Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Snowshoe Running – Trails Not Required

By Susan Farago, Trailhead Running Coach

Check out a brief video of snowshoe running in the cornfields of Minnesota at: https://vimeo.com/yellowbirdflight/snowshoerunning

 If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a snowy destination and are yearning to get in some trail running, give snowshoe running a try! Snowshoe running is a lot like trail running yet the intensity and challenge offer a great way to get your heart racing and your quads burning with only your winter trail running gear and two additional requirements – snowshoes and snow.

Snowshoes have been around for thousands of years and were originally made from a heavy frame wrapped in hide strips designed to create a deck allowing the user to float above soft snow. Today’s snowshoe materials are drastically different but provide the same basic function. However, snowshoe running differs from traditional snowshoeing in a variety of ways. First, the snowshoes are lighter and have a shorter and narrower deck. Adjustable straps are designed to hold running shoes in the binding and a central pivot point allows the foot to rock back and forth while sharp teeth-like crampons allow the snowshoe to dig into ice and snow with every toe-off run movement. Some models also come with interchangeable crampons designed to handle a wide variety of terrain from ice to powder or hard pack. Prices range from $150-$350+ and more popular brands include Dion, Atlas, and Crescent Moon. What about poles? Not required.

Anatomy of a snowshoe used for running.

Snowshoe running requires significantly more effort than trail running including higher leg lift and slightly wider gate to accommodate the snowshoes. This slight change in form engages the stabilizing muscle groups in the core and hips. It also works out the ankles and calves thanks to banked, slick, or unpredictable terrain. Plus there are now two pieces of equipment between your bare foot and the ground: the running shoe and the snowshoe – each working in concert to propel you forward…most of the time. The first 10-15 minutes takes a little getting used to, but after a while you forget you have anything on your feet and your run stride only has to slightly adjust to its new form. 

 If you are new to snowshoe running plan to reset your pace expectations. Running a 10K on snowshoes in 2 feet of fresh snow across a rolling meadow can take up to 3-4 more minutes per your typical minute/mile pace than cranking out a 10K on dirt pack through your favorite patch of woods. Being at or above altitude just adds to the lung burning fun. No trails? No worries! Snowshoeing allows you to make your own trail whether it’s through a rural corn field, a mountain forest, or even an urban golf course! The overall experience is like running in slow motion yet your heart rate is sky high.

Snowshoe racing is an officially recognized sport sanctioned by the United States Snowshoe Association (USSSA - www.snowshoeracing.com). Races are held throughout the winter and early spring with distances ranging from 5K all the way up to 135 mile ultra endurance events. But snow is required. If you are thinking about signing up for a race in an area where snow is unpredictable wait until literally the last minute to register – a warming spell or blizzard can make the difference between an event being on or cancelled.

I first tried snowshoe running in 2012 on a trip to Minnesota. I had no gear and no experience but I just decided I wanted to give it a go. I found a website (www.cutemoose.net) that put me in touch with a local group of trail runners who met twice a week throughout the winter to snowshoe run. Luckily they were 15 minutes from where I was staying. One of the guys, who just happened to be the race director for the Braveheart Snowshoe Race Series, had an extra pair of snowshoes and let me use them for the first run. We ran at night on some groomed trails in a local park and after 2 hours I was exhausted, sweaty, and completely hooked on the sport. I bought a pair of snowshoes the next day. I run with the group whenever I am back in Minnesota. I also run in the cornfields and woods next to my parent’s house sometimes following the existing snowmobile tracks and other times forging my own trails.

Tips to get started with snowshoe running:

1. Search for a local club, group, or organization to run with or find out about local trails.
 2. Search for a place to rent snowshoes such as a local sports outfitter or resort. Make sure you rent snowshoes designed for running. Standard snowshoes typically used for hunting will work but they are heavier, wider, and can result in banging up the inside of your ankles.
3. Dress in layers. You will start out cold but will quickly warm up and sweat a lot! Plus your butt, calves, and shoes will get wet from the flying snow so best to wear materials that wick or repel water.
4. Bring a hydration pack and some calories.
5. Pace yourself accordingly and plan to take walk or rest breaks. Use this time to stop and enjoy the scenery!

If you do decide to buy your own snowshoes, there are many resources available on the web. When doing your research ask yourself how and where you plan to use the snowshoes (Ice or snow? Flats or hills?) If you plan to do any racing, look at USSSA’s website to ensure your snowshoes meet the sizing requirements for sanctioned events. 

