Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Taking trail running to a new level

Tuesday night races are getting more hardcore every week. It's like the course setters are competing to see who can set up the most sadistic course. This week the guy who set the course announced before the race that it was "only a 5K, but what it lacked in distance, it made up in.... other things".

I love that I get to run with a few hundred friends around the trails of Anchorage every Tuesday. In reality, I only know about 7 of these people, but many of the faces are familiar. In September and October, every Tuesday night about 400 adults, 200 children, 50 dogs and 25 strollers line up at various locations through out Anchorage and wait for a woman on a bullhorn to tell us where and how far we are going to run.

Then she blows a whistle and we take off fighting through the crowd to get to the trail head early so that we don't get crammed into the bottleneck. After a few minutes we usually spread out as we find our individual pace and we just follow the masses in front of us and the pink and yellow ribbon through the trees, jumping over roots, rocks, streams, babies, puppies and whatever else the trail throws in front of us.

It's trail running at it's finest. I have done many road races in my life, mostly 5Ks and 10Ks, and I have had fun, but the monotony of keeping the same pace, same form, same breathing pattern over those miles has become boring to me. It's refreshing to see adults and children alike shouting, flailing, jumping up, jumping to the side, powering up steep hills, sliding on roots, falling on their asses in the mud, splashing through puddles and crossing the finish line in exhaustion because they pushed themselves as hard as they could for those 4 or 5 miles of rough terrain.

I usually run with Niko. The biggest challenge this week was a thigh deep stream crossing. Niko is not a water dog, so he pulled back and resisted me as I stood in the water trying to pull him across the rushing stream. After about 5 minutes of coercing, I finally realized I would either have to go back the way I came or carry him across the creek.

I picked him up and started across, he squirmed and I dropped him in the water. Then he realized he was already facing that way so he finished across. Then he pranced around as I praised him on the other side. Dogs love the challenge of Tuesday Night Races too.

Even with all the calf deep mud, the Niko bathroom break, the time I spent standing in the stream and the section where I had to walk because the people got backed up I still finished the 5K in 31 minutes. I think I'm getting faster.