newbie runner

Become a morning runner

In my quest to help you find more time to run, here are tips to help you head out really early without dying (also an ongoing theme around here). This is especially important if you’re looking to either increase the times you run in a week or avoid the summer temperatures that can make running so unpleasant.

Flat chica. Become a morning runner.

Flat chica.

Lay out everything you need the day before. You know those “flat” photos runners post before race day where they lay out every single item on the ground and take a picture? Do that the evening before your early morning run. Photo optional. Grab every item you might need on your morning run, from your head to your toes, including headlamp, headphones, hydration vest, sports bra, GPS watch, top, bottoms, socks and running shoes. Bonus points for putting everything right next to your bed so you can change right away.

Another potential time saver. Become an early morning runner.

Another potential time saver.

Plan your breakfast if you’re having any. I set up my coffee pot and plan my breakfast the night before an early-morning run. If you don’t eat before a run, plan what you’re going to eat when you get back so you don’t waste time when you should be getting ready for school or work. Bonus points for making a few healthy options on the weekend that you can reheat.

Set your alarm(s). Some runner friends set three or admit to hitting snooze multiple times. I get up when my alarm goes off so I don’t wake el husbando up. Whatever works for you, even if it’s putting the alarm clear across the room to force yourself to get up to turn it off. Bonus points for using an inspirational song as your wake-up call.

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You, too, can wear a dorky head lamp while you run super early in the morning.

Make friends. I am fortunate to have many runner friends, including several in my immediate neighborhood. We meet up a couple of mornings a week to run at 5:15. Brutal, yes, but knowing that they’re outside waiting for me makes me get up on those days when I’d rather stay under the covers. Bonus points for starting a running group if there isn’t one in your area.

With my early-morning run group, las mañanitas.

With my early-morning run group, las mañanitas.

Take a selfie. Getting up for morning runs is hard. If posting your run on social media encourages you to do it again, consider making it a tradition. It may also help with finding other friends to run with. Bonus points for having a friend who buys you a selfie stick small enough that you can carry in your running skirt pocket (thanks, Vicki!).

While I’m admittedly a morning person, I used to really struggle to get up for our earliest runs. A year into the tradition and I look forward to that time when we’re all sporting head lamps to head out for four miles when most of our neighbors are still sleeping or just getting up. There’s something about spending that quiet time with friends that helps set the tone for the rest of the day, even when things get hairy in the office later.

And remember that I post my family’s dinner menu most weeks to help you save even more time.

While I didn’t follow the day’s theme, I’m still linking up for Tuesdays on the Run, the weekly link-up with hosts runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice. Go check them out.

Do you have any tips to share? Have you seen any weird things while out on the run early in the morning? Feel free to share your blog post if you’ve written about this topic. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

falling in love with trail running

Running has given me many gifts, but allowing me to really see the beauty of my adopted state of Michigan has to be among the best.

Sure, it’s been a great place to work and raise a family, but it’s also been a place where I felt like a reluctant guest. A temporary resident looking to the beaches of Florida and the Caribbean for long-term living.

As a runner, I’ve learned to embrace Michigan’s weather extremes outdoors instead of heading to indoor activities to avoid the suffocating heat or teeth-chattering cold. And there is no better place to do so than on Michigan’s trails.

Want to get out on the trails yourself? Here are some tips:

  • Start slow. Making the transition from road to trail running can be jarring. Trail running can be hard but, oh, so worth it. Don’t plan to run your week’s longest run on the trails your first time out. Try a mile or two, then build up from there. I especially struggled with feeling confident as I stepped on and around tree roots, rocks and slippery fall leaves. It gets better with experience.
Beautiful trails like this one can help you fall in love while running.

Beautiful trails like this one can help you fall in love while running.

  • Wear proper gear. If you enjoyed your first few outings, it’s time to switch over to trail-running shoes. They’re just sturdier and grippier because the treads tend to be deeper to help you navigate the terrain. Unlike road running, trail running also takes you away from things like water fountains, so you may eventually want to get a hydration vest or at least a bigger water bottle. And don’t forget your bug spray in the spring or summer or your gloves and hat on the colder months.
Wearing the proper footwear can help you enjoy your trail running experience.

Wearing the proper footwear can help you enjoy your trail running experience.

