Blog Symposium: Is trail running becoming too commercialized?

Is Trail Running Becoming Too Commercialized?

When I read the topic for this month, my initial gut reaction was, yes it is.  Trail running is supposed to be the simplest, purest form of running.  Lace up shoes, go explore nature, take in the sights and sounds of the trail.  Now we are told that we need the right nutrition, water packs, shoes, and clothes.  However, when I really think about what is commercialized here in the US, my response is, no.  Trail running really isn’t too commercialized, in fact it is bringing awareness to people, who otherwise wouldn’t otherwise know,  that there is a whole wonderful culture of runners, and places to run that do not require roads.

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The reason my initial thoughts were yes, its too commercialized is probably because only 2-3 years ago I didn’t really think much of trail running. I didn’t know anyone who ran races on trails, outside of Colorado and other more mountainous areas.  I had never seen a commercial on tv, or ad in a magazine for trail running.  Up until recently trail runners always seemed to be the “strong silent types” of the running world.  They were the thru hikers that decided to get together and race an event.  Even when I first began running on trails near my house I would see people out hiking and walking their dogs more often than running. In the past year a local running store started a community running program to encourage road runners to get out on the trails and run, and our trail network now seems like a highway of runners on Saturday mornings.

In the last several years social media has exploded with trail running pictures, foods, supplements, shoes, gear, and race promotions.  Races have been selling out faster than we can hit the keys on our computers.  Though I have seen positive outcomes, more races are opening, more people are thinking about how they use and not abuse the trails.  Others have become aware how wonderful and important it is to keep our open spaces free from development.

All these changes, for me, made me feel like trail running must be getting too commercialized….

And then I realized, I feel like I see so much more about trail running in media because I seek it out now. I read Trail Runner Magazine, and Ultra Runner Magazine. I go online and read Irunfar.com, and Ultrarunnerpodcast.com. Of course I think all I see is the commercialization of trail running.  For the average American, however, they see little to nothing about trail running. They, instead, are bombarded with fast food, beauty and hygiene, and entertainment ads. Fast food spends billions of dollars yearly on their commercials, it would actually be pretty wonderful if even half of that money was put into promoting something as healthy as our sport; trail running. Imagine how healthy, relaxed and happy so many more Americans would be if they just got out to a local trail a few hours a day?!  If more people were interested in trail running, could more forests be saved and not turned into real estate, restaurants and shops?!

The purist in me would like to see trail running go back to being the little cult sport it seems it once was.  Its fun to be part of an activity that isn’t very mainstream, that not many people have done, and that “big business” hasn’t gotten a hold of.  A larger part of me is happy that so many other people are sharing in my excitement for trail running.  My running club puts on two trail races a year, the money we make gets donated to the park’s where the races are held.  Without all the hype and commercialization of trail running we wouldn’t have been able to donate much needed money to very underfunded state parks around.   I have run packet pick up several years now, and it makes my heart happy to see all the newbies out there excited to try something different.

Like anything else, as trail running becomes more popular it will also become more and more commercialized.  It is my hope that consumers will think about the races and the products they support and be mindful that as long as we treat the trails well,and respect them they will be around for us to enjoy for many years to come.

 

Trail explorations in Boone NC

Leaping in my Altra Lone Peak

 

Have you ever had that thought deep in sleep that you forgot to set your alarm and somehow you are able to wake yourself from deep sleep?  I bolted out of bed, knowing that I had accidentally set my alarm for 4:30 pm, not am!  Fortunately it was only 4:15 and I had plenty of time to pack for my Boone adventure.

I slipped silently downstairs to get my things ready.  Shoes-check, compression socks-check, hydration pack-check, snacks, sunscreen, water, and clothes…check, check, check.  I was buzzing with excitement and nervousness.  I am never over-prepared, I like to wing it sometimes when it comes to trying out new trails.  I had been to Boone and Grandfather Mountain countless times, so I know the area, and its populated enough that you really can’t get too lost.

My ride came right on time, but with a little bad news.  He was in a rush and had stubbed his toe moments before.  “I think I broke it,” he said.  I cringed a bit..”oh no, we don’t have to go…”  He insisted it wasn’t bad and we took off, heading west to where the land starts to become mountainous.  3 hours later we pulled into the Julian Price Park parking lot.  Ben tested his toe, while I tried to guess between some written notes I had from a friend, and my phone map where the trail began.

After a few minutes he was ready, and I had a good idea which direction to go.  I brought with me my Energybits to try out.  (full review of them here) I took about 10 and we were off.  The Tanawha trail  parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway from Julian Price 13 miles to Beacon Heights.   The trail leads you through many different ecosystems.  Immediately we were ducking our heads dodging low hanging rhododendron branches, it then spit us out into some beautiful open fields.  We crossed grassy fields, rocky and rooty sections that seemed to go on endlessly, and some gravel connecting trails…it was quite a nice variety of terrain.

