Monday, August 01, 2005

Trailrunning Article from the KC Star

Here's the trailrunning article that appeared in the KC Star back in June, with comments from yours truly:

Natural selection

These runners avoid pavement in favor of sticks, rocks, ticks, mud — and beauty

When most people get home from jogging, their shoes aren’t covered in mud. Their socks aren’t soggy. No one’s checking for ticks.

These people are not trail runners.

Trail runners jog, run, scramble, walk — even wade — through their workouts and return exhilarated not only by the exercise but also by their connection with nature. Which is why they head to the shower and exfoliate their ankles: Was that poison ivy crowding the trail?

Trail running is big in places like California and Colorado. Photos of the sport in running magazines always feature a mountain for a backdrop, unless it’s an ocean.

But Kansas City has its own community of joggers who prefer traversing the trails to pounding the pavement. They use the area’s many hiking, mountain-biking and equestrian trails for outings that can last 30 minutes or literally hours on end. They see wild turkeys and bobcats and sometimes have to call out to deer blocking the trail ahead.
“Trails are all the rage,” said Lou Joline, a local running veteran.

Two new organized races are evidence of the sport’s growing popularity here. And the names of the races hint at the mental makeup of the participants. The inaugural “PsychoWyco Run, Toto, Run” took place in February, and the “Dude, Where’s the Trail?” race had its premiere in November. Of course, not every trail runner gears up for these types of races, courses most mortals can’t contemplate at lengths of 50K (31 miles) and beyond.

Mark Jacquez, 26, of Overland Park was a regular road warrior until a buddy last year suggested the two hit the trails at Shawnee Mission Park for something different. Now he’s hooked.
“At first, you get kind of dizzy, because you’re looking at the ground, trying to avoid rocks,” Jacquez said. “I took some spills. But your legs start to get used to it.”
There are other things to get used to. Once, a squirrel fell out of a tree and almost landed on Jacquez’s head. He has stepped on more than one snake. And ticks, always a pleasant thought, seem to be worse in dry weather. His highest tick count for one trail outing: 22.

Sound fun?
Actually, trail runners say there’s plenty to recommend the sport. The nature aspect might have drawbacks, they say, but the positives of off-road running far outweigh them. Jacquez knew it on that first run in Shawnee Mission Park as he jogged past deer rather than parked cars. “There’s something new every time your run,” he said. “It’s exciting.” Sometimes even awe-inspiring.

In April, Julie Toft, a veteran runner but newcomer to trail running, was making her way along a hilly course near Kanopolis, Kan. Toft, 44, of Gardner in Johnson County, crested a hill and stopped to take in the view.
“We were overlooking this cavernous area, and it was just beautiful,” Toft said. “I thought, ‘This is what it’s all about. This is what God created. This is why I do this.’ You never see that running in the streets.”
Deborah Webster, Toft’s running pal and fellow mom, brought her camera along. It’s one thing to enjoy the beauty, but trail runners also crave the lore of a run. For instance, this one involved water crossings up to the runners’ belly buttons. Cold water.
“We took some pictures. We figured people wouldn’t believe us,” said Webster, who’s 45 and also lives in Gardner. “I really like the exploring aspect of it. It’s kind of like being a little kid again.”

Trail runners might crave a little fear factor — the potential risks in nature — but they also say a big reason to run trails is to help reduce the kinds of chronic injuries endemic to regular pavement running.
Ben Holmes is a trail advocate for that reason, among many others. Holmes is the inventor of the PsychoWyco race that attracted 45 runners on a cold, rainy February day. The mud was so deep and sticky it sucked the shoes right off runners’ feet. Twenty-three participants actually completed the 50K course.

Holmes, who doesn’t exactly have a marathoner’s build at 6 feet and 200 pounds, has run 38 marathons. Now he does almost all his running off pavement.
“I used to get injuries, the knee pain, the chronic foot problems that runners have,” he said.
If you think about it, Holmes said, running and even walking a lot on concrete is unnatural. His last marathon on pavement left him “incredibly sore” from the constant pace and the use of the same muscles over and over.
Trails, he said, require a variety of body movements to make your way along curvy paths. “You’re using different muscle groups, changing your pace. You’re tired at the end but not sore or injured.”

Unless you twist or sprain an ankle.
“About once a year,” he said.
Holmes, too, gets a kick from the notion that mild danger might lie ahead.
“We just use gravity to zoom down hills like nobody’s business,” he said. “I’m a 48-year-old grandpa, so I don’t get too many thrills. I’m thinking, ‘Hey, I could get hurt here!’”
Holmes also instituted Thursday evening runs in Shawnee Mission Park. Start time is 8:30 p.m., and runners wear headlamps or carry flashlights. Nighttime running is good training for those who do 100-mile races, which by necessity continue after the sun goes down. Jacquez tried it and found the runs exciting, even worthwhile.
“It teaches you to be very aware of everything around you,” he said. “It gets you more trail ready.”
Holmes likes to remind novice trail runners that park trails are meant to be shared. That means being courteous and yielding when necessary, especially to horses. It’s good safety advice. Of course, if you talk to trail runners long enough you get all sorts of interesting counsel.
For instance, Holmes suggests packing duct tape, which can be applied to the skin — rrriiippp — to remove infestations of tiny seed ticks. Ouch.

