TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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FAQ

1.  Have You Always Been a Runner?  Heck no!  I used to think that runners were crazy and that running was just about the worst thing you could put yourself through.

2.  When did you Start Running?  I began running in my late thirties, and trail running in my early forties.

3.  Why did you Begin Running?  I first began running to lose weight.  One of my sons had also been diagnosed with a serious condition which required 3 brain surgeries and 2 subsequent possibly related surgeries.  At that time, nothing else mattered but my son getting through this and living, which meant heck!  I can do whatever I want.  Who cares if I look like a crazy fat lady running down the street.  Well, after that quarter mile attempt, when I thought I might fall to the ground and die, I got so angry that I began forcing myself to run.  Very gradually I built up my mileage, until 3 miles were my long runs, and Oops, I found myself addicted.  I actually liked running -- it helped me in our family crises.  Yes, indeed, I was crazy.

4.  So, You Never Ran Before this?  Well, I actually ran some as a teenager.  I ran short distances when I was 14/15 because I wanted to be pin-thin.  That combined with a diet of merely, strawberries, greenbeans and an occasional cottage cheese did it.  Not good though.  I was seeing "stars" quite frequently.

5.  Did You Ever Play Any Other Sports?  I come from a very athletic family, and always considered myself the LEAST athletic of the bunch.  But I did play sports.  I played softball for several years (a summer and winter league).  I also was on my highschool volleyball and swim teams, but was not very good at either sport.  I also took raquetball as P.E. in college and absolutely loved it. Continuing on in college, I took a couple semesters of swimming and that's when I REALLY learned to swim (due to a great coach, Flip Darr).  And then there were years and years of roller blading and aerobics, which aren't considered true sports, but they are definately cardio workouts. : )

6.  Does Anyone Else in Your Family Run?  I have a brother who runs more than I do, and another brother who has been known to run to stay fit.  I also have a sister-in-law who runs like I do, because she loves it.  My husband and children do not run, except occassionally my middle son.  And when I was a young girl, through my teens, my dad used to run, and my sister ran cross-country.

7.  What is your favorite trail race distance?  That's easy -- 30k, which is just under 20 miles.  I would say 20 miles, but I've never seen a "20 mile" trail race -- it's either, 4 mi, 5 mi,  25k, 30k, 26.2 mi, 50k, 50 mi,  75 mi, 100k or 100 mile.  So at this point, it's surely 30k for me.

8.  Do you prefer running alone or in groups?  I like both.  I love, love, love running solo -- it gives me time to get outside of myself, time also to work through problems.  But I also enjoy running in groups.  I haven't met a better bunch of people as a whole than trail runners.  They are encouraging, caring, non-pretentious.  They like to talk, yet don't mind running without saying a word.  There are no "uncomfortable silences" with trail runners.  Also, mountain lions are less apt to attack groups : ))

9.  What is your favorite running shoe?  On or off road, I always buy New Balance.  I lucked out the first time I bought a running shoe.  It happened to be New Balance.  Since then, I've tried a few other brands, but always return to New Balance. 

10.  What is the worst thing you've ever seen runnin on the trail?  I have thankfully never seen anything TERRIBLE.  Mostly, I have seen injuries, mainly mountain biker injuries.  I once arrived to a scene just after a mountain biker accident.  The biker was conscious and standing, at least stooping from what I recall, but he had a terrible bloody scraping on his chin and nose. Another time, a mountain biker wiped out on a downhill right in front of me (as I was running uphill).  That was an uncomfortable moment.   I've come across rattlesnakes, bobcats, have run into plenty of spiderwebs.  Overall, I have been pretty lucky. 

11.  Are you accident-prone?  No!  The way I see it, if you go outside you're gonna get bitten.  And I just don't want to stay inside all the time.  So, I get bitten.

12. What are you supposed to do when you have an encounter with a cougar on the trail?  First off, you really shouldn't run alone on the trail.  Mountain lions aren't going to try and take on 2 adults.  They also are rarely apt to try and take 1 adult, that is unless she thinks she can "take" the person or is protecting her own family.  So, besides not running alone.  Never stoop down, or lay down on the trail.  You look small and vulnerable, easy to "take."  You want to look big.  If I need to tie my shoe, I wait until there's something I can prop my foot up on and tie it standing up.  Secondly, should you come face-to-face with a cougar, never turn your back on it.  In other words, if she sees you, don't turn and run.  She most likely will chase after you.  What you want to do is back away, walking backwards.  If the cat is going to attack (she's approaching you) YOU NEED TO LOOK AS THREATENING AS POSSIBLE.  Look big by waving a jacket above your head, perhaps your arms, hollar, and on the sly see if you can locate where the big rocks are in case the cat attacks (You'll want to bash the cat in the nose -- sorry, I know people love mountain lions, but if one attacks, you can't be too loving with it).  Now as far as eye-contact goes, I've read two opposing theories.  1)  DON'T make eye contact with the cougar and 2) to appear as threatening as possible, DO make eye contact with the cougar.  My husband recommends backing off with NO eye contact.  He informs me that if I do get "attacked" by a cougar it will come as a surprise.  In other words, I won't know what hit me. 

