Trail Run & Training Progress

Much like the unstructured trail run I went on last weekend, I’m just going to start writing this blog post and see where I wind up.


Right now I’m just focusing on endurance, attitude, and form. The individual runs are relatively unstructured, allowing me to hone in on those aspects. Rather than holding a specific pace for intervals, I’m just going for an overall zone each run. Next month I will start to add in interval workouts, necessitating putting down more detail in advance, but right now I’m enjoying the process of just going for a run without performance expectations.


Last Sunday I had a trail run scheduled, but I didn’t know where I was going until that morning. I had some backup ideas in case I wasn’t divinely inspired, but I didn’t need them. I glanced at the list of trails listed in the front of the book, and picked a park to head to, not even sure which route I would take once I got there. I had selected Huntsville State Park, north of Houston. My first trail run when I moved back to Houston was near the park, and I hadn’t been back to the area since. In my head it was maybe an hour north, but I wound up driving quite a ways, over an hour and a half, listening to Hidden Brain podcasts during the drive.


I arrived at the park, was given a trail map with closed portions highlighted, and parked at the first spot I saw next to a trail head. I kinda had an idea, looking at the map, that I would run out on the Chinquapia Trail, a 6.8 mile loop around the lake, but might turn back after 3 miles because part of the loop was closed. I forgot all this. The beginning of my run was kind of confusing. If you look at the map, you’ll see that the arrow pointing north is on the diagonal. As I ran and crossed certain paths and landmarks, things weren’t jiving in my head, so I just meandered, somehow still staying on Chinquapia without really trying to.


This was my favorite trail run so far in Texas, and I will be back. The ground is great, with technical stuff to maneuver, like roots and rocks. The path winds, it’s never fully single track but really fun to navigate all the same. I got so lost in my enjoyment of running this trail that I forgot to turn back at my 3 mile mark, and when I got to the closed off portion of the trail, realized I could still make a loop (see map below), but I’d be adding 2 miles to my run. Oh, well- if I was feeling tired or sore I could walk. A big portion of this training phase is not overdoing it- I want to get to interval training energized and ready to work hard. I had only planned on running 16 miles total for the week, and 5.5 for the day, but wound up running that last two making my total mileage for the week 17.7 with the day’s run being a total of 7.2. I called the run before reaching my car, deciding I’d tacked on enough extra mileage, and walked about another ¾ of a mile to finally get back to my car.


I had my first fall since breaking my ankle in 2015! I’m excited because I came up without a scratch and more importantly without any muscle or tendon injury. This was super exciting. The fall itself was surreal, I tripped over a root, and time froze as I wondered whether I was going to be able to find my footing or go down. I went down, and didn’t fight it. This is the way I typically fell in the past, not trying some awkward footing last minute to save myself a little scratching or bruising. I did try to stop the fall when I had the ankle break, and I hope that lesson to just let the fall happen sticks forever.


Finally, last month I decided to pull back on the intensity of my training, while still progressing with distance, and this month I’m seeing positive results. My average pace is dropping, I’m recovering faster, and focusing on form has led to me running faster even though it feels like I’m putting in less effort.



  • Evaluate where you are and where you want to be. Create a plan that makes sense to take you there. Harder doesn’t always mean better, but smarter usually does!


One of the benefits of having a plan is that I never wonder if I should go for a run. Its right there in front of me, the next step I need to take to be the kind of runner I want to be.

The route I ran is marked in Blue. There was a little more steady incline on the back end (Green Route/Triple C Trail), otherwise little hills throughout. A really FUN RUN!

