Tripping on Trails – Weekly Recap – 7.5.20

Well, this was an interesting week for me.  My mileage was fairly high, and I had quite a few early morning work meetings.  It has been approximately 4 million degrees down here, so I was not interested in running in the afternoon or evening.  All this meant I had to wake up a little earlier and get my runs started a bit before sunrise.  Fortunately, this also meant I did not have to split any of my runs.  However, I have to say that I had more falls this week than any other since I started transitioning to trail running.  Now, as much as tripping on the trails is expected, after this week, I think I have a few recommendations that might help you avoid a few scrapes and skinned knees.

Monday was another hill workout for me before work, and I was really happy that my cousin was able to join me for about half of the workout.  Those hills are steep, and she’s almost as stubborn as I am, so it was really motivating to keep running just a little further than last week.  My first fall happened about 7 minutes after she left, so it was clearly her fault!  I was running downhill, and some loose gravel shifted under my feet, and I just sort of skidded downhill a couple of feet.  On that particular trail, it could have been about 17x worse, because there are some serious jagged rocks.  I was a little scraped and bruised, but pretty happy I didn’t break my face.

Related Post: Summer Runner Gear Essentials

Tuesday was a much needed rest day for me, and my son joined me for a little afternoon hiking on the wilderness trails near our home. Wednesday I ran 8.5 miles on the wilderness trails solo. I can usually get about 7 miles in before work, without much difficulty. But with an early morning meeting scheduled, and an addition 1.5 miles, I left about 20 minutes earlier than normal. I have a Nathan light that I attach to my hydration vest, but I still managed to catch the lip of a rock with my toe and rolled off the trail into some bushes. My grace is just more astonishing every day. Thursday, I had a fairly long run (12 miles) that I wanted to get done before work, which meant running on the roads. Thankfully, I had zero falls, but I was pretty fatigued, and the last 5k of my run was rough! Fortunately, I survived and got home in time for work.

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Friday was another early start for me on the trails.  Once again, I left before sunrise, but was a little more cautious with my pacing until the sun came up.  I was about 2 miles from the end of my run, in full sunlight, when my foot decided to graze a root on my way UPHILL.  And you guessed it, I fell.  UPHILL.  This was the least “aggressive” of my falls for the week, but I did land on pointy limestone.  So the most mild of my falls actually caused the most damage.  Trail running is just the best!  In all seriousness, none of my falls were actually bad in any way.  I’ve had worse falls on concrete, but it’s always a little shocking to suddenly find yourself on the ground.

Friday afternoon, the boys and I took a quick drive up to Waco. We have a rental property, and needed to do our annual walk through after our tenant renewed her lease. We left after our workout, and spent the afternoon swimming in the hotel pool. I got to run with an old friend I made when we briefly lived in Waco on Saturday, which is always nice. Waco has some really hilly areas, so even though I was mostly on the roads, there were still quite a few climbs that gave me a run for my money. We stopped by Guess Family BBQ for an amazing lunch on our way out that afternoon. One of my friends from high school has been working there for years, and we make it a point to stop every trip. We’ve never been disappointed; the food is amazing!

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This week felt like a long one for me, with all of the miles, my work schedule, and our short trip.  Thankfully, I  was still able to squeeze everything in, and I am looking forward to a recovery week next week.

Tripping on Trails

I knew to expect a few trips, falls, and crashes when I first started trail running.  And I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never tripped over imaginary curbs; sometimes in a spectacular fashion.   But after catching my foot on just about every rock and root on the trails near my home, I started to get really anxious about what falling on the trails would result in.  There’s some really great rocks that look like they are just dying to break a knee cap or slice a 7 stitch-worthy cut into.  And let’s not talk about what rolling off the side of a steep hill would do.  The things of nightmares.

But tripping on the trails is just a part of the package, so I braced myself and hoped that my first couple of falls might not kill me.  Fortunately they have not, but I have learned a few things.