 Snowshoe running is a great way to enjoy the outdoors year round and get in your trail fix during the winter months. And with the right gear, you can make your own trails.

Forging new trails in fresh snow.
Article also printed on EnduranceBuzz.com blog, with permission. 2015.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Max Cushion Trail Running Shoes

By Richelle Criswell, Trailhead Running Coach

Fifteen years ago, the trail running industry offered a small variety of trail running shoes. Most shoe companies took their road shoes, slapped a beefier tread on the bottom of the shoe, changed the color of the uppers to be more "earthy", and then called it a trail shoe. Today, runners have many choices when buying trail shoes. Multiple shoe companies now carry not just a trail shoe, but an entire line of trail shoes to appeal to multiple foot types, trail terrains, and distances. If your search for a trail shoe has lead you to the max cushion trail shoes, but you aren't quite sure if the shoe is for you, keep reading. . .

My "go to" trail shoes for the past 5 years have been what the industry refers to as "max cushion" shoes. Due to foot issues I would encounter on longer runs, I started running in the Hoka One One Mafate (which is no longer available, but they now have a Mafate Speed). After a few years, Altra Footwear came out with their version of a max cushion trail shoe called the Olympus and I started running in them. Why the switch? What's the difference? The shoes do look different than most and because of the visual differences, many questions tend to come my way.

Hoka One One Mafate

Altra Olympus

What's a max cushion shoe?

Max cushion shoes have thick foam mid-soles which provide an extra-cushioned ride for runners. I refer to the shoes as "marshmallow shoes" or "moon shoes" because that's what they look like (never mind the fact that I have a soft spot for marshmallows). Because the of the size of the shoes, people think the shoe would be heavy, but they are as light, if not lighter than a regular trail shoe. The second misconception is that you'll feel like you are running with "lifts in your shoes" or "in high heels" while wearing max cushion shoes. With the purchase of a shoe that is different from what you've been wearing, there is always a "breaking in" period where you get used to the new feel. The same goes for max cushion shoes. It's "feels" different at first, but after a few runs you'll be used to the shoes.


Hoka, Altra, or another max cushion shoe?

Not all max cushion shoes are the same. While the shoes all boast a thick foam mid-sole and extra cushion, some shoes may feel more or less cushy, wider or more narrow, and be "zero-drop" or "minimum drop. As the wearer of the shoe, it's your duty to put a little time and effort into reading up on the specs of the shoe to see what each offers and how they differ.

The biggest differences between Hoka One Ones and Altras are the footbed and the "drop". Altra Footwear is focused on creating shoes with footbeds that follow the nature shape of the foot--specifically the toe box. In keeping with natural foot mechanics, their shoes are also "zero-drop," which means the shoes do not have a built-up heel that tapers to the foot bed. The soles are the same size from heel to toe.

Hoka One One is more about varying the amounts of cushion and firmness. The footbed is more along the lines of what people are used to seeing and their shoes have a heel to toe drop that is minimal (not zero) but less than that of the normal shoe.

What about tread?

Some runners have the luxury of being able to run in any shoe. Others have to decide what is more important to them. Is it more important to be able to run long distances without foot pain or to have "grippy tread" for more technical courses? Is it more important to have a light, fast shoe that feels responsive during a race or to have a shoe that is more like a Cadillac that can cruises over everything?

The Altra Olympus tread leaves a lot to be desired, but I am willing to forgo the tread deficiency in exchange for happy feet. Altra makes trail shoes with more aggressive tread (Lone Peak and Superior 2.0) but they do not have the max cushion I prefer. 
Olympus tread
Suprior 2.0 tread
Lone Peak tread

Hoka One Ones tend to have better tread across the board, but the footbeds tend to be more narrow than the Altras. The Hoka footbeds allow my feet tend to "fall in" which leads to blisters. Hoka One One now has many varieties (with varying widths) to chose from with their new models (and it may take a degree in Hoka-ology to figure out the difference between them). If your foot is indifferent to a natural footbed versus the industry standard footbed, knock yourself out and find the Hoka that is right for you!
Mafate Speed tread

Find a pair for you!