The trail continued steadily uphill, putting us back into forest.  We came to the edge of Grandfather Mountain State Park about 6 miles into our run.  From there we decided to follow a loop up to Storyteller’s rock, then over to Calloway peak, and then back down the Daniel Boone Scout trail to Tanawha again.

The day was beautiful and it got hot fast.  The sun felt so good on my skin, and the breeze at the top of the mountain was so soft.   There is something about the mountains that is just so inspiring and relaxing all at the same time.   I just feel at peace when I am there.

We stopped a few times to take in the view and to take some pictures..

Got rocks?

We eventually ran out of water, but were close enough back to the car that it didn’t cause us to slow much.

If you are ever in the area of Boone, I would highly recommend this set of trails.  Its right off the parkway, just a few minutes from downtown, and just beautiful.  Total round trip was somewhere between 22-24 miles and the elevation is 5,964.

Run on!

Spring is here…Time to spring clean your running!

I tend to get a bit of the winter blues, come March.  In December and January (what little) snow and ice we get is fun!  Even just a few inches shuts down this southern town. Kids and adults alike are out trying to sled on whatever they can get their hands on, but by early March we usually get glimpses of spring.  Random warm days and a few daffodils get mixed in between the cold, rainy days.

This year we had freezing rain until close to the end of March, and I was losing motivation to get up early to run.   For the first time, for as long as I can remember, I began sleeping in and starting work earlier…and became an evening runner!

Now that its nearly April the tulips are coming up, the daffodils are past their prime, and even the hyacinth are looking perky.  All clear signs of spring!   And clear signs for me to shake a leg and get back to my morning run schedule!IMG_20140328_134721

After a cold winter, there are several things I like to do to get ready for warmer running weather!

1. I like to revisit my diet.  In the winter I like warmer, heavier foods.  I tend to change my diet, adding in more salads and raw veggies.   Try a new fruit or vegetable once a week!

2. SHOES!  What is more motivating than a spiffy new pair of shoes?!  After slogging thorough snow, ice, mud and salt usually my shoes are looking like they need to be replaced. This spring I treated myself to a few new Altra’s, both trail and road shoes.  I love being an ambassador for this company!  I honestly enjoy running inevery shoe I have tried of theirs.  I wouldn’t be an ambassador otherwise.

The One, Lone Peak 1.5, Superior, Intuition 1.5

The One, Lone Peak 1.5, Superior, Intuition 1.5

3. Rotate out my winter gear for my warmer weather clothes and vests.  This is true spring cleaning for me.  Some people wash their windows and dust.  I like to make sure all of my winter running jackets are washed before they get put away to the back of the closet.

4. SPEEDWORK!  Try to add in some speed to my running.  In the winter, battling the elements I can slip into easy paced runs.  The cold and gray can make runs a bit lack luster.  Its time to get training for the spring and summer races.  Get out to a track, throw in a fartlek, or hill repeats! Shake out those winter running cobwebs! (Carefully of course, you never want to jump into a lot of speed work if you have taken the winter easy or off…that’s just an injury waiting to happen.)

5. Get the bike back out.  I will run in anything, however, when it comes to cycling I am a big weather wimp.  I think cycling is a great way to cross train, and to enjoy some sun!

6. Thoroughly clean out my water bottles and hydration pack.  I probably go longer than I should between thorough cleanings with a bristle brush.  The rising temps in the spring is a reminder that it will be HOT and HUMID soon!  In the winter I don’t drink nearly as much as I do in the summer…so its time to get them ready!

What spring time rituals do you have?

 

Peanut Butter Oat-cakes..YUM!

The first day of spring was this week, but on Monday and Tuesday with an ice storm it felt like anything but spring outside.  Inside I was in the mood for some PANCAKES, but wanted to try something new.  I got online and started cruising around Google, I typed in vegan, I typed in pancakes…and I found Peanut Butter Flax seed Oat-cakes by the Minimalist Baker….sounds delicious.

Now to the kitchen to see if I had the essential ingredients needed.  I always have peanut butter, usually have flax meal, knew I had oats, but what else..

The recipe calls for

  • 1 vegan egg (which is just 1 tsp of flax meal soaked in 3 tsp of water)
  • 1 Tbsp Earth Balance, melted (I used coconut oil, melted)
  • ½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I used unsweet Almond-coconut milk by Blue Diamond)
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar (molassas is what I had on hand)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp natural salted peanut butter (crunchy),
  • pinch salt
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I am gluten free so I used some GF pancake mix I had instead)

Pretty easy, I combined the “wet” ingredients first, holding the vegan “egg” for last so it could gel.  As seen above, I substituted a few items here and there, partly for my taste, partly because it was what I had on hand.  I had to make my own oat flour in my food processor, but that was pretty easy.  They all came together in the bowl nicely, and then onto a hot skillet.  They were a bit runny and thin and I only had time for one before I had to go to work..but it was good!

