Last minute adventure/trail running tips?


Sep 13, 2012
Hi folks,

I've been roped in at the last minute to do the 16km run leg of the Lorne Adventure Race - tomorrow - after a bloke at work pulled out and our work team needed a runner.

I haven't been doing that much running lately due to injuries and I have no trail running experience, so I'm planning on taking things very easily if I can to make sure I finish. The course starts with beach running, then a few km of rock scrambling along the coast, then some bush bashing, gravel tracks, bush tracks and finishes with roads and back to the beach. Some nasty hills along the way, which I assume I'll be walking.

I'd be happy to take any tips from experienced trail runner types if you've got them.

Footwear-wise I'm thinking I'll need shoes of some sort to manage the tougher stuff - the rocks around the coast are very sharp and some of the terrain sounds a bit murderous through the middle. I've got two choices:

- My Merrell Road Gloves - I've worn these for a half marathon on trails before, but they might not have quite as much feel for rock scrambling and I would need to wear socks - which will get wet.
- My fivefingers (just the basic 'sprint' ones) are better for rocks, I could carry them for the beach, but they might be a bit thin when I start hitting the gravel and stones and they can be a pain to put on. They also give me blisters, but I think I could work out the right spots to tape.

Part of me wants to go barefoot for the first bit and slip on the VFFs when the time comes, but I think the uncertainty might make me play it safe and go with the Merrells. Not sure yet. What does everybody else wear for trail running?
I wear the Vibram Spyridon. And when things get hairy, I wear Altra Superior. I know it throws minimalism out the window, but we're talking trail running, and I ain't Tarzan yet. ;)
Forgot to say - when the trail gets technical, take smaller and more steps. I know you probably already take pretty small steps (barefooter and all), but take smaller steps yet. You need to keep upright to finish a trail run. Good luck!
Finished it in one piece. It was great fun. The first 5km was around the coast, and mostly spent rock-hopping, and then the next few km were straight uphill. A few hills across the top and then some downhill running back into Lorne. A bloke in front of me went down on the rocks, but I managed to keep my feet. I took it pretty easy and walked all the big hills, which was just as well in the end because it was a bit of a slog. I also put OneBiteAtATime's advice to good use (I think) and kept things short and stable when things got hairy. Thanks! Hard to know what the time was because our paddler lost the timing chip, but I think I finished the 16km in about 1:50, somewhere in the top 40% or so which is good enough for me, and I pulled up OK which is the main thing.

I ran in the Merrells, which in hindsight was the right choice. Lots of sharp rocks. I saw one guy in VFFs - the beefy ones, not the really thin ones like mine - and he said it was pretty tough on his feet. The Merrells were thin and flexy enough that I could feel the rocks and feel comfortable hopping along on them without wearing every jagged edge. One thing I found was that they were extremely 'slappy' on the flat bits, and I was very conscious of the noise I was making compared with how I usually run. I guess most people wouldn't even notice that.

Another somewhat controversial point - I didn't carry any water, which seemed to put me in a bit of a minority group amongst the seasoned trail runner types on the course. Everybody seemed to be packing some sort of hydration system. I also ran in cotton shorts with the first aid kit in the pocket and an old t-shirt, so it's fair to say I'm a bit of an anti-establishment hipster runner type and it goes with the territory. :) Besides, I'm happy to run 2 hours in training without water so I didn't think it was really necessary. I'm a bit contrary when it comes to this one - any time I see a person running with a camelback type thing on, I look at them and wonder how much effect the extra weight of the water has on their speed, fatigue, and gait. In a funny twist, about three minutes before my start an announcement came over the loudspeaker saying "All runners really need to be carrying water on the course today", prompting me to flash a silly grin at my team mates and say "Oops!". It wasn't a problem.

My other discovery was that I'm too polite and deferential for trail running on single-track courses. A few times I had the guy in front of me covered for speed, but I chose to sit on his heels rather than asking to pass because I didn't want to assert myself and make a presumptuous statement about our relative abilities. I was always worried about pushing past a bloke who was about to surge and looking like a wanker when he picked up the pace and passed me again. I guess that will come with experience.

As for the format, I found it quite enjoyable. I enjoyed the scenery, and I liked the way the changing terrain broke things up and kept me thinking. I even enjoyed taking lots of walk breaks for a change. I'm pretty keen to do it again, but I don't think I'm ever going to forsake my barefoot beach running for the trails on a permanent basis.
Well done! I'm delighted that you had a good race and came out happy and sound.

I have never carried water in a race, myself. The organisers might have just been covering their butts. One race management company in my neighborhood puts out a disclaimer that says something to the effect of "if you get hurt, don't come whining to us." Then there's the Death Race group which says on their race apps simply You Might Die.

As for passing people, I don't think anyone would necessarily go throwing the term "Wanker" around if you play leapfrog with them a bit. That might be because I have been known to pass the same guys 8 and 10 times in one race as I bomb down hills and slog up. It could also be that I just don't want to hear them cursing me out...

I think that the 15K (or so) trail race is about my favourite kind of race: long enough to feel like I've been challenged; diverse scenery, as you mentioned; and not much competitive pressure beyond that which I apply to myself. The course and the terrain are my opponent, not my fellow runners and especially not the clock! Besides, the people who actually win these races are SO amazingly strong - they can run up those brutal hills faster than I can run on flat pavement. I find them even more impressive than road race gazelles.

I looked at a map and Lorne looks like beautiful country. Is that your neighborhood? If so, you are very fortunate!
I carry a water bottle on all my runs even though sometimes I don't bother putting water in it. The water bottle holder has a pouch on it that holds my whistle that I use on dogs. As for the races, I never carry water with me except for trail races because the aid stations are far between. I did run one marathon that they warned everyone on sign up that they wouldn't be providing cups so they could be more environmentally friendly.
I was inspired to read how you just "dove in" and went after the trail race and had a good time at it; reading these kinds of things always cheers me on toward my own running/racing goals. Your water comments were interesting . . . lately I've been trying to drink less while on "short" (less than 90 minutes) runs, just to see how my body adapts (it seems to be doing fine with this). I still carry water, though, in a Nathan running vest, along with first aid, ID, etc. The water came in handy a couple weeks ago when I busted open my forefoot on a rock and needed to wash out the wound before I wrapped it up with tape and a bandana from my first aid kit. I took a wilderness first responder class (WFR) last summer, and now it's tough to not "overpack" with all kinds of stuff in anticipation of what "might" happen, to me or someone I might come across whilst traipsing through the hills :)

Happy Trails!
You make a good point of packing appropriately for where you're running. Most of my runs are within a few miles of my home near Philly. While we do have an occasional coyote cruise by, nobody would call this area wild.