Oct 21

RW Half & Festival – Altra and My Virgin Trail Race

You didn’t think I was going to cram an entire weekend of awesomeness into one post, did you? That would just be wrong. I think I can whittle it all down to three separate posts so this is the first, since this was the first race of the weekend. I have a lot of mixed feelings and I’m going to try not to ramble too much, although rambling really is the essence of trail running, isn’t it?

What Is An Altra?

Not to be confused with the word “ultra,” Altra is a fast growing trail and road running shoe company founded by three guys who basically just love to run. Sound like anyone you know? The difference is these guys are hella smart and one of them ran a 2:45 marathon when he was 12. I was a cheerleader when I was 12 and I thought that required a lot of stamina.

This is Golden (yes, that's his real name) and he is faster and smarter then you.

This is Golden (yes, that’s his real name) and he is faster and smarter then you.

Altra was the title sponsor of the entire Runner’s World Half and Festival weekend and these guys not only gave us a ton of free stuff, including custom fit shoes and advice, they also ran the races and were super involved with the whole weekend.

My Altra Trail Shoes

I bravely asked for a trail running shoe prior to the weekend. I figured if I was going to run my very first ever trail race I should probably have the right shoes, since I’ve heard that’s a good idea for beginners. The men of Altra fitted me with the Lone Peak pair and I thought they looked just like Wonder Woman wrapped in laces and mesh.

They're not wide, they're feet shaped!

They’re not wide, they’re feet shaped!

I knew these would be a good fit for me since I need a wide toe box but I was a little frightened of the zero drop since I run in a 4mm drop. It doesn’t seem like a lot but, trust me, it is. For those of you who don’t know what the hell a zero drop is, just be happy about that, and continue on with your normal life.

I wore them though out the next day, just to get them all warmed-up in preparation for the trail race, held at the best possible time for running which all runners know is 3pm in the afternoon. WTF? At least it wasn’t cold which is the only time I will be saying that though out these recaps!

We actually had a little preview of the trail in the early morning hours on Friday. You know that saying “ignorance is bliss?” well that would apply to this. After actually seeing what I was going to be “racing” though I had two thoughts:

  1. Hell f**king no.
  2. I will do a walk/run and take it easy.

You already know that neither of those things happened. I don’t even know why I try to kid myself. If I have on shoes that are not flip flops and there is a bib pinned to my shirt, I’m racing. Oh hell, even if I do have flip flops on, I’m racing! #Issues

This is my "they want me to run in there?" face.

This is my “they want me to run in there?” face.

My Very First (and possibly last) Trail Race

I’m sure I’m not being fair to trail racing but please let me explain.

The vibe at the race was just how everyone said it would be – fun and laid back. We all meandered over to the start around what was probably the start time.

***sidebar*** I forgot the charger to my Garmin Vivoactive (which of course no one else has!) and spent most of the weekend worried about the battery lasting until the half marathon on Sunday. I did not waste it on use it for the trail race! ***end sidebar***

I was still in denial about racing when the horn sounded for us to start. The first part was a steep climb literally in a rock field. We were actually walking in sections and I thought “this trail running sure is easy.” Right.

It was all fun and games until I actually started the race.

It was all fun and games until I actually started the race.

After battling the rocks and having some very eager racers come flying up from behind me, I decided to be extra careful. After all, I’m running NYC in two weeks and if I twist an ankle or otherwise maim myself on the trail I would be beyond upset.

However, as we started to actually run though the woods, I picked up my pace and started passing other runners and forgot about the NYC marathon completely.

Now, passing was extremely tricky when you’re running on single track. Also, there were two sections where runners were coming and going in both directions with very little room between us. Those sections sucked. *see map below

The problems for me are two fold: You have to be hyper aware of every single step you take when trail racing. I run to not think about anything and just let my mind wander. This was the opposite of that. Second, your footfalls land all over the place! I couldn’t gain any real speed except for maybe a few hundred yards here or there or on a hill. To say I was frustrated would be a massive understatement.

Remember when I said I wasn’t racing this? Me either.

There is an elevation chart for all the races except this one. Interesting.

There is an elevation chart for all the races except this one. Interesting.

Oh yes, the hills. The hills are a theme of this entire weekend but let’s start with the hills of the trail race. They were huge but, they gave me the only advantage I had. I passed a ton of people on all the hills, which is the only way I placed the way I did.