I stashed the remaining batter in the fridge before I left for work, so when I came home I grabbed it.  While it was chilling in the fridge, waiting for me, it had thickened.  I reheated the skillet, and made nice fat pancakes.

I really wanted some bananas on top, so I took an overripe banana, added some maple syrup and melted them together over  low heat….ohh they were so darn good!  This will certainly become a regular on my menu!

Hope you enjoy, thanks Minimalist Baker!

 

 

 

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March Trail Runner Blog Symposium:

What would you nominate for the best old school trail race and why?

If you pull a trail runner aside and ask, “what is the best old school trail race” the answer that may immediately jump from their lips is Western States Endurance Run or the Dipsea Race.  The Dipsea race began in 1905 and the WSER in 1974, long before I was born, never mind when I began trail running. Having only run trail races for the past 2 years (since 2012), I would respond very differently.  My answer would be the Uwharrie Mountain Run.

In the summer of 2012 I began running with a trail group, the TrailHeads.  I immediately fell in love with the woods and the way that something as simple as trail running brought together all types of people, people whose paths may have never crossed otherwise.   After hearing their stories of “ultra” races I became very curious to try one out myself.  After much discussion it turned out that there was one race that almost every TrailHead seemed to have run, The Uwharrie Mountain Run, or Uwharrie, as it is  commonly referenced.

According to our unofficial TrailHead sage, Squonk, this race was started in 1999 by Bob Boeder. He began it as a way to both fend off addiction and as a way to get others excited about ultra races and trail running.  Squonk remembers his first experience running the 8 mile race. When I finished the 8 the first time, I was ecstatic at the end and told Bob that was more fun than I can remember ever having.  He looked at me and said, “That’s great…if you want more, you can run back the way you came.”

Subsequently the following year Squonk, and another TrailHead Booda, signed up for the 40 mile in 2000 (to celebrate a 40th birthday). However, the race was postponed that year due to a snowstorm.   Uwharrie is held at the beginning of February, and runners have seen everything from feet of snow, to 60 degree weather.   Squonk remembers that “back then you mailed in your race check”.  Bob had to send everyone a letter explaining the situation and also held onto the race entries so everyone could run in 2001.  Ever since then the TrailHeads have been running and sometimes podium-ing  at Uwharrie.

Me at the finish of Uwharrie (20 mile)2013

Me at the finish of Uwharrie (20 mile)2013

Now, Uwharrie isn’t just a small locals-only race.  Runners like Sophie Speidel, Mike Morton, David Horton, and Annette Bednoski have all run. David Horton came back a second time, as did Annette who has run Uwharrie multiple times.

I ran the race in 2012; 15 TrailHeads ran the 40, 8 ran the 20 mile, and others ran the 8.  That is one of the best things about Uwharrie, there is a wide variety of distances so that spouses who may not want to run the 40 can choose shorter races.  The following year I talked my (non-trailrunning) husband into running the 8.

Another great thing about this race is the volunteers – they are fantastic!  They are excited for each runner and ready to help in any way.  Its such a boost to come over a hill and hear people cheering for you at the aid stations.

Additionally, there are veteran ultra runners who instead of racing at Uwharrie may man an aid station. Their knowledge is priceless out there on the trail and has launched many a newbie trail runner into the world of ultra running has and kept many others coming back for more.

Uwharrie has knit together a tight group of funny, sarcastic, spirited, coffee drinking, trail runners who come back together again and again. Not only to race, but to help with trail work, aid station set up, and race day coordination – making it one of the best trail races around!

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Shoe Review: Lone Peak 1.5 VS Superior

Altra vs Altra: the Lone Peak 1.5 takes on the Superior

Altra vs Altra: the Lone Peak 1.5 takes on the Superior

The Specs first:

Lone Peak 1.5 (Womens);

Weight: 8.9 oz

Stack Height: 22 mm

Midsole: Two-Layer; EVA/ AltraBound

Lacing Structure: Asymmectical

Outsole: Sticky Rubber, TrailClaw

Platform: Like all Altra shoes they are a Zero drop

Features: StoneGaurd, Vegan Friendly, Sandwiched Rock Protection,  Gaitor Velcro on heel, Rudder, Foot shaped design specifically for women

The Superior (Womens)

Weight: 6.9 oz, (though I have seen slightly more on other reviews..but they were reviewing the men’s shoes and may make a difference in weight)

Stack Height: 12mm

Midsole: Removable StoneGaurd, Two-Layer EVA / A-Bound™

Lacing Structure: Aysummetrical

Outsole: Sticky Checker Trail Outsole

Platform: Zero drop

Features: Trail Rudder, Foot shaped design specifically for women

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Taken right after my shower, immediately after, I fell asleep (Post Pinhoti 100)

The Lone Peak 1.5s have been my go to shoe, for just about everything trail related for the past 6 months.  I actually ran Pinhoti 100 in them after only really wearing them a week or two before the race.  The Two Layer EVA really protected my feet, no bumps, no bruises, the soles of my feet actually felt great, and I did not get a SINGLE black toe nail!

