Ultramarathon Running and Trail Running

Trail-RunningWhat’s the difference between ultramarathon running and trail running? Not much…except to be a trail runner you don’t have to run ultra distances (more than 26.2 miles) and to run an ultramarathon you don’t have run on trails.

The reason I’m making a distinction between the two, is that I am starting to realize that to enjoy trail running I don’t have to necessarily run ultramarathons or be training for an ultra race.  This realization has come to me for a number of reasons. First off, my time is more limited than what it used to be. I just don’t have the time to be out training for an ultra. Second, I have been having a debate in my head about quality or quantity.

What I mean by quality or quantity, is asking if it’s better to have more quantity, as in logging more miles on a run? Or is it better to have more quality, as in shorter and slower runs to take in the scenery and  enjoy the moment more?

This may be stating the obvious…but I’m beginning to realize to be a trail runner I don’t have to be an ultramarathon runner. The benefit of just being a trail runner is the time benefit. It doesn’t take as much time to run trails as it does to train for and run an ultramarathon. I can enjoy the moment more when I am out on the trail running and not worry about training or running at a certain pace.

All this depends on your interests and goals, I guess. If you want to run beyond the marathon distance in the mountains then perhaps ultramarathon running is for you. But if you just want to get out and run trails to enjoy nature…then trail running may be what you want and will enjoy more.

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The Mental and The Physical in Ultramarathon Running

Mental Toughness

Struggling during an ultramarathon race is common and part of the challenge. To overcome those struggles toughness is required. So….where does toughness come from?

My feeling is that toughness is a combination of the mental and the physical. When I am in good physical shape for an ultramarathon, my body can respond to the physical challenge of running ultra distances. When this happens my mind or the mental part of me is more at ease and I am in a better place to handle the challenges than if I was not in good shape.

With that said, there have been times when I have toed the starting line of an ultramarathon knowing that I’m not in good shape. I have found when this is the case my body does not respond very well to the challenge and my mind or the mental part of me seems to go down hill.

So does the physical part of me determine my toughness? I think being in good shape physically certainly does help with the mental component of ulta running, but there are times even when in good shape, when physically I feel crumby. When this happens it becomes mental and it is mental toughness that gets me through the hard times.

How do we stay mentally tough when physically we are struggling. The physical may be a sour stomach, muscle cramping, or any kind of aches and pains. Perhaps the mental toughness comes with understanding that these physical struggles will pass. They may pass after a few miles or they may pass after crossing the finish line.

Getting better physically means drinking, taking salt, and eating. Doing this can be hard especially when your stomach goes sour.

So, where does toughness come from? Mental? Physical?

Trail Running Photography

Is there more to running trails than just running trails? I think so. What I mean by that is if you are out running trails then you are out in nature. Maybe you are on a mountain trail or in the desert on a trail or maybe on a city trail. Whatever kind of trail you are running on there is a good chance you are surrounded by nature. Something I have started to do more of is enjoy nature on my trail runs. I do this by taking pictures of what I am seeing as I run up and down mountains. I also have found it enjoyable to take video of my runs and then edit that video into something that is hopefully enjoyable to watch.

I started out doing this by taking pictures with my iphone 4. Not the best option as far as quality pictures go, but it was good enough and the only option I had at the time. I found a couple of apps that I could use on my iPhone to edit my pictures…Google’s Snapseed app and of course Instagram. Snapseed works great for editing photos before posting them to Instragram. Instagram is a great way to share photos and Instagram has photo filters for minor photo editing. Instagram is primarily set to share and view photos on a smart phone, but there is a sharing function in the app that allows you to share to Facebook, Twitter or to email your photos to family and friends.

This what a good day running in the mountians looks like.

Good trail runs look like this.

After using my iPhone 4 as my main camera for awhile I decided to buy a nice point and shoot camera that I could easily carry with me on trail runs. The end result of this purchase has been better quality pictures. I also bought a GoPro Hero 3 which has been a lot of fun to use. I can take video and pictures with my GoPro. Both video and pictures from the GoPro are great.

Trail running by itself is a lot of fun, but adding photography and videography to trail running adds another element to running trails. And it gives you a way to share with others the things you are seeing and experiencing. Below are some of the photos and a video I took on my run last Saturday.

Saturday's Run

Some trail running pics.

Running Grandeur Peak

This past winter I have summited Grandeur Peak 9 times. Grandeur Peak is a peak east of downtown Salt Lake City. It is easy to access in the winter time and for that reason there are a lot of snowshoers/hikers who pack down the snow on the trail. This packed down snow makes for great winter trail running. No snowshoes needed at all to get up on the peak unless there has been fresh snow from a storm. In that case it is a good idea to wait a day or so for snowshoers/hikers to pack down the new snow. Microspikes help a lot with traction and I would highly recommend them. Along with this post is a short video I made of one of my Grandeur Peak summits. It was a sunny afternoon when I made the video. A great day to be going for a summit!

Summer Trail Running

Running snowy trails is fun, but I am looking forward to running trails this summer. I recently watched this You Tube video of some incredible footage of running Mt. Timpanogos. Last summer a few ultra/trail runners ran the whole skyline or ridge line of Timpanogos.  I thought I would post the video here to give us something to look forward to this summer.

Running Up For Air: Grandeur Peak Summit

On top of Grandeur Peak with my brother Caleb

On top of Grandeur Peak with my brother Caleb

I ran Grandeur Peak this last weekend to help bring awareness to the bad air quality that we have along the Wasatch Front. The run was organized by Jared Campbell and called Running Up For Air. Jared reported that 58 people participated totaling 126 summits on the day. Jared Campbell was able do 12 summits in one day. Jared Campbell’s blog posted a post detailing the days summit totals.

It was great day to be out on the trails. My brother Caleb came with me and it was good to be with him. It was warm, but despite the warm weather the trail was still mostly covered with snow. With the warm temperatures in the forecast though that will soon change. The snow was soft because of the warm weather which lead to less sure footing even with microspikes on.

My summit of Grandeur Peak on Saturday was my 6th summit of the year. By Spring time I hope to have 10 summits on the year.

Grandeur Peak: Running Up for Air-2013

That's not fog or clouds. That's an inversion or bad air quality.

That’s not fog or clouds. That’s an inversion or bad air quality down in the Salt Lake Valley.

Since the beginning of the year I have decided to get as many summits as I can on Grandeur Peak.  I have been able to get 5 summits so far this year. I hope to get more…maybe 10 by the time Spring to hits.

Grandeur Peak is a peak that’s part of the Wasatch Mountains that over looks the Salt Lake Valley. It is between Parleys Canyon and Millcreek Canyon. It is not the highest peak in the area, but it tops out at 8,299 ft. The trail up to the summit from Church Fork in MillCreek Canyon is used heavily in the winter time which means the snow is packed down. This means snowshoes are not needed unless there has been a recent snow storm that has put down some new snow on the trail. Round trip from Church Fork (trailhead to summit and back) is 6 miles.

This coming Saturday (March 2nd) I plan on summiting Grandeur Peak 2 times in one day. I’m doing this to help raise money to improve the air quality along the Wasatch Front. The air quality in this part of Utah can be very poor especially in the Salt Lake Valley during the winter months. There will be other runners running up Grandeur Peak to help raise money. Some runners, like me, will be going for 2 summits, other runners will be going for as many as 12 summits on Grandeur Peak in one day. Jared Campbell is one of those runners who is gunning for 12 summits. If you are interested in donating to the cause to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front you can donate at breatheutah.org.

To see what runners are participating, you can go to Jared Campbell’s Blog to see the runners and their summit goals.

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