Tag Archives: trail running

USATF Cross Country Specialist Course

I am officially a USA Track and Field Cross Country Specialist!  Even though I don’t coach a cross country team, I found the course incredibly valuable and it was a honor to learn from Dr. Joe Vigil, who coaches two of my favorite runners, Brenda Martinez and Deena Kastor.

The course was spread out over two days, a Friday afternoon-evening session and Saturday morning-afternoon sessions.  There were 129 other coaches there with me, all of whom were equally as excited.  We covered cross countryeverything from team dynamics to hill workouts as well as lab sessions on the track and a short but tough cross country course on the Villanova campus.  Coaches Vigil and Scott Christensen were amazing.  Their combined knowledge was mind boggling and there was certainly no shortage of stories after so many championships, Olympics and runners.

During dinner the first evening I spent time with my phone plugged into one of the classroom’s few outlets.  It also provided me a little bit of bonus time with Coach Vigil.  I was honored by his feedback and surprised to hear him say how much he loved the marathon.  While I’m not sure I share the same sentiment as a runner, I definitely agreed with him as a coach.  To really be successful at the marathon, you must change your life.  It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you give everything you’ve got to training.cross country

I can’t wait to employ some of the training and coaching techniques I learned.  As many of my runners prepare for fall marathons we’ll definitely have some cross country inspired fun.  If you coach, just want to become a better runner or learn from the best, I highly recommend taking this class.  I am definitely a better coach because of it.

Coach Meredith

Have you ever run cross country?  What do you like most about it?

EquiKids 5k + Still Not There

I raced one of my favorite events of the year last weekend, the EquiKids 5k.  Not only do I love volunteering at the farm, racing through the trails each year is always fun.  The cross country 5k is preceded by a 1 Mile Run with the Hounds that Jordy was more than happy to participate in before hamming it up for the camera.equikids 5k

It’s the only cross country course I’m guaranteed to run every time it comes around and I usually don’t perform well.  Maybe it’s because I don’t train on trails very much if at all or because I get too distracted by all of the adorable kids, dogs and horses.  Any way you slice it, I was looking to turn my history of EquiKids 5k performances around this year.  I didn’t.

In spite of finishing as third overall female, it wasn’t a good race or even the race I wanted to run.  Due to some serious rain my schedule got a little screwy in the days before the race.  My final workout was hours later than it should have been.  I definitely could have been fresher at the start line but I also could have been less injured.

My glute injury is feeling much better.  It has had some unexpected side effects, however.  The different, more powerful, movement in my right leg has been leading to extra work for my right Achilles.  That has caused some definite stress on the tendon as it strengthens.  I ran a one mile warm up before toeing the starting line but failed to warm up as completely as I usually do because I was feeling fatigued.  Little did I know I’d pay for it.  About halfway through the race that right side felt like it was about to snap.  No, thanks.  I paused to rub it for five seconds then continued on.  It was a scary moment but felt fine the last 3k.

It was disappointing to realize I’m not where I thought I was in terms of bouncing back.  I understand the lumpy, muddy, ankle working course probably made things a little bit worse in that ankle.  That doesn’t make it feel any better.  The EquiKids 5k curse continues and I’m looking toward next year already.

Meredith

How often do you race on trails?  Love it or hate it?

EquiKids Cross Country 5k Recap

My favorite race of the year was Saturday and all mud aside, it was another fun day.  This was the fifth year consecutive year I’ve run the EquiKids Cross Country 5k.  It’s an event for the whole family with a half mile pony run for younger children, the 5k for everyone and a one mile run with the hounds.  I was excited even though I knew it was going to be muddy after five straight days of rain.  Trails, especially muddy ones, are far from my strength.

Race morning was overcast (but not raining!) with a little bit of humidity and middle of the road temperatures.  I went with long tights because of the mud, knowing I’d been running as close to the edges of the trails as I could for solid ground.  After my warm-up, I shed the half zip I’d been wearing against the morning’s cool breeze and lined up in my tank, long tights and about-to-be-muddy shoes.  We went off into the woods a few minutes after the little ones finished their half mile pony run.

