Are We out of the Woods Yet?
by: Julie Stackhouse
Okay, so you’ve conquered Donna and your heart is set on slaying the Green Monster on 3.12.16 with 24,000 of your closest friends (except those in your age group), so what is next? Whether you are a tree-hugging, endorphin-craving, trail-loving pro or an “I don’t have the right shoes for that” rookie (and we can fix that for you), I’d like to challenge you to join me and many members of the Sunny Running Club in our first annual, ground-breaking assault on the Losco Trail, Sunday February 28th.
“What exactly would I be getting myself into,” you may ask? The Losco Trail 5k is the second in the lineup of Jacksonville Running Company’s brand new for 2016 Trail Race Series (jaxrun.com/events). Basically, here’s how it goes: lace up your shoes, get your dynamic warm-up on, embrace your sense of adventure and get ready for 20 minutes (give or take a few) of pure fun! If you’ve never run a trail race before, you can throw your PR quest out the window as this won’t be your run-of-the-mill pancake flat/fast Florida road race. You will encounter trees, some roots, winding terrain and possibly wildlife, besides just the nearest competitor trying to run you down.
Trail running is a great way to vary the surface that you train on, if you are always pounding out your weekly mileage on the roads (or even denser, the sidewalks). Running trails gives you a chance to add variety to your routine, get out and run somewhere new, likely even with some new faces. The first of the JRC Trail Series was held at the Nocatee Trail Preserve and as someone who has been running (a lot) in the Jacksonville area for over 10 years now, I can tell you that I had no idea this particular trail system even existed. I was enthralled with the opportunity to run somewhere new and had a tremendous adrenaline rush from racing a different race in uncharted territory, with actual strategy involved (think fox and hound/run and hide). My pace actually wasn’t as slow as I might have thought, given the snaking but navigable terrain. For the record, I did see a snake or two on the cool-down, but not during the race itself. Maybe I was running too fast to see them. I could; however, spot other competitors on the switchbacks throughout the course and even encouraged a few of my fellow Sunny runners.
For once I didn’t feel as though I was checking my watch every mile, trying to execute the perfect splits; rather I was truly engaged in the race, the tactics, the terrain and yes, sprinting towards the finish line clock once it did come into view.
I am fortunate enough to live only a couple miles from the UNF trails, which I incorporate into my routine weekly, until the summer months render me fresh bait to the black flies, which are inescapable at no pace, believe me I’ve tried. This is the prime time of year to get out and explore some new running routes off the beaten path, if you haven’t already. Some will add hills into your routine, others a fresh perspective, but they will all give your legs a break from monotonous road running, just be careful to pick up your feet when you get tired, as there are some roots which have jumped up to bite occasionally. Here are a few of my Jacksonville hideouts:
- UNF Nature Trails – 5 miles of wooded trails; large outer loop 3 miles
- Fort Caroline & Timucuan Preserve – 2 rolling miles; large loop 1.2 miles (across from Roosevelt)
- Theodore Roosevelt Area – 3 miles (fairly technical trail) – may tack on to Ft. Caroline
- Hannah Park – more than 20 miles of biking/hiking trails
- Nocatee Trail Preserve – 2 miles winding bike trails; 4 miles wide path to Intracoastal
- Guana River State Park – 10 miles biking/hiking loop trail (good for all skill levels)
- Jacksonville Arboretum – 3 miles of trails
Who knew we had that much greenspace in the greater Jacksonville area, right? In fact, it’s one of the reasons why I love living and running here! A few trail running 101 tips: bug spray, supportive running shoes, colorful or reflective gear (to be visible to mountain bikes and wild boar), handheld water bottle or fuel belt for longer runs, proper warm-up including lower leg dynamic/joint mobility, be courteous to others on the trail (hikers, etc.), don’t run with headphones in order to be more alert, bring a running partner with less footspeed than you (in case of wildlife encounter).
In all seriousness, I hope you will give trail running and racing a try in 2016 – the year of new things and the year of your best running yet! Here are some great local upcoming trail races:
Hope to see you there!
Yours in health and running,
About the Author:
Julie Stackhouse is an avid runner, race enthusiast and the Performance Running Coach for Jacksonville Running Company and is underway training a group of Jacksonville Running Club members for the annual Gate River Run. As the owner of Stackhouse Fitness she strives to make Jacksonville healthier, one client at a time! Her recent racing accomplishments include being the overall female winner of the Key West Half Marathon and 26.2 with Donna The National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer.
Photo credit: 904Fitness, Tay Scheibe