Last night was a blast. An absolute and utter success. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!
I have to tell you about it, because even though my glutes and knees are a wee bit screamy this morning, I am tired as heck, and quite possibly slap happy from teh tired… I am very excited about what I was able to achieve last night, and where I want to go with it. It was also awesome to share it with my friend, who looked very capable and with it.
I am so happy she suggested it, and we were able to arrange to get there.
I was able to run through some craggy, rocky paths, up a steep rock, down a steep rock, and up and down some mountain goat hills that before last night, I would have walked and picked my way through daintily. I kept up to the group well ( I am sure the instructor was not going very fast to keep the group together) and sometimes I found myself needing to slow down. Even though I was soaked in sweat (and maybe peed a little bit going back down the trail at the end, it was steep and rocky and I was running at a speed I thought was fast and it was a tiny, tiny bit unnerving… But just a little, honest!) with shaky legs, and breathing like a 60 year old smoker, I felt like I fit in. I did, however, feel much more colourful than anyone else there in my neon shirt and rainbow skirt, with my Rainbow Dash socks. *shrug* I was comfy, that was what mattered.
We started out doing some drills in the Camp Fortune parking lot. I can describe them to you in great detail, but if you are interested in trail running best-practices, my advice is to go to one of these clinics and try them out. Practicing with the careful progression of our instructor, Lise, was great to put the reason behind the ridiculousness we must have portrayed as mountain bikers rode past us. To understand the why as well as the proper form for them made all the difference. Really, Lise has this calm, confident poise to her expertise, but is down to earth and full of humour about her passion, both which naturally flowed from her example and explanation.
The drills were like high knees, butt-kickers, side steps, and some lifting steps that helped to engage the hips and gain awareness of foot placement. The idea of all of the high-stepping drills is to help you lift your feet up, (Hot lava! Don’t leave your feet on the ground for long!) engage your core, and ready yourself to run on trails with roots and rocks. No tripping, aye? Sit back and use your centre of gravity to balance on turns and hills. Use your arms to help push you up, and keep your elbows in to prevent side to side torsion on your midsection, which wastes energy and causes you to lose balance.
Guess what I do… Yup. My elbows stuck out like coat hangers. This is something I have always fought with both running, riding horses, and simply standing. I try, I really do, but they just want to float out! Something to work on this summer. If I do bring them in, my shoulders go to my ears. If I run naturally, my elbows go almost 90 degrees out from my body.*sigh*
We hit the mountain bike trails on the hill, and did some running, remembering to step lightly, lift our feet. We were taught how to “spin” up a steep incline (take small, quick steps to economize and get up a difficult climbing effort) and how to power up too. How to run downhill with cadence, brake, change direction, and pick a line. We also got the chance to practice this, a lot. It was so much fun, I felt like I was flying coming down the trail, navigating the rocks and turns. I sounded heavy on my feet still, but of course, practice with the drills and principles will help with that.
I felt really in the moment and focused as we moved to different terrain questions, and Lise patiently explained the aspects of running through them. It was scary the first time I would attempt it, silently praying not to pratfall, or otherwise embarrass myself, but I never did. The incredible rush I got as I RAN up and down the trail portions we practiced on was empowering, I won’t lie. Most trail runners might reply to my enthusiasm with “ok, yeah… whatev’s”, but for me, it was a huge moment, and a big deal. Couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.
I CAN run on trails and be quick. I CAN navigate this stuff as a runner with some extra weight on her body. I CAN run up these hills, even if I am gasping at the top. The new techniques made it so much easier, and I felt, for the first time, capable. HYOOOGE confidence boost, right there. On those trails, I did not feel pokey or slow. I felt…
Calm. Normal. In control. Isn’t that weird? Catapulting down a hill, over rocks that want to make you tumble, and I felt in control. I also felt like I was able to clear my mind, focus on my footsteps and breathing. It was relaxing!
We moved over to a trail suggested by one of the other students, and we zig-zagged into the cool forest to try our hand (feet?) at drops, rock-strewn paths, branches, and a steep-sloped rock face. I ran up that *%^&ing rock face! UP! Then down. DOWN! It was hard not to want to shout “whee!” and raise my arms up as I came over drops or around bends. When we did our run back down to the parking lot from the top of the zig-zag trail portion we were working on, I was tired. I was ready to stop, drenched in sweat. I had worked very hard during our hour and a half of play and learn. I was dripping off my nose and down my back, my hat was soaked. My handana was a sopping, drippy mess. I had sweat in unmentionable places. Mosquitoes were walking through the DEET to bite me everywhere.
But… As we ran, and navigated all of the trail portions we had practiced, I felt such an endorphin rush, that the tiredness faded. I may have sounded like a threadbare bagpipe about to burst, but I felt incredible. I may have looked about as wilted as a week-old cut rose, but I was energized. “I did that!” I said in my head as we walked back towards the cars. “I did that, and I loved that!”
And now, I want to do it again. Tuesday evenings are the shorter (free!) meet and runs organized by the group that puts on the clinics (http://www.naturalfitnesslab.com/) and I have my kettlebell class on those nights, but maybe once September hits, I will have to go to a few. And between now and then, I want to find a babysitter, so I can drag my husband to Gatineau Park.
I have some trails to run… With my elbows in.