Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Trail..... fall for it, not on it!!

I have seen a lot of question on various forums about trail running and the “fall” factor as I like to call it. The question is always, how do you avoid falling while trail running? My answer to the question is…. You don’t….. Well of course you are saying to yourself now but that is preposterous and yes it is in a little way, I mean you are not preparing yourself to fall over the place while on the trail but what you do need to know what to do in case you do trip and even better how to train to better negotiate the trails so you have less chance of falling on the trail and more chance of falling for the trail!!
So question number 1: What to do when falling, so now you are thinking how the hek do I have enough time so decide what to do, well it is a quick decision, when I started running trail I always used to think it better to roll into a fall and in some cases even roll out of the fall, but with experience and time I have found the putting your hands out and just face planting has the best results, I find that I come out with less intrinsic injuries i.e. muscle pulls, twisted ankles or strains. I may come out with more extrinsic injuries, grazed hands, bleeding head etc….. but I come out of it with maybe a band aid and can get back to training asap, no breaks because of muscles been pulled or twisted ankles. Now as much as it is awesome to come out of the trail looking like you burrowed your way though it is better to stay on your feet ;-) so this brings us to question number 2: How do I make myself more steady on the trail? Well from my point of view, there are three basic things you need to do….1) Run on the trails, there is no better way to learn how to handle the trails better than to experience them and become more confident on them, running on the trails teaches your body to adapt to sudden changes and respond correctly, fast lefts and rights, quick ups and downs, uneven ground, your body needs to learn to run differently to the way you run on the road and as you tackle all these obstacles your body takes notes and you get more confident and able to handle them…. 2) Get fitter, the fitter and stronger you get the easier it is to stay up right, my first year of trail running was plagued with falls, I was relatively unfit for the trails and was running  as I would on the road, when I got tired the first thing that happened is I started dragging my feet, now scraping your feet on the tar is one thing, scraping them on the trail….. you are gonna see your ass, and I did on more than one occasion, don’t think that 10km on the road is 10km on the trail, yes in reality it is but on some trails you could equate to running double the distance on the road…… since I have got fit I run much better and fall much less, so the first two things, train on the trails and get fitter and stronger which of course involves, LSD, intervals (hills and track,) gym, basically all the normal stuff…… now for number 3) I invest in agility training, at my gym they have a boxing rail with a few bags suspended, I do drills where I move the bags and the zigzag between them, avoiding them, this exercise brings all sorts of new muscles into play. I also do ballistic jumps, they are amazing at activating those muscles that are used all the time on the trail, do ankle and foot strengthening workouts to, strong ankles are invaluable on the trail. 

On the trail, all of the above is useless if you don’t enjoy being there, you have to build the confidence, poise, assurance, coolness (Whatever you want to call it) on the trail and you will enjoy and exist in harmony for most of the time without it taking you out.

We have started a new group on Face Book called Trails Unlimited where we will tackle “need to know” stuff like this. Click on the link below and like the page and add your 2% to the site.
Trails Unlimited

Happy Trails!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Trail Series Pel…. INDABA

So….. What an end to the Gauteng Winter Trail Series 2011, lets summarise the conditions…….. Brrrrrrrr!! really it was quite chilli, I got there early just before 8am to find already some of my trail buddies beat me to the draw ;-) They were already there clutching their coffee, and if you don’t understand, to the runner and especially the trail runner out in the freezing cold middle of the bush, coffee is a life saver second to none, after catching up a little I made my way to the trail series counter and got me one of those cool trail series Climacool Ts. Met some other buds and hopped around for a good while before finally deciding that it was time for warm-up, we went and dressed down to our skimpies, or at least me ;-0 and got going. We did a 2.5km warm-up and then lined up at the start for the last of this series. Above the bustle of our chatter at the line we couldn’t hear much of what Owen was saying except for……10……5..4..3..2..1..Go, and we were off, now anyone that has done this race before will know about the really fast start and 2kms of downhill trail that follow, nothing technical, just jeep track but really nice to warm-up a little more and getting in to a rhythm, that is of course if you don’t get all caught up in the race at the front of the pack blasting it down to the bottom, as for me, I have learnt from past mistakes and cruised down just getting into a relaxed pace, though was caught off guard by my pace for the first Km which I thought was really relaxed, it turned out to be 3min35sec, the second one did not follow far behind at 3min48sec. Anyways, I stopped worrying about whether I was going too fast and put it down to training. I worked up the first hill and moved from the group that was on my heels, from that time on I was A for Away……. Well that is what I know now, but at the time, I just increased the pace when I could to keep the guys behind me off my heels. My training buddy Roger was one of them on my heels and he has just gotten stronger over the series and I was working to keep him behind me ;-) we have a healthy competition LOLOLOLOL.
So with the thought of the guys trailing me I ran hard and even tackled the technical parts with focus without missing a step and am glad to say I did not stumble or fall once, even over the slippery slate going down to the river, lots of hop skip and jumping without breaking my neck. The hardest parts of this race is the beach sand down by the Crocodile River and the steep rocky climbs at the end both I just gritted my teeth for, the last km as you come up from the rock climb is down and I just picked up the pace finished fast, my last km average was 3min22sec per Km, this race was my fastest of the series and turned out to be almost 4min faster than the exact same race in 2010. So what an awesome race and an awesome day, meeting up with all my trail friends and making plans for our trail running in the future, well done everyone. My results for this race are as follows: 14th Overall and 8th in the senior category - I also placed 6th in the Trail Series long course Championship.
I enjoyed this series as usual, for me it’s been out there and pushing my body to the outer limits that counts from the bitter races to the sweet victories, this is indeed the nature of the beast called trail running. This winter season was my goal, to drop times and even placing but that is never a constant but my times were better all around. So for the future of my training I will be doing longer races but Trail Series will always be a fixture and I will enjoy racing them.
This was an awesome series as usual thank you Owen, Tamaryn and all the rest of you that made sure we had an excellent series. I am looking forward to the Summer Series.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Re-Trail Therapy

