Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Skiing the Running Trails

I’m new to running trails and so far I love being in the woods and outside of the urban running environment. However, the actual running and racing has been a struggle. As someone who is legally blind, I am having a tough time running confidently on the classic New England style trails that are filled with roots, rocks, and the occasional fallen tree. I find myself walking more than I thought I would/should and my overall pace is slower than even the normal road>trail drop-off. 

By far, trail running is my most challenging athletic endeavor since my sight has decreased.  Additionally, running with a sighted guide on the trails compared to the road/sidewalks is completely different because of the single-track.

I realize that there is something else holding me back. It is a combination of fear of falling and injuring myself (very much looking forward to the upcoming ski race season) as well as failing on my next big trail race. Both are renting space in my head but I am determined to make this happen.

Trail running with Jill at Hale Reservation.

It dawned on me this past weekend while running trails with my wife (thanks for being my sighted guide) that there are so many similarities to trail running and alpine skiing. I remember the first time I skied in the trees at Sunday River off White Cap Mtn and Spruce Peak (these were off-trail stashes of steeps & pow pre-glade era). I was trying to keep up with my then roommate Josh Tostado (now one of the top U.S. endurance mountain bike athletes around) and I continually found myself in the backseat, holding back, nervous about cranking out turns in very tight trees. Similar to skiing the bumps, the more I leaned back the safer I felt but in reality the less control I had. I finally decided to attack the steeps and began to carve out some nice turns in between the trees and loved every minute of it (I still couldn’t keep up with Josh though!). Skiing also taught me, and I’m learning more about it as I get into ski racing and running gates, to keep my head up and always think two to three turns ahead.

My trail running to date has been very similar to that first ski run or the feeling I had when I began skiing bumps and I stared down a mogul-filled trail. Whenever I get nervous running trails, I tend to lean back and not stay over my feet which throws off my balance. Then my confidence drops. Although I can no longer see everything on the trail (I also recognize that these hazards are issues for all runners), I can work with my guides more strategically to ensure that I am planning for two to three steps ahead and not what is immediately in front of me. One ski turn/step at a time.

So regardless of the challenge, here is to plunging forward, attacking whatever is in front of us, and confidently kicking some ass. See you in the woods.

P.S. Thanks to all my running peers who have imparted invaluable trail running and guiding wisdom. YOU ROCK!!!

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