  • Be prepared. This city slicker has no sense of direction, so a well-marked trail frees me to enjoy my surroundings, soaking in the lush greenery of a fern oasis on a river trail run or the way the sun hits tall grasses on a cold winter morning. Before you head out, make sure to eyeball the trail map, take a picture with your smartphone or grab a printed version. Michigan trails are easy to read because posts will show you where you are and point you to the next spot on the map. Most trails, like the North Country Trail I just visited, have additional markings that let you know you’re still on the right track. In this particular case, I kept my eye on blue markings along the trail, including spray-painted dots on trees.
The North Country Trail was clearly marked.

The North Country Trail was clearly marked.

  • Leave breadcrumbs, or at least a note. You’re unlikely to get lost if you stick to the marked trail, but it’s still smart to let a friend or family member know where you are heading and when you expect to return. I’m anything but a survivalist, but I’ve learned it’s better for me to turn around and head back in the same direction when I’m unsure of where I am headed on a trail instead of risking getting lost.
Let someone know where you're going and when you expect to be back.

Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

  • Watch out for deer … and other wildlife. Bear, coyotes and other critters may share your trail at some point or another. In addition to a Martin (looks like a mink) that ran across our path, my friends and I saw bear scat right in the middle of our trail half marathon in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. On another run in the same area, I saw the biggest woodpecker I’ve ever spotted. It had a gorgeous red crest and a huge wingspan. The familia thought I was exaggerating until I later found a description in a book about Michigan birds. (It was a pileated woodpecker, which the book says is about the size of a crow.)
Hope you fall in love with trail running.

Hope you fall in love with trail running.

Inspired to give trails a try, but don’t know where to start? Try one a state trail, ask around your running group or search online for nearby trail systems. You may just fall in love with Michigan.

What are your best tips for new trail runners? Feel free to share your blog post below if you’ve written about this topic before. (Click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

tips for running your first trail half marathonI ran 13.1 miles through the woods at the Two Hearted Trail Half in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and didn’t die, so I’m now sharing tips on how you, too, can survive — and thrive during — your first trail half.

 

  • Tip #1: Pick your race carefully. Two Hearted was the perfect first race for me. It was well organized, had gorgeous scenery, a well-marked route and made my first experience memorable. I read about this particular race from the Detroit Runner’s race review and it didn’t disappoint.
T-shirt and bib.

Race shirt and bib.

 

Some of the beautiful scenery.

Some of the beautiful scenery.

 

twohearted medal

Two Hearted Trail Half medal.

  • Tip #2: Train properly. Even if you’re an experienced road racer, make sure you put in a lot of trail miles before your first race. I’m fortunate to both have lots of runner friends with extensive trail experience and have a familia that camps, so I have lots of access to places to running trails. One of the best tips my friends gave me was to get used to running on tired legs. That meant a three- to five-mile run most Sunday mornings after Saturday’s long run. It also meant that I was ready for the terrain, even though it was much more difficult than anything I had experienced before.
The course was no joke.

The course was no joke.

 

More of the terrain on the trail.

More of the terrain on the trail.

  • Tip #3: Plan ahead. In addition to training for the type of trails you’ll be experiencing, think ahead about things you may need with you that day. While you don’t need a drop bag like you would for an ultra, I certainly was glad to have many of the necessities I pack in my luggage for my long runs, including bandages for a blister that was forming on my right foot, bug repellent wipes and my favorite Chap Stick. My friend Shannon and I were particularly glad we had bought new Nathan hydration packs for the occasion and we were all glad that we had either sunglasses or a hat on this very sunny day. You’ll also want to know where the race starts and ends so you can make arrangements for meeting up with family and friends. In our case, that was particularly helpful because we didn’t have cell coverage. At all.
I was able to bring my usual long-run items in my hydration pack, including bandages for a foot blister.

I was able to bring my usual long-run items in my hydration pack, including bandages for a foot blister.

  • Tip #4: Bring personal pacers. When I started talking about this trail race, I never imagined that two of my favorite running buddies would sign up to run it with me. It. Was. Awesome. While I know I would have finished by myself, having their company and experience (watch out for that tree stump, here’s how you run/walk through these logs) made the difference between a good experience and a fantastic one. If you don’t have running buddies who are willing to travel six hours to run a race with you, then make friends that morning.
With Shannon and Brandess, whose support was invaluable during my first trail race.

With Shannon and Brandess, whose support was invaluable during my first trail race.

