My trail running races in 2019 have brought lots of a-ha moments, gratitude, and wonderful memories. Looking back, I realise I’ve learned a lot.
Some were things that I already knew that just got extra proof. Others were experiences that I had to go through to find out what motivates me as a trail runner, what makes me run faster, enjoy the trails more, and reminded myself why I love this sport.
Here are just 10 things I’ve learned from racing in trail competitions in 2019.
It’s not over until the finish line
I learn this lesson again and again, but this year I’ve had some surprises. The first one was winning Brasov Marathon after being on the second position for most of the race. And then, there was Grossglockner Ultra Trail, where I had to give my best until the very last second,
Energy works in mysterious ways
Because I mentioned Grossglockner, that race finished with a few kilometers on asphalt, in the sun, and the heat felt horrible. People were saying it was actually not that hot, but as I was approaching the finish line I felt sluggish.
Until I saw Andrei waiting for me at a corner, telling me that the next girl was just 400m behind me, according to the live tracking app. It turned out there was still some energy left in my legs and I could still sprint to a first place.
Don’t race in the heat
I’m going to do my best to avoid races in the heat next year. It seems that for 2019, the races that I loved the most had snow, rain, hail, and mud (Brasov Marathon, Transylvania 50k, Limone Extreme Skyrace), while the ones where I suffered the most had hot sunny weather.
Might be a side effect of moving to the mountains.
Performance based self worth
It was almost the end of the season and I went out for a speed training session, the last one before a race. It didn’t go as planned and I noticed I was extremely down and pissed off about it. At the same time, I was noticing my feelings, thinking “what the hell is happening? Am I angry because I had one bad training day?”. And the answer was yes.
It was the first time that I had such a clear episode of performance based self worth – considering I’m only as good as my training is. It only lasted for a few hours and I’m kind of glad it happened, because I could watch it, notice my thoughts, and see myself going into and out of it. Plus, it reminded me of so many reasons why I should have a better opinion of myself 😛
Having a team is priceless
It’s been a long crazy season, but what brought some truly amazing experiences was having a team.
Roadtrips with Datacor Running Team for races abroad or in Romania, running the competitions that team mates loved and recommended, seeing how much effort they put in when they volunteer for a race or help organize it, showing our favourite trails to one another, rooting for one another when we competed – these were the highlights of the racing year.
How to cope with injury
Two years ago, when I had my first ankle sprain, I went through a really bad time. It kept me away from running for 6 months.
This year I’ve had two injuries, one from skiing (trying to learn) and the second was another ankle sprain, of the only good ankle I had left. I learned so much from my first experience that this time I knew what to do and what not to do, how to cope with it, how much to let it rest, how to include some training, and basically how to accept and do my best to get over it.
Pro tip: always ask the most experienced runners you have around about what they did when they were injured. It will save you lots of time, energy, and wasted money on therapists or doctors.
In the first half of 2019 I got coached by one of the runners that I admire the most, Denisa Dragomir. She made me do what I knew I had to do, but had been elegantly avoiding – speed work.
It’s how I learned on myself that good speed on flat has a huge impact in mountain running speed. And that I can do all the easy 10k mountain runs that I want, they won’t help improve my marathon times as much as some speed sessions will.
Our sport is growing
Trail running is a sport that is getting bigger every year. I’ve never seen so many people at trail races as I have this year.
There are new competitions every weekend and results are getting better. A lot of people are starting to become professional trail runners (some of them coming from a flat racing background, bringing their speed), and it’s pretty common now to see amateurs that work with coaches, brands sponsoring runners, as well as lots of new people joining this sport. Plus, as a food coach, I get more and more requests from clients whose main objective is eating better for running performance.
My heart just explodes when I see friends that I honestly thought would never start running, join running groups and stick to a habit of doing a few runs a week. We need more of them for so many reasons.
Performance vs adventure
Going on a bike ride on a beautiful mountain road or doing an epic hike on new peaks sound like amazing plans. Unless you have a race coming up in a few days.
Choosing between adventure and keeping your legs rested is a tough one. This year I’ve had races where I saved my energy, missing out on some fun, and races that I kind of sacrificed. Sometimes and some people can have both, but for me most time it’s a choice I have to make.
Changing our state helps change our entire energy. That’s why the best times I’ve had in races this year were moments when I could switch from Pain to Play.
Taking a moment to enjoy a beautiful view at the end of an exhausting climb, letting my legs fly free from rock to rock on a fast downhill, taking hits right in the face from pine tree branches and laughing about it, climbing through mud slides and finishing races with dirt all over me.
Those are just some of the precious memories I made this year in trail races and they all happened when I went into Play mode.
So my plan for 2020 is to play even more. What’s yours?