Monday, June 11, 2012


Rails to Trails Does Not Equal Trail Running

Working title of post: ASPtJoF (Ass Stomped Plus the Joy of Falling)

Last weekend I ventured onto the Poto Trail as recommended by a few fellow runners.FN1  This was my first ever trail run unless you count running through my neighborhood, cutting through backyards, running through a house, and using a trampoline to bounce over a fence to get home before my sister.   

Seriously, I’ve never tried anything like trail running.  My several jaunts on Rails to Trails paths were useless as preparation.  The dramatic changes in incline, the unending altering of the trail from large rocks to partially unearthed roots to sand, the narrowness of the path, and the poison ivy was a lot to deal with for my first trail run.  So it figures I insisted on doing the entire 17.5M loop my first time out. 

Only, I went about 18.4M.  The trail is well marked—sorta.  I’m sure if I had gone with another runner familiar with the trail I could have avoided my several ‘lost’ moments; minutes standing in the middle of a three way intersection and attempting to recall the many tracking stills I’d developed growing up in the burbs.  The Poto Trail, while beautiful at times, can be confusing when a cross country skiing trail cuts across your trail and there are no signs to really indicate which way is correct.  Still, I muttered my way through.  Even more confusing is when you arrive at a fork in the trail and the large tree you encounter has a large red arrow pointing right.  Why is that confusing?  Because the large red arrow takes you off the actual path.  Here is my hint, if you find yourself on the Poto Trail and you hit said fork in the trail, ignore that particular arrow unless you want to find a parking lot.  

To make things worse, I tripped several times and ‘ate dirt’ twice—hard.  Admittedly, by the last five miles the best I could do was walk a quarter, run a quarter.  I was exhausted.  The canopy protected me from baking in the high 80s sun, but the warm temps combined with my 10M run in 85+ degree temps the evening before made this even more daunting than I ever imagined.  At times there was no recourse but to walk parts because running was too dangerous.  Anybody willing to ride that trail—and several bikers passed me—is insane.   

I was half expecting to run into Jareth the Goblin King and half expecting I’d found myself in Escher’s Ascending Staircase.  When I emerged I let out a triumphant but minimally audible “yeah!”FN2

Things I learned: Trail running has nothing to do with road running.  They are about as related as people are to gibbons.  Any attempt to trace some form of common ancestry between the two is blasphemy.  There are dangers in the woods equal to that of red hooded little girls.  Never run a difficult and unfamiliar trail alone; or at least don’t make a practice out of it.  My cell phone works while in the woods but if you call me I may not be my usual pleasant self.FN3  And finally, ordering a pizza and asking it be delivered to you at post number 11 on the Poto Trail is about as useless as calling the local Domino’s pizza in Muskegon and asking them to deliver a pizza to your 100 foot sailboat heading north to Ludington simply because you are on the night watch and bored and surprised you are getting service out on Lake Michigan.     

FN1: Thanks In Steph’s Shoes (I think) and congrats to Steph and her family for adding a new future long distance runner to the clan.

FN2: Purposely left uncapitalized for effect. 

FN3: Sorry my love. 


Vaudiophile said...

Trail runs definitely beat the crap out of me. I think a lot of people don't know what they're getting into on their first real trail run. I didn't when I did The Legend last year, and that was just a half (ugh...listen to me..."just a half?" Keep tearing it up crazy dude, you'll get that 100.

Kandi said...

I'm surprised this was your first attempt at a real trail run. I'm amazed that you tackled such a long one as your first! Sounds like you are on your way.

Neophyte TriGuy said...

Poto is no joke! Good job out there man! The trails are definitely confusingly marked at certain points. Last year I ran a 7.5mi (5 mi planned) run out there.

Greg said...

Bueller . . . Bueller . . .

Agreed. Trail and Road Running are different animals. I have never had my shoe upper split wide open while running on a road. But one thing I like about trails. No Cars! Love not having to worry about cars. Sasquatch and good ole' boys with guns maybe, but NO CARS!

Jessie said...

Is your Ultra on a rough trail or is it a groomed trail? How are your back to backs going.

I am about 5 weeks in and still feeling ok. This weekend my back to backs are 22 and 10. I never went above 20 during my marathon training so I am a bit nervous.

I am starting to experiment with eating closer to my run and my run/walk regiment. Currently we have been doing 6M run, .25 walk. I have read to do 3M run, 2min walk.

Have you been run/walking at all?