Mindful Running

Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know that this is the only moment.

— Thich Nhat Hanh
I studied a martial art for nearly a third of my life, not the kind of martial art where you learn to kill someone with one finger or the two-headed monkey spinning death hands, but a nice, peaceful, practical, bone-twisting, joint-jarring art called Shorinji Kempo.  It's not that popular in the U.S.  Its philosophy is based on Buddhism and it forbids teachers and practitioners from making a profit by using or teaching Shorinji Kempo, thus the snail-pace growth through the martial art strip-mall, 6 weeks to black belt culture.  This served to weed out a lot of the tools you usually see in dojos, people who sign up looking for a fast and easy way to cause pain and back up the bicep-curling, overpriced Affliction t-shirt wearing bravado.  I spent twelve years studying Shorinji Kempo at UCSD and in Japan, and during those twelve years, I would always return to one wrist-twisting submission technique that I could never quite master.

This wasn't an accident.  I found that because there was no quick path to mastery, there was always room for improvement, and there was always minor tweaking to be done.  I knew the basic concept: someone (preferably someone larger and stronger than you) grabs your wrist, you get in a defensive, balanced stance while slightly pulling them off balance and in that instant, right after you smack them in the eyes and they are off-kilter, you grab their wrist and turn, rotating around them and using their wrist as leverage to lock up their elbow and shoulder and using that leverage to drop their head in a whiplash-like snap to the ground.  If you got all of that right, the pin and submission were easy.  The problem was that it was hard to get it all right, especially when the person you were working with was a Sensei who knew every trick and turn and escape from that technique and he would say "again," and after offering small crumbs of advice, say "again," "again," and finally it would work, but I knew deep down he was giving it to me, that small sense of accomplishment, and that if I tried the same exact technique the next session, it wouldn't work and I would be back to tinkering.  Falling asleep at night, I would imagine all the intricate movements that would go into this one technique.  Twelve years of classes two, three, and in Japan, four times a week and I never mastered this technique, and maybe the point wasn't mastery.  While studying this one technique I was forced to concentrate and be mindful of all the various ways the wrist can turn and how it connects to the elbow, the shoulder, the neck and the head.

Okuri Gote

This constant tweaking of technique is prevalent in so many sports, baseball pitchers will analyse their set-up, delivery, and follow-through using video and hi-tech computer imaging. Swimmers will adjust something as small as the way their fingertips enter the water and achieve major improvements in efficiency and speed.  As runners, we tend to just run.

This is one of the draws and the joys of running. It's low-tech, you put one foot in front of the other and the person who has trained the best and who can suffer the most usually wins. However, there is something to be said for running mindfully, and all the great runners do it, whether they are conscious of it or not.  In fact, a lot of the running techniques that are designed to improve your efficiency and keep you running injury free are basically methods of running mindfully — Chi Running, Pose Method, barefoot running, forefoot running, etc. What all of these systems have in common is that they force you to examine your running form and be mindful of the way that you move your body over a surface.  It can get much more complicated than that and I have read a number of books with thousands of words devoted to perfect running form that basically can be distilled to two fundamental principles:
  1. Run softly
  2. Pay attention
I prefer to keep things simple and I love shortcuts, so I try to focus on these two things and I have found that when I run softly, and when I pay attention, especially to my breathing, I run faster with less effort.  As with the Shorinji Kempo technique above, the less brute force I used, the more calm and focused I was, the better the technique worked.

A good way to practice running softly is to go out and scare the shit out of people.  There's a great trail in Cardiff that attracts a lot of birdwatchers of a certain age.  I try my hardest not to disturb the watchers or the birds, so I run very softly and they don't hear me coming.  As I pass, I give them a wave or a good morning and sometimes they jump to the side or put their hand to their heart.  I hope there are no legal ramifications here; the intent is to preserve the peaceful setting, not to give old people heart attacks.  Once in awhile I'll hit  the holy grail and scare a dog, which is tough to do except when they are daydreaming about sausages.

Breathing is also very important.

That needs a line of its own for some reason.  I used to meditate.  Four or five times a week I would sit quietly on a meditation pillow and slow my breathing.  Since I have to attach some form of competition and measure to everything in order to hold my interest, I would clock my breath and I got my breathing down to a minute; 30 seconds in, 30 seconds out, and I would keep that rhythm for fifteen to thirty minutes.  I would always end these sessions calm, happy, refreshed and I could go nearly an hour without yelling at my kids.  Unfortunately, my meditation practice has slipped.  Now, I multi-task.  I just checked my email five times while composing that sentence.