Your feet and running style will dictate which shoe works best for you. My foot likes a roomy toe box for my toes to "splay" while I run. I also prefer a zero-drop shoe (it took a couple weeks for my calves to get use to zero-drop) which is why my feet like to run in Altras (trail and road).  Many of the other shoe companies such as New Balance, Vasque, Brooks have their version of max cushion shoes, but I have not had a chance to personally run in them. If you are fortunate enough to have a specialty run store with a variety of trail shoes near you, then the best way to figure out which shoes works is to go in and try them on. Some of the stores even let you take them for a test run!! If you are not as fortunate, there are some online retailers that have a great return policy.

Stomp Lightly!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gear Review: UltraAspire ASTRAL Hydration Pack

The first hydration pack I ever bought was a Nathan brand pack with the 1L bladder. The pack lasted a couple of years and carried everything from band-aids and chap stick to body glide, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and electrolyte caps. Aside from my running partner, it was one of most reliable and essential pieces of gear in training for trail races ranging from 10K to 50M. Four years ago, I met the folks at UltrAspire and learned the founder of Nathan had decided to leave Nathan and start his own company (again) called UltrAspire. The idea was to continue to create hydration packs, belts, and handhelds that met a runner's needs with regard to comfort, functionality, and durability.

It took four years to finally get my hands on an UltrAspire pack. Initially, the Utah based company was still working on their production and distribution models making it a little difficult to get my hands on one I am also a firm believer in using something until it's no longer usable. The Nathan packs last quite sometime, even after throwing them into the washer a couple of times. The stars finally aligned and last month the UltrAspire ASTRAL pack arrived on my doorstep.

The ASTRAL is UltrAspire's first women's specific pack. Their description is, "Finally, a vest that doesn’t squish the chest while providing comfortable fit and style for beautifully fit people of all sizes and shapes." The pack is made to fit so that you don't feel like you are wearing a pack. The pack also touts strategically placed pockets including a small waterproof pouch to keep your salt tablets dry (aka safe from sweat). You can read more about the specs on the spec page.

UltrAspire provides an informational video highlighting features that separate the pack from others. Rather than re-state information provided in the specs and the video, I'd like to touch on the four features that made me love this pack.

1) Simplicity. The curbed zipper pulls make it easy to grab while running with sweaty, cold, or tired fingers. The bladder hanger system make it easy to secure the bladder--which is key when refilling your pack at aid stations. The boot hook system used to secure the pack once it's on is much easier and very forgiving--no longer will you fill like you are being squeezed by your pack. Once the pack is on, there are multiple tension straps to help make the fit truly your own. Even the fastener for your drinking tube is magnetic! Get the tube remotely close to the fastener and it snaps into place! When dexterity is hard to come by in the middle of an ultra, opening your pack should not be a challenge. The design of the clasps, zipper pulls, and hooks make this pack easy to open, refill, and take off/put on.

Hydration Tube Fastener
Magnetic Piece on Fastener
Snaps in Place
Boot Hooks
Adjustable Straps
Zipper Pulls
Bladder Hanger

2) Women's Specific. UltrAspire calls it the Curved Harness which translates to no longer having to fasten your pack across your chest. Your "girls" no longer feel like they are propped up on a shelf. Instead the Curve Harness frees your chest from any pressure of fasteners, pockets, or excess anything!

Curved Harness
Side View

3) Compartments. I admit, at first glance, the location of the front two compartments near the rib cage didn't look promising. I thought they would get in the way while I was running. On my first test run, I loaded them up with stuff--winter gloves, arm warmers, 5 gels, and buff. The compartments did not get in the way, they did not bounce-- I hardly noticed them. The compartments quietly did their job as I happily enjoyed my run. The harness straps have a compartment on each side of the chest (specific location depends on how you've strapped yourself in). One compartment is mesh-y zipper pouch (or what I like to call, my chap stick and mini body glide holder). The other compartment is a tyvek-like magnetic clasp pouch that is perfect for your salt tablets because the pouch keeps them DRY!

Waterproof Pocket
Mesh-y Pocket

Large Front Pockets

4) Softness.  The pack is constructed of mico-fiber mesh fabric which means the pack fits to you perfectly while being light-weight and allowing for circulation as your body temp rises. Your mind will be able to focus on your run instead of, "This $@#$@ pack is weighing me down!"

