Sunday, May 14, 2017

Falling in Love with Trail Running

View from Ivinghoe Beacon

It's almost official. I think I am in love with trail running. Maybe not all parts of it. I still have a love-hate relationship with hills, but I tend to think I am not alone in that sentiment. I have done two long trail runs in prep for my trail ultra and each one has had its ups and downs (literally). Let's go through the pros and cons I have had in my experiences.


So many options...
  • Not having a car is not always a problem -> Transport is always an issue with a trail run, especially if you do not have a car or are not sure how well you would do after a 25km trail run with the clutch heading back into London. Luckily, there are plenty of options. The Chilterns have stations that are unbelievably close to some epic trails. For example, Tring has the Ivinghoe Beacon and Ashridge Estate. Wendover has the Wendover woods and also you can run by the PM's country estate (Chequers). Oh and the The Ridgeway cuts right through there too! For the Maverick race, the closest station was Bookham and was about 2 miles away? You could also start at Dorking or Box Hill stations for running in Surrey.  However if it's a race you can always check with your local running club to see if anyone is offering a lift. Bring jelly babies as entry fee into the car. Everyone wins!
  • BLUEBELLS -> Of course this is seasonal, but it's hard to be angry when you are running side by side next to a swathe of bluebells. Fact: there are the British Bluebells and Spanish Bluebells in the UK and the Spanish ones are threatening the native British ones! According to the WoodlandTrust, the mixing of the two breeds dilutes the unique characteristics of the British Bluebell. Why am I reminded of Brexit suddenly?
  • Views -> Of course there was a view from the Ivinghoe Beacon (albeit a cloudy one) and I got to see the lion on the chalk face near Whipsnade. In Surrey I got some lovely views of the North Downs Way and saw Pill Boxes built during WWII. 
  • Loops -> If doing a trail run by yourself, you have to do the navigation myself. I used the DwMap feature on my Garmin to get me around the first bit in Tring with not much trouble. As I had to do two loops, the second time was much smoother as I made all the mistakes on the first loop. 
  • Loops -> Can something be a pro and a con? Yes. Loops are familiar but that also something that makes them boring. I could have turned around and run in reverse which still would have kept things saucy. Something about loops I do not like, but it's something I could have easily rectified. The Maverick Race was great as it was just one giant loop, no repetition. Well it was also marshalled and signposted... which means all I have to do it remember to look for the arrows
  • It is VERY tiring -> After both of my trail runs I have needed naps in order to function the rest of the day. Make sure you are not booking anything too tedious after your long trail run--- or makes sure you can fit in a nap. The hills take a lot out of me, much more so than road running.  Maybe over time though I will get accustomed to them. 
  • When You Get Nutrition Wrong.... -> It really goes wrong. I was feeling quite blah with about 4 miles to go at Maverick when there was an aid station. I thought I was doing OK but then I had some of the Skratch Labs water-- oh my goodness. Salt. I was missing salt. It tasted beyond incredible. I went for a second cup. Heaven. I felt like I was flying. That paired with the Raspberry Sports Beans made the last 5k or so feel very speedy. Lesson learned. Salt. Luckily you make this mistake once and (typically) never again... 
  • When Trains Go Wrong... -> I looked up trains from Bookham back to London and found a direct train. Awesome. Just need to make it there. 'Hoofed' it as much as possible after the run to get there on time. Win. Waited. And... waited... No announcements, no change of expected time on the board. What were my other options home? I had none. I had to wait. Train arrived 30 minutes late. Drank beer from the race on the train. yes the Maverick Race gave you a beer when you finished. I was late but still felt like I was winning.  
Basically, if you are thinking about trail running-- go out and do it. With some forethought you will have a very enjoyable time and start to wonder how anyone could do this distance on just roads alone. That being said, I will never give up road running. I think it's important to be comfortable in both, and living in a city, one is just a bit easier to just up and do than the other.  

North Downs Way