“I don’t run trails…”
by Lisa Sherman, Nutritionist, http://wholelifenutrition.net.au
I can’t count the number of times I have said these four words over the years. As someone who has spent many years road running, I’ve been asked numerous times when will I take up trail running and I’ve always responded with “I don’t run trails”. My reasoning for this was pretty simple – a fear of tripping or falling and just not thinking I would enjoy it anywhere near as much as running on the road. But…given I am fond of challenging myself (in the last 12 months I have conquered my fear of ocean swimming and found a new passion in swimrun events), I thought it was perhaps time to give a trail event a go and I’m so glad I did.
Not quite sure what I was getting myself in for but determined to push aside my fear of trails, in April I searched for an event to enter. As luck would have it, registration for Coastal Classic opened in April and I signed up on the day entries opened – my challenge was now set. The Coastal Classic is a 30km trail run through the gorgeous Royal National Park, starting at Otford through to Bundeena. Held in early September, the course takes in a variety of terrain from sand running, rocks, boardwalk, beaches, cliff-tops, bushland, rainforest, steep hill and stair climbs, and is also quite narrow in parts, especially at the start. The run appealed as I could easily do some training runs along the course and quite a few other Rejoovers were also doing the run or have done it in the past, so I had people I could turn to for advice.
Leading up to the event, a few of us did two training runs – an out and back from Otford for the first run and then most of the course from Otford to Bundeena a couple of weeks prior to the race. I was pretty nervous heading out for the for first run as I just did not know what to expect on the course or if I would even enjoy the run. I had a hydration vest but not trail shoes and wasn’t sure if my normal runners would be okay. I was still very nervous about falling or tripping but once on the run, I realised this fear was negated by the ability to walk, take it slow, pick up speed, or run, whatever I wanted to do – you are on your own time with trails and I felt less pressure to hit and maintain a certain pace. And it’s totally okay to walk sections if you need to, especially steep stair climbs or taking it easier when going downhill, to ensure I didn’t trip! It really helped having Olivia, Claire and Dave with me too as they have all done trails before and had great advice on how to tackle various parts of the course. I thoroughly enjoyed that first training run (although not sure my quads were too happy with the number of stairs and inclines we had to tackle on the way back to Otford!) and couldn’t wait to do more trail running.
On the day of the event, whilst I had a time goal in mind, my main focus was to enjoy the run, soak up the experience and smile often. Having completed the second training run along most of the course from Otford to Bundeena a couple of weeks before, I felt good knowing what to expect from the terrain, although with quite a bit of the course exposed and windy conditions on the day, I knew there might be some challenging sections of the run.
The race has a self-seeded start with pairs going off every 5 seconds. I was a little unsure of where to place myself at the start but ended up standing with fellow Rejoovers and found myself quite near the front, so got an early start out. The first part of the course is a mix of hill climbs, bushland, rainforest and given how narrow it is, there were other runners passing me but I didn’t mind, I knew they had more experience on trails, especially going downhill and I still didn’t want to trip! I also knew I would pick up some speed on some of the other sections and I found I was able to pass a number of other runners as the run progressed.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the run has got to be the scenery. There are some really stunning sections as you follow the coast to Bundeena and the variety of the terrain also adds to the experience in a positive way. Just when you feel that you can’t go another step on a steep climb out from one of the beaches, you are at the top and have boardwalk, giving a change of pace and using different muscle groups. Again, just when you feel like you’ve had enough of the boardwalks, you hit a grassy slope or rocky clifftop and it changes again. This variety and continual changes in terrain are what make trail running interesting and a challenge. And I have no doubt that even if you run the same trails regularly, you would still experience differences in the track depending on the conditions.
Coming into the final 1.5km of the course, we hit Jibbon Beach, and the wind had really picked up. I’ll admit it was tough going across the beach. Thoughts of my husband Grant and two boys, Luke and Rylee, being at the finish, plus coaches Greta, Chris and other Rejoovers, really keep me going at this point and moving forward. As always, there is nothing like the cheers of your friends and family to bring you home and crossing that finish line was an awesome feeling! I finished the run well within my time goal, loved all the highs and lows of the course and definitely know I smiled a lot during the run.
I’m absolutely keen to participate in more trail runs and hoping to obtain an entry for 6 Foot Track in March (Coastal Classic is a qualifying race) and also looking at UTA in May next year. So…whilst trail running won’t replace road running for me, it’s nice to be able to mix it up and the saying “I don’t run trails” no longer applies to me!