I had no clue where I was in the pack or even in the race. I had no GPS and there were no trail mile markers. I did know this – trail running miles are like two miles on the road. Everything is slower and harder. Trail runners are masochists. Ok, everything is true but that last part.

The final push was of course up a huge hill. Most everyone was walking on it when I arrived so of course I ran as fast as I could.

I came into the finish and our brave and fearless leader for the weekend, David, was cheering me on and yelling “2nd woman! 2nd woman!” I was actually third but I’ll take it.

Susan of @susanruns and Laura of @mommyrunfast and yours truly after we all made it to the finish in one piece.

Susan of @susanruns and Laura of @mommyrunfast and yours truly after we all made it to the finish in one piece.

It was definitely a great experience and I’m happy that I did it. My Altra shoes were fantastic and I truly believe that trail running is excellent cross training for runners. My piriformis that has been acting up did not say a word during this race because there is just too much side to side motion, which most runners are in desperate need of, myself included. I’m actually at the top of the list. Who am I kidding? I should just become a trail runner!

I will absolutely be using my Lone Peak shoes for trail running, just not the kind of technical running and racing I did that day. I prefer the open, mostly flattened, rail trail near my home.


And, just in case you think I’m being a whiney loser about the course, the man himself Mr. Golden said it was a very technical and hilly race but somehow he managed to win the whole thing in 23 minutes. Show off.

Have you ever tried trail running or racing?

What trail running shoes do you have?

Have you heard of Altra?


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  1. I love this!!! Trail running/racing is definitely a different than the road. I still think it’s time to let my mind wander – you just get used to thinking and being mindful of where you put your feet. And this is from a clumsy person! Is it sick that reading your recap makes me want to hit the trails now?!?!? Great job on not racing!!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…The Emotions of a DNF Six Months LaterMy Profile

    1. I guess my mind would have more wandering time if I wasn’t racing 🙂 I’m so glad this made you want to head off to the trails. Weird but I’ll go with it – LOL! Have fun and for the love of God do not get hurt!!

  2. I can honestly say I’ve never tried trail running but I’m not sure it would be for me…rocks? nature? Hmmmm…. haha. Sounds like a fun time though.

    Can we talk about your leggings in that photo? Are they sparkly? Those I must have!
    Britt@MyOwnBalance recently posted…Beet, Kale and Goat Cheese PastaMy Profile

    1. Yes, let’s most definitely talk leggings instead of all this nasty trail running business! They are sparkly and I love them. They are Athleta and I’m pretty sure I got them last winter. They are warm and always make me smile 🙂

  3. I totally have heard of Altraweird enough fact I think my ex-boss was an ambassador for them but he used to run 50mile trail races. Omg.

    So yeah, you are so awesome for completing this race without any “eyes” to really know where you are! I don’t think this is my cup of tea but I applaud you for not only doing it but taking first!!! #shero
    Nellie @ Brooklyn Active Mama recently posted…Weekly Wednesday Workout: Scissor LiftsMy Profile

    1. 50 mile trail races are things of legend to me. I give SO much credit for anyone willing and wanting to do that!
      It actually was a great experience. Not sure I want to experience it again but very glad I did it. Thanks Nellie. Up next…dun dun dun…NYC baby!!!!!!!

  4. Love your description of that crazy trail… it was no joke and you killed it anyway! You’re so right about the side to side motion… I definitely want to look more into the trails around us, if I can find a trail buddy to get out there with occasionally.
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…Runner’s World 5k and 10k RecapMy Profile

    1. My super amazing and crazy competitive trail running friend (the one who ran Mt. Fiji) already connected with me on FB offering to be my guide on the trails near my house. I told her if she’s willing to slow WAY down, I’m all for it…after NYC of course!
      Thanks Laura!

  5. It was only the second trail race I’ve ever done and it was really challenging? Like you, I have a goal race coming up. Unlike you, I took it easy and did not race LOL. I was just happy to finish without turning an ankle.
    MCM Mama Runs recently posted…The Impact of Food on Running: Feedback from Running BloggersMy Profile

    1. Obviously you are smarter then me!!! Thanks so much Erika!

  6. Your experience furthers me from running a trail race..just because I do think I would have taken a nasty fall and hurt myself…there is always one person right? I’m so proud of you this weekend Allie. Can I say that enough? Probably not…
    Hollie recently posted…Runners World Festival 5k (18:56)My Profile

    1. You are proud of ME? Wow. Thanks so much for saying that Hollie!! I was blown away by you. You are just so speedy and so determined and it was great watching you take off and kill it. You had two amazing races and I was happy to just be there with you!