Running has become a form of meditation for me.  The rhythm of the breath, usually 2-2 or 3-2 depending on the effort.  Two steps while breathing in, two steps while breathing out.  Clear mind, soft feet and focus on what I am doing in the present.  This is hard while running and even more difficult while meditating.  The mind drifts to the late start you got this morning, the re-design of a website, monthly budgeting, can we really handle a dog, shiny metal object.  When I hold track sessions, I advise the runners not to think about all the intricacies and bio-mechanics of running, but to focus on one thing for that session.  There are so many components to good running form that it is hard to focus on more than one at a time without over-thinking it and screwing it up.  Among the plethora of things to focus on (remember: pick one) are focus on running tall, relax your facial muscles (don't grimace), drop your shoulders (tight shoulders are way too common), pull your shoulders back and open your chest (this is part of running tall), a smooth arm swing that doesn't cross in front of your chest, don't bend at the waist and hunch over (again, part of running tall), pick up your feet behind you, focus on driving your knee forward at the front of the stride and picking your heel up toward your butt at the end of the stride, and pay attention to how your foot makes contact with the ground and does it cause more impact than it should?

One thing that I have learned from experience is that the more you run, the more efficient you become.  Your body naturally adapts to good form, and will correct your form with time, but you can hasten the process by running mindfully.  The runners in the video below are mostly ultra-runners who probably don't spend a lot of time thinking about their form, but most have great form due to the insane amount of mileage they do.

If this doesn't get you out on the trails, nothing will

I hope this helps you run more efficiently and I hope that the guy at the Encinitas YMCA who gets on the treadmill, turns it up to about 10 miles per hour, holds on to the bar and smacks his feet on the belt while hanging on for dear life and summoning the gods of rain with his footfalls reads this, because it worked, the reservoirs are full.

No Bad Days?

My TV broke.  It's been nice not having it around.  I think my son killed it with his affinity for all things Wii.  The lamp burnt out, and it wasn't just the lamp; the plastic casing around the lamp melted and I'm sure there is an analogy in there somewhere.  I ordered a replacement that night, I pulled out my netbook (actually it was already out because that is where I found the instructions on how to remove the lamp), and I did a quick search and found the best deal I could on the replacement and I even paid a little extra to get it shipped 2nd day air.  I'm regretting that decision as 5-7 day ground would have been nice.  The kids and I have been playing outside more, basketball and baseball the last three days and it's a little different without the Wii motion control, but my son is working it out.  One drawback is that I have missed out on the whole Olympic Fever, and all the patriotism and getting excited for sports that you only see once every four years, but I would have liked to see Shaun White ride.  I also would have liked to see and hear the conversation with his coach before the gold medal-winning run.  It went something like this (even though I don't have TV, I still have internet and the highlights were awesome):

"What do you want to do?" asked Shaun's coach.

"I don't know, man, ride down the middle?" answered Shaun.

"No, man," said his coach, "Relax, have some fun."

"Drop a double mick at the end?"

"Yeah, drop a double mick.  You send that thing.  And make sure you stomp the shit out of it."

Which was poetic and beautiful and Shaun White stomped the shit out of it and pulled off the McTwist 1260 which I can't really get my mind around, but when you watch it, it's unbelievable.  There are these moments in sports where time slows and warps and you see everything clearly.  Television does this for us now, high definition, slow-motion replays of these twisting, stretching, pushing the limit feats of athletic achievement and even spectating seems slower, like your eyes and brain need that extra time to process the greatness of human form and athletic motion.  I don't watch too much of the Winter Olympics, or I should say I wouldn't watch too much of it if my TV wasn't broken—there is only so much speed-skating, curling, and Johnny Weir I can take, but I love the idea of the Olympics; I love seeing countries put aside their political differences and then try to demolish each other through sports.  However, I love the Summer Olympics and in the spirit of the Olympics, check out the video below - I could watch it over and over and over.

Seriously, watch this video.

There is a moment there where Tergat and Gebrselassie are running stride for stride, right before Haile makes the pass, that is just beautiful.  Some days I feel like that, easy, relaxed, running half as fast as a Kenyan, but feeling fast, hitting the runner's high and then hitting another one and another and...today was the exact opposite of that feeling.

