Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why I love trail running

I love trail running.

If I could, I would run on trails every day. And I am not talking about trails that are paved, or made out of an old railroad bed. I am talking about rugged, challenging trails that go deep into the forests. There is something different and special about this kind of running.

For instance, here is what happened on my Friday morning run; My buddy, the sharp-shinned hawk, swooped down from the trees in a feeble effort to dive-bomb me (probably protecting a nest). I scared up a white-tailed deer who snorted and ran off into the forest. And, I scared the heck out of a snowshoe hare when rounding a corner on the ski trail. And the woods was absolutely alive with the sound of birds singing. This all occurred in the first 10 minutes of my run.

Of course, nature itself is probably why trail running appeals to me, but this also proves to be a tremendous workout as well. It seems to work muscles that don’t get worked as hard when you run on flat, consistent surfaces, as my stiff legs can attest to. Plus, the varied foot-strikes and softer surfaces also help to prevent repetitive, overuse injuries because virtually every step is different (especially on the rugged trails where you are dodging rocks and stepping over fallen trees!).

I got in three runs over the weekend, and I logged more than three hours on the trails. My altimeter told me that in those three runs, I accumulated more that 1500 feet of elevation, so I got in some really good hill workouts. And, it was just plain fun, I saw some fantastic wildlife (by the way, an unwritten rule of trail running is, if you see something spectacular, it is more than OK to stop and take a look - in fact, that should be mandatory!), and I didn’t see a single person on the trails. I had the forest to myself. How awesome!

As far as running is concerned, one of the great things about visiting my family is that I have access to a network of trails the moment I walk out the door. I thought I would show you some pictures of these trails that I have the privilege of running on while visiting them. These trails also serve us for snowshoeing in the winter, as well as plenty of birdwatching in the summer:



Above is the trail that takes me into the National Forest from Mom and Dad’s house. As you can see, it is a narrow path, and there are lots of downed trees, rocks, and twigs to contend with. You don’t move very quickly through this stretch, but it is my favorite little trail to run on.



This is a shot of the “Cathedral of the Cedars,” a stand of enormous, old-growth cedar trees. This is my Mom’s favorite part of the trail. We frequently see deer in this area, and the trees themselves are quite amazing.



Part of my running is done on a network of cross-country ski trails. As you can see, they are wider, but not without their own challenges. The grasses tend to get overgrown in the spring and summer, some areas are almost permanently wet or muddy (or so it would seem), and trees fall down across these trails, too!



There is a creek that intersects the ski trail, and seen above is a pretty waterfall that I get to cross over.



Here is a shot of the ski trail as it heads downhill towards Lake Superior (Dad is hanging out there in the background!). This is a fun section to run, as you can really move as you run down the hill!

Until next time,

Jean
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