Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rules for the Trail Part 2

1.  Don't blindly follow another runner down the trail.  The original article posted in October of 2011 was about following a group of runners right off the trail at the Stump Jump on October 1, 2011 and probably loosing 6 or 8 minutes.  The worst part though,  was not the original time lost.  Because we were only about 6 miles into the race when we missed the turn, by the time we got back on the correct trail, we were behind a lot of slower runners.  I was not able to get clear of slower runners for another two aid stations.  This is really frustrating.  So the rule is NEVER follow another runner without watching the trail markers yourself.  Pay extra attention at trail intersections.  Did you read the post about the Xterra 21K in November of 2011, Just 6 weeks after the Stump Jump?  I didn't listen to my own advice.

2.  Meeting runners on an out-and-back course or section:  Anytime I am meeting runners gong in the opposite direction (as on an out/back course) I move to the right and share the trail at the very least.  In my case, being a relative slow runner, if the runners I am meeting are the leaders, I get well out of the way or even step off the trail.  I expect the same courtesy as I meet runners slower than me.  The official rule is uphill runners have the right of way, but in trail running that is not much of an issue.  In fact, often the downhill runners are running, sometimes quite fast, and the uphill runners are walking.  Just use good judgement.

3.  Runners are stacking up behind you and no one is in front.  If you are holding up other runners, that is if a line is building behind you, mover over and let faster runners by.  Also, if you are running at a steady pace and another runner comes up behind you, offer to let them by.  They often will sit behind you for a while before passing.  As soon as I become aware of  another runner closing behind me, I tell them to let me know when they are ready to pass and I will move over. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to pass another slow runner by getting completely off the trail in very difficult places to get by.  Besides being irritating, it can be risky. At the Peavine Falls run in Birmingham several years ago the final mile is on a single track trail.  I came up behind someone going much slower.  I tried to get by twice and the guy would not make any effort to allow me to pass.  Finally I shot around him over a very rough section and tripped and fell right in front of him.  He said nothing just went back around me.  I was really irritated and the fall hurt.  It took me the half mile remaining to recover and get back up to speed where I came back up behind him again.  I sat there until we hit the pavement about 200 yards from the end.  He was going so slow by then I had plenty of time to rest up and the instant we hit the road I literally sprinted around him and never slowed down till the finish.  I considered thanking him for his courtesy after the race but decided to let it slide.  Don't be that JIRK!

4.  Head Lamps Etiquette:  When you come into an aid station at night, turn off your headlamp.  Otherwise when you look at the AS volunteers you blind them.  When you are running along with a runner on the trail at night, remember not to look directly at them.  You don't want to blind a fellow runner.

5.  Aid Station Workers:  Be courteous to aid station workers.  They have given up their weekend to be there to help you finish your race.  The AS volunteer may have given up a chance to run the race you are running in to help you finish.  Remember many, if not most, aid station  workers are ultrarunners themselves.  And don't forget to thank them as you leave.

6.  Don't enter races you have no hope of finishingThere are very few ultra races that do not fill up.  The popular races fill in days and sometimes hours.  More and more 100 mile races are having to go to a lottery system.  Don't waste a slot by entering a race you are not prepared for.  In general, if you have never run a marathon, don't enter a 50K.  If you have never run a 50K, don't enter a 50 miler.  If you have never run a 50 miler, don't enter a 100 mile race.  You simply cannot finish and you will probably be knocking someone else out that might be able to finish.  There is an exception as I talked about in "Training Myths and Misconceptions."  If you are putting in the very long runs, that is for example, 5 or 6 hour weekend runs, you will be able to finish a 50K without ever having run a marathon.  I you are running 7 and 8 hour long runs, you can run a 50 miler.  I would still not suggest trying a 100 miler without race experience.  There are a lot of differences.

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