I ate at Jorge's, one of the top 3 Mexican food restaurants in the world, and instead of the usual delicious Texcoco chicken soup, I decided to splurge and go for the adobado burrito.  The process of making the adobado burrito goes something like this—take a mature pig to the back of the shop, cook it, shred it into delicious morsels, smother it in onions and adobo sauce (which is Spanish for you aren't getting any action for the next couple of days), and roll it in a huge flour tortilla and eat it over a bowl so you can drink the greasy, chili-peppery drippings as a soupy dessert.  Try to run after that.

I gave it two hours and headed out, and if I wasn't doing the 100/100 challenge, I would have taken a rest day because my legs were tired, and the post-race buzz had fizzled.  I also ran hard with a group last night where I had a moment of clarity—when you are running with a group of guys that don't have any kids and are a lot younger and cooler than you are and if you see a rabbit cross the path ahead, you don't need to say, "oh look, cute bunny."

Anyway, my legs were tired, but I didn't want to break the streak (currently at 67), so as I started I kept thinking to myself, these are the days that make those other days, the multiple runner's high days good and coming back for more.  That didn't make me feel any better, in fact, I kept thinking about my daughter's N.B.E. (near barf experience) story that she told me yesterday about the kid in the cafeteria who choked and spit out all his cafeteria spaghetti and milk and she kept telling me how hard it was for her to see that and try to hold it in, how it was right here (she made a gesture in front of her mouth) and she had to just push it back down by sheer force of will, and that was how I felt, just hold it together for 30 minutes.

These are the runs where nobody smiles, nobody says hi, your legs don't wake up from that dead feeling, your mouth hangs open and as you pass the pit-man with the pit-bull, he loosens the grip on the industrial-strength chain and I can almost hear him thinking "look at dem neon yellow shoes, don't dey look like yummy little chicks, go git 'em, go on, git."  And I want to explain that no matter how much I run in the mud, the neon yellow always shows through, but that is why they were so cheap; I could have spent the extra $20 and bought the black, stealth version, but I'm married, so it doesn't really matter what I wear anymore.  The hills that I normally take with ease all of a sudden seem never-ending and much steeper than usual and the loop that usually takes 28 minutes stretches to 30 and beyond.

It almost doesn't seem worth it.  But it is, because these are the days that suck and these are the days where your body is tired and telling you to stop, but these are also the days that make the good runs great and once in awhile, thanks to the accumulation of bad, not-so-bad, good and great days,  you stomp the shit out of it.

San Dieguito Half Marathon

This is a race report and it's kind of boring.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, so, being a dutiful and doting husband, I woke up at 6 AM, gave my wife a kiss on the cheek, wished her a happy Valentine's Day and headed off to run the San Dieguito Half Marathon.  I put this one on the schedule as a training run for the Catalina Marathon which is a little trick I try to play on myself so I won't stress about a race, instead I'll use it as a training day and look beyond it to the next race.  It doesn't work, because I am too smart for myself.  I know all my tricks.  I planned to take it easy, but I started to get really nervous the night before the race and I kept waking up throughout the night doing math in a hazy half-sleep state, and the numbers 7, 13 and 91 kept going through my mind.  After getting upset at myself for not sleeping, I realized I was calculating splits in my sleep.  I wasn't sure why I chose 7 minute miles...it wasn't a conscious choice, maybe it was the most complicated my brain wanted to get at 4:30 AM.  I wasn't about to go and figure out 6:32 X 13.1.

This is the fourth time I have run the San Dieguito Half and it is one of my favorite races.  It goes through the tree-lined streets of Rancho Santa Fe, some of the most expensive real estate in the country.  The course is hilly, but nothing really extreme, just rolling hills without much of a break - you are either running up or running down, but that keeps it interesting.  Another thing that keeps the race interesting is that it is sponsored by the Hash House Harriers, a group that describes itself as a drinking club with a running problem.  The characters were out in full force and this is the only race I have done where the aid stations have to distinguish between water, Gatorade, and beer.  I feel bad for anyone that downs a beer by mistake at mile one, although it might make the hills a little less painful.  Every year that I have done this race I have seen the Queen of England with her wand and a lapdog at the 1.5 and 11.5 marker.  She has a terrible British accent and says hello to everyone.  There is also a Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland who hands out beer at the first aid station.

