Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dirt & Mud Abuse…Signs of Trailrunning Abuse

Dirt (or mud) is the most commonly abused surface by trailrunners and perhaps not coincidentally, it is also the most socially acceptable to use (by trailrunners). Most trailrunners use dirt trails with little difficulty, although a significant minority (10-20%) of trailrunners experience fairly serious problems managing their use. And most trailrunners who run experience at least some difficulty with overuse at some point in their lives. Before going further it may help to clarify some possible misconceptions about dirt/mud trail use and overuse.

Dirt singletrack trail use, like most human behaviors, exists on a continuum from no use to extremely heavy usage (daily consumption of high mileages of trails with addiction present). The potential negative consequences of trail use also exist on a continuum that, perhaps not surprisingly, fits quite well with the amount of use continuum. Incidentally, if the picture toward the right side of the continuum looks kind of bleak and muddy, that's because it is!

Singletrack Trail Use-Negative Consequences of Use Continuum

0 = No Use
1 = Some casual running or hiking
2 = Regular Use
3 = Frequent heavy Use
4 = Addiction

No Use
• No trailrunning related occasional picnic in the woods.

Some casual running/hiking and social trailrunning
• Occasional post-run tiredness and muddy shoes
• Embarrassing behavior (like going into restaurants covered in mud)

Regular use of trails
• More frequent post-run tiredness and muddy legs
• Agressive feelings toward pavement and the "idiots" who run on pavement
• Possible Fights with Equine folks
• More arguments with pavement-pounders and downright disdain for pavement and sidewalks
• Danger of addiction

Frequent and/or heavy use of trails
• 5 or more trail runs per week
• muddy legs and shoes that you forget what color they originally were
• Possible "trail psychosis"... and feeling the need to chase-down a deer
• Need more trailrunning to "feel it" (establishing a higher tolerance)
• Conflicts with others (that aren't covered in mud)
• Possibilities of blackouts - you find yourself wandering aimlessly on the Psycho Wyco course with no memory of how you got there.
• Likelihood of addiction
• Denial begins to develop

• Trailrunning is part of daily functioning
• Your shoulders are raw from bouncing off of trees
• You’re turned-on by members of the opposite sex only if they’re covered in mud and their legs are scratched and bleeding.
• You’ve named all of the large rocks on your regular runs
• You can’t take a crap, unless you’re in the woods

Photo by Dick Ross

As trail use increases toward the frequent heavy use range of the continuum, problems managing one's life become unavoidable—trails and being covered in mud becomes more important than our responsibilities, our activities, our friends (unless they're "trailrunning buddies"), and our families. Problems toward the left side of the continuum are much less frequent and much more manageable. By the way, frequent heavy use is defined as five or more trail runs per week; addiction may occur with very heavy use (8-10 or more, trail runs per week), only once or twice per week with heavy mileage (the binge trailrunner). If you fear that you are creeping too far to the right on the continuum, or one of your friends is, seek help or talk to your friend about what you see happening. Consulting with a counselor (or personal trainer) in either case is a real good idea; some valuable information and support become available once you take that step. And if you vehemently deny, or your friend denies, that trail abuse is a problem, that often indicates that it is a problem. To get one's life back under control requires using trails less (or not at all); if you can't do it on your own, seek help. If not, just join the Trail Nerds for one of our ten weekly group training runs. Yeah...we may be a bunch of "Trail Junkies," but we are a fun group.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Red Bridge Rambling...

This past weekend was busy. I ran (long) with our group at Clinton Lake in Lawrence on Saturday morning. Post-run, I had an enjoyable breakfast at Wheatfields. Then I drove straight to the storage unit, and picked up the signs needed to mark the course for the next day's race that we would be putting on in Missouri, the 6th Annual Red Bridge Ramble.
Rich, Shane and Shane's son Jackson met me at Minor Park to start marking the course. It went well, despite having some course changes, and I got to get a bit more running and exercise in for the weekend. After marking the course, I drove back to the storage unit and loaded-up my trusty vehicle with all of the race supplies that we would need for the next morning. From there, I zoomed home, disrobed in the garage (because I was covered in mud), showered and got ready for a party that evening for a friend (that I was supplying homebrew for). We got home from the party at about 11 p.m. I got to bed slightly after midnight.

