Woodsy trails bring out the poet in us all
Midsummers Night’s Dream: Imagine you are running along a meandering trail, and it climbs steadily, snaking through dense woods eventually yielding to an alpine meadow after five miles. Vistas of glacier-kissed peaks surround you, and wildflowers at your feet applaud your effort. You push on across pale patches of last winter, striding over rolling tundra like a wild animal. A churning river appears and offers a stout bridge for safe passage to a short climb to an overlook of a lonely body of water.
Is this a dream? No, you are a trail runner on an endorphin buzz gazing upon Lost Lake outside of Seward. After soaking in the moment, it’s time to climb one more mile, the final crest along this route that rewards you with incredible views of Resurrection Bay. On a clear day, islands and boats dot the water like chess pieces, and for a moment you feel like an immortal on Mount Olympus.
Want to create Shakespearean moments like this? Here’s how to prepare for your trail running tale.
Assemble a cast of running companions. On the trails there is safety in numbers, especially in bear country. Leave the iPod at home, but be willing to sing a tune or share a story loudly to alert bears of your presence.
Second, select a route based upon your group’s fitness level. The running pace should be at a conversation level keyed to the slowest member of the group. Avoid running on the heels of the runner in front of you by keeping enough distance to see the trail ahead. Definitely remember to leave an itinerary with a reliable person that includes your estimated time of return.
Dress for the weather. On longer outings such as the Lost Lake Trail, a light pack with rain/wind gear, cap and gloves go a long way as weather can change quickly especially when above treeline. Trail running shoes also provide better traction than regular running shoes and usually offer a reinforced toe box and stiff soles. Food and fluid are necessary and add to the enjoyment. Take a cell phone but recognize reception may be variable in the backcountry in places like Girdwood’s Crow Pass Crossing and Hope’s Resurrection Pass Trail to Cooper Landing. Some first aid gear, especially a bandana or pressure dressing, can come in handy as falls inevitably happen.
Your running technique is different on trails than it is when running on the roads or bike trails. Scan ahead and anticipate foot placement especially on downhill segments. Step over limbs or roots, instead of on top of them, to minimize falls or slips. Practice proper foot placement, and keep your arms out from your sides, elbows out 45 degrees, which will help serve as a counter balance. When tackling the uphill portions of a trail consider power hiking, as the pace can mirror running on steep sections. Above all, get off the roads and into the woods to experience nature like a poet.
“And this our life exempt from public haunt. Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, Sermons in stones and good in everything.”
– William Shakespeare, ‘As You Like It’
— Keep striding and smiling,
TWO favorite trail runs
The Chugach Front Range: Upper Hillside’s Powerline Pass, accessed from the Flat Top parking lot.
Girdwood: The Winner Creek Trail begins behind the tram at the Alyeska Hotel. Look for the signs to the left. There is fun boardwalk running, but it can get crowded.