Joline, the 72-year-old veteran runner, recommends carrying a switch while running trails. Such a branch comes in handy for collecting trail cobwebs, rather than using your face, and also for striking at horseflies.
“Horseflies will find you,” he said. “They’re very single-minded. A horsefly will follow you for miles.”

Barb and Mike Schupp of Prairie Village met at a marathon in Duluth, Minn., in 1997, got married in 2001 and now enjoy trail running together. They, too, love being away from traffic and catching glimpses of wildlife while running. They, too, have advice: While you’re watching out below for rocks, don’t forget to watch out above, too.
“The one thing that gets us most often is low branches,” said Barb, who giggled, lovingly, as she recalled the time a friend got a concussion from one. But hey, they both said, don’t let such trail running lore dissuade you.
“It’s refreshing,” Barb said.
“Just focus on enjoying it,” Mike said, “because there’s nothing to gauge your speed by, no blocks, no mile markers. And it’s OK to walk up the hills.”
Prepping for trail running
1. Go with a running partner. It’s good to have a buddy along in case of a twisted ankle or other mishap.
2. Bring water. Carry bottles (get ones with handles) or wear a waist pack that has bottle attachments.
3. Get a trail map from the park department to help orient yourself. A compass is helpful if you get lost.
4. Wear sun block and insect repellent.
5. Use Bodyglide or other skin lubricant to guard against friction and blisters on your feet, underarms, etc.
6. Stop periodically to check for ticks.
7. Wears socks (not cotton) that wick moisture.
8. After your run, scrub your legs with soap or a product such as Tecnu if you brushed against poison ivy. Remember that poison ivy oil clings to shoes and socks, too.
9. In icy conditions, screw short sheet-metal screws into the bottom of your shoes for extra traction.
10. Enjoy the ambience while focusing on each footfall. (It takes practice.)
For more information about local trail running go to and click on FYI/Living.
Protect the feet
Some trail runners wear regular running shoes. Others buy shoes marketed specifically for trail running. Here are a few considerations from Garry Gribble, a veteran runner and owner of Garry Gribble’s RunningSports stores:
■ Trail shoes are firmer than regular running shoes. Some people find they offer more ankle support and help protect the bottom of the feet from rock abrasion.
■ The more primitive and challenging the trail, the more the runner should consider trail shoes.
■ Trail shoes are pricier, often in the $80 to $90 range, compared to regular running shoes at $50 to $60.
■ Women should buy trail shoes for women and men should buy trail shoes for men.
■ When buying trail shoes, try several brands and walk around in them. Don’t assume your shoe size.
■ Don’t be in a hurry. Allow at least 20 to 30 minutes for buying trail shoes.
■ Trail shoe brands include Montrail and Merrell. The major running shoe companies, such as Nike, Adidas and Saucony, also offer trail shoes.
Local places for trail running
The July issue of Runner’s World lists “25 Best Running Cities in America.” That’s right, Boulder, Austin, Seattle, etc., the usual cool places. No Kansas City.
Still, we’ve got great trails for running and walking. A good resource is Hiking Kansas City by William B. Eddy and Richard O. Ballentine ($14.95, Pebble Publishing). The book lists 100 trails with maps and directions.
Here are some favorites of area trail runners:
Blue River Parkway
Jackson County Parks and Recreation
(816) 795-8200
South of Minor Park at Holmes and Red Bridge roads
The “north trail” near 118th Street winds through woods and along bluffs overlooking the Blue River and includes stream crossings.
Little Blue Trace
Jackson County Parks and Recreation
(816) 795-8200
Near Interstate 70 and Missouri 78
The trail features meadows, woods and passes by farm fields.
Shawnee Mission Park
Johnson County Parks and Recreation
(913) 438-7275
Near Renner Road and 79th Street
The “lake trail” and “north shore trail” feature woodlands and some steep hills
Wyandotte County Lake Park
Wyandotte County Parks and Recreation
(913) 596-7077
East of Interstate 435 near Leavenworth Road and North 91st Street
A challenging bridle trail — yield to horses.
Clinton State Park
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
(785) 842-8562
West of Lawrence at Clinton Lake exit off Kansas 10
“North shore trail” passes near the lake and has some steep inclines.
Ed Eveld, Kansas City Star, Posted on Wed, Jun. 22, 2005,

1 comment:

shliknik said...

Glad you started a running blog! You'll need to start taking some photos on future trails run and post them.

see you on the trails