Light Weight Micro-Fabric Mesh
Light Weight Micro-Fabric Mesh
Light Weight Micro-Fabric Mesh

Running gear is personal. Trail running women come in all shapes and sizes and this pack does a fantastic job at providing a one-size fits all women option. To find the ASTRAL pack, check in with your local dealer. If there isn't a local dealer, you can also purchase one online either on UltrAspire's webpage or at one of the online dealers. When in doubt, give the fine folks at UltrAspire a call. They are always happy to answer any questions you may have.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Ten Things I Learned Running 100 Miles - Cajun Coyote Race Recap

By Susan Farago, Trailhead Running Coach
Cajun Coyote 100 Mile Trail Race – Dec 6-7, 2014
Chicot State Park in Ville Platte, Louisiana

There is an opportunity to learn something in everything we do. Here are a few things I learned in the 26 hours it took me to run my first 100 mile trail race.

1. The Moon Makes a Wonderful Companion – Twice
The Cajun Coyote trail race started on Saturday at 6:30am just as the spectacularly haunting “Full Cold Moon” (official name) was setting behind the long, skinny arms of craggy oak trees overhead. Being partial to trail running at night I was looking forward to seeing the moon again later that day. The moonlight, and my husband Leary as my pacer, would keep me company the entire following night until we were greeted by the sunrise and the finish line.
2. Clothes Make (or Break) the Race
On the race website it says:
The answer is: “I don’t know”. This time of year in Louisiana can be muggy, hot, and humid, or in the wet 30’s. The weather may even change in a few hours (most definitely from hot to cold) this time of year. My suggestion is to bring BOTH hot and cool weather running clothes. It’s obviously better to shed or not use, then to wonder why the “F” you left your other gear in your closet. Also keep checking the weather because we know meteorologists are always right! Bahahahahaha!
I appreciate any race director who has the candor and honesty to say, “I don’t know” (and one who laughs at his own jokes). There were so many things that could get in the way of me finishing this race, but clothing was NOT going to be one of them. I packed everything from shorts and a tank top to long, fleece lined pants, a winter jacket, and those “hot hands” hand warmers that stay warm for 8-10 hours. And I packed socks. Lots of socks. The weather started out rainy wet in the low 60’s, got up the mid 70’s with full sunshine in the late afternoon (hello tank top!), and then dropped down to the upper 40’s with gusty wind in the pre-dawn 22 hours later (thank you hand warmers and running tights). I also discovered that my body’s ability to regulate temperature got more out of whack the longer I ran so it was nice to have options at the end of each 20 mile loop.
3. Say NO to Gels and YES to Olives!
I have been a student of sports nutrition since 2000. I have read books, experimented with a wide variety of sports fuels and gels, tracked caloric consumption and hydration on spreadsheets, and earned an advanced nutrition certification from the National Federation of Professional Trainers. Tired of not knowing “if” but “when” my stomach would ultimately turn sour during a long event, I took a completely different nutrition approach for trail running this year. After trying a few new things at some key events earlier in the season, this is what my diet consisted of for 26 hours of running: chicken broth, chocolate milk, sweet tea, an almond butter sandwich, red licorice, Good and Plentys (black licorice), beef jerky, granola bars, apple sauce, rice crackers, peppermint candies, and good old fashioned body fat stores. I also tried single serving pouches of lovely, salty, green olives -- what a fantastic treat! My taste buds loved the variety, my stomach was solid, and my energy levels were even. What I didn’t miss at all were gels.
4. Armadillos Can Hop
An armadillo scampering through the woods sounds like a bull dozer ripping through the underbrush. They make A LOT of noise for such little critters. What I didn’t know is they can also hop high and fast! While running, I would round a corner and come up on an armadillo which would proceed to bound off the trail and into the underbrush at an alarming rate for something that has such short, stumpy legs. Apparently ‘dillos run in Texas and hop in Louisiana – must be Cajun ‘dillos.
5. Good Pacers are Amazing!
After being together for 24 years, my husband Leary still amazes me with his caring and loving selflessness. Not only was he my pacer for the last 40 miles of the race (which would be the longest and farthest he’s ever run), he made sure I was eating, drinking, staying warm, and moving forward the entire time. He held my hand when we crossed the long, narrow boardwalk-like bridges across the swamps (hello late night, overtired vertigo!), repeatedly put the lid back on my iced tea bottle when my fine motor skills were shot, and was wonderful company even in the long stretches of silence. When we made it back to the hotel they were still serving breakfast so he brought me a plate of scrambled “fake” eggs (which were the best eggs I’ve ever eaten), yogurt, a biscuit, and a cup of decaf coffee that tasted fantastic! After we got home, he filled a bucket with hot water and Epsom salts to soak my feet and then he rubbed each foot in an attempt to help me walk more normally. I jokingly questioned his abilities as a pacer when he started yawning just 2.5 miles into our run together. But he did everything perfectly. As always.
6. There is No Substitute for Cursing