If you feeling down in the dumps and stressed what better thing to do but get on the trail and run......
Yesterday morning (Sunday)I woke up and hour before I was supposed to and lay there listening to howling wind outside thinking to myself, freak I am going to need anti-freeze to get my engine started for this race, I was racing the 3rd of the 4 Trail Series yesterday morning. I got up and decided that under my racing vest I should wear a long sleeve top and that is all because I hate running in too much clothing, the least possible amount is good, I get very hot when I run. I had my coffee and some toast with honey and ventured outside in to the freezing cold only worsened by the howling wind, and you all know about the wind chill factor.
All the way to Segwati near Hartebeespoort I was wondering how unpleasant running in this wind was going to be, though I decided to put it out of my mind like I had told a buddy of mine that I would put the long hilly drags out of my mind (I hate hills), I heard somewhere that we should love hills so I was trying my best….. my bud just said just said “what hills, this is a completely flat course” :-0 Yeah right, this was and undulating course with a 3km climb from 1 to 4 km and a 2.5km climb to the finish, so no fun and games. I was pleasantly surprised to find when I got there that there was no wind, cool I thought to myself what a great start. By the time it was time to warm up I was back to normal, I had removed the long sleeve top and was heading out with some friends to warmup, by the time the race started I had warmed up sufficiently and enjoying getting on the way. Segwati is a dangerous race in the way the 1st km is down and if you are not equipped to keep the pace over the first km you will suck, my first km was 3min44sec per km and I thought maybe that was too fast but I was glad to say that it wasn’t, I worked to first hill right up to the top, even though I did have a 3km warm up before the race I still only felt warm about 4km into the race. The rest is history though, I ran this race much my fluidly than the last and enjoyed the times when I could move faster and even tackled the technical pieces awesomely.  I also managed to conquer the mind over matter issue so many of us have, I was been trailed by two guys and I managed to keep them in the position of trailing me throughout the race, they never managed to pass me, in fact I pushed a little hard up the last hill which opened the gap to almost a minute, this race for me yesterday was an achievement, my time from the same race last year was 8min faster. I redeemed myself after the last race at hennops when I took the tumble and ran a great race. All in all I had an awesome race and got a great result…. so I am thoroughly chuffed, lets just say this trail made my day - my re-trail therapy. Well….. Another Trail Series done and dusted, and I am ready for the next and last one at Pelindaba on Sunday. Thanks for all the great support from my friends and thanks again to Trail Series for yet another well-organized race!! See you guys on Sunday!!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Terminal Velocity......

