As I've noted before, I've decided to venture into trail running this year. And I know absolutely nothing about it! Starting next week I've got a series of races planned for the remainder of the year that start at a 10K and will eventually work up to a 50K. Here are a few things for which I need help. If you know anything about trail/ultra running, can you help out?
There are only two or three trails around these parts to train on and they're not very technical. They are metro parks that have gravel, maintained trails. I only run on trail once a week and the remainder of time on the roads. However, the races I am planning may have more technical trails with roots, rocks, grass, etc. Right now I am doing all my training, including my trail training, in a pair of road-specific running shoes. After messing up my ankle in high school during tennis camp, I have really weak ankles, and roll it every single time I run on the trails. Should I invest in a pair of trail shoes? Do they really make that much of a difference on the trails? Can it help my weak ankles? One of the trail races I am doing has about 10% off the race on paved roads. Is it bad to wear trail shoes on pavement?
I am a little OCD about hydrating while racing long. I only drink water and I must, must, must drink every mile. Obviously with trail racing there is not a water stop at every single mile. I will need to carry water with me. I see a lot of trail runner's wearing the hydration backpacks or using handhelds. I don't particularly like carrying a handheld. I know it can break your fall if you trip without messing up your hands, but I find them annoying and heavy. My max distance for carrying one is about 6 miles. I have a Nathan water belt which I wear on all my long runs. Wouldn't it be easier to refill the water bottles in this pack than having to take the bladder out of a backpack? Is there a reason to wear one of the hydration backpacks as opposed to a water belt?
This may be the most interesting topic for me when it comes to ultra running? Why do people eat all that real food during an ultra? I'm talking potato chips and PBJ and whatnot. Especially for a 50K, it really confuses me. A 50K is *only* 6 miles than a marathon. I've always only eat gels during a marathon. I would only need to eat 1-2 more gels during a 50K. What's the reason behind eating real food as opposed to gels?
I have been road racing now for 12 years and I know exactly what to expect to pace during a race. My body has been fine-tuned to realize even slight deviations in pace. I do not wear a Garmin during racing yet I can hit consistent time intervals mile after mile after mile. But when it comes to trail racing, I have no idea what I'm doing. I know I have to slow down. It's just not the same - the terrain, the hills - can really change things. But what kind of pacing should I expect? Do I intentionally practice at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00/miles or do I just run freely and see what comes of it? And I read a lot of race reports that say it's easier/faster to walk up some hills as oppose to run up them. How do I determine that? Do you practice that?
Internet, I need your help! Any insight is helpful. Please leave me a comment if you know ANYTHING about trail racing.