Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Is Trail Running Becoming Too Commercialized?

The question of the month. Kind of vague. Trail running, or trail racing? Does "commercialized" mean "mainstream" in this context? I'll answer it the way I answer most questions, which involves a long-winded thought, fraught with indecision.

"What brand of shoes do you wear?"

"How do you like that hydration pack?"

"Do compression socks work?"

"Did you hear that Kilian is the 'Adventurer of the Year?'"

"I heard Tahoe went to a lottery this year."

The topics up for discussion in the world of trail running seem to be limitless. A sport that boasts simplicity and a nature-oriented mindset is being consumed by commercialism and taken over by the elite capitalist class.

Corporate money-grubbing is clearly ruining MY sport.

...isn't it?

Of course it is. It's everywhere you look. Our beloved sport is little more than a market for the world's elite to peddle their goods to those who will pay for them.  It's just getting way too commercial. We used to be a bunch of running hobos(who could, like, afford plane tickets and entry fees and stuff). What went wrong?

more commercial corporate stuff.
Companies and their advertising dollars are bastardizing our hobby. Their blatant hijacking of my trail-running bliss has me thinking about switching to a pastime that hasn't been pillaged by greed.

Look at this crap. Sell-outs.

If you haven't stopped reading this yet, you're probably picking up what I'm laying down. Money and commercialism are part of the sport, but participation in that part is more optional than we realize. As long as the ads stay in the magazines and off of the trails, I don't care. In this writer's(I use that term loosely) opinion, the sport of trail running is going the way of triathlon. Buy more crap. Get faster. qualify for that spot in that race so your co-workers will be impressed on Monday. Spend money on what the pros get for free. Beg and pray for spots in coveted, overrated races. To be candid, I think it can be fun. I like feeling important once in a while. A little pageantry never hurt anyone. I like cool gear and big races. If you've never, ever done a large event with photographers and finish line swag, then judge away. If you have, then you know what I mean. This is by no means the sole reason for my running, but if it's yours, I truly wish you the best. Jay-Z says it best: "what you eat don't make me sh*t."

It doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to fret over "our" sport going a direction we don't like. We don't have to govern everything. Let the hipsters get the eye-rolls when they say they were trail running before it was cool. Think of what you want your runs to mean to you. Make it happen.

I randomly chose some pictures for this post from a file I lazily named, "running pics." Just arbitrary shots from the crappy point-and-shoot camera I seldom remember to bring along, these images are what I think of at work or school while fantasizing about a weekend on the trails. They're fairly average views of popular running regions. Out on the trail, commercialism plays a small role. Our gear gets us where we want to go safely, and that's all. Money doesn't matter out there.

From here, I can't tell if trail running has gotten too commercialized.

The question, again, is "is trail running becoming too commercialized?" Maybe it is. More importantly, maybe we are. Instead of worrying about what shoe companies, race management, and corporate sponsors have to say about trail running, we have to ask ourselves what it means to us. It means more to me than the new models of trail shoes that are coming out or which races have the biggest prize(not that a slacker like me needs to concern himself with that).  Nature offers us a way to disconnect ourselves from the synthetic stresses of life that our bodies still haven't adapted to yet. For me, friendships have been forged, scars have been earned, and stories have been made to be told too many times. It can be as commercial as it wants. All I have to do is turn off my computer and find a trailhead. Let races be a chance to mingle and push yourself. Let your training runs be time with people you like in a place you like. It's your sport, not theirs. Enjoy it, have a sense of stewardship, and love the trails.

Advertise all you'd like. I've got everything I need.
(pacing Kelsey Gray, TNF EC 50 mile, 2013)

I'm submitting this blog,'s this.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Week Ending 4/6

6 miles. Typical post long run hobble. Nothing in particular hurt, but I felt blah as I took a 4.5 mile route to the SRC. Upon entering the weight room, I saw it was packed. I couldn't even see any weights or benches in the sea of people. I've gotten pretty good at controlling panic attacks in crowds, but I saw no need to go in. I did the next best thing and jogged to Pita Pit.

