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Moving from road to trail

Posted by Jean Baptiste on

Moving from road to trail

The midlife crisis, myth or reality? You have 2 hours before the exams are due!

As the number 40 inexorably approached, the hand of my biological clock ticked insistently for a resumption of running, a favorite sport that I had put on hold for ten years at will. a professional change. While a few stints in swimming, badminton and even a try at triathlon had kept me active, I hadn't run anything significant in the decade.

Yielding to quarantine pressure, I actually got back into road running. But to do things, you might as well do them well: for well into your forties, at the rate of one kilometer per year, you reach the mythical distance of the marathon, so what could be better than a “big” marathon as a goal? The one in Paris, in April, will do the trick but for the reality to match the myth, you will have to train seriously.

So here I am, putting on my running shoes and hitting the asphalt, subjecting myself to specific training with lots of exercises found on the Internet and eating miles of tar (without nicotine).

Preparing for a marathon requires long outings (around thirty kilometers) with work on endurance, power and resistance with nice VMA sessions which are very painful but really allow you to progress! However, running for a long time on the road is restrictive: you have to find the right lanes, suitable tracks or walkable sidewalks that will allow the session to be long and ideally without repeating the same places. Because going in a loop is morally painful, mouse-in-the-wheel syndrome…

Later during my preparation, I share these considerations with a sports friend from work, a friend who has a few trails under his belt. I have vaguely heard about these off-road races, in nature without really being interested in them.

He then suggests that I try a trail as a long session: this will allow me to run longer (because less quickly due to the profile and the terrain less conducive to speed) while avoiding weariness (because Nature is a infinite playground)? In other words, a trail format outing would be well worth a long road session.

Me: “Yes but I risk getting injured, a sprain or a fall, a few weeks before the Paris marathon, it's not reasonable (Author's Note: in 6 years of trail running, not a single injury of this kind). Running on paths yes but on improbable soils populated with roots or tricky stones, no thank you. »

Him: “You have to be more vigilant than on the road in fact, but the body and the feet in particular are well made and your stride will adapt to the terrain without problem (NDA: I had just learned the word “proprioception”).

Me: “Yes but you need special equipment, suitable shoes, a camel-back if there are not enough supplies…”

Him: “It’s clear, you need to invest in a few things to get started on a small trail.”

Me: “Yes, but when it goes up too much, the terrain is too technical, I might have to walk: sacrilege, you never walk in a road race, it’s unthinkable!!! »

Him: “On the contrary, it happens all the time on trails, we have no choice and there is no shame in that, I assure you. Walking allows you to better enjoy the landscape, recover before the next difficulties, eat quietly or take stock of your physical state. And walking fast uphill is worth the sprints…”

Me: “Yes, but how do I know my pace per kilometer if the slope and terrain constantly vary? How do I plan my race plan? »

Him: “Forget your bearings on the road: managing the trail is totally different. Each kilometer is different from the previous one: it turns, it climbs a little, a lot, passionately, madly, sometimes, it climbs and you have to put your hands or help yourself with a rope, and it goes down as it goes up, it there are small and large stones to cross, the track can be wide then narrow, open in the open air or closed in thick undergrowth, on rock or sand, loose earth or grass, sometimes with rivers to cross and always orient yourself according to the markings. In these conditions, it is impossible to have a metronome rhythm like on asphalt. It’s managed differently and that’s what also makes the trail so special…”

Short of arguments, I must say that the experience tempts me, I remember the cross country races at school, with climbs and descents, which I already really liked! Trail running is a booming discipline and curious about “nature”, I feel like a scrubland chamois.

An appointment is made for a first 26 km trail in Pignan, almost 2 months before the Paris marathon. At least if I get injured I'll have some time to recover. In addition, the distance of 26 km is ideal for my preparation. And I know the sector, which does not seem too demanding to me with around 600m of D+. No, D+ is not a blood group but the positive altitude difference, a new term to add to my “Trail for Dummies” lexicon. Because in trail running, in addition to the distance, this positive altitude difference is the other major parameter: with hindsight, it is even the main factor to consider in this type of activity, and it is often the number that the We proudly highlight having defeated him but I don't know that yet.

For this very first trail, I don't particularly prepare and simply consider it as a long outing in my training plan. I will still equip myself with suitable shoes in a sports store where, as I know nothing about them, I buy those which are on sale (I will not betray the brand or the model but it was not a good one choice) as well as a camel-back and then, ouch, I realize that one with the other represents a significant budget. As trail running becomes a fashionable activity, it is obviously an attractive market for many brands... For the rest, I keep my road runner's outfit and will take with me energy bars and gels that I plan to take on a marathon as well.

As the fateful date approaches, a slight stress is weighing on me. When the day of the Pignan trail arrives, I almost forget the very special weather with a -10°C in the morning so you don't want to put an eskimo outside, exceptionally low temperature here. And I dressed a little too lightly for these conditions , it promises.

