Tag Archives: Trail running

Steady rain changes trail, but training run still possible

15 Feb
Cummins Creek Trail on Jan. 23, 2016, (left) and on Feb. 14. A little rain turns the trail into a shallow creek.

Cummins Creek Trail on Jan. 23, 2016, (left) and on Feb. 14. A little rain turns the trail into a shallow creek.

It’s amazing the difference a little rain will make on an Oregon coastal trail.

I made my second visit to the Cummins Creek Trail in the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area in the past month (the first run can be found here). I had planned a different trail run for Sunday, but there was a fairly steady rain overnight — nothing heavy, just the typical Coastal Oregon rain. And since it was still raining in the morning, I decided to revisit a trail I did know rather than risk a trail I didn’t know.

The narrow, rocky single-track near the highpoint of the Cummins Creek Trail was running with water on Feb. 14, 2016.

The narrow, rocky single-track near the highpoint of the Cummins Creek Trail was running with water on Feb. 14, 2016.

It misted or sprinkled on me throughout the run, but for the first hour or so, the trails didn’t really show any negative effects. Under the towering pines, the forest floor was needle-covered and soft. In flatter areas, the water accumulated in a series of small puddles. But in the steeper sections, the elevation change resulted in water running down the middle of the narrow, rocky, single-track trail.

In fact, one area (shown in the photo above) had turned from a rocky trail in January to a shallow, rocky stream in February. Faced with a 20-yard stretch of rushing water, I wasn’t sure how I’d get down the trail and stay dry. But I found a nearby branch — like a walking stick — and I thought I could pick my way across the high spots. And that worked for about two steps, until the branch shattered, plunging me into the running water. Oh, well. If you’re worried about getting wet, you’re in the wrong place.

I’m learning more about the navigational abilities of my Suunto Ambit2. If you can find GPX versions of your trails, you can download those onto the watch, and let it guide you. TrimbleOutdoors has been a good source of GPX files; I had to sign up for a trial membership to download a few, and I haven’t yet decided that I want to pay the $30 annual membership. AllTrails.com might be another good source, but it, too, has a membership fee.

Cape Perpetua vertical

Cape Perpetua elevation profile, Cummins Creek loop

 

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When is an ultra run like a prize fight?

13 Oct
A face plant on the second lap of the course gave Barb a black eye and a swollen lip, plus several other bruises.

A face plant on the second lap of the course gave Barb a black eye and a swollen lip, plus several other bruises. This photo was taken the day after the race.

If the weather is nearly perfect, and the trails are dry, the light is good and there are no obstacles per se, how does a trail runner come out of a race looking like she’s gone through a 10-round prize fight?

It’s those pesky tree roots on a narrow single-track trail. At least that’s the story my wife, Barb, is offering.

Barb was looking for an extra challenge as her 50th birthday approaches in early 2014. After I did a 50-mile trail run earlier this year, I suggested she try an ultra — and she bit.

She thought 50 kilometers (31 miles) was crazy enough, so she decided to run the Farmdale Trail Run, which includes a 30-miler. To make it a 50K, she added a 1-mile jog before the race even began.

Due to the federal government shutdown, the race was moved in the last week to Jubilee College State Park, which is located just north of Peoria, Ill. The original site was supposed to be just south of town, but Farmdale is operated by the Corps of Engineers.

There were a few showers in Peoria before the race started, but when we arrived at the park, the trails were dry, and the conditions were really perfect for a run.

The course was mostly under tree cover, single-track and — although there were some steep sections — along rolling hills.

Barb wanted to complete the run in under 8 hours, and she kept up a very steady pace and met that goal, finishing in about 7 hours, 43 minutes.

The biggest challenge was staying on her feet, but she wasn’t alone. Despite the nearly perfect conditions, there were a number of tree roots on the single track, and if you weren’t careful, it was easy to snag a foot. I noticed an inordinate number of runners who came across the finish line with their shirts covered in dirt or their arms and legs covered with trail rash.

But I think Barb got the prize for the day. She fell at least once on every lap, and she did an epic face plant on her second lap and rolled into a log. That resulted in several bruises, plus a swollen, black eye and a fat lip. Trying to take a drink from her water bottle on the next lap, she just laughed. Every time she tried to squirt in water, it dribbled out the side of her mouth due to the fat lip.

One more example of women being tougher than men.

The day after the race, Barb is sore and tired, and her shiner has made for a hell of a conversation piece. She said she looks like she’s been fighting for Team Miesha, referencing the UFC television show.

But after a few extra ibuprofen, she’s doing some chores and made a great seafood chowder for lunch.

I think she’ll forget all about her sore muscles by the time the Belize marathon rolls around in early December. At least I hope so.

♦ ♦ ♦

If you’re interested in doing a trail run or an ultra, there’s an active group in central Illinois. Check out these links:

♦ ♦ ♦

And if you haven’t read my post about the 50-miler I did earlier this year in nearby Pekin, Ill., here’s a link to that article. It’s a great race, and it also includes 100- and 150-mile options.

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.

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