Saturday evening after the Twilight 5k, I was talking with a friend named Christy (not the Kristi from the 15 mile run last week) about ultra training. She has run all sorts of crazy distances, her biggest being the Heartland 100, which she plans to do again this year. As we were talking she told me that she, Linda and Glenn would be running trails the next morning and she invited me along.
I haven't run trails since...well, I'd say the winter but there was that crazy Cahaba River Ramble a few weeks ago where I had an ankle mishap...but other than that it has been a while. I really like trail running, but I only go when getting ready for a trail race of some sort, and I usually sprain my ankle at least once while training for each trail event.
I think I would prefer trail running to road running if it were more accessible. As it stands, I live in the suburbs surrounded by more suburbs, and it is easier for me to step out the front door and run down the road than to get in the car and drive 25 minutes to the trails of Monte Sano. That is one of the things I love about running. You can get dressed, walk outside and go.
I think the ankle issues I have are due to two, maybe three things. The first is the fact that my right ankle is weak from a big, fat sprain when I was 17. That story another time. Since then it doesn't take much for me to sprain it. The second reason is that I so rarely run trails so my ankles, shins, and calves don't really have opportunity to build trail running strength. Even when training for an event I run a few trails, run my event, and return to the roads shortly after - just as my legs and feet may be getting used to the new terrain.
The third possible reason is my shoes. I purchased a pair of Asics trail running shoes about 3 years ago and I use those same shoes when hitting the trails. Because I seldom use them, I haven't invested in another pair. I know the purpose of a trail shoe is to protect the feet from rocky terrain and to give stability to ankles on uneven ground. After all of these sprains, however, I'm beginning to wonder if I need something softer and more flexible so that my feet actually know what they are doing and where they are landing with each step.
It is just a theory, but I sort of tested it out Sunday morning. I joined the girls and Glenn for a jaunt on the trails, and I wore my regular running shoes. I also tried to take smaller and lighter steps...as much as it is possible to do so.
Most of the trails on Monte Sano are not the friendliest. They are rocky, hilly, uneven, narrow - you name it. I think the more avid trail runners here call them "technical." Either way, my little test was a success. My feet felt lighter than they do in trail shoes. Despite the softer sole, I felt I had more stability simply because there wasn't so much hard rubber between my foot and the trail itself. I had a blast running with some new running buddies and I quizzed them on their trail shoe of choice. They all had different choices, of course.
Today, I will admit that my feet, ankles and shins are a bit sore. Nothing debilitating, as I was able to enjoy a 6 mile run with the girls this morning, but I can feel the soreness as I move around. I'm hoping to hit the trails with these friends at least once a week if I can manage it to get myself ready for my big event...which I think I have settled on as taking place in October...on trails. And I may even go to our local Fleet Feet store and see what kind of trail shoes they offer.
Any trail shoe suggestions are most welcome, of course, as I try to incorporate trail running into my weekly routine a bit more.