The course starts with a steep downhill that lasts for a mile and a half, then hits a long uphill, then a long out and back section which is nice because I got to see all of the really fast runners in front of me.  It's fun to pick out the local triathlon all-stars - I spotted Michellie Jones, Kate Major and Katya Meyers (it's funny, I don't know what any of the top men look like).  I also saw a couple of fast running friends who would go on to run about 1:20, which is about a 6 minute per mile pace and is super fast for this course.

San Dieguito elevation profile

I stayed on my 7 minute per mile pace and was able to hold it through the tough, middle section of the race.  It's always a struggle to deal with the middle portion of any race, no matter how long or short, it's painful and I always have negative thoughts.  I think about how nice it would be to quit, how stupid I am for picking such a painful hobby, and how much I wish I was still in bed.  Fortunately, these thoughts always pass, and it usually means there is going to be a nice long, happy-to-be-alive, excited and annoyingly over-talkative phase to the race.  This hit me from mile ten through twelve.  I felt so good, I even passed up the beer station at mile eleven.  I hit the twelve mile mark and had to run up the last mile-long hill, the one I flew down at the beginning; it seemed a lot longer and steeper at the end, but I put my head down and just went, eager to get to the Stone beer garden before the crowds hit.

I hooked up with a couple of friends at the beer garden after the race.  I was happy, my 7 X 13 math worked out well, and I was able to finish in an hour and a half which is a new personal best for me, it was about 70 degrees as I sat on the grass, in the sun, with a Stone in each hand and a bowl of home-made chili in front of me, so yeah, it was a good race and the perfect beginning to a great Valentine's Day.

Double Peak - Today's Run With Pictures

The Catalina Marathon is four and a half weeks away and instead of the normal volume build-up I have used in the past when training for marathons and ultras, I am trying a new technique of keeping my weekly volume at about 40-50 miles per week, but doing most of my runs in the hills around my house.  My weekly mileage is about 80 percent hills and trails and 20 percent flat road, so hopefully that will give me the strength to not get too worn out on the Catalina course, although those last three miles of steep downhill are going to hurt.

In the past I have built running volume up steadily, adding a few miles every week to my long run and backing off every fourth week.  This gave me a slow and steady build and included a handful of 20+ mile runs.  I wasn't able to do that for this marathon because I got talked into signing up at the last minute and I only had about six weeks to prepare.  It really didn't take much to convince me to sign up, I looked at some of the pictures of the course and I couldn't say no.  I even convinced my wife it would be a nice 3-day getaway from the kids.  I only signed her up for the 10k because I didn't want her to be bored while I did the marathon.  I didn't ask her about this beforehand; I just figured she would want something to do, but I guess she just wanted to sleep in and relax, who knew?

One of my favorite local routes is to run to the top of Double Peak and down the other side.  It's about a four mile loop if I start from my front door.  I wanted to get my run in before the rains came this morning, so I grabbed my camera and headed out for my Double Peak run.

When we first moved here about five years ago, the hill was only accessible by foot or mountain bike, but the city has since paved a road to the top and put an adventure playground, amphitheater and picnic area in at the top of the hill.  I was a little disappointed and thought it would lead to overcrowding, but it has been nice for the community and it has stayed relatively quiet at the top.

This is one of those runs where you can't really get an idea of how steep it is from the pictures, but suffice it to say that I used to have to walk large parts of this route and I still struggle to do the steepest part without walking (as seen in my video below).

Start of the climb at Double Peak Rd.

Double Peak Rd.

Not so "Secret" anymore

Top of Double Peak

View from the top

Down the other side

Base of Double Peak, on my way back home along San Elijo Rd.

Trail Running 101 FAQ How-To Wiki-Thingy

The scene from the movie Dodgeball rolled through my head, the one where the old guy in the wheelchair throws wrenches and other assorted heavy objects at the "athletes" he is coaching and tells them if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.  There are five Ds in dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive, and...dodge.  It took me awhile to remember the fifth D.  I thought of this as I tried to find another shoulder off of the shoulder of the road, a little extra room off to the side where hopefully I would land soft, not on broken glass or one of those Gatorade bottles that looks like it has varying shades of lemon-lime Gatorade even though the label reads Polar Ice or Red Berry Surprise or Chemical Orange Fruitish, but definitely not lemon-lime...no, I wouldn't want to land on that.  All of these thoughts were split-second life flashing before my eyes as the Hummer H1 rounded the corner of the small, curvy, suddenly way too narrow road.  Too narrow for a military grade vehicle made to cross the desert with a guy on the top manning a gun with full gear, too narrow for a utility vehicle that could drive over my truck without leaving a scratch.  I also wondered if they give you the aviator glasses when you buy the Hummer H1, are they included in some type of a-hole small-package upgrade?  Because every person I have ever seen driving one of these rectangular street-clearers is wearing aviator glasses, and I half expect them to yell out, "You can be my wingman anytime" to which I would respond lovingly, "bullshit, you can be mine."


