serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Archive for June, 2010

Why Soccer Players are good Distance Runners

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

professional-1-startline-blog-resizeWhen I ran cross-country in High School the best runner on the team was always a soccer player.  I went to High School in the South where soccer season is a Fall sport, just like cross-country, so most soccer players never even tried running cross-country.  Even with this barrier, our best runner was always a former soccer player which got me thinking, ‘Why are soccer players such great runners?’  One of which, Ian Dickinson, ran cross-country for the first time his sophomore year and then won the State Championship his junior and senior seasons!  He went on to run in college at the University of Georgia and has had a lot of success in running.

So was it soccer that made Ian so fast?  A study done in 1970 tracked one soccer player during a game and showed he ran for a total of 8,800 meters, or 5.5 miles.  They observed the player moving at five different speeds:  walking, jogging, cruising, sprinting, and backing.  2/3 of the distances covered were at low intensities and 800 meters was at fast speed utilizing 10-40 meter bursts.  Today it is thought that soccer players run about 10,000 meters a game, or 6.2 miles.  Midfielders were found to run the most, central strikers and defenders the least…and the goalie.  With training runs of 10 miles or more for cross-country running, their soccer games can’t be the reason for their superior running ability.

An aerobic base for core stamina is important for soccer players to posses.  They should be able to run 10-15 kilometers straight to be in decent soccer playing shape.  Some soccer players run fartleks (sprinting, jogging, then repeat) to condition for the constant burst of speed required for soccer, but that may not necessarily be the best training plan for them.  Stamina is the key to being a successful soccer player.  Stamina is what is needed to continue to burst for 90 minutes straight, and the burst themselves are not as important.

Perhaps that is why soccer players are good cross-country runners, because they need to have stamina to compete.  The soccer players that transitioned to my cross-country team did not make the soccer team, so they became cross-country runners.  Perhaps they were staying competitive in soccer because of their superior stamina and not necissarily their soccer skills.  Whatever the reason, they were happy they made the transistion and enjoyed a lot of success in cross-country.  Hopefully more states will host soccer in the spring so these players can test their stamina skills in cross-country, leading to more dominate Trail Runners later.

Then the US would dominate the world in Trail Running like we do in Soccer!  Go USA Soccer in the World Cup!  It might be a long tournament, but we’ve got stamina on our side!

Is Gatorade good for Trail Running Hydration?

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

gatorade-hydrationHydration and energy are essential for successful Trails Runs, but is yours being sabotaged by sports drinks?

Sports drinks were originally developed by scientists at the University of Florida in 1965 to help the school’s football players perform better during their 3-hour long games in 100-degree heat. Sound like your Trail Runs? Didn’t think so. Most of us have trail runs that last from 1 to 1 ½ hours at a moderate pace. The American Dietetic Association explains that unless you are an elite athlete or engaged in vigorous activity for more than 1 hour, plain water works perfectly for hydration.

There are two main components of sports drinks that aid in performance and hydration: carbohydrates and sodium. The carbohydrates come in the form of sugar to sweeten the drink and to add calories for energy. The sodium works to replace the sodium lost in sweat. However, neither of the components are necessary in drinks used for thirst and hydration for moderate runs that last less than 1 hour. In fact, drinking sports drinks when they are not necessary can add extra calories to your diet. The usual size 20-ounce bottle of a sports drink has an average of 140 calories, which means that you will have to run an extra 15 minutes just to burn it off!

Instead of drinking regular sports drinks, here are some healthy options:

- Flavor regular water with lemon, lime or orange slices

- Use lower calorie versions of sports drinks such as Gatorade G2 (71 calories per 20-ounce bottle), Propel Fitness Water (25 calories per 20-ounce bottle) or Powerade Zero (0 calories per 20-ounce bottle)

- Dilute your favorite sports drink with regular water

I know what you are thinking. “But I always drink Gatorade during races. It makes me feel better.” And you are right! There are instances when you do need to replace needed calories and energy during or after trail runs. I know that when I am training for half marathons, I tend to get leg cramps at night. What does that say to me? I am losing too much potassium through my sweat and need to replace it better. Ways to do that are through potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, or sports drinks! Consequently, I usually end my long runs with a large glass of Propel, berry flavor to be exact. The 45 minutes directly after your run is the best time to replenish the body’s losses.

Essentially, think of your body as a night club. As the night goes on, more and more cabs line up to take people home. Just like as your muscles work, they need to be replaced by what they lose, so transporters in your body line up to bring those lost elements from your bloodstream to your muscles and tissues. After the night club closes, people linger for awhile, so the cabs stick around for another 45 minutes or so to assure that everybody is brought home safely. Similarly, in your body, those transporters stick around for about 45 minutes to bring every needed mineral and nutrient available to replenish the muscles and tissues, which help to prevent soreness and cramping.

