This coming weekend is the second annual Rugged Red Trail Half Marathon in Red River Gorge, Kentucky! I ran the inaugural race last year, which resulted in the most consistently popular post on my blog. I learned a lot from that race and from the many miles of trails I’ve run since.
The RR took me and my hubris for a ride, spitting me out at the finish line completely trail weary. Once on the course, faced with an insurmountable boulder, I had to sit for 10 minutes to gather my spirits before continuing. I had to sit a second time when I was simply too tired to go on.
The gorge whipped me good. So, clearly, I need to do it again.
Probably the main thing the RR taught me is that there is no place for naïve pride on the trail. Any trail. The other thing is that I need to learn how to fuel properly during a race. This hadn’t been an issue before, since all my other half marathons were on the road and wildly supported with a water stop every mile and food in bowls on the course. This was not the case on the RR. There were only two water stops, and virtually no food. I ran my body completely empty out there.
Here are a few key things I’m bringing to RR this year:
Medjool dates. These are a natural, whole food alternative to popular gels that many runners use. I find these to be more effective and a lot easier to stomach on a hot day.
These little suckers are the best in-run fuel I’ve found for myself. I bring them out on every long run I do. Every 30-40 minutes to an hour, I pop one of those bad boys in my mouth and drink a bunch of water to wash it down. Before long, I have the energy I need to keep moving through rough terrain or to keep my pace up during the late miles of a progression.
Electrolyte drink. I’ve been using Skratch as my in-run electrolyte replenisher for a while now, and it’s great. I’ve found that the lemon and limes flavor sits best with me. Electrolytes are lost through sweat. Extreme situations might find a person reaching for salt tablets, but I haven’t needed something like that yet. Basically the Skratch comes in handy late in a long run when I start feeling crabby. I should probably drink it sooner than that, but a crabby disposition is a good indication that I need some salt/electrolytes.
New trail shoes. While my shoes were not a big issue last year, I’m still excited to use my new Altra Lone Peaks for this year’s RR. My Brooks Cascadias were and are fine shoes, but they’re a bit narrow, giving me blisters on my little toes after 8 miles or so.
My wife Ashley is running the RR for the first time this year, so I recruited her to share her thoughts. This brings us to a new segment on Infinite MPG:
Ashley’s thinkin’ spot.
1. “Oh my god, it is a million degrees and humid. I feel like I’m going to melt.”
2. “I wish I knew how the runners are doing out there.”
3. “I want to do this next year.”
Listening to Andrew’s and our friend Eric’s race recaps (even as they recounted the craziness) only made me want to do it more. I was hesitant at first as I am not as strong of a runner as Andrew and had less trail experience, but ultimately I made the decision to go for it.
I’ve trained for and raced five road half marathons, and I knew training for this run would take a much different strategy than those. For the RR, I committed to a trail-specific plan created by Doug Hay for his Trail Runner’s System. Andrew is a member, and it is a great resource for all levels of trail runners.
How did this plan differ from previous ones I’ve done?
- 4 months instead of 3 months
- Higher weekday mileage
- More longer “long” runs
Fun tidbit: My very first weekend long run for this training plan fell on the weekend of the Harmonie Half. So I’ve come full circle: I started with a trail half – and I’ll end with a trail half. (I didn’t train specifically for the Harmonie Half, since I had just finished a road half in April – so the miles just sorta carried over.)
With this training plan, I shattered my previous miles-per-month record twice by almost 30 miles. It went from 60 miles to 88. A huge difference. Also I was able to run all but two of my long runs on trails. We switched up between a few local State Parks and found some great areas to loop around. This was fantastic for me because my legs and hips do so much better on trails than they do on the road. I even found a stairwell at my work that offered the perfect lunchtime stairs session. Yes, I am that lady going up and down the stairs over and over again.
I’m so excited about this race; I’ll be back to let you know how it went!