Finding My Ultra 1.2

Finding my ultra 1.2

Today's Organic Endurance Group Trail Run was another opportunity to find my ultra.  We created a 3.5 mile loop through the West Hills' trails.  Here is what I learned from today's run.

1. Clothing choice is pivotal.  The temperatures were in the single digits with a negative windchill factor so there was no other choice but to bundle up.  I wore 4 layers up top; starting with a thin Under Armour long sleeve, followed by a long sleeve shirt with a mesh back for breath ability then, a short sleeve shirt and finally another long sleeve with a breathable back, and a cycling jacket. On my feet I wore two pairs of socks; one thin pair and then a thick skiing type sock.  While I was warm for the entire 3:30 hours I was out there, I sweated through everything.  The arms of my jacket were soaked and the mesh around the toe box of my shoes were definitely wet.  

Sweating through so many layers is definitely a concern of mine.  I need to work on my layering to find a balance between warmth, sweat rate and athletic performance.

My feet were pleasantly toasty for the entire run however that came at a price.  My feet were sweating, a lot. So much so that I ended up developing a blister on my big toe.  I'd like to conclude that it was a direct result of my foot sliding around in my shoe from how wet my socks were. Next run, one pair of socks.

2. Trail running is not road running. The trails were covered in a solid layer of snow and that morning we received an additional dusting.  The recent cold spell ensured we wouldn't be sinking into the snow up to our knees however the weather exposed other problems.  With each successive lap the thin covering quickly became compacted and magnified the contours of the trail.  These magnified contours increasingly taxed the smaller stabilizing muscles of my lower legs leading to quicker fatigue.  This is something I never had to deal with on the road and further highlighted my ignorance of trail running and the need to further develop these muscles in order to confidently tackle 50k.

3. Trail running shoes vs Running shoes
I run in what the industry calls minimal or racing sneakers.  These sneakers are made of a minimal amount of material with the idea that speed is the number one priority. The lack of material creates an extremely flexible sneaker that is very light weight.  These qualities are great for running on the road.  These same qualities are not very beneficial when it comes to running in the trails.  The minimalism of running sneakers lack the necessary qualities for a solid trail running shoe.  

So far I have found the that a good pair of trail running shoes must have the following qualities;

1. Support: With the ever changing surface of trails it is very important to have a trail running shoe with quality support.  This support is necessary when the footing is sketchy or unstable.  This increased stability is a life saver when you unknowingly step on a rock, branch etc. Your ankles will thank you for this.

2. Rock Plate: If you plan on running on a very natural trail meaning, there will be rocks, roots, down trees, etc a sneaker with a rock plate comes in handy. A rock plate is often a thin piece of plastic beneath the insert of the sneaker or it is in fact built into the sole of the sneaker itself.  This plate acts as a barrier of protection from sharp, pointy or potentially dangerous debris you might be running on.  A rock plate allows for a slight peace of mind when running through the woods.  If you run on hard packed trails like in Southern California then there is really no need for a shoe with a rock plate.

3. Flexibility: coming from the road I have grown accustom to very flexible sneakers and really enjoy that quality.  The flexibility allows my feet to naturally move and adjust to the terrain.  I have found that most trail running shoes lack the flexibility of a road sneaker do to the increase in support, the addition of a rock plate and the additional protective material customarily found on a trail shoe.  The few trail running shoes from Salomon that I have run in have been in amazing contrast to the Brooks Pure Flow I use to run on the road. This is not to say that Salomon doesn't make a great shoe, they absolutely do, however I need to understand the unique characteristics of trail shoes.  Yesterday was my first true test of the Salomon X-Scream and I'd have to say I was very happy after over 3 hours of running.  The X-Scream's offer a decent amount of flexibility and a confidence building amount of support.  Could I run in a "hybrid" running/trail shoe to get the best of both worlds? If I didn't have a budget I would love to try varying degrees of trail running shoes to find the perfect match. I know for certain that I have to find the perfect shoe for my first 50K.

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