Monday, May 23, 2011

The Measure Of "Fitness"

How do you measure your level of fitness? How do you compare it to the level of fitness of other runners? Do you even care to compare it? I guess I don't really have the answer to these questions, mostly because I really don't care anymore, mostly because I have become happy with my level of "fitness", whatever that is. I guess some measure fitness by speed and looking at some of the runners around me, I guess I can see that they are fit and they are fast. But I also know that if I was pitted against them in, say, a 100K or a 100Mile event, it may then become a run of the tortoise vs. the hare. I am fit, but I am not fast, and I can keep going and going ... just like the Energizer bunny. And the runners with "fast fitness" who don't have "endurance fitness" can and will be hunted down.

I guess the reason that I am even contemplating this and subsequently posting this is in response to a comment that was made to me during a "fun" (not racing) group run this past weekend. A fairly large group of runners gathered for a trail run Saturday morning and not long into the run the group split. The nice thing with these runs is that there are runners of all speeds and you never have to run alone because, it seems, that there is always someone who runs your speed. Which is nice. Our group of four were at the back of the pack, enjoyng our time on the trails, when I jokingly asked "Is that group racing up there or what?" At that time, a faster runner who had started late and then caught up to us stated "They're not racing, they're just more fit". What the hell? Immediately I was insulted. Likely this distracting comment is why I crashed my knee into a large branch while stepping over a down tree.

I know that I am not fast but I have endurance on my side. But just because I am slow, make no mistake, I am fit! As are so many others who run at the back of the pack with me. So to those who say that slower runners are not fit, maybe I will see you toeing the line at the next 100K or longer event. And then I will see you at the finish line ... and perhaps I will be there watching you cross the line after me!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Factors That Make Or Break A Trail Run

i haven't really had time to spend many hours out on the trails and have really felt the withdrawal lately. i was lucky enough to remedy that yesterday, spending 8+ hours (something like 8 hours, 14 minutes, i think) out on the trails of bear mountain, ny, at the north face endurance challenge. the race itself was exactly what i had expected. i was warned by some that it was a very commercial event, so i was prepared for the almost impersonal feeling that comes with these big-name events. but i had also heard of what a great course it was and i knew that no matter what, if the course was good, i would have a good time. i had expected it to be very crowded on the trails and was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case; most of the time i ran alone or with only a few people around me. during this long run i was able to contemplate on the factors that, for me, can make or break a successful day on the trails.

1. Training Factor: this was my first long technical trail run. i checked the elevation chart on the race's website and i was prepared for the climbs and descents. what the website did not show was pictures of what the trail actually looked like to show you just how technical it is. i am not fast on this stuff, but i love it, so i just decided to go slow and enjoy the experience. and i did ... on both counts.

2. Nutrition Factor: some good, some bad. some my bad, but i think mostly the race organizer's bad. i had decided to use my hydration pack with water and NUUN tabs for electrolytes. usually when i do this i carry my own extra tabs for when i have to refill the pack. i did not do this this time, as the race advertised that NUUN would be available at the aid stations. my bad ... i should have carried extra anyway. race organizer's bad ... i was told at an aid station that NUUN did not sponsor this year, so they did not have the tabs for the runners. no way should this ever happen that something is advertised to be available to the runners and then not have it for them. fortunately i had, at the last minute, packed some endurolytes, so i was able to go with plain water and have my electrolyte caps. i was also disappointed in the quality of the food at this event. again, a few things listed on the website not at the aid stations. perhaps i am just spoiled by those great smaller events that have grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries, and they just keep my gut satified. i just like REAL food. those 8 packs of Gu roctaine just didn't cut it and always leave my mouth feeling sore from the excess sugar.

post race food also gets a bad grade here from me ... a minimal amount of food was free to the runners and if you wanted more you had to pay for it. good food at the aid stations and post-race are the main standards that i grade an event on. the north face failed big time for me on this one. course markings are the only other thing that are the biggie for me and i will give north face good grades here ... the markings were most excellent.

3. Foot Factor: almost, almost blew it on this one. i had planned to wear my new inov-8 baregrips for the great traction that i was sure i needed. the baregrips do not have any cushioning on the bottoms, which i normally don't mind. thank you to max king who just gave me "the look" when i told him i was going to wear them on this course. and thank you to me for being stupid enough to run a road 50K two weeks ago and making my left foot bottom so tender that i HAD to rethink wearing the baregrips. went with the brooks cascadias at the last minute and that was WAY the right choice.

4. Fun Factor: i always have fun on the trail. even when i am grumpy, hypoglycemic, cursing, and hallucinating, i have fun on the trail. i ran with old friends and new ones, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we were in the woods for a LONG time. it just doesn't get any better.

so that about sums it up. and with that said, although it was fun and a beautiful run, i think i will stick to the smaller club events that really know how to take care of you for the long run. at this big-name event i felt like i was just another number. i guess i just like the "family feel" of the smaller races. but if i hadn't tried this one i would not have seen what a beautiful trail it was out there and i would really like to go back with a group of friends and camp and just have a good running party ... with good beer and good food!