Monday, September 24, 2012

My First Trail Race - Toro Trail Run

Sunday I ran the Toro Trail Run (a.k.a. Quad-Killer-Rockslide-of-Death). It was my first trail race, and I think it was a good initiation considering that it was a 10K and the first three miles were uphill. Actually, I use the word "ran" loosely--I estimate I ran only about 2-3 miles during the race. But, I got to run just a few feet away from some cows. That was different.

Since I write a lot about running on this blog, I figure there might be questions regarding my shoes and my sanity and so forth, so I'll see if I can preemptively answer them.

What shoes did you wear?
I opted for the Vibram Five Fingers. My love for these has been rekindled a bit lately. I'm not having the same chafing problem I had before, and I feel like the flexible sole gives my foot better range of motion and connection to the ground. My Branca sandals are still okay, but the soles are flat, so I feel like my feet don't get the chance to conform to the contours of the surface as well. Plus, going downhill in a thong-style sandal puts a lot of pressure in between my big toe and second toe. Ow.

How did the shoes perform?
Great. I sometimes wondered if I would have felt more confident on the terrain with your average trail running shoe, but every time I imagined it, I felt like the extra cushion would have made me less stable and more prone to falling over. I'm curious about minimalist trail running shoe options, but at least some of them have the same Vibram sole, so I don't think it would make a huge difference. Maybe I'll try them sometime. My VFFs are getting worn out. The guy who finished first in the half-marathon today was wearing VFFs, so I think that says all you need to know about those.

What was the terrain like?
The distinguishing feature of the trails at this park, in my opinion, is the rock. For much of the trails, you're running on small, loose pebbles on top of hard rock below. At the same time, you're going either uphill or downhill, so it's very easy to slide--so easy that while I was training for this race, I actually sat down and scooted myself down some sections of the trails because I didn't want to risk falling when I was out running alone. It was scary going up the steepest incline, a section I've been too chicken to try until today, and I often reached out to the ground and kind of climbed my way up (another race participant said afterwards that a rope would have been nice--yes!). After the three-mile uphill, the course turned woodsy, which was much nicer. The path was narrow and windy, though, and it was easy to get out of control. I was grateful that I didn't have to go downhill on the pebbly terrain, though.

Why trail running?
Clearly, mission accomplished.
I feel like trail running is a true test of my running skill and overall fitness. That, mind you, is a standard I have for myself and not others. It seems natural to me; if nature intended us to run, then that means we're meant to run in nature. I wanted to take my running to a different level and experience a new challenge. It helps I like being out in nature too. Now that I've had a little experience on trails, I can also say trail running is all about strength: one's physical strength to be sure, but also one's nerve and willpower. When I run on the bike trail or the sidewalks around my apartment, it's nice--great view, cool breeze, mostly flat. On the trails, my legs are burning from the get go, I can't keep my breathing steady, and I usually want to stop. That's how I ended up running the 10K instead of the half marathon. Just before the race, I wanted to get it over with, go back to road running, and forget this awful trail business, but afterwards, seeing the half-marathoners who were finishing at the same time I was made me want to have some of that. It was admirable.

A race tee that fits and has a cool logo.
Why the Toro Trail Run?
It's close to where I live, and around the time I was looking for a half marathon to do, this race was about 8 or 10 weeks out, so I had enough time to train. My decision had nothing to do with the details of the course, but I'd totally recommend this race if only because for the first time in the history of races I've run, the freebies were awesome (See photos. There was nothing else--no bags, no crappy coupons or silly things I'll just throw away).

A pub glass. Talk about one size fits all.
What was your time?
You know I don't care much about my time, but I came in just under two hours. Yes, you read that correctly. Like I said, I did a lot of walking. The last couple miles were beautiful; I was running like the wind. And speaking of wind, did I mention the cows? 

That's it. I'm glad I did it, but I'm even more glad it's over. And now it's on to training for the Big Sur half marathon in November! Maybe.


Laura said...

Haha, you knew I would ask those shoe questions. Congratulations on taking on and finishing a trail run. It sounds challenging, but fun.

Domestic Kate said...

Yes, Laura, I had you in mind. I just keep thinking, "How fit would I be if I could run that race in an hour?" My lungs would be unstoppable.