  7. I’ve done lots of trail walking/hiking, but not the running part yet… bought some trail shoes a few months ago (it’s a Nike one…forget the name) but have yet to take them out…. the main issue being that I have to drive 30 minutes to a trail, and who has time to add an hour to their daily workout in driving…. but I promise to give it a try! This post is hilarious….very entertaining….and I would never have guessed that you would be a cheerleader at age 12:)
    Paria@momontherunsanity.com recently posted…One Year Ago, TodayMy Profile

    1. I went to a very small elementary school so my options were limited 🙂 I also ran cross country but I absolutely hated every minute of it. Is that crazy or what?
      I hear you on the long drive – who has time for that? I also hear you on hiking the trails – that I absolutely love and I can do it with my whole family 🙂 I’m sure my Altra’s will work well for that too!

  8. Allie, It was so great to meet you this weekend! I think it’s amazing AND hilarious that you took 3rd after totally saying Friday morning you weren’t running it! Haha, wish I had that problem. Totally feel you. This was my second trail race. I enjoy trails as a change of pace, but not as my main thing. I’m too klutzy. My husband jokes that I swim like a fish and hike like a fish. Totally true! Congrats!

    1. OMG that is too funny about being such a fish! I wish I could swim like you 🙂 So great getting to know you this weekend and yes, I do the “I’m taking it easy” thing until the gun goes off all.the.time.

  9. wow what fun and congrats!!! ihave always wanted to try a trail race, i have run on a trail once and ate shit, but still loved it. i’m such a glutton for punishment. aren’t we all???? i can’t get mad at my dog for acting like a maniac and repeatedly doing the same crazy, cuz that’s kind of like me.
    okay back to trails… yes! must try! except i wouldn’t be racing, i’d just be there for the experience 😀
    danielle recently posted…Week in Review: Recovery, Happy Thoughts, and ShenanigansMy Profile

    1. I actually very surprised I didn’t eat it on this race. I kept expecting to fall and was pretty surprised I made it out unscathed!

  10. Oh yay!!! Now you are a trail runner. If you ran with me on the trails here you would fall in love!!! Way to crush it too! I have never tried Altras. Zero Drop scares me. Especially the thought of injury. EEK! Love this post! You are hilarious 🙂

    1. Oh we are SO doing that!!!

  11. wow! congrats! I like trail running, but have never raced on trails. Might be worth a shot! 🙂
    Olivia Crew recently posted…The scent that makes me think of runningMy Profile

    1. Thank you! I’m sure it’s much better when you actually get some run time in before the race 🙂

  12. Trail running always sounds so hard to me! Congrats on getting third place – that is amazing! I’d probably be that runner who falls and breaks something. I can run, I can hike, and yet true trail running is just too much for me. I love rail trails though!
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…The Benefits of Chia Seeds for Runners & Recipe Round-UpMy Profile

    1. I was amazed at how focused you need to be and literally watch every step. The people at Altra did warn us to think “quick feet!” and that’s pretty much what streamed though my head the entire time! Thanks Laura.

  13. Trail running is great cross-training!!! I run in our woods races weekly and I swear it makes me stronger and faster. I really miss it during the winter months. Btw, that is an amazing time!!! Can’t wait to hear about the other races.
    Carrie recently posted…Monday, MondayMy Profile

    1. I remember you said you run a lot on the trails. We need to get you some running snowshoes so the snow doesn’t stop you 🙂 I’m glad to hear a 9/min mile pace is good!!! Thanks Carrie.