Research has shown that people actually feel better and more “resilient” when yelling profanity after something happens*. Let’s just say that I dedicated all my ankle twists and toe jams to the “F” word throughout the run. And I apologize to anyone who may have been within earshot me when I’d let one of those babies fly! The trails around Chicot Lake are mostly dirt packed single track filled (and I mean FILLED) with long, gnarly roots and small stumps that stick out of the Earth like perpetual hands grabbing at your feet. Cover the trail with a 2-4 inch layer of large leaves and there is plenty of ankle twisting, toe kicking, “F-bombing” fun for everyone! I am so thankful for my crazy loose joints because otherwise I am pretty sure I would have torn something in my left foot during the 8-10 times (not exaggerating) I rolled that ankle. As for the bruise on my right foot middle toe – when it wakes me up at night, I take solace in giving it the “F” word.
7. Unicorns are the Trail Runner’s Hallucination of Choice
I have read about other runners experiencing very vivid hallucinations – things like President Lincoln standing on the trail’s edge handing out candy bars, or tiny pink elephants bounding through the trees. When I checked in and got my race number, I couldn’t figure out why there were t-shirts for sale with unicorns on them saying, “I do ultras” or “I trail run”. Unicorns? Of course I bought one of the shirts because it was just quirky and random enough. Then the race director explained to me that for some reason people who run his races claim to see unicorns when they hallucinate so he thought why not have the unicorn as his unofficial race mascot. At mile 56 I became part of the unicorn club. Fortunately the three multi-colored unicorns I saw on the trail’s edge were indeed very real and of the plastic blow up variety. The only thing that came close to a hallucination for me was that I thought I heard men’s voices in the last 10 miles of the race. They were always to my left and alternated between talking, singing, and doing sports commentary. Oddly enough, Leary heard these voices too.
8. Sitting or Stopping are NOT Options
I could never figure out why people would run into an aid station, sit down for 10-15 minutes, and then get back up and run to the next aid station…only to stop, sit down, get up, and run again. Unless someone is going to pass out, barf, or needs to change equipment, why stop? Or maybe I just know myself too well. Sitting or stopping would be my kiss of death. During the entire 100 mile run, I sat down three times: once to change shoes, once to change shorts, and once to change socks. Otherwise I was standing while swapping out gear or replenishing food or water, and I would eat while I was walking or running. I saw other runners come into an aid station, pull up a chair, have some food, or just chat with the volunteers. At the start/finish area (which we passed through on each of the 5 loops), runners would have their feet up next to a heater, or be lying under blankets chatting with other runners. I have to admit stopping by one of the aid station bonfires and enjoying some freshly made cheesy quesadillas, soup, hot chocolate, or pancakes sounded mighty tempting. But the poet Robert Frost was in my brain, “…the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
9. I Command My Body to OBEY! Please?
I am extremely fortunate to have a willing and capable body (although sometimes not so much a willing or capable mind). I can recall only three times when my body has failed me in the last 25 years of sports: when the plantar nerve in my right foot got inflamed, when I ignored the initial twist-crunch warning and ultimately blew out my left knee (ACL) during sand volleyball, and when I tried to run during the last loop of this race. I just couldn’t run any more. My mind was willing but my body was not. I would start to run only to have my heart rate soar, my quads burn, and my ankles and feet wobble on already unstable ground. I was plenty hydrated and had enough energy. I just couldn’t run. I even imagined an axe murderer (or more realistically a Louisiana alligator) jumping out from the swamps and chasing after me. I don’t think it would have mattered one bit. My body was down, but it was not out. I still had enough oomph to power walk with purpose and determination to the finish line. And in the subsequent days of limping across a room, needing the assistance of a railing to take the stairs, or allowing a few extra minutes to go to the bathroom simply because sitting or standing could NOT be rushed, it made me appreciate my fully functional and ache free body even more.
10. If You’re Not First, You’re Second (or Third, or Fourth, or…)
One of the things I love about trail running is that at any given time during a race, I really have no idea where I am relative to other runners. But I found myself in a unique position during this race. At the start of the third loop at mile 40, all runners reversed direction on the course. I suspect the race director thought our bodies and brains could use some novelty considering this was a 5 loop run. As I was heading out “against trail traffic” on my third loop, runners coming in to finish the second loop started saying to me, “Well done! First female runner!” Truthfully I enjoyed the attention but found it hard to manage my competitive side. I had no idea how much I was in the lead or if I could even hold it. I held the lead through loops 3 and 4 without really trying. It wasn’t the idea of beating the woman behind me – heck I didn’t even know where she was! It was the idea of finishing first. At the start of loop 5, the last loop at mile 80, I asked my husband, “Am I still first?” At this point I could barely run and the deepest form of fatigue I had ever felt was setting in. He smiled at me and firmly said, “That’s not why you’re here.” And just like that, my competitive self relinquished control over my brain. Shortly thereafter a woman and man passed us on the trail. She looked amazing and still moved like a gazelle. I smiled and thought, “Well done for her!” At 8:35am Sunday morning, I was slowly making my way up the short, paved path to the finish line. With tears forming in my eyes, Leary and I ran the last 50 feet and crossed the finish line together. The race director gave me a hug, handed me the coveted belt buckle and an award plaque for 2nd overall female. Finishing was the goal. Placing was the bonus.
(Photos courtesy Leary Walker and Forge Racing.)