The pack of trailers sets off at the start and in a few hundred meters, we abandon the road for the paths then the single tracks in the Siberian scrubland: the trail really begins at this point. The bite of the cold is becoming painful, my hands are numb and my thighs are itchy. It will take a good twenty minutes before the body's boiler is activated by the repetition of efforts. I even want to accelerate to warm up faster but wisdom forbids me, the race has barely started. Nature is as if petrified and the vegetation has a dreamlike whiteness. Despite everything, I feel more alive than ever. So we run on the paths, it goes quite quickly and I watch my feet carefully to avoid any obstacles. Ultimately, it's not that complicated. And then comes the first real, severe bump, the one that makes you look up. The group of runners I joined then lines up single file and starts walking! Horror, the choice is not left to me, impossible to overtake on a single track so I walk also. In fact, I realize that it is just normal and even essential on steep climbs, otherwise there is an imminent explosion. Worse still, when the slope gets steeper, I pray that the runner in front of me will start walking, in order to give me the precious alibi to stop running and settle into his stride. In short, this first good big hill will have sealed this learning.

The camel-back makes flop-flops on my back and shakes slightly. Without being a big nuisance, it's still not super comfortable: while trotting, I tighten and adjust the straps better. You'll have to get used to carrying this gear around like a turtle carries its shell. As for the sound of water in your bag, I will later be given the tip to avoid it (NDA: you turn the bag filled with water over and therefore once upside down, you completely suck the air through the hose. When there is no more air, put the water bag back upright and that's it.

All in all, the course is pleasant, alternating bumps and rises, wide tracks and narrow paths, straight lines and tight turns. Not very technical, the terrain ultimately requires little attention and my fears of falling fade as the kilometers pass. As a result, I fully enjoy the pleasure of trotting in the green, pine undergrowth or oak corridors which force me to spread my arms from branches that are sometimes too warm. The landscapes crossed ruffle my soul as an indifferent and hurried city dweller.

Even the constant search for markings, markings on the ground or ribbon hung on trees contributes to the fun of this little adventure: where are we going to go next, what is behind this bump or this bend, how are we going -do we reach the other side...?

I have just understood that trail running is to running what mountain biking is to road cycling: more fun and more varied, perhaps even more technical, in the atmosphere, requiring more attention, in short more complete !

First refueling and surprise: at -10°C, the water froze on the surface of the cups on the table, impossible to drink it without risking a big problem in the belly. Never mind, I have my camel-back... except that the water in the hose has also frozen and prevents the still liquid from the bag from being sucked up. No water, it's starting to suck. The majority of trail runners are in my case and a wind of panic is blowing through the peloton.

At the second refill, the knowledgeable volunteers fill the glasses on demand, not giving the cold time to transform them into ice floes. I can finally drink and it immediately feels better.

This in no way spoils the delight of running in the natural symphony which is in full swing: succession of streams, crossing of a canyon, grassy meadows and dense woods...

Physically, I feel good, filled with a feeling of being at the end of the world in the middle of wild scenery. My legs and knees appreciate the terrain, which is softer than the asphalt, and the changes in pace it imposes offer recovery phases. Morally, I enjoy each stride without worrying about the clock or getting tired of the kilometers passing by. I completely ignored the fact that it was -10°C for a good part of the race and that due to lack of hydration, I even had the beginnings of killer cramps in my calf at the end. In short, it's fun but what's more normal in this sport!

After 26 kilometers, I finally return to civilization, hit the road again, cross inhabited areas and cross the finish line in the village of Pignan.

So that's the trail, wow, an enhancer of the pleasure of running, with nature as a catalyst

A slightly childish euphoria animates me: quickly, quickly, start again. To be sure that it is not the enthusiasm of the first time and to confirm that the magic is working, I need to use a trail as soon as possible. Nothing could be easier, by searching on the Internet, I discovered that there are a multitude of trails on the calendar, almost every weekend and for all tastes, of short, medium or long format, in a relatively limited geographical area. So I choose another local trail with a profile similar to that of Pignan, short and with a modest elevation gain, because I don't want to skip a step: it will be that of Bouzigues just over a month later.

The Paris marathon is still my number one goal but my training takes a nicer and less monotonous turn thanks to the trail.

Through readings and advice from colleagues, I began to look into the specificities of trail running, such as food, equipment or training: there too, there is a plethora of articles to go through to better understand this discipline.

But I won't change anything for the Bouzigues trail, it's still too early.

And a few weeks later, here I am again at the start of a trail, a little more confident, a little more excited about what I'm going to experience.

Like the Pignan trail, the Bouzigues trail is ideal for enjoying a gentle, fairly rolling trail, without exceptional difficulty while giving an overview of the neighboring countryside: panoramic views of the Thau lagoon and the Mediterranean coast but also in the hinterland, passages through screes from which restored capitelles emerge, running along the edge of a pond at the end, etc... Trail runners sometimes stop to immortalize their presence in these settings with a selfie or their on-board GoPro.

