Take to the trails

By TERESA HAMMOND
Living a life filled with irreplaceable moments is one of the most favorite challenges I give myself. I’m an ‘inspirational’ quotes kinda girl, always happy to share words which resonate deeply with me.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” is a personal favorite.

I greeted the new year by taking on a running challenge presented by Brazen Racing. The premise, simple: two half marathons five days apart. As a relatively seasoned runner, this seemed like a great way to greet 2015. I’d run my fair share of half marathons and marathon training brings with it many long runs to the tune of 13-plus miles. This would be fun.

The fun quickly changed to unnerving and scary when I learned the course I believed would be 70 percent road and 30 percent trail was actually the opposite. These were trail runs.

Trail running has and continues to increase in popularity among runners for a variety of reasons. I was not ready for this. Thirteen point one miles of trail around Lake Chabot, not once but twice, was both eye opening and humbling.

The first race tore me down, as a runner it broke me. New Year’s Day, however, I took it back. I could not let a race course get the best of me.

Runner extraordinaire Tony Nguyen (aka Endorphin Dude) was on that trail with me the first time around. We were even captured in a course photo early on, beaming as we ran into the unknown.
Nguyen is no joke in the running world. A story not dissimilar to mine, he one day decided to save his own life through eating right and exercise. Running changed it all and before you knew it, he was widely known and celebrated as ‘Endorphin Dude.’

“Trail running in my opinion is completely different than road racing,” Nguyen said. “I started out as a walker and worked my way up.”

To date the avid runner has approximately 50 Ultra races under his fuel belt.

Ultra running is defined as any distance of 26 miles or greater. Most Ultra races are of the 50k, 50 mile or 100 mile distances. Nguyen has run all three multiple times.

“I like the challenge of trail running,” he said. “I like the climb of the 8,000 feet elevation. The sense of danger. I was a road racer, I still am, I just wanted to challenge myself further.
“There’s a definite difference in the culture from trail running to road racing,” he continued. “To me road running is about speed. There’s the elites and the runners focused on PR (personal record) after PR.”

Nguyen said trail running also demands focus.

“A new trail runner needs to be cognizant of terrain. It’s more technical. One little twig can take you down if you’re not paying attention. A lot of new to trail runners go out fast, thinking that they’re going to run it like a road race. You definitely can’t do that.”

As a road racer convert, Nguyen shared the crossover to trail took time yet it was well worth the time and work.

“When I first started I talked to God too, but it was more of ‘Oh God!’,” he admitted. “Now I gravitate more toward trail running because for me it is more therapeutic. With trail running there’s tons of serenity, you hear the birds chirping, you hear your thoughts, it’s more peaceful.”

Nguyen continues to train and run Ultra races. As for myself, I’ve decided to table my time with trails, unless out hiking with my kids. Someday however I will run an Ultra and Nguyen will be among the first that I call.

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