Moral of the story: Sports drinks work magnificently to replace your body’s losses if you are trail running for longer than 1 1/2 hours, hit that wall during a trail race when you feel your energy bottoms out, or are in need of extra calories and electrolytes. Otherwise, water is your best bet. It will quench your thirst without adding excess calories that you just worked so hard to burn off.

Happy Trail Running and Hydration!

-Lanier Thompson, M.S.

2010 Trail Running Statistics

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

trail-running-trailThe Outdoor Foundation recently published a new report on the state of the Trail Running industry where they found that 4.8 million Americans Trail Ran last year.  We wrote about the growth of trail running a couple of weeks ago, those numbers were based off of Richard Burgunder article which was taken from a 2006 survey.  Well, it’s 2010 so here are the 2009 numbers.

4.8 million Americans considered themselves Trail Runners last year.  In addition, 4.8 million Americans considered themselves pretty awesome.  Weird.  They went on 153.7 million Trail Running outings.  That’s 31.8 days of Trail Running per person.  I know it isn’t always easy to get to the trails, but come on Trail Runners, only one month a year of Trail Running?

13.1% of the respondents said they went Trail Running for the first time in 2009.  That’s a great growth rate!  They said that friends were the most influential reason they started Trail Running.  Take a friend Trail Running on National Trail Running Day August 21st, 2010 to increase those numbers!

Donna Williams, Montrail Sales Manager says, “We are seeing a new breed of runner on the trail as well. One that is youthful and driven towards achieving success in their outdoor pursuits. That is exciting for our industry.”  Thanks Donna, we couldn’t agree with you more.  We think that one of the most beneficial aspects of the growth of Trail Running is the industry is now developing gear and events that cater to our growing population of enthusiasts!  Hooray for Trail Running!

Appalachian Trail to Expand for some Serious Trail Running

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

fastpackingRunning on National Trails can be some serious trail running.  National Trails often offer running trails that are less traveled, which lends them to be more technical and secluded.  The Appalachian Trail is a great example of a fun run where you can find some great remote running trails.  With 2,175 miles of trail running along the Appalachian mountains you could spend a good part of a year trying to run this whole trail, even in segments.  If you are a little more extreme, you could try Fast Packing to cover more ground over a longer period, being able to sustain yourself with a small pack of supplies, but distance limits are usually around 600 miles for fast packing.  So do it in two fast packing trips.  Too late, it looks like it’s going to take more than two trips to cover the entire Appalachian Trail because of a new expansion effort to Europe underway.

In 1994 the Appalachian Trail, whose Southern point starts in Northern Georgia, was expanded from it’s Northern end in Maine to the edge of Canada’s Maritime Province to form the International Appalachian Trail.  Well, the IAT is going to grow even farther now, across the Atlantic to Western Europe where the Appalachian mountain chain’s other half goes into Morocco.  A few hundred million years ago the continental plates of Europe and North America collided, then broke up and drifted to their current locations.  The new IAT will brush the East Coast of Greenland before picking up in Ireland and Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.  It will resume on mainland of Norway and proceed South through France, Portugal, nip Western Spain, and end in Morocco.  Now that’s an extreme Trail Run!  Travelers will have to take a ferry or train to pick up the route across coasts, or you can just try running on water.  Although I’m sure someone will run the entire length of the trail someday, this length of running trail is way too much Trail Runners to swallow; however, the new segments in Europe look to be very exciting!  Trail Running trip across Europe anyone?

Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra Running Skirt Review

Monday, June 7th, 2010


Let’s face it, sometimes running the same old routes day after day can be pretty boring. Or if you’re like me, many days it’s hard to get motivated to run unless you’re training for a big race.  It’s days like these that I put on a running skirt and everything changes.

I love running in a skirt, especially my Gym Girl Ultra skirt by Skirt Sports, mostly because it’s so comfortable! Form-fitting shorts, or “shorties,” made of semi-compression mesh fabric, are attached beneath the lightweight jersey skirt. The mesh shorties help you stay cool and dry on long or short runs.  And unlike some running shorts that can creep up, the shorties in the Gym Girl Ultra stay put while the skirt is free flowing with side slits to allow a full range of movement. Plus, the shorties have small pockets on both legs that are perfect for carrying your ipod shuffle, keys, cash, or energy gel.