Usually with  "encounters" (as opposed to attacks) you can back yourself out of, unless of course, there are cubs between you and the cougar.  Anyway, my husband suggests that I continue to carry my pepper spray, because even if taken by surprise, I should protect my face and while the cat tries to turn me over, I can manage to release my pepper spray on her (preferably in the face).  On the other hand, I have friends who carry knives and loud horns.  I on the other hand, prefer the GUN.  Though I don't carry one.  It's illegal to have firearms in the state parks here.  In a nutshell, I run where there's people.  And I plan to follow the back away when I can method, if not, appear as threatening as possible.

12.  Is there anything you don't like about the trail?  I hate tics.  Seriously, I am more afraid of tics than I am rattlesnakes.  I can see rattlesnakes and being familiar with their behavior, feel confident in avoiding an attack.  Tics on the otherhand, I cannot see.  Instead, they latch on SECRETLY.  And they latch on in the most sensitive areas.  On top of that, they can carry disease, and they are not easy to pry off.

13.  Are you a glutten for punishment?  Yup.

14.  What is your best advice for someone first starting (either road or trail long distance running)?  My best advice is patience.  You must have patience.  It takes a very long time to build up endurance.  I was recently talking to 2 grade school moms who are runners (& I suspect faster than myself) and they gasped outloud at my answer to "What is the longest amount of hours you've run?"  I've run 7 1/2 hours before.  I've run 6 and 5 hours COUNTLESS times.  But my ability to do so didn't happen overnight.  You may not want that ability -- believe me -- many think I'm absolutely crazy.  In case you do . . . I had to have patience to get there.  How did I get that kind of patience?  (Because I'm continually dealing with patience problems).  I had to let my mind go free (meaning let what comes in, come in, but don't grab onto to your thoughts when you run -- let them go out freely -- just let the thoughts flow) OR, I think about absolutely nothing when I run, except for the exact moment I'm in. : )))  You can do it!!

15.  Are you crazy?   Not clinically so.  I'm sure, no I know, there's those who think I'm a little whacked.  But really, it's the running that keeps me sane.  In a nutshell, I don't really care though.  How can anyone be sane if they're alive?  Seriously.  How can we even define sane?  If it's, do you get by in the world, well I do.  I get by in the world.  I love my children.  I don't neglect or beat them.  I eat a semi-normal diet.  Of course I have my problems (perhaps more than the average, but I'm happy about my problems in the long run, because they make me who I am).    So I guess, I'm sane. : )  Thank goodness!  I don't anyone sending me off on a 51/50!  (Now, you may ask, how does she know what a 51/50 is???)

16. Do you watch professional sports?  No.  I do watch special events occasionally, such as certain Olympic events (marathon running, speed skating, downhill skiing, diving, swimming).  I much more prefer local, amateur sports.

17.  Did you ever think you'd run a marathon?  No way.

18.  Do you fall often while running trails?  It seemed like for a while that I fell more than other trail runners.  I have fallen at least a dozen times (I think I stopped counting after 10).  Some of my falls have been doozies.  But some of my falls have been what I call "Ballerina Falls."  Those are the falls where I hit the ground, roll and pop back up immediately, and keep on running.  I love those kind of falls.  The falls that draw blood though, are great stories to tell afterward.  Overall, I have been very fortunate.  I've seen runners eat it way worse than I ever have.  In one race, a runner not too far ahead of me broke his collar bone.  Other runners have drawn quite a bit of blood on their runs.  I have noticed that once I began strengthening my core, falls became less frequent.  When I trip now, I'm mostly able to stop the fall using my core muscles.  But that doesn't always happen.

19.  What's the best thing about trail running?   The beauty of my surroundings and the necessity to stay in the present moment.

20.  Snakes -- why don't they scare you?  I'm not afraid of snakes mainly because I am on the look-out.  In my area, the biggest risks are Rattlesnakes.  This is my strategy:  First off, I look for them -- constantly.  The saying goes in my parts -- "as soon as you stop looking, you will see one."  The other thing is this:  LISTEN.  Especially when running single tracks, I turn down the music and listen for those rattles.  Be assured however, even with the music blaring, I HEAR THOSE RATTLES NO MATTER WHAT.  Most importantly, I give a rattlesnake its space.  If I see one, I back off.  If I hear one, I run in the opposite direction of the rattles. If I must cross their paths, and often I must, I wait.  I wait until they cross the road.  If they are not crossing the road, but instead are coiled and ready to strike, this is what I do:  I estimate their body length.  Unless they are striking downhill, they are not going to strike more than 1/2 their body length.  I even account for more.  Using my estimation, I go ahead and quickly pass by the rattler who is rattling off to the side.  Remember, a 6 foot rattler, striking up or evenly across, isn't going to strike much more than 3'.  That leaves me much area to pass.