T³ #006: Check Your Ego at the Trailhead

This Week on Trail Tip Thursday…

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As a runner myself, one of the biggest way we compare ourselves to others are through statistics, especially your mile split time, or how long it takes you to travel each mile along your race/journey. Depending on how far you will travel, that is a big influence to the pace you can set for each mile. 

If you were just headed out for 1-mile time trial, that speed is going to be much different then say, a 5-mile run (or even longer!). As a good rule of thumb, the longer you plan on going, the longer your overall pace will be. It is nearly impossible to keep your fastest possible pace for miles and miles, your body is designed to be efficient in the long run.

But once you step onto the trails, expect those treadmill, track, and pavement mile times to be a little bit different

Running off road can feel exhausting at first, and it may take you up to twice as long as your normal run compared to on pavement. This isn’t because the trails magically are weighing you down, but it is because of the change of environment. To keep it short and sweet, look at these comparisons;

Pavement/Road Running…

  • Is flat and consistent with each step (maybe some gravel, but very smooth)
  • It is rare to find big hill climbs
  • Does not become unpredictable with the weather aside from some puddles
  • Is geared for you to move as fast as you can for as long as you want to

While Trail Running…

  • Is filled with rocks, roots, fallen trees, loose dirt, and an unpredictable terrain
  • Up and down-hills are really frequent; learning how to go up and down safely, quickly and efficiently takes practice
  • Rain from 4 days ago can have a big impact on how your footing is, so no 2 runs are exactly alike (more than just rain)
  • Is geared for you to speed up and slow down depending on the natural obstacles in your way, it keeps you really engaged the whole time!
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“Little” up and down hills, with a few big ascent climbs – Tymor Park, NY

As a general rule of thumb, you should assume to add about 20-25% more time for your trail-run or hike compared to that same distance you would travel on flat land. From all of the new stimulus and the varying terrain, there is a smarter and stronger way of running off road than simply pressing the pedal to the floor until the finish line; and trail running shows you how to learn that skill. It’s wise to leave your ego at the trailhead. The last thing you want to do is go warp speed up the first few hills you see and unleash a ton of energy…there are about 20 more of those hills before you will end, and sucking wind for miles is not so much fun. Use these tips to mentally prepare your body, mind, and ego before taking your next, or even your first journey through the trails:

⇒ You always feel fresh right at the start of a run. Be wise enough to not go 100% right from the start, use your fuel wisely.

Focus on finding a rhythm first. Your cadence, or the tempo you are taking each step, should not change too much when tackling uphill, downhill, and flat ground. What will change is how fast you move, which is related to how hard you ‘spring’ away from the ground (more spring/force = move faster)

When in doubt, walk it out. You aren’t required to run every step, and that is okay! Even the top trail runners in the world will have to hike up a hill or walk on a flat section to regain their composure. If you find your breath going absolutely crazy out of control, slow down your pace and really hone in your breath, it will help you in the long run.

⇒ Keep your eyes open. As pretty as the outdoor scenery is to “ooh and ahh”, your brain gets as much training as your legs do. Keeping your vision looking out ahead 5-10 yards will allow you to adjust your pace if a big hill is coming your way, or to prepare for what lies ahead of you

Don’t get caught up in the numbers. Who cares about what pace you were traveling at? Remember, since it is not a flat path you are taking, there is a learning curve to find the best recipe to improve your speed. It will come with practice, but most of all, with patience and persistence!

I am always looking for new routes, running partners, and ways to increase my own enjoyment of the outdoors. Does this sound like you too? If you live near the Hudson Valley and want to meet up for an outing, reach out to me on social media and let’s make it happen! If you are further away but still want to enhance your outdoor adventuring, I might know someone in your area that can help guide you, and if not, I’ll do my best from here!

Thank you, and I hope you enjoyed this week’s Trail Tip Thursday! If you want to stay up to date with my coaching, writing, and personal journey, be sure to follow me on social media! Thank you for your support.



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