  14. Awesome once again! Altra, never heard; but zero drop is how the bare foot handles Mother Earth, so makes sense. Do they have lots of cushion like Hoka I think the company is called? If you like Altras, the company couldn’t wish for a better endorsement. W-I-D-E toe box, I’m in!
    I never used trail shoes, just road shoes for running trails; but the runner’s high was elusive for me ’till I hit the Santa Monica mountains here in SoCal, I love that feeling as you get lost with the coyotes yelping and the city lights shimmering in the background while it is so deafeningly still all around.
    Yes, very difficult to throttle back with a bib on, no matter if it is the sane thing to do! Training on the trails really helped my road racing; there are many more in your future, especially with your XC background. 3RD Woman on your 1st race? You’re about to smoke the field!
    Oh yes, the lateral motion and uneven footfall is precisely what the doctor ordered for your piriformis.
    Once again, You outdid yourself, it was an awe-inspiring performance.
    But a 2:45 Marathon at 12, really?

    1. It truly is a great company and they have a wide variety of shoes. They are pretty much anti-cushion but they have at least one model that has some significant cushioning but nothing like a Hoka.
      I can imagine running the Santa Monica mountains must be amazing. I lived in SM for three years way back after I graduated college (’97-’00) and I used to do some hiking in the hills. I wasn’t a runner then so it’s too bad.
      This was a fairly small race so I’m not sure about any more top 3’s in my near future but I will definitely be taking to the trails as cross training. I live very close to a whole system so I just need a guide 🙂
      And yes, Golden’s dad was a semi-pro athlete/runner so he grew up immersed in running and racing. He says he’s no worse for the wear and it shows. He now runs 100 mile races and smiles though the whole thing. Crazy!
      Keep on running and thanks for reading!

    • jen on October 22, 2015 at 8:33 AM
    • Reply

    Oh you know you’ll run trails again! You did very well!!!
    jen recently posted…A Different Kind of Beast – Trail RunningMy Profile

    1. LOL – you know me too well now Jen! Maybe I can come run some trails with you and Sandra in the mountains of New Hampshire 🙂

        • jen on October 22, 2015 at 12:07 PM
        • Reply


  15. I’ve heard of Altra but never tried them myself… My first trail running experience was a 50K. I laugh thinking how naive a decision that was BUT it was an easy not too technical trail and it was one of my top running experiences ever. Because it was so awesome I decided to do a trail half in the swamps of Miami…3 loops of a ridiculous trail that had you literally climbing on your hands and knees with a rope for pulling support…and sliding down your ass down a major hill at the end of each loop. It balanced out my thoughts on trail running haha. I think that half took over 3 hours if it puts anything into perspective. I should follow up with I did both in my regular Mizuno’s lol. I would like to run some trails though just wish it was easier to get to for me.
    Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat recently posted…Brooklyn Greenway Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

    1. OMG! Well that certainly trumps my experience. I cannot believe you actually survived that – good for you!!
      I think a lot of people have trouble just getting to a trail so that is a huge deterrent. Good luck if and when you get back out there and, think about getting some Altras 🙂

  16. This will not be your last trail race! 🙂
    David H. recently posted…100 races and countingMy Profile

    1. Damn it! I think you’re right!! 😉

  17. Ummmm, you are amazing. Can I just tell you that? I’ve only run of very mellow, not technical trails in CA. I would trip and fall on my face if I did anything technical like this! But if you’re going to run your first trail race, this sounds like the perfect set-up. I mean, Runner’s World, Altra, the Editor in Chief cheering you on… 🙂

    1. I’m pretty shocked I did not fall on my face or otherwise mangle myself! So crazy yet so fun 🙂

  18. I definitely missed the “fun and laid back” part of the trail racing as well! I was mostly in go-go-go mode – maybe it gets more laid back if you have a better idea of what you’re doing? I was clueless and thinking too much about each step, but I could see it being a fun way to mix up the usual road running. Congrats on rocking it!
    Susan – Nurse on the Run recently posted…2015 Runner’s World Festival Race Reports – Trail Race, 5K, 10KMy Profile

    1. I think I will head back to the trails but not for a race anytime soon. I really want to achieve that “laid back” feeling everyone talks about!

  19. I’m impressed! I’m not sure I would have taken the chance of twisting an ankle right before the marathon! Way to go. I got to try Altras when I was a Zooma Ambassador. I liked them for everyday wear but my calves wouldn’t be able to handle the zero drop for running!

    1. It definitely was not the smartest ideas since one of the bloggers DID twist/sprain her ankle so then the weekend was pretty much over for her. I hear you on the zero drop. I couldn’t handle it for road races but they were perfect for the trail!

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