There were the initial speedsters making the first section a bit crowded but they faded by the time we hit the woods.  I settled into an easy pace on the mushy surface and waited for my first foot to hit a puddle.  It took longer than I expected to find the first muddy spot.  Not being very skilled at racing through the mud, I slowly picked my way through with tiny, slow steps and picked things up when I was back on solid ground.  At the Mile 1 mark I had plenty of running room as the crowd spread out and it stayed that way through the end.  My watch was all over the place searching for help as I wove in and out of the trees with neither of us really knowing how fast I was moving.  I slipped a few times in mud, at one point swinging around a tree to help, glad I was taking things slowly instead of risking injury in an unfamiliar environment.equikids cross country 5k

I kicked as much as I could on the wet ground coming into the EquiKids Cross Country 5k finish and landed squarely in a big puddle of water.  It was a nice finish to a solid workout that had me smiling and working to stay balanced the whole time.  Definitely not one of my best 5k performances, I was happy to come out without having fallen in the mud or getting injured.  I ended up fourth female overall and second in my age group after the overall female was also the age group winner.  A bottle of water and two slices of pizza later, I was awarded my medal and made for the nice dry car.

It was another great year with weather that held out until after the dog mile, great people and good times.  In the end, 2016’s mud laced EquiKids Cross Country 5k taught me that I could probably benefit from hitting the trails more often.  With only one trail race and five or six easy trail outings per year, I tend to be overly cautious with my feet and also have lots of trouble feeling my pace on the soft surface.

Meredith

How do you run in mud?  Do you train specifically for trail races?

Fit Friday: Trail Running Tips

Leaves are falling, animals are packing up and there’s still time for a little bit of trail running before winter officially sets in.  Trail running is different than road running which means getting out on them isn’t only a refresher for your mind, it’s good for strengthening your muscles and challenging your body.  Here are a few tips to help you concur the trails when they’re covered in leaves instead of snow.trail running

Accessorize.  Make sure you’re prepared for trail running with the right trail shoes, sunblock, a hat, sunglasses and even maybe bug spray.  You can also check out running gaiters.  These fashion accessories help keep your ankles and feet safe from stones, sticks and other trail debris while you’re out enjoying nature.

Work on your six pack.  Running on uneven ground that constantly changes gives you an added balance you miss on the road.  The muscles of your core and lower back are what help you stay on your feet.  The stronger they are, the more stable you’ll be.  Stability makes you less likely to get injured and that’s a good thing.  Practicing balance and core strengthening exercises regularly to help your trail running performance.

Start slowly and stay that way.  Trails are uneven, inconsistent and tougher on ankles and feet than the road or treadmill.  With dirt paths, roots to watch out for and lots of other potential obstacles, trail running also requires more mental effort then road running.  Slow down and run by effort and time rather than pace, even if it means walking up hills in the beginning and plan shorter runs than you’d do on the road.  Build comfort over a few weeks by adding ten minutes each time you go work out in the wild.

Safety first.  Gear up with head lamps, pepper spray and some reflective clothing.   Be sure to take an ID, tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back.  If you can, take your cell phone or a map and be aware of what’s going on around you at all times.  Knowing the rules of the trail, such as yielding to downhill runners, equestrians and cyclists as well as staying on marked trails and running through, not around, puddles will all help you get home safely.

Bring fluids.  Trail running can be unpredictable.  Mud, rain, snow and streams all have the potential to make your run a little more hazardous, making the time it takes you to finish hard to determine.  The last thing you want to do is run out of water, so wear or stash it.  If your route crosses parking lots or picnic areas, drop a water bottle off before you start to run.  You can also use handheld water bottles, mini-bottle waist belts or a hydration pack to make sure you don’t get thirsty.

Meredith

Is trail running a part of your training?  What’s your favorite thing about it?

Mountain Bike Cross Training

moutain bike cross trainingI didn’t run yesterday.  I wasn’t really feeling like it, had wiggle room in my training schedule and opted for a day of mountain bike cross training.  It was an absolutely gorgeous fall afternoon outside by the time I got around to working out so I chose to ride my bike up the Boardwalk to First Landing State Park’s Cape Henry Trail and back.

It was a blast.  I rode 16 miles on roads and dirt trails with pit stops at each of the trail’s fitness stations in both directions.  As soon as I entered the woods I started practicing taking pictures on the move.  This was my third try and isn’t bad for a first timer, right?  After ‘mastering’ that, a four mile warm up put me at the first of these mountain bike cross training stops, a stretching mountain bike cross trainingstation.  I stretched my legs and shoulders then hopped back on my bike.

