Stuck between a Rock and Hard Place – (aka Trail Running and Road Running)

After being injured for 3 years (2008-2010), my running took a different direction and I plunged deep into trail running – insofar, that I was training for my first ultra and nervous, to boot! In 2001, I became a runner – a road runner. I started off with racing 5k and 10k until I was introduced to the world of long distance running. My eyes were opened up to running half marathons and marathons. I’m a bit of a data geek at heart so all that data was overwhelming yet fulfilling – heart rate, pace, distance – and then converting it from shorter distances to longer distances – and seeing how efficient (or inefficient) I was. You know the old adage “Go Big or Go Home”? Well, that’s what happened – I got sent home. In 2008, I started my “injured” years, with the last injury (knee) giving me a strong wake up call and taking 2010 off of racing. But sometimes, when life closes a door, it opens a window. And that window was Trail Running.

In July 2010, my friends Ron and Hozumi (ultramarathoners) invited me out for a run to Manning Park up Mount Frosty. The route was 50k but it was apparently a Figure 8 so I opted in for the first 25k. Fast forward, there’s snow at the top of Mount Frosty so we had to double back – it ended up being 5.5 hours and just under 30k. I was walking funny for about 4 days but my knee was surprisingly good. So I tested it out again with Ron the following weekend. This time, I was only walking funny for 3 days. So we went again. And again. And again. And still no pain. I was in heaven.

The next 5 months, I found my fitness back. Although the knee wasn’t perfect, it felt pretty darn good so, with the gentle push from my friends, I signed up for my first trail ultramarathon – Chuckanut. With just under 3 months of training, I managed to reach my goal of 6 hours (finishing in 5:42!). I have to admit that the training was rough, but so different than training for a marathon. With marathon training, it was all about specific workouts and pace – track, tempo, long runs. With ultramarathon training, it was all about time on your feet at no faster than race pace. So a goal time of 6 hours for 50k = 11:35/mile. Pretty darn manageable. The pressure was off and I just enjoyed being out and spending time with my dog, who became the best ever training partner. I do have to give special thanks to Ron and Hozumi for the training tips and to Jeanne for getting me through the last month of runs.

With all the frustration of injury, I fell in love with running again. And it was amazing.

After Chuckanut, I took a break and then started back marathon training – I had my sights set on the Bellingham Bay Marathon in September. The expectation hit me like a brick wall – the data I had to track – pace, distance, heart rate. No longer could I leave all that behind – I actually had to hit a certain pace on my runs. I did adjust my training plan though. When I was training for Chuckanut, I managed to PB at a Half Marathon without really tapering and without any speed training. I applied this to my marathon training program and did no speedwork, except for some race pace runs during the last week or two. It was fun to get some speed running on the road and having consistent pace runs – in trails, there’s such diverse terrain that pace is no longer a factor.

During that time, I found that I missed the trails and my body was suffering from the impact of the road. But, I pushed through and finished the marathon – not at the time I would have liked but I’m glad I got to the start line AND finish line.

Now, I’m setting goals and target races for 2012 and I’m stuck – stuck between the love of running in trails and feeling free and the love of road running and being able to hit those target miles and paces. Can you love both equally? That’s what I’ll find out soon…

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