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Coffee Induced Thoughts (aka Thoughts On Running And Trails)

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For the past few weeks all I can think about, in regards to my running, are distance and elevation. How far can I run and climb? My highest weekly total for the new year is 53 miles and the largest elevation gain is just under 13,000 ft. My goal is to average 80 mile weeks with 15,000 ft. of gains. I’ve come to realize that it’s not about achieving those marks for the sake of being competitive for a race. Far from it. It’s more to break through personal barriers and sustain a level of excellence for myself.

I believe everyone is good with at least one thing. They can point at something in their life and say, “Hey, I’m really good at that!” I haven’t found that in my life yet. Perhaps it’s this thing with the trails. I feel accomplished after long trail runs, like I’ve put in a good days work. Is this how it’s suppose to feel like being good at something?

Aside from that feeling, I’ve also recently realized (like 3 hours ago) that I’m the type of person who plateaus easily without the motivation of running with or against other runners. I’ve burnt myself out running beyond my capabilities trying to beat someone or setting a PR. I guess I lack the “I run to stay in shape” gene.  In the end, I’m OK with those experiences because I know I tried and, in some way, increased my threshold for pain and discomfort. The question then becomes, how can I run farther and higher with no serious race goals or “targets”? We’ll see how this little experiment of running solo in the mountains turns out. Will I actually break those barriers and become excellent (at least my personal definition of it) or will I plateau and accept another mediocre attempt.

Yet another topic: There are many differences between road runners and trail runners. The cultures are very different. One is more competitive and rigid while the other is more organic and free flowing.  Most of my experience is with road and track running where it’s common to run with other people. In fact, it’s almost required to gain any kind of benefit. Trail running is different in that most runs are done solo. Sure I’m capable of long solo runs, but at some point it becomes a lonely experience. In my opinion we’re all social runners. We enjoy the company of others and the competitive nature group runs brings out in each of us. We become better runners because of the people who support us and because other people push us. So, why don’t I hear about or see group trail running? I guess I’m just having a hard time straddling the two cultures.

…And that my friends is why you don’t drink coffee after 9pm!

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