Wednesday, September 22, 2010

From Backpacking to Trail Running: Attitude (Part 1 of 5)

I've been most successful out on the west coast trail running, not climbing. So for the benefit of others I will describe how I have learned to conquer trails faster.

1. Think about the goal.
2. Talk about the goal.
3. Accomplish the goal.

Before reaching the point where a 20 mile trail run is no big deal there is the mental quest. The process of telling yourself that you are capable of doing it. I think this little process happens in all aspects of life. It has applied to me accomplishing many goals.

Trail running is different than backpacking or hiking. Somewhere in the the middle of the run the only people to be encountered will be people with backpacks and tents. They will stare at you as if you are crazy. They will tell you how awesome it is what you are doing. They will think that you are not really enjoying the outdoors. They will envy you. They get worried that they might have to help you when you can't help yourself.

Trail running is very much going out on a limb. Carrying only a bare minimum of supplies for survival. It is very elegant. It is very simple. Yet it is also somewhat risky. Generally supplies are not carried for injuries. While a backpacker could easily camp at the location an injury occurs, a trail runner without overnight supplies is forced to keep going to lie down and wait for others to help. It could involve shivering for hours, hypothermia and fending off animals.

In fact, hypothermia is a huge concern. Many of the most scenic places to run through are the exact places where hypothermia strikes. Challenging mountain weather with a three ounce rain shell can be cold. The key is often to just keep moving. Wearing just running shorts and a thin shirt is asking to get hypothermia in 40 degree rain.

Do not be afraid to sweat. Old school backpacking and mountaineering involved working just easy enough that you did not sweat very much. Well forget that when you run. Running involves sweating, panting, fatigue, and even bleeding now and then. There is a lot of suffering, but it doesn't last long. I have had some consecutive days backpacking that were wet and cold. The sky was cloudy and dark. While the sound of rain on a tent is amazing, a damp sleeping bag and wet shoes are not. Runner's get to spend the night inside in a bed most of the time. Pretty comfy if you ask me.

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