I occasionally discover the importance of volunteers. Placed in improbable places to wait for hours for our passage, in the wind, the cold or the heatwave, the volunteers are there to guide us and resupply us, always helpful, in a good mood and quick to encourage us. How many times their kindness has boosted my morale. Be careful, however, of their sense of distance: when a volunteer announces “come on, only 500 meters before the next refueling point!” », it is generally necessary to apply a multiplicative factor ranging from 2 to much more. Jokes aside, without the volunteers, the trails would not exist, we can never thank them enough. I have never encountered equivalent heat in a road race. And speaking of refreshments, you should know that the trail achieves the alchemy of transforming Tuc, this tasteless, vaguely salty aperitif biscuit into a refined dish elevated to the rank of caviar. Yes, yes, when the trail runner can no longer bear the absorption of sugar, the preferred source of energy during racing, he throws himself on the Tuc omnipresent at every good refreshment point and savors them with relish like a bear on honey, not losing any not a crumb and licking his fingers afterwards. That too is the magic of the trail.

And what about solidarity between trail runners? At the sight of a runner in difficulty at the side of the path, many will stop to ask the unfortunate person “Do you have enough to eat and drink?” Do you need something, a bar? » or have a little word of encouragement. Likewise, when a guy (me for example) is on the ground writhing in pain from cramps, there will always be one to offer help "Give me your leg, I'll stretch it." and make your cramp go away”, the solidarity of the effort!

Another source of attraction: trails often have the privilege of crossing protected areas (Natura 2000 for example) or private areas therefore inaccessible in normal times (temporary authorization given by the owners) or completely "open" i.e. cleared of brush. by the organizers in order to allow the passage of the trail on the big day.

Finally, I experienced later, during long trails in particular, the quality of exchanges between trail runners, where we can spend hours running or walking together, companions in hardship and suffering, discussing our respective experiences, mutually motivating.

So many sources of emotion and pleasure that I had never experienced in road racing.

To return to the Bouzigues trail, even if I was able to walk these places during previous hikes, it is a renewed pleasure to gallop in these corners still spared from the alteration of the world, inhaling the smell of the vegetation and of the earth, experiencing for a moment a powerful feeling of freedom. Each stride is nourished by this exaltation, the beauty of the setting and the communion with Nature. Even when the muscles become paralyzed, the blood rushes to the temples, the breath becomes shorter, or the sweat stings the eyes, I continue to experience joy, the joy of pushing back the capabilities of my body and my mind. , joy of confronting myself with the elements and surpassing myself. But that doesn't stop me from feeling equally humbled, at the foot of a big climb, at the bottom of a valley or far from everything, lost in the undergrowth.

With milder weather than in Pignan and increased confidence, I finished the Bouzigues trail calmly, completely validating my initial impressions, the time being of little importance as the pleasure was there.

There you have it, between love at first sight and revelation, I literally fell in love with trail running in 2 spoonfuls. Quite a midlife crisis!

It now seems obvious to me that the Paris marathon will turn the page on my experience on asphalt before opening a new one on trail running, as they say in Quebec. There are so many trails to discover within reach of your shoes, landscapes to explore, forests to cross, mountains to brave, memories and images to bring back, moments of sharing and encounters to experience, limits to push back...especially by switching to ultra....whatever the destination as long as you have the exhilaration to run!

And what if, ultimately, the craze for the Trail only followed the more general movement of fleeing the city centers to reach the calm of the countryside, which teleworking for some facilitates. The Trail is life outside, nature, no traffic noise, free practice, the singing of birds, no place to shelter from the wind, it's humans facing nature but above all the human face to oneself. It's probably a movement that will last, knowing that there are more and more fans of running and that at Stimium we also advise more and more beginners who are embarking on their first marathon or...on their first trail!

The Stimium package remains essentially the same between the road and the trail over the duration of the race must be the same (which is rarely the case, since our averages on asphalt are very different from our averages on all terrain). We are generally a little more loaded on trails with more supplies in our pockets, and this gives in particular at Stimium Stimium® PreWorkOut Max to prepare the organisms for muscle strengthening loads Stimium® [C] Whey , Stimium® Iso Hwy or Stimium® VegPro to maintain a good protein intake for the muscular fibers put under severe strain during trails and Stimium BCAA Instant , to help development muscular, for the race then with Stimium Boost Powder for a complete recharge in the bottle with carbohydrates and vitamins and our Stimium® Boost and Stimium® Pro-Nrj Gums, and of course for recovery with Stimium® Mc3 or Stimium® Mc3 powder to reduce the risk of cramps, and combat muscle fatigue, Stimium® Rgn3 Reload or Stimium® Rgn3 Clean-Up to restock with vitamins and minerals and finally our Stimium® Iso Carb Mix , to replenish these sources of glycogen and proteins.

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The midlife crisis, myth or reality? You have 2 hours before the exams are due! As the number 40 inexorably approached, the hand of my biological clock ticked insistently for a resumption of running, a...

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