Trails N Trials: Where Rubber & Rock Collide

This past fall came and went and winter moved right on in with its initial bevy of snow. I typically adjust my mileage down in December and then January becomes a “wait and see” month, depending on how much snow and ice there is on the trails. December ended up being tremendously icy, snowy and downright treacherous on most trails so when it began to warm up a little in January, I took that as a sign to hit it hard to start the year. I was also motivated by some new trail shoes that I had received just before the holidays and couldn’t wait to break them in. It is very satisfying to beat up a new pair of shoes on a trail, kind of like playing dodgeball as an adult

When I say that it warmed up, I do not mean that it was suddenly 60 degrees and sunny, although that came in February. What I mean instead is that there were days in the upper 30’s and low 40’s that created just enough thawing on the trails that most of them turned into frosty mud pits. While I am a firm believer in getting good and dirty while on trail runs, I kind of like the dirt to be about calf high and covering my shoes. I do not, however, prefer to come home with mud up to my neck, sore from slipping and falling because of lost traction.

Counting the last week of December, all of January and the first 2 weeks of February, I fell a collective 6 times with 3 of those falls being direct hits to my tail bone. As the stubborn male that I am, I continued on as if all was well. As you sit there and read this, I imagine you are cringing at the thought of first falling on your tail bone on rocks and roots amidst the trails and then getting up and running another 3-5 miles. You might have even muttered the word “nut-job” and are possibly questioning my sanity. To be fair, there is truth there.

Running trails is more than a hobby, it has become much of the reason I run, as I thoroughly enjoy hitting the dirt and getting off the pavement. However, the trails I run out here in Central Oregon are often littered with rocks, roots, hills and other obstacles and require trail runners to be ready for anything. I have run a few of the well manicured trails at the coast as well as near Portland and while I appreciate the change of scenery from time to time, there is something exciting about bounding over a rock, soaring through the air and landing on one foot on the other side in mid stride. Or adjusting stride to manage multiple rocks, roots and holes along with tight corners on single track trails. But these obstacles can also be dangerous, as previously mentioned and quietly I’ve been wondering if anyone would notice that I removed a few rocks.

Against the will of my brain, ceding instead to the soreness in my lower back, I decided to take a couple of weeks off at the end of February. There is never really a good time to take a break since it always seems like I’m training for something, but I was learning that running through this injury was not making it better. Did I mention I might be a little stubborn?

This past weekend I ran both days with both runs on trails. I managed to stay upright (the trails are all very dry at the moment) and within seconds felt as if I were rediscovering dirt. I can’t quite put my fingers on this intrinsic idea regarding trail running except to suggest that maybe it’s because we were born out of the dirt, destined to return to it. And while I like the metaphor, I also know that trail running is not for everyone. It takes a special kind of nut-job.


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Ultra runner with an ice cream addiction.

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