Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Would You, Could You, In the Woods?

Ship Harbor Nature Trail, Acadia National Park 

"Try not to fight the trail.  Instead, try to feel the natural rhythm, the flow... and rather than attempting to conquer it, practice becoming one with it."   ~ Zen Running

This is why I love trail running.  I love being outside - love being in the woods.  I love the scenery, the sounds of the birds, squirrels crossing my path and the wind in the trees.  I love the feel.  I love how being forced to look for every footfall makes the run feel like a video game rather than exercise - it makes it FUN.  And I don't feel the pressure of pace.  The Garmin stays home.  Shush Garmin.  Whatever pace I am running is just fine.  Instead of another mile to finish as fast as possible, a trail run is about spending time outside and being part of something bigger than yourself.  Losing yourself.

How I feel on the trail
I'm still at that awkward place in my running training where my mind hasn't 100% caught up with the fact that my body can do it.  Running on the roads or treadmill seems very mechanical.  I have to keep and eye on my numbers - so many numbers.  Distance, time, pace, heart rate.... and what is there to look at really?  The treadmill screen?  Actually at my gym the treadmill screen will show me a video of running through some of the best trails in the world - like New Zealand and Arches National Park.  Best treadmill ever - it's a big part of what I joined that gym (and the pool).

I'm also at the point in my running where a 10K is fine, but any distance longer than 6 miles seems impossible.  Daunting.  Insane.  Which really, is silly, as six months ago I couldn't run a single mile, and three months ago 3 miles was a stretch.  So how do I get over this hump?  As we all know, a good portion of training is mental - not physical.  Once this pesky PF calms down, I'll be good to go again.

I'm remembering how trail running got me past my last mental hurdle - 3 miles.  We were on vacation in Acadia National Park earlier this summer.  We go there as often as we can - the hiking, biking the carriage roads, kayaking - it's just about paradise for the outdoor fan.  My first time was when I was a graduate student in my first Master's - a degree in Wildlife Biology that I got for the sole purpose of spending an additional 4+ years playing outside until I had to get a real job.  I've made it back nearly every year since.

In grad school - I like to get muddy
This summer I turned what was one of our favorite hikes with the kids into a three mile trail run.  For those familiar, it's the Ship Harbor Nature Trail and Wonderland Trail strung together into a three mile loop.  This was one of the first runs in my life I can honestly say I enjoyed.  The trails snake through the forest and out along the coastline.  You smell the cedar trees, you can see eider ducks and cormorants in the waves.  It was early morning so I was alone - I felt like I had the entire national park to myself.  Magical.

Later in the same trip I'd run another 4 miler along Ocean Path - a walking/hiking trail that follows the sea cliffs from Sand Beach to Otter point.  I remember stopping to take a photo of how far (because 1.5 miles was far then) I'd run:

From the beach to here and back

I began to think I might like this running thing after all some day.  Of course the gorgeous venue was a big factor.  After all - how many inspirational quotes do you see on Pinterest that aren't in some beautiful remote trail in Nepal or the Canadian Rockies?  There's a reason, folks.  Being out in nature is one of the most therapeutic and meaningful pursuits a human being can do.

This quote wouldn't hit
you so hard if he were
running down Main St.
Which brings me back to my earlier point.  How do I get past my fear of 6+ miles?  The answer might be the same - do them in the woods.  There is a 5.3 or 10 mile trail run in nearby Callahan State Park in November.  About 6 weeks away.  CSP was a regular stomping ground for the Jedi and I when we were dating.  I know its trails pretty well - it is a nice place.  Certainly the sort of place where, if I were to take on a ten miler, I would like to do so.  So will I?  It remains to be seen.....  I will definitely be eyeing the weather.  Aaaaaaand maybe I'll train up to that distance over the next few weeks.  Just in case.  Now to find another running buddy to do it with me....

This one WOULD make more sense on Main St. though....

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