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Knuckle -- (nuh' kuhl)


Refers to a small stump or root (about the size of a knuckle) that is sticking straight up out of the ground. Typically hard to see especially in shaded areas or at night.

Sentence Use: Knuckle! (Point down to the ground where the offending stump is located to warn runners behind you.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Shoot Your Beam -- (shuo't yer beem)


Another way to say, "Turn on your headlamp." Typically reserved for night time trail running. (Originator: Karen U.)

Sentence Use: I'm going to shoot my beam because it's getting dark!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Try Trail Running

By Susan V. Farago, Trailhead Running Coach

Trail running is a great way to change up an existing running routine or to try something new. Need a reason to give trail running a try? How about ten!

1. Miles of Trails
Austin has over 100 miles of greenbelt and natural trails including places like the Austin Greenbelt, Walnut Creek Park, and Wild Basin. Search the Web for trail head entrances and maps.

2. Cooler Temps
Trail temperatures can be 5-10 degrees cooler than on the road thanks to the cover of trees and dirt or rock running surfaces.

3. Run Slow
Running paces tend to be slower on the trail due to the uneven terrain. This can benefit many runners by taking advantage of the benefits of exercising and building a solid base of fitness.

4. Great Cross-training
Running on trails engages and strengthens a greater range of muscles in the back, abdomen, hips, and glutes which transfers over to other sports such as cycling, swimming, and especially road running.

5. Run Longer
Because of the non-repetitive nature of trail running and the recruitment of additional stabilizer muscles and lateral connective tissue resources, longer trail runs can be done without that pounded feeling afterwards. A general guide: approximately 90 minutes of road running equates to two hours of trail running.

6. Explore and Get Lost
While some of Austin’s trails provide the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, any given trail is never more than 1-2 miles from “civilization”. This is great for those who want to explore the many wandering paths.

7. Trees Beat Cars
Clean air from trees beats car exhaust any day! The only traffic to worry about on the trails comes from squirrels or birds, and hazards include random low hanging branches, cactus patches, or creek crossing (when there is water).

8. Run in the Dark
Night trail running provides a unique opportunity to experience running in a very different way. Senses come alive and even a very familiar trail can look completely different. Headlamps are required and it’s always good to run with another person.

9. Hang with a Relaxed Crowd
Trail runners tend to be very laid back and friendly. But don’t mistake the relaxed attitude as trail runners are amazingly fierce and talented athletes.

10. Make New Friends
Local clubs like Hill Country Trail Runners is a great place to meet new people (www.hillcountrytrailrunners.com). There are also trail running programs like Trailhead Running that provide instruction including trail running form/technique and navigation skills in a friendly “no drop” group setting (www.trailheadrunning.com). 

Not sure how to start? First, check the Web for local trails. Second, plan an easy route and always let someone know where and when you go. Third, pack some water and a cell phone and then hit the trails!

About the Author: Susan Farago is the co-owner of Trailhead Running and co-coach for “Women on the Trails” – an Austin-based women's-only trail running program. She is a certified coach, an ultra-distance athlete, and a nationally published sports/fitness writer. For more information on Susan or Women on the Trails, go to www.trailheadrunning.com. © 2012.