As a new trail runner, planning a long run can be quite intimidating. Justin has gone through a steep learning curve figuring out how to sustain himself on these long efforts by managing nutrition and efforts. Here are Justin’s top 3 mistakes and solutions he has found so far in his progression as a new trail runner.
Mistake #1: Eating The Wrong Food
I approached long runs the same way I did hikes and my typical workday diet because it’s all I knew. How bad could it be? Granola bars, candy and sandwiches should do the trick, right? Wrong! These foods, filled with starchy carbs, fat, and fiber, took ages to digest and to provide the energy I needed on the trail. The result? Big energy crashes and sluggishness.
Solution: Opt for Quick-Energy Foods
I quickly found out that all this sports nutrition (bars, waffles, gels) existed for a reason. I also learned that different foods digest at varying rates. Now, I rely on quicker release foods options. Mostly waffles, and energy bars (haven't gotten around to trying gels yet). The result? A consistent energy flow during my long runs and no more energy roller coasters!
Mistake #2: Waiting Too Long To Eat
My main mistake was forgetting to eat and being focused my effort level. This lead me to wait until I was starving until i started snacking during my long runs. This led to my body depleting its carbohydrate stores, leaving me drained and feeling awful.
Solution: Follow a Feeding Schedule
I now adhere to a rough guideline of consuming 200 kcal per hour after the first 30 minutes of exercise for anything longer than 2 hours. Remember, you need to keep those carbohydrate stores topped up to avoid hitting the infamous "wall." At the end of the day, I simply needed to create the habit of eating consistently on the trail.
Mistake #3: Running The Uphills Like a Bullet
At the start of my long-distance trail running journey, I was under the impression that "trail running" meant I had to run every inch of the route, even the steep inclines. I wondered how runners managed hours of uphill sprints. The answer? They don't. Just walk or power hike as we say. Trail running is a misleading name, and we trail runners all know it.
Solution: Embrace Fast Hiking On Those Gruelling Uphills
I adopted a fast hiking pace I didn't know I could maintain before I tried. This allowed me to keep my heart rate down and to save my running energy for the flats and descents. This strategy, especially effective on rolling terrains, keeps your heart rate in check, and the miles just seem to fly by.
What I'm Working on Next: The Challenge of Descents
As I continue to evolve as a trail runner, I'm focusing on mastering downhill runs. Maintaining a controlled heart rate while descending can be tricky. Sometimes, I find myself holding my breath in concentration, leading to heart rate spikes. My goal is to remember to breathe steadily and relax on descents to keep my heart rate within a manageable range.
So, there you have it — lessons from my summer of trail running adventures. Whether you're a newcomer or a seasoned pro, remember that every trail run is a chance to learn and improve. With the right fuel, timing, and pacing, you'll be conquering long runs like a champ in no time. Happy trails!