Saturday, January 3, 2015

Guest Post: Conquering North Shore Trails - beginner's perspective

This is a post written by my wife Angie and her thoughts on running our beautiful North Shore trails. Enjoy the read:

It's always a bit intimidating to get out there into the great unknown. So many reasons not to go for that run, I've tried them all.

But my partner is a serious runner and he offered to take me, so sheepishly I put my shoes on. I've had those "pearly zooms" runners for about a year now, but they still look brand new. Well, I guess it's time to get them a little bit dirty. Oh yeah! It's so happening! No more excuses.

On a trail now and so far so good. I'm keeping up, even hopping over some logs. Hey, I'm running and it feels good! Then the first incline comes, hmm, start feeling my lungs, then the next one. I'm trying real hard, but I'm not moving much. Marc runs circles around me, finally  he starts hiking next to me, as I'm still "running"! That's when you know it's bad, BAD! So I get a little angry:

"You do your fast intervals," I order my significant other, I'm walking this hill...and the next one, and when the trail finally evens out, because it just has to, then I'm gonna break into my stealth mode shuffle: the stride so short and the feet so close to the ground, you'll never know if I'm moving at all!

Made it home somehow. Suffice to say, it was a humbling experience. In my mind I run much faster, and so the reality check was a bit unnerving. And demotivating. Big time.

But then a sunny day came. And a sunny crisp day during wintertime in Vancouver is a treasure. I knew I had to spend it well, and the only way to accomplish that, I felt it in my heart, was to hit any of our rain forest trails and let my feet take me where they may.

Decision time: I'm not a fan of disappearing into the woods alone. Didn't work out so great for Red Riding Hood, why should I push my luck? Oh, but I really wanted to do something brave, and my rain forest guide, aka the owner of this blog, aka my husband had to work that day, so I resolved to go it alone.

The plan: stick to the trails you know, listen to your body. Ten minute climb, some shuffling on an even terrain, then pummel down the hill all the way home and feel good about yourself. Probably won't last longer than 30 minutes, so no need for snacks or water. Will take my cell phone though...because you never know.

OK, on a trail now looking for a turnoff. I know there is another path veering off to the left, but can't find it. I keep going on thinking it's further ahead. Oh, but it's getting steeper. Ten minutes into the run and I'm walking already. And I also realize that I'm way past the turnoff, but I'm just too stubborn to come down. I know I've been on this trail before and I want to find out where it goes.

I get kicked out on a road, which I cross looking for a continuation of my trail on the other side. Hey, there's a sign: Trail Permanently Closed, Do Not Use. I'm sorry, but that's the only trail I can see, so I'm taking it. Doesn't look too bad at all, and after I climb over a big log, I'm all of a sudden on a trail I do know, and I realize that I already did my "big" climb. Hey! Not too shabby. A rush of confidence enters my bloodstream: I can do this, and it will be longer than half an hour!

Once my breathing slows down and I settle into some sort of a rhythm, I finally start enjoying myself. It's almost always like that. Those first 15 to 20 minutes of my runs are always devoted to this tug of war between me and my body:
Body: "What are you doing to me?"
Me: "I want you to run."
Body: "The pace is too fast and terrain is too steep, I'm not trained for that."
Me:"Just do it."
Body:"Sorry, no can do."
Me:"OK, fine, what can you do?"
Body:"Let me get some oxygen in and we can negotiate."
An unspecified period of laboured breathing and not much moving passes.
Me:"How about now?"
Body:"Sure, but next time, don't take this multivitamin on an empty stomach before you go out. I'm gonna make you burp this for the rest of your run."
Me: "Duly noted."

And finally I'm running and it's not just one big discomfort. I'm starting to feel the inklings of joy, and I grasp the potential for happiness that exists in this free, light movement through nature. And there is so much to look at as the sun illuminates the forest: the cedars. the firs, mosses, ferns, bubbling creeks, roots and rocks. Yet at the same time the images before my eyes are so unobtrusive, not demanding my engagement, that it's possible to let the mind wander, well, after some automatic eye to brain to feet communication is established first of course. I relax, it's so peaceful here.

Photographic proof of the accomplishment.

Thirty minutes into the run I take a picture of myself at a trail sign: to prove that I have made it this far, but also to help my husband guide me home in case I get lost on the way back and need directions. I do make it home no problem though. I mean, I trip over a root and barely save myself from falling flat on my face, and once I hit the road close to home, I lose all the grip on the black ice and have to really slow it down to remain upright, but none of this matters. I make it home in one piece, and it's been an hour.

I do a few stretches, because I'm just that motivated, drink some water, and I'm really looking forward to that hot shower. But before even the first drops hit my face, I'm already as happy as can be. Why? Because I "braved" it out there on a crisp wintry day, and that feels mighty fine.