And then the thought hit me as the Hummer sped away, what am I doing on the roads anyway?  Road running has its place and if you run, you should mix it up and switch surfaces.  There are definitely some benefits to running on roads - you can run faster on the roads, there's less wildlife, it's usually less hilly, and people perceive it as being easier.  People are scared of trails, scared of the unknown, scared of what might be lurking outside of the sanitized suburbubble.

I am lucky because I moved into a community that packed all of the houses for the 10,000 or so residents into a tiny space; the houses are close together, not much in the way of yards, but we have over 20 miles of wide, manicured, safe trails that were built into the community.  We are also surrounded by an older community, with coyote trails that criss-cross over hills and through streams and trails that I have been running for the last five years and still finding new routes and discovering some beautiful, hidden places, places that would remain hidden to me if I stuck to the wide, groomed trails or the sidewalks and asphalt.  There are trails all around us, trails that were here before us, so get off the road occasionally and go explore.  I'll even help by answering a few common questions I get about trail running.

Q: Why run on trails?

A1: It's better for you.  Trails are dirt, rocks, leaves and gravel.  This type of surface is going to be far more forgiving than asphalt or concrete (avoid sidewalks like the plague).  The softer cushioning of the trails will extend your running career and help keep you injury free.  There are injury risks, like twisted ankles if you are not careful, but the overuse injuries will go way down if you run on a softer surface.

A2: Continue to evolve.  We evolved into runners.  And we didn't develop the physiology that we now possess by running on hard surfaces.  Without running, we would probably still be on all fours, knuckles dragging, like the driver of the Hummer H1 in the aviator glasses.

A3: Get back to nature.  There is nothing like the sunset from the top of a mountain, or discovering a new stream or examining wildlife scat to determine the local coyote diet (that last one is probably just me).  I went for a run early in the morning a couple of days ago, the fog layer was thick as I continued to climb and eventually came out into the sun and it was amazing, the fog and the mist in the valleys, it was like running on clouds.  It almost made me forget how hard it was to get there.

Q: There are so many hills, is there a strategy for dealing with them?

A: The more hills you run, the stronger and better you will be at running hills.  For the uphills, shorten and quicken your stride, kind of like changing gears on a bike, try not to lean over at the waist or slouch, and keep the focus on picking your feet up, driving your knees and swinging your arms (almost like you are punching yourself in the face).  Try not to look for the top of the hill too often, focus on the trail in front of you or break a long uphill into sections (run to the next tree, pole, etc.).  For the downhills, try to lean forward a little from the ankles and use your arms and torso rotation to help you keep your balance, look ahead about 10-15 feet and plot your course.  You may take a spill once in awhile, but the rush is worth it and the dirt is forgiving.  Most of the hills where I run are rolling and not too long or steep, so I always try to use the momentum of a downhill to help carry me in the beginning part of an uphill.

Q: Do I need special trail-running shoes?

A: People who run on wide, non-technical, groomed trails can do just fine in regular road shoes, but as you start to venture out into the muddy, rocky, rooty, technical trails, a nice low-profile trail shoe can really help.  The main benefit of running in a trail shoe is the traction to help you going uphill, downhill or on a curvy trail.  I prefer a minimalist trail shoe like these or these that keep my feet low to the trail; I have found that a low-profile shoe helps me get a feel for the trail and prevents ankle twists and dirt lunches.  I also don't like carrying a couple of pounds of extra cushioning up and over mountains, so I try to go lightweight.  Barefoot running is enjoying quite a following right now and humans were born to run barefoot, but the few people that I know who have tried it have all gotten injured.  This probably has more to do with not gradually transitioning to barefoot running or Vibram Five Fingers running "shoes" than with the practice of running barefoot.  If you have a shoe that works for you and you have stayed injury-free, I wouldn't suggest going out and buying something radically different from the style of shoe that you currently are using.  Most road running shoes have a trail running counterpart, and if you need help finding a good trail running shoe, I suggest going to a specialty running store, spend some time there and get a good fitting.  It's worth the extra money to find a shoe that works for you.