  • Tip #5: Pay attention. The race organizers had very clear instructions both on the race website and in person just before the race about how the trail was marked (with blue flags to our right plus mile markers). There were a couple of spots where we didn’t see the blue flags for a while, but were relieved to see them clearly marking our directions. That said, we kept looking for those little flags because no one wants to get lost in the middle of nowhere, especially with no cell reception.

I hope these tips help you not only survive your first trail half-marathon race experience but make it the best it possibly can be. I certainly am hooked even more than I was before and have a lot more confidence as I look to doing my first trail 50K come September.

If you’re an experienced trail runner, please share your tips in the comments below. And if you’re a runner blogger who’s written about this before, feel free to share your link.

“Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.”

— Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame)

If I were to give my new-runner self advice, it would be to never say never.

I was never going to be a runner and I most definitely was never going to run a half marathon. Then it was never a full marathon. Oh, and ultras? Those are for crazy people.

This week’s Tuesdays on the Run link-up hosted by runner bloggers MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life and Marcia’s Healthy Slice asks what advice you would give to your new-runner self. When you’re done here, go visit them to see what other advice other runners are sharing.

Why wouldn’t I have said yes to new adventures? It’s not like saying no has ever quite worked out for me. In fact, I’ve had my most-rewarding experiences when I’ve said yes.

I didn’t want to date my now-husband, nor have children (did I mention we have three?). I didn’t even want to get our beloved dog, Khaleesi the Leonberger.

The familia.

The familia.

 

lachicaruns khaleesi

Our youngest.

In my very advanced age, I’ve learned to be more open to new experiences. To push myself outside of my comfort zone. To say yes more often.

In doing so, I’ve:

  1. Met some of the nicest people. Runners make awesome friends and I’ve been blessed with a bunch, all of whom are keepers.
  2. Become stronger both mentally and physically than I ever have. I was a jock growing up and did martial arts for about five years. I still feel stronger — and am more determined — as a runner.
  3. Exercised my creative muscle. Exhibit A: this blog. While I’ve always enjoyed writing, I don’t get to do a lot of it at work anymore, so writing for you, creating graphics and figuring out new social media tools has been incredibly gratifying.
  4. Set “stretch goals.” I love to learn new things, but working full time and parenting two teens and a 9-year-old doesn’t leave much time for things like grad school. Setting goals like running marathons and ultras means I spend time researching gear, fuel and training plans, allowing me to pick up a few skills on a regular basis.
  5. Learned to enjoy tolerate winter. Spending so much time outside running has meant a new grudging appreciation of the beauty of fall and winter, from the crunch of running through snow to watching how the seasons impact everything from the grass to the sounds of the birds on a quiet Sunday morning trail run.

If I were to send a message back in time to speak to myself when I started this running journey, I would encourage me to say yes more often. The rewards are endless.

What advice would you give your newbie-runner self if you could? Is there anything you would have done differently? The same?

There was a time a mere three years ago when running down the street left me winded. Running around the block? Impossible. Three miles? Inconceivable.

But I slowly — ever so slowly — went from a few seconds of running to running for a few minutes at a time. After many false starts (including painful shin splints), I eventually did run a 5K with my daughter. You’d have thought I was the first person to do so.

I still remember those days. Or so I thought.

The awe I felt when my running friends talked about not only running four or five times a week, but running five, six, 10! miles at a time. A couple of friends talked about running ultras like they were things anyone could do.

I swore I would never take that newbie awe for granted. Any running distance is a big deal for each person, whether it’s a mile or 31.1, I told myself, a little smugly.

Yet this past weekend, I found myself talking to my friends about running two miles with el husbando before heading out for what turned out to be another 8 with them as if it were not some big achievement. It was just 10 miles.

Aha. There it was. The realization that I’ve gone beyond a “typical” runner and into almost-insane territory. El husbando’s head shaking about my mileage validated by my own words. I don’t want to be that person who forgets what it’s like to get started on a healthier journey.

I’ve spent the past few days wondering if that way of thinking may have inadvertently discouraged any of you, chicos y chicas. If that’s the case, I apologize. I am training for some long races this year, but that’s just my journey. One I can take because I’m currently healthy and can squeeze in the time for my ever-increasing mileage.

All of which could change at any time.

Please know that I truly want to celebrate each and every one of your achievements, whether that’s managing to walk for a few minutes at lunch, walk past the last piece of cake after the office party or run your first race.

So how about it? What did you accomplish this week that you want to celebrate?