29… and this I know {a serious commitment to trails}

by nomeatbarefeet

So, today is my 29th birthday, and it (this day) isn’t super enjoyable.  Life is not exactly what I (or millions of others like me) thought it would be at 29.  Besides that, Jon is at work and it is cold today– snowing slightly.  Despite these facts, life around me is full of wonderful things that have become a part of me — who I am as I grow older.  I am exiting my 20’s knowing who I think I am and knowing where I want to go.  I have a great husband, with whom I share many things.  A minimal, quaint apartment in the lovely-weird-eccentric Vermont.  I make a living helping children learn to read and find a love for literature.  We share our home with our wonderfully loving, yet licking rescue mutt Arlo.  I live as minimally as possible which is wonderfully freeing (just try and see).  I eat and live as compassionatly as possible.  I became a vegetarian over three years ago after reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I adopted a plant-based [vegan if you must] diet over a year ago.  I own a CSA share (for the 2nd year).  Plant based has also become my lifestyle now.  I do not wear leather, or use honey, all of my beauty products {read- shampoo, soaps, lotion, toothpaste, deodrant, and…. oh lipbalm} are 100% animal product & animal testing free.  And this is who I am, and who I am becoming.  So, at 29 this is what I know about myself and with all these wonderful things I celebrate today, there is one more that we have hinted at, and Jon requested I do a serious post about… trail running.

During our year, of running a race a month, we planned a couple of trail runs.  The Parker 5k, Indian Ladder 15k, The Tawasentha 5k series, and the now infamous Monster 1/2 Marathon.  Parker was early in our year of races, and from that moment when I ran into the woods, and ran through the trees and mud, I knew in my heart, this was it.   This is what I wanted to do.  I began to chat with Jon about how I wanted to run more trails (you can still see it as one of my goals on the goals page).  We looked around Albany and began doing most of our runs, especially long runs on trails.  I read Born to Run.  A book with my vegan hero, Scott Jurek, the late/great Caballo Blanco, and a handful of characters all running with the Tarahumara Indians in Copper Canyon, Mexico.  The Tarahumara or Rarámuri (“runners on foot” or “those who run fast”), have known for centuries, what I was coming to know during our year of running…  running is natural, a part of being a human animal, and should be fun.  And what better way, to feel like you are running as man was intended to run, than to run trails?  By the time we signed up for the Monster 1/2 I was more than ready to get off roads for good, Jon still had road marathons on the brain.

And so we finished our year, wrote our blog, ate and fueled as plant based athletes.  And I wanted a great realization to come from a year of running, as vegans, in minimal shoes.  And then we ran the Kaynor’s Sap 10k, and Rollin’ Irish 1/2 Marathon (mostly on VT dirt roads, which DO NOT = Trails… and neither do rail-trails, although Jon might argue this point with me) and I came to my great realization.  I truly dislike roads and turned to my plant-based minimal running partner, and told him I was no longer running roads.  Done.  Rollin’ Irish 1/2 would be my last.  I don’t even feel I need to accomplish a road marathon to finally “arrive” as a runner (a thought Jon now has as well).  I have said many times why I prefer trails, so I won’t say it again, but what I learned from my year of running is I want to be a different type of runner.  Here are new things about trails I have not talked about.

1. Trails are hard, like really hard, so I will focus this year on improving my trail endurance.  It is nothing for a trail mile time to be 2 minutes greater than your road time.  I want to work on narrowing that gap.

2. I, for now, do not have aspirations to push  myself over 1/2 marathon distance (Jon does, he will have to tell you all about his new goals).  My  new focus is becoming beasty at trail 5k, 10k, and 15k distances.  This will take a great deal of focus with lots of technical work (rocks, roots, mud… the best in my opinion… unless you fall, which everyone does).  I will need to spend hours at Hard’ack working on ascents, descents, and…

3.  Fueling while running.  Trail running eats up calories, and fueling is very important.  It is not uncommon to see distance trail runners eating baked potatoes, soup, candy bars, pizza, etc while at an aid station during a race.  During Monster 1/2 the volunteers were shoving oreos down my throat… “honey, you need to eat more… are you hydrated?”  You really need to eat and drink while trail running.  Jonnie (after almost fainting from not eating enough during the Monster 1/2)  has become some what of a novice vegan trail runnin’ chef.  He makes homemade bars and snacks for the run, or always has dates hidden somewhere in his pack to give to me when two loops of Hard’ack have me depleted.  He is really into researching plant-based running nutrition and with his help, I am learning how to eat while running (although I am not so super jazzed about spirulina… yet).

4. Last new insight.  Trail people… seem much more me.  This is — in no means — a backhand to road runners,  I love you.  But there is a perceivable difference.  Trail runners are a different bunch… unpolished, no ipods, fewer Under Armor, and less new Nike gitz everywhere.  They are a little crunchier, a little grungier… lets face it, our Monster 1/2 medal was made out of string and some clay by a local artisan.  It is only and observation and opinion so don’t get yourself all in a tizzy at that statement, its just how I feel.

Robert Frost might have said it best, and maybe all this post needed to be were these few words but…

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

And so, at 29… this is what I know.

~run wild~