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Friday Five – The Trail vs. The Road

Today I am joining in on the Friday Five with Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What and Mar at Mar on the Run.

5 Ways a Trail Race is SOOOO very different than a road race.

No matter the distance, running on the trails is so much different than running on Satan’s Tar as my friend refers to the road.   The only real similarity is that your feet are moving, but running trails has a whole different feel than running on the road besides the obvious surface area.  Some of these things may just apply to me too:)

The Vibe

Yes, road races can and often do have a “party” atmosphere but underneath it there is a different feel.   At the start line, most people are checking their Garmin, thinking race strategy, and just the underline tension of trying to meet a sub 2 half or goal.  For me,  I’ve experienced none of that at my trail races.   Now this may be on me as usually when I do a trail race, I take the wait and see approach.   My goal for the 50K was to finish and not to die while finishing.   Lofty goals, I know.    But I also know that trails are different and even the same trail on a different day will need to be run different.     Now if somehow I were to go back to the Dirty German again next year (ahem, just saying), I would still have the same goals but maybe with the added goal to be more consistent on the second loop.

The Aid Stations

Oh my God, the aid stations.   There is no comparison here.   None.   The aid station on a road race is all about efficiency.   Getting runners in and getting them out in a seemless move.   In a trail race, it is a smorgasbord of goodies.    Peanut M&M’s, Twizzlers, PBJ sandwiches, SODA, and so many other things.   I will say my favorites are soda and M&M’s.   Yummy!     I think I finished my 50K on sugar alone:):)

aiddirtygerman

(Photo from Dirty German Website)

The Bathrooms

Ok, they are basically the same.   A line of Port-a-Potties.   The difference is on the course.   Now maybe I shouldn’t go here, but I will……    Yes, on any given race you will see a man run behind a tree or next to a bridge or what ever.    I always hate it because I think it is unfair to us woman who don’t have the luxury.    Well on more than one occasion on the first loop, I saw two different women running in front of me who veered to the side to squat behind a tree.   Don’t judge.

Walking

I’m not sure why but I often feel like walking is looked down upon in road races.   Not by me as I have yet to complete a marathon where I haven’t walked and I’ve had some half marathons where I’ve also needed to walk.  It happens.    It’s just not the “norm.”   That being said, walking is expected during parts of a trail race.   My coach even pointed out that there are some places on the trail that walking is really more efficient and ” everyone walks, except for the elite few.”   Going into every trail race/run I’ve done, I knew that there would be parts that I would walk.   It is the nature of the beast.   The only problem is to make sure to start running again!

DG3

The Spectators

If you are someone who feeds off the crowds at a road race to push through, running a trail race may not be for you.   I say this because outside of the start/finish line and the aid stations, there are no crowds.    You for the most part on on your own.   As you can see there are not lines of people there to cheer you on, but those there do!  Yes, you will start with a crowd of people but the further you run the more spread out the runners become.   I started with the crowd and by the time I was nearing the end of my first lap there were only a few people near me.    The second lap I was for the most part on my own.   Be prepared for some alone time which I tend to like.   If you don’t like that make sure to have a running buddy then.

I will say that I am a mixture of both.   I do love the trails, but I also like the road.  No matter if your a road runner, trail runner, or a bit of both there is enough roads and trails to make us all happy.

Which are you?

Slowing Down Isn’t Always A Bad Thing

Someone once said  to me that if I was a running dog that I would be a working dog like a husky.   At the time, I took offense to it but now I think I would like to own it proudly.    As a matter of fact, I know that I would.   I would be happy to have the running power and stamina of a husky.

siberian-husky-running-through-garden

Besides look how magnificent they look while running.   But that’s another issue.

What has become apparent to me is that for some strange reason, just like the husky, I’ve developed a desire to run and run far.    I actually think that depending where I’m running that I would rather do a long slow run than a quick short one.

Yes, that boggles my mind too!

Now maybe this talk is just because I’m having such a good recovery after my trail marathon.    I don’t know.   I do know though that it is NOT that the trail was easier than a road marathon.   It is just that they really are two very different beasts.    Both road marathons that I have ran I reached a point where I questioned my sanity, I couldn’t believe how stupid I was to sign up for it, and I did hit the proverbial wall.   None of these things happened out on the trail.    NONE.    I’m not sure why.

Yes, both races are technically the same distance.   Although, I do believe that a trail marathon is actually longer but that  will happen.    I think there were a few major differences for me and maybe part of it was because I didn’t approach it like a race.   I went into this with no time limits, no set paces,  nothing.   I went into my trail marathon like I was going for a normal run.  I didn’t watch my pace at all.   There in lies the difference.   It’s not that I wasn’t pushing myself but especially (for me) on muddy trails there is only so fast I can go.    When I ran my MCM I kept a fairly steady pace the entire race of about 10:30 while my average pace on the trails was about 13:30 with some miles hitting 16.

Now don’t think that just because I was running slower that  I wasn’t working.  Trails are a different beast than Satan’s Tar as Dawn now refers to roads.   One of the reasons my pace is so much slower on the trails besides needing to run them more often is that  I approach them with caution.   They are muddy.   They are filled with slipper rocks.   There are places that you really need to pay attention to which doesn’t always happen on the roads.   When running the roads especially in a closed course race, you really can just zone out.   You can never zone out on the trails unless you want to eat the dirt or worse.

Now, the side effect of running slower does mean that you have more time on your feet.   I ran MCM officially in 4:38:18.   I ran this event officially 6:30:08.    So the slower pace does add up.   That being said as far as the actual running goes, I think that I enjoyed the trail running more.   My mother asked me what motivated me to run for such a long time.   I had no answer on the motivation other than I just liked to run.   I’m not winning any races.   This event there wasn’t any bling or even a t-shirt.   It was just that satisfaction of knowing what I could accomplish and that was enough.

I have decided after this weekend’s event, that I really need to do more trail running.   More trail races.    Before this event, I was wondering what I was thinking signing up for the Dirty German.    Now I’m looking to see how I can squeeze more off road races into my schedule.

oh my.

Have your tried the trails yet?