12 May 2010

Freewheeling -or- what kind of training do you like?

Last Sunday, my friend Wendy took a group of us fellow runners out on a beautiful day to run some new-to-us-but-not-to-her trails in her backyard in Squamish. Wendy is the RD for the cool STORMY Trail Races, and I have been over the course route a number of times. It's got some great trails, but I knew that there were more and more trails in the Squamish are that I had not explored, so it was with great enthusiasm that we took up Wendy's offer to guide us around.

The trails were amazing! Primarily used for mountain biking (must take my bike there some day...), the trails are single-track of various ages, from old well-used ones to brand, spanking new ones, funded from Federal government Economic Action Plan money. Nice to see some taxpayer $$'s going into human-powered pursuits instead of roads or auto companies...but I digress. The route took us through some regrowing clearcuts, some older forest stands, over creeks, across bike tricks, and around rocks. Along the way, we heard birds, saw bear poo, and got great views of the surrounding snow-covered peaks from time to time. The pace was casual to match the different conditions of the various runners - Janet had just run Miwok, and Martha and I did a trail marathon the week prior - but it was laden with chit-chat, laughter, trail gossip (shhh), wondering where we were, and picking where to go next. All in all, it ended up being one of the funnest four-hour runs I have done for a while - thanks, Wendy. 

Along the way, I pondered on why I had not run some of these trails before; why I had typically stuck to the well-known STORMY race route in my previous outings up to Squamish. I often wonder why I don't escape well-known routes very often, and had an interesting related discussion the previous week with some other running friends. I was talking to Gail, and she likes exploring new things, seeing a trail branch, and taking the unknown route to see where it goes. Her hubby George tends to stick to the same routes all the time, and isn't big on exploring like Gail is. I realised that I identified closer with George's approach, running known trails, although like last weekend, it sure can be fun doing something new.

I think the difference is that I tend to go out on a training run with a specific purpose and agenda, be it time or terrain. I know route X will take me 3 hours, or that route Y will give me 3000' of climbing. It is fun doing this, and there is a sense of purpose, but it gets a bit repetitive. How do you find new trails, then? You have to explore, or have a guide who has already done the exploring for you.

Sometimes those trail branches are duds, dead-ending in brush or at a cliff edge, or looping back on itself. Those situations are always disappointing, and disruptive to the flow of a run. However, sometimes the new stuff can be incredible, and a great addition to your quiver of running routes. 

As for last weekend with Wendy, it opened my eyes to the greater possibilities for the area, so I'll definitely go back. I'll hit the trails we ran on, but I will also be more willing to branch out a bit as my familiarity with the area grows.

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