Q: What about the wildlife?

A: It's out there and if you run enough on the trails you will run into some local wildlife.  I have seen coyotes and snakes on the trails, and have heard unnamed and imagined monsters rustling in the brush next to the trails; the imagination goes wild and the whole evolutionary flight or fight reflex kicks in and mine tends much more to the flight strategy.  If you do come across wildlife it is important to stay calm and realize that the animals are more scared of us than we are of them.  There are mountain lion warning signs on the trails that I run and they say it's important to remain calm, not to run, back away slowly.  The group that I run with ran into a mountain lion a few months ago, and I was relieved that I missed it, but at the same time a little jealous.  Mountain lion attacks are rare - they avoid human contact.  Rattlesnakes make themselves known as well.  Being the super predators that we are as humans, it's no wonder that other animals avoid us, so don't let that be an excuse to avoid the trails.  My wife carries mace with her when she runs alone, and it makes her feel more comfortable because the four-legged kind of animals aren't the most dangerous kind of animals out there.  If you are worried about your safety, try to run with a group or another person.

I have tried to answer some basic trail-running questions and concerns.  I am not an expert, and would like to keep this list of FAQs going.  I posed the question to an ultra-running email list and received some interesting responses:
Running too close to the person in front of you will lead to injury.
Not watching the ground in front of you will lead you to a closer inspection of the ground in front of you.
Don't litter. Ever.
-Scott Undercofler
Trail Running 101: one-hour lecture, 10-hour lab weekly [BYOS]
-John M.
Fast turnover
Stay relaxed
Focus about 20-30 feet ahead (your feet will find the right spot
Smile at how much fun you're having!
-Joe Judd
Listen to the sounds around you, if you can do that you're not running too fast....enjoy the moment!
Expect to move slower than you would on the roads.  This was especially frustrating to me the first time I raced on trails, a 50k (and only the third time running on trails!), as I had no idea how much I would slow down on the hilly technical stuff.  Now, I settle into my pace and enjoy the scenery.
Always have more water than you think you need, especially as it gets warmer and warmer. 
Roll with it.  You will roll ankles, stub toes, trip on air, kiss the ground, so you have to let those things roll off your back when they are minor.  And, on that note, remember to literally *roll with it* during a fall...there is a right and wrong way to fall on the trails (kind of like in skiing).
And, always, always make sure someone knows where you are, how long you'll be gone, and thus when to expect you back.  Trails ain't no joke :)
Hope those help a little!
These articles I wrote on trail running a few years ago have most of my beginner tips:
- Blaine
1. When running downhill look ahead of you, not at your feet. Your
mind will remember what you saw and instruct your feet.
2. Sometimes a power-hike is just as fast as struggling to run up that
3. Look around you, remember and enjoy why you are there.....it will
make it easier and more satisfying.
4. Gaiters are not just for snow....pebbles in the shoe can do more
damage than a boulder.
5. Be mindful....trail running may be "softer" than road running, but I
hardly ever trip on a root, slip on wet leaves or bash my ankles on
boulders when running on the road (and I won't even mention poison oak
or poison ivy).
-Alan R. Geraldi
Keep upper body and feet loose and relaxed so you can adjust to rocks
and other obstacles.
Hills are your best friend! Practice your ascending and descending as
much as possible. Off the more gradual grades and cambers of road hills
as much as possible (remember, roads are graded for cars, trails aren't!).
Specificity of training--hit the trails at least once a week, if you
plan to race on them.
Hit the gym--leg and core strength are even more important than on the roads
You packed it in, you pack it out (ain't no road race out here!)
Gaiters don't bite (but gators do)!
-Scott Martin
If one runs in the woods one will encounter those that inhabit the woods. Some pleasant, others not so much. It might be a mighty stag that takes your breath away or a big ole spider that lands right on the brim of your hat as you run through his web resulting in you screaming like a 4 yr old girl. Remember, a true ultrarunner realizes the woods belong to no one but the forest itself. We as humans, (and runners) are merely guests in its wonderous being.
If anyone would like to offer more tips, please leave them in the comments.

Happy trails.

This is one of the maintained trails in my neighborhood

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