Not only is the Gym Girl Ultra comfortable and functional, its seriously stylish. The Endless Summer pattern has pink, teal, and white swirls and tendrils which are a perfect representation of the free flowing spirit I feel when wearing it. The skirt covers about 3-4″ of the top of my thighs and completely covers my backside so I can still look great while grabbing a bite or knocking out a few errands after a workout. Why hide under baggy sweats or skimpy track shorts when I can wear running clothes that not only flatter my legs and butt, but also show a hint of my real personality.  To be honest, I’ve been tempted to just put this skirt on a Saturday morning to wear around town.  The Gym Girl Ultra is a multi-tasker and low maintenance, too.  I wear the skirt at least once a week and toss it in the laundry on normal wash cycle and it stays bright and colorful.

Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra Review Front

The Gym Girl Ultra is definitely my favorite piece of running attire for its high performance design and super stylish fit. I know I can count on this running skirt to make me look and feel good. Whether running a 5k or marathon, having a positive mental attitude is just as important as being physically prepared. I’ve found it’s easy to get that extra boost of confidence to go just a little farther or push just a little harder by simply wearing a skirt!

Thanks a bunch to the folks at Skirt Sports for sending this fantastic skirt and a special thanks for inventing the running skirt!

Dance with Dirt: Devil’s Lake Trail Race

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Legend has it that people who complete Dances with Dirt gain superpowers.  I’m still trying to figure out exactly what my super power is, but I’ve narrowed it down to the following possibilities:

1.  Able to scale sequoia sized tree trunks in a single bound

2.  Able to slide straight down a hill (while trying to run up it) without losing all my fingernails

3.  Able to smile at the end of a 4-mile leg that turned into a 6-mile leg when my actual legs felt like they weighed about 20 pounds  apiece

This is a mere sampling of the chstpauligirls-runnersallenges I experienced while running a Dances with Dirt trail race.  Dances with Dirt (DWD) is many things to many runners.  It is a 50 mile trail relay event (5 runners), a 50K or 50 mile ultra event (for the truly masochistic runner), and a half-marathon and full marathon event (though not at all a typical race at these distances).

I was asked to be the fifth runner on an all-female team planning to dress for the occasion in a Princess Barbie theme.  Yep, there is a team theme and costume contest thrown into the relay, which should be your first clue that this is no ordinary event.  The winners of the “Creative Team and Vehicle Award” earn a free entry into the next year’s event.

I’m not a “girlie” girl by any means, nor were any of the women I was racing with, so it was an interesting choice, but I rolled with it and happily ran in my sparkly tiara and pink Barbie sunglasses while carrying a blonde “runner” Barbie (our team baton) over the challenging race course.relay-exchange-dances-with-dirt

The inaugural DWD, in 1997, hosted 22 teams in Hell, Michigan.  Each year for the past five years, 400 teams have hit the trails.  The event sells out within minutes, which is one of the reasons DWD expanded into venues including Indiana, Wisconsin, and Florida over the past couple of years.  Another reason is that event organizer and promoter Randy Step believes that the race calendar can use a few more relay events and he has so much fun creating the DWD course that he’s more than happy to take his show on the road.  The next event is at Devil’s Lake in Bambaroo, Wisconsin on July 10th.  Hurry and register now before prices go up in 6 days!  Devil’s Head Resort will again play host to the Devil’s Lake trail race.  This is going to be another epic Dances with Dirt trail race for sure!  Check out the race course if you dare.  Click on the link on that page for a full description of each of the legs on the relay.

Although every distance is equally challenging and fun, the relay aspect of the race is truly a blast.  Once runners begin the race, the rest of the teams take their maps and pile into their official DWD vehicle (1 per team please) to head for the first transition point.  Each team transitions at the same spot, but obviously at different times, so each transition area is kind of like a floating tailgate party with people constantly coming and going.  Some folks are very serious about running DWD (why shouldn’t they be, this is and take off at high speed in hopes of competing for first place overall or a top place in their category.  Others pack coolers of beer and treat it like an afternoon jogging in the woods with friends.  The rest of us are somewhere in between those extremes, hoping to run a decent time overall, but interested in having fun along the way.

dwd-fun-team-finishI recommend packing two extra pairs of shoes, a change of clothes and a cooler full of food and drink to last about 8 hours.  Experienced teams scout the course beforehand and figure out which legs of the race are best suited for each team member.  Legs average 4.5 miles and each runner is required to run 3.

DWD was definitely one of the most memorable running experiences I’ve ever had.  The organizers clearly love what they do, the participants love to do it, the course is out of the world beautiful, sometimes ridiculously hard, but always lots of fun.  All of this makes for a great combination of competition, community, craziness, and classic moments.  As a result, my DWD “Survivor” medal will remain a tremendous source of pride for years to come.