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!

[Tweet “Calling all #runners! Ever tried #trail running as cross training? Start with your feet @altrarunning and #zerodropitlikeitshot #rwhalf”]

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?