The next stations were all separated by about a quarter mile each which definitely helped increase the challenge.  My second stop was agility tires (5 times through) then it was step-ups for 2 minutes and push-ups (15).  These stops definitely got my heart pumping and it felt good to use the 90 second bike portions to take some deep breaths.

After that was the sprinter’s chair for 20 leg lifts each time I passed it.  Even though I had stretched, this exercise made it clear how tight my hamstrings still were from the previous day’s deadlifts.  My tight hamstrings got back on the bike to head for my next mountain bike cross training challenge: parallel bars.  I’m not amazing at dips and expected to struggle with traversing this obstacle.  It was nice to fight through and have some unexpected success, especially the second time through.  I’ve been working on getting my push-up numbers higher and think that mountain bike cross trainingplayed a part in powering over this tough one.

While I’ve also been practicing getting my strict pull-up number to increase, the overhead ladder was not a good one for me and I skipped it on the return route.  My sweaty hands lack the grip strength necessary to complete it but it also kills my left shoulder.  Not worth hurting myself over.  A little further along, I did rock 10 strict pull-ups (2×5) each way on these bars that were nice and slippery, riding away proud of myself.mountain bike cross training

The final station heading out was crunches but I did 30 sit-ups each way.  They were harder than I thought after core work on the parallel bars and pull-ups!

I hit the trail head at Mile 8 then took a turn around the parking lot before heading back into the woods for my second round of fitness stations.  I had a great time doing this mountain bike cross training workout and using the park’s fitness stops for the first time.  This hour and a half workout will definitely stay in my ‘I don’t want to run today’ choice of workouts.

Meredith

Do you bike for cross training?  Ever use fitness stations on trails or in parks?

7 Trail Running Tips

Trail running is a great way to enjoy the changing leaves, crisp air and great outdoors this fall.  It’s also a little different from road running, requiring a different mindset, different muscles and a bit more time.  Here are seven tips from both myself and Team FitNice keep your trail running safe and injury free this fall. trail running

Accessorize.  Make sure you’re prepared for a trail running workout with trail shoes, sunblock, a hat, sunglasses and bug spray.  You can also check out running gaiters.  These fashion accessories help keep your ankles and feet safe from stones, sticks and other trail debris while you’re out enjoying nature.

Work on your core.  Running on uneven ground challenges your balance.  The muscles of your core, abs, obliques, lower back, are what help you stay on your feet.  The stronger they are, the more stable you’ll be and that means less likelihood of injury.  Practice balance and core strengthening exercises regularly to help your trail running performance.

Leave extra time.  You’ll be looking for the path of least resistance, rather than the shortest route from Point A to Point B on the trails and that might mean switchbacks or taking the long way around.  Run for time, rather than distance until you’re familiar with different paths and the difficulties they each ask you to face.

Start slowly.  Trails are different than roads or treadmills.  They’re uneven, inconsistent and tougher on ankles and feet.  Adjust to trail running with runs short than you’d do on the road and build up trail runningover a few weeks until you feel 100% comfortable.

Keep going slowly.  With dirt paths, roots to watch out for and lots of other potential obstacles, trail running requires more effort then road running.  Slow down and run by effort rather than pace, even if it means walking uphills in the beginning.

Stay safe.  Consider head lamps, pepper spray and reflective gear.  Always be sure to take an ID, tell someone where you’re planning on going and when to expect you back.  If you can, take your cell phone or a map and be aware of what’s going on around you at all times.  Knowing the rules of the trail, such as yielding to downhill runners, equestrians and cyclists as well as staying on marked trails and running through, not around, puddles will all help you get home safely.

Bring fluids.  Trail running can be unpredictable.  Mud, rain, snow and streams all have the potential to make your run a little more hazardous, making the time it takes you to finish hard to determine.  The last thing you want to do is run out of water, so wear or stash it.  If your route crosses parking lots or picnic areas, drop a water bottle off before you start to run.  You can also use handheld water bottles, mini-bottle waist belts or a hydration pack to make sure you don’t get thirsty.

Meredith

Do you like trail running?  What’s your favorite thing to see out there?  Least favorite?