Me (on left) giving pre-race instructions, with Kyle and BJ
I had to get up at 5:30 a.m., but with the time change, it was actually 4:30. The race went well...I had a lot of great help from the Nerds. All of the runners had a fun time and liked the new course. After the race, I went to Borders Books. I sat in their cafe area and went over race data. I had results posted later that night. Whew!
Below is my race report.

Race Details:
Vasque Red Bridge Ramble 8-Mile Trail Run
03/09/2008 (Sun)
8:00 a.m. Shelter #1, Minor Park, Kansas City, MO Trail run with river crossings.
This is always a low-key, high-fun family event, all for just an $8 entry fee.

2008 Race Report
Ben Holmes, RD

This year's Red Bridge Ramble was a little different. We had to re-route the course and eliminate our usual crossings of the Blue River, which was flowing fast and deep. The course was a Garmin-305-measured 6.84-miles, so we'll call it an "even" seven.

The participants feet still got wet at "appropriate intervals." Just as your feet would start to dry out, you would hit another water crossing. There was no was cold and "crunchy" on the trails.

We had the same number of entrants as last year...80; even though the weather was colder, there was a time change, and the course situation was "tentative." Everybody seemed to have a good time!

Thanks again to our sponsors:
Vasque, GoreTex, Garry Gribble's Running Sports, and Dr Jesse Walden, DC.,
Dick Ross (

And thanks to our wonderful volunteers:
Course setup: Rich Stigall, Shane & Jackson Jones, and me.
Course check-out: Kyle Amos, Caleb Chatfield
Course cleanup: Kyle Amos, Caleb Chatfield, Josh Pool, Emily Horn, Gabe Bevan, John King, Rick Mayo.
Finish Line and Pre-race: Kyle Amos, Caleb Chatfield, Dave Suptic, Ann Kohn, Kevin Pinkowski, and me.
Cheering section: Pat Perry and kids.

Dick Ross' Photos:
Action Photos are here
Fun Photos are here ..
Photos by Dick Ross,

Race Results for 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

You Are Not a Machine


You are not a machine.

So don't treat yourself as a machine.

Human Machines come in many forms:
An eating machine. An over-working machine. A television-watching machine. A workout machine. A boring, self-flagellating machine, stuck in a self-imposed rut.

Get off of your butt and and hit the trails.

Get some dirt and mud on your shoes.

See something natural, for once.

If your running is getting boring, get off of the pavement.

You won't be bored with trail running. And you'll feel better about yourself.

Happy trails,
Bad Ben

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Goodbye, Sweet Dog 1997 - 2008

Dog and Gson


Our sweet dog (Fester) touched a lot of lives. This is written in memory of him and his loyal and unconditional love for us and so many.

We didn't choose him...he chose us, literally. We went to a pet adoption center and he reached out and hugged us. We had no choice but to adopt him and take him home!

He was a kind and gentle soul. He loved people and social occasions. If we had a party at the house, he would lay down in the middle of the room and just take it all in.

He made friends with many of our neighborhood's dogs and cats. Yes, cats! An 85-pound dog that cats would rub up against and cuddle with. They would even come to the house and beg for him to come out and play!

He led a very rich life. He loved his walks. We would go on one almost every night. He would especially make me walk him after coming home from being out of town, even if I had just run a 100-miler and was hurting.

He was the only dog that I knew of that would make-up his own walks. He liked to "mix it up," somewhat, with a different combination of streets and turns of his own choosing, every time. On one very special walk, he had a hand (or paw) in designing the famous "Fester's Wander" section of trail in Wyandotte County Lake Park. Many trail runners and hikers have experienced this challenging section of trail, for the past few years.

On his last day, he went with me to Lawrence to spend some quiet time with her while I ran with friends on the North Shore trails. He got to meet a little girl and her dog and he made a few more friends with people and animals on that day.

When we got home, our neighbors Ray and Angela were in their front yard with their dog (Oscar), and he went to say hello to the three of them. While we were in the front yard, "Fluffy" kitty came running across the street to come rub up against his buddy, one last time. He got to see our grandson (his buddy) again, and take one last Saturday afternoon post-run nap with me.

He will be be missed, but his love for us will not be forgotton.

Happy Heavenly trails, our sweet & loving dog.

Fluffy saying hello to my dog one last time.

With my grandson in November.

Fester Driving
Dog of many talents.

Grandson and dog.
An Autumn walk in the woods.

On "Fester's Wander" Trail

2007BerrymanTrail 014
Camping at Berryman.