Tripping Hazards
So while you can’t avoid tripping all together, there are certainly a few times and situations where you are probably more inclined to meet the dirt face first.  The most obvious is running in the dark.  Now, for a lot of runners, it might seem silly and strange that anyone would be on the trails in the dark.  I mean anyone other than murderers.  But, the reality is that if you are training for an ultra-marathon, there’s a good chance you’ll need to learn how to run in the dark.  Most races start before sunrise, and depending on the distance, may end well after sunset.  So running in the dark might be something worth getting a little more familiar with.  Dark trails were somewhat responsible for one of my little adventures this week.

You’re also more likely to take a fall if you are running on more technical trails.  Makes good, common sense.  But the more rocks, roots, or loose gravel you are traversing, the more likely you are to lose footing or catch something that has come up out of the depths of hell just to take you down.  Like a pebble.  Similarly, certain trails may be more questionable depending on the weather.  Here in central Texas, we have some lovely limestone that becomes slicker than a 1990’s used car salesman.  Even if it hasn’t rained, enough humidity can turn a somewhat technical trail into a landmine.  Other surfaces like dirt that can transform into mud, or thick tree roots, or trails that have a propensity to ice over are things to be mindful of.

Finally, the last area that might cause you more trouble isn’t an actual place, but more of a condition.  Being fatigued.  Running around tripping hazards and jumping around rocks requires picking up your feet.  And paying attention.  The more tired you are, the less likely you are to succeed with both.  This played a huge role in my last fall.  I tripped over the smallest little incline in the trail because my body was fatigued and I wasn’t picking up my feet the way I needed to.  I also probably could have caught myself in a more graceful manner if I had been paying better attention.  Instead, I smacked straight into rock. 

Any of these situations can be tricky, but there are a few things that can help you prevent one or two trips along your way.

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Tips to Avoid the Trips
The first piece of advice is to be aware of where you are running, and what the conditions on the trail look like.  Being aware of the fact that you are running more technical trails, or that you are more fatigued than usual, can help you approach your running a little more mindfully.  So before you head out, take stock and mentally assess if there are any situations that might make your run a little more hazardous than usual.

If there are, maybe consider slowing down a bit.  This is an area where I struggle.  Big, dumb, ego.  I admit it.  I’m not a fan of seeing a slower pace on my Garmin.  Even if I’m more exhausted from running a high mileage week.  Or the trails are slick.  And I’m running in the dark.  But don’t make those same mistakes, and you might save your kneecaps from certain death.  Similarly, be extra cautious on more rocky surfaces.  Not just because those rocks just love to grab parts of your shoe, but also because rock hurts a hell of a lot more to fall on than dirt.  Trust me on that one.

When you’re running on more technical terrain, focus on picking your feet up a little higher and taking smaller steps.  This can help you avoid snagging roots and toppling over.  And if you do catch something, smaller steps might help you correct before you find yourself fully supine.  Additionally, if you find yourself running downhill, or hopping from rock to rock, try to make sure you keep your hips behind your feet.  If you mix that up, you are much more likely to go headfirst wherever you are headed.  Which isn’t usually desireable.

Make sure you stay alert, and continue to scan a few feet ahead of yourself as you run in more technical areas.  Once you’ve run a few miles on the trails, your mind will start to pick up on cues on the ground that your feet need to be more aware of.  After a while it might just become less conscious thinking and more instinctive.  At least, I hope this is the case, because right now I’m very much having to make mental notes of every nook on the trail.

Lastly, if you do find yourself falling victim to gravity, there’s a few ways you might save a little bit of skin.  If you can, try to fall onto a soft surface.  If the trail is rocky, but you can sort of toss yourself into the grass off the trail, give it a shot.  It’s not the most glamorous thing in the world, but falling on dirt is a lot nicer than falling on rocks.  And remember the old conventional wisdom of tuck and roll?  Use it.  It’s natural instinct to try to brace a fall with your hands, but that’s also a nice way to break a wrist or arm.  So, make yourself into a nice little ball, and brace for impact. 

