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NAIl THE TRAILS #6: Feel The Pain!


How to achieve your trail running goals in ten significant steps.

(Continued from Tip #5: Listen to your Heart)

There’s no getting around this one. If you take up trail running and/or ultra running, you will hurt. You will hurt after a tough speed work out, you will hurt after a long day on the trails, and you will hurt like hell after giving it your all on a long-distance trail race. Chances are also likely that you’ll frequently feel your twitch muscles rebuilding overnight, and that you’ll wake up sore at least a few times during the year; it’s all cause and effect, part of the wider “no pain, no gain” cliché.

Fighting through the agony during a tough work-out or a race is a matter of mental fortitude, a lot of which only comes with experience – and it’s not something I think anyone ever feels they have mastered. But the pain, assuming it’s not an injury (which makes for a different topic entirely), is fleeting at worst. There are plenty ways by which to mitigate and cure it (I recommend the ice bath, though I realize others might consider that just further pain!) and hopefully the positive endorphin flow will more than make up for the temporary discomforts.

Feeling the pain as I cross the finish line on the Escarpment Trail Run. Photo by Doug Freese.

If not, just look on the bright side. I mean, seriously, we all choose to do this. Others are not so fortunate. Climbing Slide Mountain on the Cat’s Tail Trail Marathon, a solid 1500ft ascent with nary a level break, I found myself likening it to a death march. Then I remembered the time I spent last year in Sandakan, Borneo, learning about the real Death March of the Allied Soldiers at the hands of the Japanese, and I shut me the fuck right up. Before I knew it, I was up top of Slide – very much alive and kicking, and feeling absolutely blessed.

A real Death March. There is no comparison.

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