The Sticky Rubber TrailClaw™ took on every type of terrain that Pinhoti threw me.  The zero drop and correct anatomical foot shape also helped my footing.  I can’t remember the last time I twisted my ankle in these shoes, even while running very steep down hill in Mout Mitchell last month.  I even had a woman I ran past ask what shoes I was wearing that were clearly comfortable enough to bomb down hill, while she was picking her way through the rock field miserably.  I paused, and proudly told her, “Altra Lone Peaks!”

Both shoes feature a TrailRudder™.  It is meant to help in downhill running on scree or loose dirt trails.

Superior left, Lone Peak righ with gaitor velcro

Superior left, Lone Peak righ with gaitor velcro

I haven’t noticed them one way or the other, except when my fingers are too cold, or I am lazy, stepping on the TrailRudder™ helps take the shoe off easily.

The asymmetrical shoe lacing system keeps my feet locked in with no sliding around, however the laces are quite long, and when they get wet, if I haven’t double knotted them very tightly, they have come undone.  The wide toe box feels great for me, however, I have heard from others (who are used to very narrow shoes) that it takes a little while to get used to all the room, but once they get used to the room, they hate getting their feet back into narrower toe boxes.

The Superior is newer to me.  I have run in them for about 3 weeks.  I find that they are noticeably more flexible on the trail, and they feel fast hopping over and around roots and rocks.  The toe gaurd is not as substantial as the Lone Peak 1.5, but the toe box shape is such that the few times I have kicked rocks I’m protected enough that I don’t feel it.  The Checkered outsole felt a bit more slippery in ice or sloppy mud than the Sticky Rubber TrailClaw.™

Superior Sticky Checkered outsole Left, Lone Peak 1.5 TrailClaw right

Superior Sticky Checkered outsole Left, Lone Peak 1.5 TrailClaw right

If you have sensitive or bony sole’s of your feet, I did feel some small sharp rocks underfoot, though it was more of an awareness, rather than a pain.  These are not barefoot shoes, they are cushioned enough for just about any surface.  I actually really like the Superiors for when I run a mix of road and trail.  They ride really nicely on the road, not clunky like some other trail shoes I have tried out on pavement in the past.

I did like the laces better, they are a softer material and have not come untied at all.  The uppers are a more open weave and while the Lone Peak 1.5 has a very cushioned tongue, the Superior’s have a thin but soft tongue.  Both tongues are attached to the shoe on either side keeping dirt and small stones from sneaking in through the laces.  I have not worn a gaitor with the Lone Peak 1.5s in any races. Both uppers are comfortable, I haven’t felt any rubbing, not even around the ankle where some stiffer trail shoes have bloodied me in the past.

Overall, the lighter-faster feeling Superior is quickly becoming a favorite of mine for fast trail workouts and shorter distances.  I like the free and flexible feeling they give my legs and feet.  They make my proprioception feel very natural and unhindered, more like a barefoot shoe, while providing more protection.  I would say they Altra’s version of a barefoot shoe, but with more protection and padding.

The Lone Peak’s will remain my ultra shoe of choice.  They continue to keep my feet happy no matter how long my run is; 50k to 100 miles.  These are more than a barefoot shoe, but still much more flexible than a NB Leadville or La Sportiva C-lite, you can still feel the trail, but the Lone Peak 1.5 offers a step up in protection from the Superior, without becoming too much of a shoe and blunting all trail feel.

Quick and Easy Bean and Spinach Dip

My father’s heritage is Mediterranean, so we grew up eating a lot of Syrian foods.  One of my favorite has always been hummus.  I woke up this morning really wanting some good hummus, but didn’t have tahini on hand, and wanted to incorporate spinach, so I created a bean dip with what I had on hand.

1-25oz can of orIMG_20140228_100726_788ganic garbanzo beans (drained but save some liquid)

1/2 of a fresh lemon squeezed

1 clove of fresh garlic

salt/pepper to taste

herbamare, just a pinch

handful of spinach

Put it all together in a blender and blend together.  If its too dry and won’t blend, add back in a bit of the liquid saved from the can.

Once combined, you’re done!

I like to enjoy it with broccoli, carrots, and crackers.