Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Trail Races

A few interesting, "I don't get trail races" comments on my last post.

Well, that being only my second trail race, I can't pretend to be some kind of transcended being who has found enlightenment and will now deign to preach the good gospel of The Trail to you poor philistines still wandering in the dark.

No. I am probably closer to that infant state of consciousness of Scott and Jon. And even Bob, who at least admits to enjoying a non-event trail run. But I guess I have some insights and I can feel strange stirrings within.

All I can do is try to offer a couple of thoughts that have occurred to me in the past couple of days. The thing that distinguishes a "race" from a casual training run is that it is an event. On top of that, it is physically very, very demanding, and therefore not likely to be something you will attempt without the surrounding hoop-la of the event. So the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing something very, very demanding, and in often beautiful surroundings, is really unlikely without the event to push/pull you through it.

Like parenthood, these things are also something that you will never, ever be truly able to explain to anybody. You can only understand it by participating. Even to fellow runners who only ever do hard-top races. So there is a real sense of camaraderie and shared experience with your fellow trail hounds (I don't really call myself that, by the way). And this is why events like Six Foot Track and Hasetsune 72 km (this was the first time the 30 km version was has been run) take on such legendary status among those who keep coming back to take on the challenge they offer. I mean look at the profile of Six Foot:

That's pretty awesome. Yet, to me, after running this considerably shorter Hasetsune, I look at that profile and think, Ha! look at those long easy sections: the bottom of Nellies Glen to Cox's River is all clear running, then from the top of Pluviometer it all looks eminently runnable, though the descent to Cave's House would be truly agonizing, as many a race report attests. In Hasetsune you were always either really going up, or really going down. I think in general that the grades were probably steeper than what they would be at Six Foot, yet it is really impossible to compare. Those elevation gains and falls at Six Foot are undeniably big: 250 m at Cox's to 1200 m at caves Road ... this is alluring. Why wouldn't you want to take something like that on? And why would you take it on without the pull of the event?

Hasetsune 72 km literally scares me. And maybe that reason alone is enough to give it a try.

So those are me thoughts on this matter.


Jon in Tokyo said...

Tamami and I will be running another trail race in September/October if we can find an "easy" one.
See if you can get hold of a copy of a book called 'Running through the Wall'. Personal Encounters with the Ultra marathon. Neal Jamison.
Well worth a read.
I have just re-read this...loads of stories of trail runs which you can drool over.

Ewen said...

I think we might have a convert! Actually trail running is not incompatible with marathoning - I know a few who doubled Six Foot and Canberra quite well. One ran 4:10 and 2:59 (first time under 3 hours).

You're right - the climbs at 6' are big, but it's all runnable (except Nellies). The last 5k to Cox's is a technical single track and the last 3k to the finish is murder on the quads.

It's the event of 6' that draws me back - I'm definitely not a hard-core trail or ultra runner.

Hope the quads are feeling better ;)

TokyoRacer said...

"Why wouldn't you want to do something like that?
Well, just to be a contrary old cuss:
1) When I race, I like to run fast, not slow.
2) When I race, I don't like hills. And I like mountains even less.
3) When I race, I don't want to have to constantly look down to check my footing so I don't twist an ankle or worse.
4) When I race, I don't like narrow paths. If I want to pass someone, or a group of people, I want to be able to do it right when I want to. 5km of single track? Sorry, but that's not a race, that's a line of elephants out for a stroll.
For training runs, delightful. I like hard training runs. For races, no thank you.

Luckylegs said...

Lte's not even think about sore quads! I could neither sit down nor stand up again without aid for 3 days after Canberra Marathon!!

I'm good to go again now & will run(?) the SMH Half Marathon in 3 weeks time.

Thanks so much for your comments on my blog. Like you said, Steve, to keep running sheer bloody mindedness is all that's needed when you're almost 80!! Speed, talent & all the assets younger runners have are no longer needed...what a relief!!

2P said...

So we'll be seeing you at 6' 2010 then :)