As a trail runner I am always searching for more suitable ways to train for the trail, living in the suburbs is a problem in the way that I can only get out to the proper trails on the weekend so finding better trail workouts and places to run is a challenge, one I am most of the time successful with.
Two really awesome workouts I now have are the Westcliff Stairs which I will post about soon and the workout I post about today. Yesterday a training bud and I decided to try something different from the regular interval stair, hill or track session, we ducked down to the local MTB Park for an interval session with a difference.
The Toyota MTN mountain bike park in Bryanston is the mountain biker’s paradise when it comes to learning and training for technical courses, there are lots of jumps, narrow crossings and steep ups and downs amongst a host of other challenges that would make you a much better mountain biker. Now you are probably wondering, how would this help with running and especially trail and I say this is……. The loops at the bike park vary in distance and layout, from flat zigzag loops to the most technical steep routes. In our workout we added as much left and rights as possible along with a huge amount of steep ups followed by steep downs, these are the kind of ups (+-10m) that you have to sprint at or else you will be clambering up to the top and then to “top” it when you get to the summit you have a huge decline on the other which if you are not focused you will fall down instead of scramble down and I promise at the speed you come down those decents you should rather have your wits about you. Like I said earlier, as part of the workout was lots of zigzags, so sharp you are forced to slow down and speed up. Well it was a really cool workout and very interesting and as usual and as normal we were taken out of our comfort zones. I recommend this workout to all runners and especially trail runners, with the ballistic nature of the workout it teaches your body to work with focus, speed and power while strengthening muscles and joints that are important for the trail. As an example, our workout consisted of 7 Repeats on different loops of between 500 and 800m, these loops were done at high intensity with the only recovery between entering the next loop. So if you have a chance give this workout a try, you won’t be sorry…… OK maybe in the middle the workout you will be sorry ;-) but after you will feel amazing!! Enjoy, and remember, stay on the beaten track!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Back on "Trail"

Well, the good news is my “glumness” has passed since Sunday and the Hennops trail, also my ankle is healing awesomely. I am not the kind that is able to sit and convince myself to just rest while my ankle goes through its healing process so on Monday evening I was already out testing it ;-) Granted, that didn’t go so well as the ankle was still very swollen and pained when putting the weight of a jogging step on it, walking is ok, but jogging…… I only managed a mere 1.3km. Anyways, clearly another day was needed so anxiously I awaited Tuesday evening…. I rushed home on Tuesday, definitely was itching to find out how the healing process had progressed. Well I changed and hit the road at first and then pleasantly realised that there was little or no discomfort or pain and was able to move onto the rough of the side of the road instead of running in the road. I ran 8km very relaxed on Tuesday at an average pace of 4:50p/km, you could say I was incredibly happy and my weeks training can move on. I am one of those very lucky guys that is blessed with strong ankles. Last night I kicked the gears back in to drive and did a 12 X hill repeats which was of course very hard, if it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t be worthy of been called an interval session ;-). This morning I met a friend for a 12km relaxed recovery run, so I am very happy that I have no discomfort at all.  My friends and I will be putting in a 15+km trail on Sunday morning which I am looking forward to.  The rest of the time and next week I intend on cracking the whip on myself as my next trail race is a mere one and a half weeks away, so Segwati bring on your long slogs, I am ready!!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hennops takes no prisoners!!

Well, this is my rather glum update about Trail Series race two at Hennops (South Africa) on Sunday...... Why you ask. Well the story begins last year @ summer trail series where running the Hennops race I twisted my ankle and ended up half hobbling and walking/jogging from about 4km, guess what? Yesterday at Hennops it happened again, probably close to the same place, this time I actually took a tumble and turned my ankle in the process at around 4km, so there I was again leaving myself to hobble the rest of the way ;-) But let’s start from the beginning.... The race started brilliantly and I felt comfi a lot of the way, even up the first long climb, after crossing over the fence I navigated myself through the technical sections confidently and was moving fast and comfortably, probably at around the 4km mark I stumbled, lost my focus and went down, it was a well-orchestrated fall ;-) I rolled into it and out of it in one movement, I thought it was excellent until I realised 2secs later that I had rolled my ankle.... damn... Ok maybe my language was a little more colourful hehehehe. Anyways what was there left to do, I was still far from the finish and I NEVER turn back so I navigated myself through the last technical flat part before moving up the mountain, the pain wasn't so bad going up as it was coming down the other side, trying to move as easily over the rocks but to no avail, I moved as fast as possible to try no loose too much time, I ending up eating dust another two time in my effort but eventually got myself to the end where I was met with the cheering of my buds who I found out had hit the deck a few times themselves. The lesson you learn from Hennops is it takes no prisoners and deserves the most hardened trail runner's respect. My buds also took some tumbles yesterday so it always makes you feel better to come in a not be the only injured guy in the bunch LOLOLOLOL though I have to say, the reason I fell the first time...... all my own fault. Yesterday I was ranting about never doing Hennops again, but the truth is that is impossible, I can't stay away from it and I have to conquer it and I will. So I forget about yesterday and move forward, my ankle will heal fast and I will be on my feet as soon as tomorrow and the training gets done and moves forward. As of today my ankle is great, ran 8km yesterday relaxed without much issues, will be doing a hill session tonight and then  a 12km with a bud tomorrow. On Sunday will be doing a 15+km trail with friends at Teak place so looking forward. Segwati…… Trail Series No.3 is in two weeks so will be ready for the 14km beast.... see you there.

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