Finally, wear your scrapes and tumbles as a badge of honor.  It doesn’t mean you have the grace of drunken elephant, but that you are a badass that can face brushes with death.  I mean honestly, 99.99% of falls are far from hurting much more than pride and skin, but they can feel like near death experiences.  So, don’t be embarrassed or let the fear of falling slow you down.  Who wants to be buried without a few fun scars anyway?  They’re great conversation starters after all.

This Weeks Workouts

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Total Miles: 65.5
Total Workouts: 4
50 Mile Training, Week 7
How the Runs Felt
This was a hell of a running week.  I hit my highest mileage so far, and had back to back longish runs over the weekend.  Ultramarathon training is in full swing, and so is the summer heat!  I want to talk a little more about the back to long runs after I’ve had a few more weeks of programming them, but this week really wore me out.  I knew that was going to be the case when I started training for a 50 mile race, so I’m still enjoying the whole process right now.  August might be a different story though; one thing I’ve learned is that long term training has a lot of ups and downs. 

This weeks hill workout went well, minus the little slide episode.  My paces seems to be improving, and I’m taking that as a sign that I’m getting stronger on the more technical aspects of trail running.  Thursday’s run was honestly pretty challenging.  It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been on the roads for that long, and I didn’t have quite enough time to really fuel before the run.  I survived, but the last 5k was a little challenging.

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My long run felt really strong this week. I loved being able to mix all of the surfaces and have some flexibility in my run. It takes so much less time to finish out a long run on the roads than the trails, so it’s a nice treat every couple of weeks to not spend all morning running. One thing that I did not love was all of the sun exposure. Trails can be really humid, and they feel like they take FOREVER sometimes, but for the most part there’s a good amount of shade. Running on the roads over the Texas summer is brutal when it comes to the Sun. Just hours of direct, draining sunlight. I was pretty drained afterwards.

Despite the high mileage, my body felt pretty good for most of the week.  I was fatigued, for sure, and pretty banged up by the end of the week, but still feeling really optimistic about my training and fitness.

What I’ve Been Listening To
I recently published a post with my favorite 20 podcasts for long runs, so if you’re looking for some great recommendations be sure to take a peak.  This week I’ve continued my binge of Uncovered and American Scandal.  I also stumbled on a true crime podcast that had me really hooked for a couple of days; Bear Brook.  It connects a series of murders in a very twisty-turny way that really surprised me.  I loved how in-depth the podcast was, and it really had me hooked from beginning to end.  I also caught an episode of I’ll Have Another, where Lindsey interviewed Ashley Keller of GlowBodyPT, and it was one of the most interesting and educational interviews I’ve heard in a really long time.  I’d recommend it for any women who is running; there are little gems throughout the entire episode.

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How the WODs felt
I would be full of it if I said that my workouts this week were not a struggle. The workouts themselves weren’t too difficult, but after all those miles, it was definitely hard to stay motivated. Monday was all the snatch’s in the world. I adapted the workout from the CompTrain programming, and shortened it a bit since I needed to get it done during my lunch break. I really liked having two shorter AMRAP’s on Wednesday; it helped me feel less overwhelmed and felt more manageable than a long workout. I absolutely needed the shorter pushes by Wednesday. Friday’s workout was also fairly short and sweet; again it was very much needed.

What Went Well
I survived a pretty high mileage week!  I made sure to prioritize stretching throughout the week, which I really feel like helped me keep things on the rails with all the miles.  My nutrition and core work has been consistent, which has also been helpful.

What Went Shitty
I don’t think anyone particularly loves falling all over the trails and walking around with scraped elbows and knees, but it’s not the worst thing in the world.  I also felt somewhat sun burnt and crispy by the end of the week, which certainly isn’t my favorite.

Plans to Improve Next Week  
Next week, I’m looking forward to a little more recovery, and a little less sun.

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