My favorite type of run is a trail run. I like being up in the mountains, out in nature. The terrain is constantly changing, which keeps my brain occupied, and it forces you to use more muscle groups than flat-land running. As distance is concerned, though, I love the challenge of a half marathon. Thirteen miles is long enough to require a decent amount of training, but short enough where the training doesn’t encompass my weekends and require a lot of forethought.
When I run, I carry water with me in a handheld water bottle. I don’t like running with a camelback on my back or a belt full of water bouncing on my hips. This is one of my favorite things about running, actually, that all you need are shoes, shorts, and some water. Depending on the weather, I can get away with carrying just a water bottle for 13 miles and not needing a refill. And when it comes to nutrition, I don’t need to eat anything on a run that distance either. However, when the distances start to climb beyond that, water stops and additional calories become a necessity.
This week’s long run was 14 miles, and with the weather being as unseasonably warm as it has been, there was no way I was going to make it the entire distance on one water bottle. Normally on solo runs I’ll run some type of loop or out-and-back course. On some courses it’s safe to leave a small or a bottle of water somewhere along the trail before you start to give yourself a water stop. Most runners know this when they see it and respect it, but on public trails there is a risk that someone isn’t familiar with the protocol and will take. Not wanting to take the risk this week, I found a new strategy.
The Highline Canal Trail weaves its way nearly 50 miles through the suburbs of Denver, and it’s wonderfully maintained. It also crosses a number of roads and thus provides ample locations to drop water. Rather than drop my water then go back to pick it up afterward, I found a parking lot at a very convenient place on the trail where I could run two out-and-backs. I ran 4 miles out-and-back in one direction, refueled, then ran 3 in the other direction. Even at the, my water rations ran dangerously low on the last 3 miles.
As my distances increase, I’m going to need to spend more time planning my runs to make sure I can get enough water and nutrition and to avoid running through the hottest parts of the day. Luckily there are a number of local companies who organize long runs, complete with water stops and nutrition. Some even provide volunteer pacers to guide you through your run and keep you on track. I prefer running on my own, but it’s about that time where I’m going to need some help to get through these long runs.