October 24, 2007

Getting Started at Afton

So how did I get started trail running? Hmmmmmmmmmm........

Once upon a time, I was nationally ranked in orienteering. This involves running through woods, swamps, marshes, tall grasses, up or down ravines, etc with virtually no trails or footpaths at all. Hard work. Then I got more involved with road running - smooooooooooth pavement the entire way. It only seems logical that I would go from one extreme to the other and end up somewhere in the middle: on trails. As they say, all things in moderation, including moderation. At least, that's what I say ;)

Anyhoo, on a cool April day, I decided to sign up for the Afton Trail 25K to be held on July 7, 2007. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I had access to the course map in addition to topo maps of Afton State Park from MNOC, so I had a chance to check out the terrain that we would be running on. I already knew about the Afton hills, so that was no biggy. In fact, it was a relief to be on trails since my last orienteering adventure in that park landed me in the hospital with a punctured artery in my leg (doncha just love hidden rusty old barbed wire)? That's a story for a different day.

As it turns out, July 7 was the hottest day of the summer - a heat index of 100. Since I really hadn't trained properly, my goal was to stay out of the ambulance. The race director explained The Rule (absolutely no whining) at the start, and we were off into the woods. I already knew what to expect on the course, so I actually felf pretty relaxed. Two things that really struck me about this race: the other runners were all very friendly and supportive, and the aid stations were like running up to a Thanksgiving feast. In spite of carrying my own electrolyte drink, pigging out at the aid stations, eating salty stuff, I did have some problems with my legs cramping the last 2+ miles. It was just too hot and humid to replace the fluids lost from running. I always weigh myself before and after long runs (especially in hot/humid conditions), and in spite of drinking 20 oz of my own sport drink, 4-6 oz of Heed at each of the 5 aid stations, another 20 oz of recovery drink after the race, eating a cheeseburger, chocolate chip cookies, pretzels, potatoes with salt, strawberries, and PBJ sandwiches, I weighed in 2 pounds lighter at the end compared to the start. But I achieved my goal: I finished and didn't end up in the ambulance. Yep, it was hot (but I'm not whining Scott), and I was hooked!

Trainer Tip: weigh yourself (preferrably undressed) before and after long runs or runs in hot/humid conditions. For races I even write my prerace weight on the back of my bib for emergency medical purposes. If you are drinking the right amount of fluids, your weight should stay about the same. One pound = 16 oz fluid.

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