid-20s, the trail was dry and firm. But that could easily change in early April. Plus the forest floor was covered in leaves, which were slippery as you made your way up or down steep slopes. And rocks and dried mud made for an uneven landing spot for your feet. I had debated whether I should purchase trail shoes, but after today’s run, I’m pretty sure I will.
  4. A number of steep hills means there will be a number of creeks. They were frozen or dry now. That may not be the case in April.
  5. Blisters could develop fast. Neither Barb nor I had any blisters after our 5-mile test run, but we had plenty of hot spots. Blisters probably weren’t far behind. The steep hills had our feet and toes working in ways that they don’t normally work on the roads. And in general, blisters can be a problem over an ultra. Some runners tape their feet before they even set out.

That’s a lot of learning for a simple 5-mile run.

Apparently, it was revealing for the wife and daughter, too. On the ride home, Barb asked if I really wanted my first 50-mile run to be on such a steep, winding trail. A 50-mile road run would be easier, she reasoned.

And daughter Laura, after seeing the photos of the trails, said, basically, I wasn’t very smart to tackle a challenge like this at my advanced age. (Well, some of that may be my interpretation of what she said.)

Admittedly, there is some trepidation on my part. By definition, a challenge isn’t easy. But it can certainly be fun.

♦ ♦ ♦

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Read this post for my race report on the Potawatomi Trail 50 mile run.

6 Responses to “Scouting trip: Potawatomi Trail run”

  1. spottedimages at 11:05 am #

    You will never regret buying trail shoes! I wear Saucony Kinvara TR trail shoes for everything now, including my road miles. The traction they provide on all surfaces are invaluable! I PR’d in a 5K in them too… on the pavement!


  2. msmidt at 12:40 pm #

    I’ll have to look at the Kinvaras. I run in Asics Nimbuses, so I was going to give the Asics Scout a try. I need lots of cushioning, along with the traction. Thanks for the tip!


  3. Jim Brennan at 7:19 pm #

    All so very true. After the initial shock of seeing my time in early trail runs (about ten years ago,) I realized that there was no conversion formula to convert trail run time to road race time. But one thing I did learn was that trail running was the best training terrain I ever found. I attribute qualifying for Boston mostly to trail running. I did about ten long trail runs in preparation for my qualifying run at Steamtown. Happy running!


  4. msmidt at 7:29 pm #

    That’s good to hear, Jim. I’ve had a goal for qualifying for Boston, but I am a long ways off. If the ultra training would help, that would be great. My problem with trail running is that there are no trails even close.


  5. Matt at 1:05 am #

    Nice! I’m doing my first 50-miler in April as well:



  1. GPS drawing: 50 miler pending | in the deed -

    […] you missed it earlier, this post features photos and a scouting report on the Potawatomi Trail in […]


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