Race Recap: Rhythm and Blues 5k

I ran a race last weekend that gave me the opportunity to counteract a mindset that had been holding me back, a mindset that created a belief system that had me giving up too often. I touched on this aspect about myself in a previous post. I had identified an ugly work pattern that exists not only in my racing style, but in my general life approach. The picture: I rush into something and then give up. I might not necessarily leave the venture alone entirely, sometimes I’ll just give less effort. Believing the goal I set is unattainable, maybe because of some minor setback or unforeseen obstacle, I’ll either divert my energy to an easier cause, or lower the bar I was originally reaching for. It’s a self-protecting measure I developed to protect an oversensitive ego. This way of living no longer serves me the way it once did. As I get older, the thought of leaving more undone is colliding with my increasing awareness of mortality and legacy, and how I see myself is mattering more and more than what I think I can prove to others.


In the 5k I ran last weekend, and I went out too fast to start. I projected from my workouts prior to the race that I could run a 7:45 pace, and hold it for 3 miles. However, my pace for the first mile was a 7:33, likely much faster than that for the first half mile. Going out with too much intensity meant I didn’t have as much left for the second half of the race, which consisted of more uphill running than the first half. I kept my eye on my pace, and watched it steadily climb, to 7:40, 7:50, and past 8:00 once I was on the uphill. Everything hurt. Aside from going out to fast, I had almost no warm-up, as I overslept, and my only pre-race activity was running from my car to the starting line, where the National Anthem was being sung just as I arrived. So, with less than a mile of warm-up to get me going, I moved to the front of the pack anyways. I could have hung further back in the crowd, which would have helped slow me down to start, but that morning I knew I didn’t want to deal with moving around other runners as the race got going.

I don’t think I was even at the first mile marker at this point. I’m looking ahead to the top of a hill (or what constitutes a “hill” in Houston)

So that was what was happening on the ground. In my head, mile one felt like it took forever, even though I was running fast. Mile two was even longer. I was actually looking forward to mile 3 even though I was starting to feel like there was lead in my legs, because I knew all I had to do was run to the end. Just keep running. This is where some of my workouts were really helpful. I’ve taken to only jogging or running for rest between working intervals, which has done something great for my mindset- I don’t stop. I hope I never walk in a race shorter than a half again, as I’ve sort of eliminated any excuse for that through practice. I now know that no matter how exhausted I feel, I can pick my feet up and put them back down again at a decent pace until the worst of whatever I’m feeling goes away.


In the last half mile, I didn’t want to walk or slow down, but I did really want to stop giving so much effort. It wasn’t getting me anywhere anyways. I’d push harder, only to look at my watch and realize I was still running an 8:06 pace, which was pretty demoralizing. (I may run the next race without the watch and see what happens, on that note). The thing is, I didn’t let up, I still pushed, and at the end of the race, when I heard footsteps behind me, I somehow found a kick. I had been using other runners as benchmarks to keep me moving forward as strongly as I could, and I didn’t want to give up a place in the last 100 meters. The runner didn’t catch me, I’m happy to report, and the photog captured some great images of it all.


I finished in 24:31, cumulative pace of 7:53 per mile. I was third for my age group (30-34), and 9th female overall. I was not thrilled about this result, even though I recognize it is far from something to complain about. The more time I’ve had to analyze, the more I see that it was a really good race to start to look at what I can improve on. First and most obvious- prep better. Wake up on time, eat breakfast, do a decent warm-up. That one’s easy. Second, I need to work on my form some, I’m looking at pictures and noticing that my left arm has a tendency to cross my body too much, thought its possible that I could have just been looking at my watch just before the snap. Third- stop relying so much on the watch. Learning to gauge pace from feeling would really serve me, especially for goal four- hold back at the start. And finally, fifth thing to work on is my endurance. I had the heart this race, I know it, but I got to a point where there was just no gas in the tank. I’m surprised I had a kick at all.

I hear footsteps and look for some grit.
Pretending that I’m actually running a 100 meter race and didn’t just run 3 miles.

Here’s the deal, I didn’t give up or in, and putting so much effort in for a time that is over a minute slower than my PR hasn’t deterred me. My goal is to run a sub 22 5k- this is not unattainable, but it will probably be pretty hard. That’s cool. Finally, I learned something pretty neat this weekend- as long as special events aren’t scheduled, Downtown Houston is straight up dead on Sunday mornings, and I look forward to doing some fun and training runs there in the future- running down the middle of an empty urban street a la Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky.

