Trails (and trail fears) on my mind

I’m coming off an awesome weekend of road-relay fun (more on that coming in another post) and am rapidly approaching another weekend race, this time on the trails.


I previewed the course yesterday after work. Online, the course profile looked really similar to the Boneyard trail race (the first in the series a few weeks ago) and I was nervous about another straight-up-then-straight-down race. However, the course has a few improvements over the first course, including a much wider starting section (starts on road), a few sections of flat (*gasp!*), and a nicer mix of single-track and wide-open-dirt-road for the downhills. There are a few sketchier sections – a stream crossing, a couple bumpier downhills, and some rocky sections, but nothing crazy. I took the time to re-run short downhills or rocky sections that gave me pause, working to figure out the best approach to apply come race day.

In spite of the surprisingly pleasant course, had some nagging nervous thoughts that kept me awake last night, with my mind replaying the course and veering off onto side thoughts about rolled ankles, tumbles onto sharp rocks, or getting left in the dust due to heavy, uncooperative downhill legs after the still-grueling uphill. The resulting jolts of adrenaline made sleep difficult and, in my tired, anxiety-ridden state, I actually started to consider just not showing up for the start on Saturday. 

I’m a competitive person, and I think I’m letting this competitiveness contribute to my recent struggle with trail racing. With the depth of the race fields here, I feel pressure to learn to bomb the downhills and technical just to stay in sight of the chase pack. My desire to run well and improve is clashing with (somewhat overgrown) fears about potentially losing weeks of running, hiking, and outdoors fun to clumsiness-induced traumatic injury. Let’s be realistic – I know people who’ve broken ankles doing something as mundane as stepping off a sidewalk curb, so in perspective it’s irrational to limit myself from having fun and building new skills just to avoid a low probability of serious injury, or the more likely minor pain of scrapes and rolled sprained ankles. I keep reminding my brain of this when it starts freaking out, but it seems only mildly convinced by this logic.

I’ll certainly be running on Saturday in spite of my worries, and am confident that the race day mindset will help me to temporarily suppress my fears and push through the sections that made me hesitant on yesterday’s course preview. Hopefully Saturday will end up being a good opportunity for me to jump back into the trail scene after a couple hectic weeks away, and I’ll be able to cue off of the faster runners to push beyond my comfort zone while still staying within my developing technical capabilities.Trail running is supposed to be a fun escape from the monotony of the roads, and I want to balance my ability and efforts in order to find joy in facing the course challenges instead of just fear.

Good or bad, Saturday will definitely provide me with some information about how the more experienced runners get through the tougher sections and how I can apply these techniques to my weaknesses, and will serve as good motivation to get out on the beautiful summer trails and build some foot-eye-proprioceptor coordination!


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