musings on running, life, and everything in between

Trail Tuesday 

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Because I can tend towards the self-destructive at times, I will ignore good advice and do what I want. There’s a part of me that believes that’s a sick part of being an endurance athlete…or at least the tension of negotiating what you WANT to do and what you SHOULD do. Recently on one of my running group pages, someone talked about having heart palpitations with their ultra running training and saw a doctor who questioned their extreme training. Briefly, there is a link between endurance sports and enlarged hearts. It’s believed, by some, that the strain of constantly pushing yourself to such limits damages your heart. I can’t get too much into the science of it, but you can find plenty of articles on it I’m sure. My brother-in-law’s father, who had run dozens of marathons, including one on every continent, was finally told he had to quit running altogether because it was too much of a strain on his heart. (That’s a nightmare of mine)

I was surprised by the number of people who chimed in with similar stories and different words of advice on how to handle it. Many suggested getting a different opinion, as well as work arounds for how they handled such a suggestion. The comment that stuck out to me, though, was one that questioned whether seeking a diagnosis from multiple doctors until you found one that said what you wanted to hear wasn’t akin to a junkie seeking out multiple doctors to get the drug scrip they wanted. Ouch. And all of this is to defend that I went trail running this weekend. Ha. Not EXACTLY the same as prescription drug abuse, but trust me there are plenty of multi-addicted folks out there running ha.

To be fair, this was a shorter long run (a “short” 12 miles) and it was just above freezing (hear the excuses?) so I thought this was my chance to do it. I’ve also been starting to worry about my lack of ultra/trail training. I’m concerned that my lack of training towards the Ice Age 50k will get me hurt racing…Although Patty and Jen would argue that this behavior might predispose me for getting hurt before. Pish posh! It was fine, although admittedly it was tougher than I thought it would be because of the snow and the above-freezing temperature. My pace felt faster than it was, which seems to be the case for trail running, and the snowed over ruts in the trail were a bit tricky at times (which raises a whole other thing about the responsibility of trail users to not go out on them when it’s soft because it’s destructive for them).

Let me back up a bit. I ran with Kelly, who I can only describe as a machine. This woman is a rock star and runs at like 3 am before she heads into work. She also just finished her first ultra event, the Chill Billy 8 hour event in a total mudfest. I mean, extreme, sucking mud. It took her that time to complete a marathon because it was such utterly slow going. She’s also signed up for her first 50k, the Ice Age, with me and Amy.

I hadn’t run with her in a long while, and hadn’t run alone with her in over a year! We vacillated back and forth about where to go–Bull Frog in Palos, Swallow Cliffs, or Waterfall Glen. Concerned about the trail conditions, we decided to try Swallow Cliffs, which has more multi-track and is more shaded (i.e., more likely to be frozen/snowed and not melted). We decided to go with Swallow Cliffs, my first time there! They are infamous for their crazy stairs, which we did one round of. I forgot to take a picture though.

Anyhow, we were surprised to see that we were the first ones on the trail. It was pristine that morning after the previous night’s snow. Well, pristine excepting the animal tracks. There were a whole mess of prints that we couldn’t identify (if you look at the two pictures on the right below). We decided based on the shape and size that maybe they were coyotes? Any trail trackers out there? I had thought coyotes weren’t ones inclined to travel in packs but I’m not sure.

The trail was mostly just snow-covered, although there were a couple of muddy, icy, or wet sections. This section was the worst, and Kelly and I both got a foot bath. Mud is good for the skin, right? For the shorter water crossings, my wool socks handled it fine, but the big dunking was enough to soak my socks and cause some chafing on my arch. Fortunately, it was only for the last 3 miles or so and not a huge issue. And yes, Kelly is wearing a running skirt! We did see several guys out there later wearing shorts so she wasn’t alone in her apparel choices 🙂

Lately, I’ve been forgetting my Garmin. Gasp, I know! I had to rely on Strava to track it, and it was WAY OFF. So Kelly was kind enough to forward me the data from her Garmin.


All in all, it was just over 12 miles and a fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning. I’m not going to lie, my feet, Achilles, and calves were tight, but I don’t think I made a mistake going out there. If anything, it affirmed my need to continue to do some trail running so that I don’t hurt myself at the Ice Age or not meet the cutoff. I also need to start doing more ankle and footwork. I’m not going to lie, though, it all seems like a lot to fit in–the core work, strength training, drills/footwork, and running. It’s all going to the end of keeping me strong and healthy…and happy! So happy trails to you, my friends on this Tuesday!

Author: runNerdier

Marathoner. Academic. Mom of 2 ankle-biters.

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