On Training, Off Track

For a few months, I’ve been mostly flying by the seat of my pants when scheduling a running workout, deciding at most two days out what I was going to do and where I was going to do it. Even though I knew I wanted to institute a consistent training schedule, I found I was missing good opportunities to do certain kinds of workouts, or I’d do something else entirely (read: nothing) when I had sorta-kinda considered getting in a quality run that day. Now I find myself eager for varied workouts that address specific aspects of running hard and fast. I know I need to be keeping track of what my workout paces are , because I have only a vague idea of where my pace should be for a 5k, which is the distance I’m focusing on right now. The one 5k I competed in recently gave no indication of how fast I can run, as it was on trail and had ridiculous conditions (see previous post).

So, last week I sat down and created a training schedule. I plugged in my races on a year-at-a-glance calendar, and then took a monthly format and put my one race so far for February in- a 5k this weekend. Then I took a look at weekly obligations, and decided my best bet for speed work would be Tuesdays and Thursdays. Going further, I looked at what I wanted to focus on each training day, and even if I didn’t have a specific workout in mind yet, I at least typed in what kind of workout I would be doing, such as tempo, repeats or sprint intervals. One of the limiting factors for my workouts is that there is a dearth of 400 meter tracks in my vicinity that are decent and open to the public. There are tracks open outside of school hours that I could drive to, but the times I could access them- in the morning and evening, happens to coincide with the always spectacular Houston traffic.

I’ve been going to Memorial Park, a just-shy-of-three mile dirt loop, to do my interval workouts, even the sprints. I set my Garmin 620 to tick off distances and times for running and recovery bouts. It’s working well so far, and I’m not wasting time while I search for other options. Plus, I figure I’m not running any races this year around a track anyways, and being able to judge my pace without the markers isn’t going to hurt. The first two workouts I did this month, one of 400 meter repeats then another of 200 meter repeats, at least gave me an idea of what I should work on before I get better clued-in at my race this weekend. (Hint- its not speed I need).

For the 400 meter workout, I ran twelve repeats with 90 second recoveries. The recoveries felt a tad too long, but what I was really noticing was my complete inability to hold focus on what I was doing. Thirty seconds into the running interval, I would realize I was thinking about dinner, or some unfinished project, and glancing at my stopwatch I would realize I was completely off the mark- running too fast or too slow to hit the times I was aiming for. As a result, my times varied by about 15 seconds from fastest to slowest, which is pretty terrible when you are trying to hit the same mark every lap. A fifteen second spread isn’t even desirable for mile repeats. I need to work on holding my focus to my run.

The 200 meter repeat workout didn’t add much value to my training. I ran twenty of them a little faster than mile pace, and it was barely taxing even though I jogged the recovery bouts as well. After the eighth one I decided to use the running to focus on form, and, of course, focus on focusing. I love running fast, and I’ll probably throw in sprints every now and then just for fun, but really what I need to do are 500 meter and longer intervals.

Last year, I downloaded the Calm App, and the first set of meditations I did was on keeping focus. I’ve always gravitated towards multi-tasking, until I finally realized that trying to do even two things at once often leads to sub-par results for both tasks. I didn’t have running in mind when I decided my ability to focus could use a tune-up, I was actually aiming to be better at writing this blog and reading for longer intervals. I did pick up some good practices, though, I think I could use those same tactics to keep my mind on my running when I’m doing it. For example, I’ve worked on holding my attention to the same task without getting distracted by anything, for twenty five minutes at a time. As my fastest 5k is 22:56, theoretically I can keep my mind on my pace for the length of the race. Theoretically.

If anyone has any experience with keeping their mind from wandering, or useful mindfulness practices when it comes to running, I’d love to hear it!