6 miles. Dammit. I'm fatigued. I guess it's what I wanted this week, to actually feel like I've been training. Getting a "big" week off to a slow start is frustrating, but nothing new. A couple miles to the football statdium, and 15 minutes of robust repeats of the bleachers. They are called bleachers because they are typically uncovered, and therefore susceptible to fading from the Sun. Look at that. You may have just learned something from me. 

The feeling I had on this run was reminiscent of days when I felt like crap all the time. Warm ups and cool downs used to feel long and laborious, making my joints ache and muscles twinge. I just went along with it, thinking it was all part of the process of getting better and depussifying myself. It very well may have been, but I've grown acustomed to feeling good on runs. Since I'm performing nearly as well as I used to when I was consumed by running, it makes me curious. Did I develop a base that I'm still drawing from, or have I learned to train smarter? If life has taught me anything, it's a combination of both. The subtle nuances we pick up on every second of every day make us better in tiny increments. I get a little smarter every day, but I must get equally lazier to balance it out.

5 miles: Easy jog to the gym, where I did 20 minutes of incline running and then lifting. Again, crowds.

Another day of being inexplicably tired and lazy.

4 miles home from Gazelle carrying my sweet swag bag for the Kal Haven Trail Run. I'm excited to run a flat 34 miler tomorrow. I'm excited. I'm excited... Fuck.

I need a long run to feel confident for Zane Grey. It's in no way a similar course or experience, but it will serve a specific purpose. Kelsey and I want to run the course in about 5 hours. Whether flat, mountainous, hot or cold, it's a (relatively, compared to a sub-marathon race) lower intensity beating for a long duration. It's boring. I'm sure to chafe and get blisters. It will hurt and seem pointless while I try to talk myself into being in a good mood. A gel can bring you back from a shuffle or make you puke all over the trail. A mile will seem like three, and I'll swear we passed that sign already. In a way, it's a definitive ultramarathon. I've done some beautiful races in great company, but running 50 miles is just plain boring sometimes. We do it for the thrilling moments among the mundane. To get from A to B. If a kinesthetic experience can be enjoyed on a "rail trail."   If you need breathtaking views and well-known trails you read about on irunfar, you're faking it.

A flat, nontechnical trail to train for "the toughest 50 miler in the US?" not ideal. Why are hills and technical terrain great for training? The variety prevents injury and reduces impact(among other benefits, but I'm trying to talk positively to myself if you don't mind). We are looking to stress our bodies to force adaptation, then why not pound away?

4 more miles after dinner on the Arboretum Trail. Sort of a tempo effort with mostly sub-7minute miles.

33.5 miles: Kal Haven Trail Ultra with Kelsey. We hated it. Okay, in many ways, I did hate it, but it was cool. I don't really admit to being a mountain snob, or even a trail snob, but a flat trail that is essentially straight and level from beginning to end is borderline masochistic. Though decidedly boring and repetitively injurious, I got what I wanted from the run. I spent 5.5ish hours on my feet(far longer than any of my training runs of late), I got a little refresher of what ultras feel like, and I spent some time outside. Kelsey hammered out her first long run in approximately six months and took 2nd place in the Women's race. I love running with her, so if there's anyone that can make a purgatory-like running experience enjoyable, it's her.

In more frustrating news, I write this with a swollen, bruised cankle. I'm assuming the rubbing of the heel collar of my shoe over the time on the course is what did the damage. Time for some damage control in the form of NSAIDs, ice, rest, and wishful thinking. I'm confident that it won't have a lasting effect, but it's frustrating nonetheless.

Hobbling about. No jogging. Everything feels completely recovered, other than the achilles. Increased swelling and bruising. The good thing is that it seems to be an acute injury and not a chronic one. One of the warmest, most beautiful spring days yet, and I've sidelined for the first time in a while. I went up North to visit my family and enjoy some Sun before going back to the grind.

58.5 miles in total. Meh.