Enjoying the fruits of my labor

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Somewhere around mile 9 during a training run a few weeks ago, I’ll have to admit that I was feeling pretty done.

I was tired. Sore. My feet hurt. A week away from my last race of the spring, I was weary of the toil.

Then came the taper week, followed by a beautiful day in Oklahoma City and a great experience during the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon’s half-marathon event.

When that was over, I vowed to take the next couple of months “off” from race training and just try to stay in shape until the fall race season drew near. There are mountain adventures to be had this summer, and just an overall need to dial it back a bit and focus on other fitness goals.

One of the things I’d missed over the past three weeks was trail time. I got outside, but it was important to log “road miles” and that meant steering clear of trail running for a short time. A short time that seemed, in many ways, like an entire season of life.

So I finally got back to those trails. And boy, I missed them.

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For starters, spring happened. The last time I was out on the dirt, leaves had barely begun to appear on the trees. It’s been an unseasonably cool spring here in northeastern Oklahoma, and gratefully, wetter than in the past couple of years.

Upon my return, the woods had exploded in greenery. It’s amazing how different the forest looks, smells and behaves once the foliage emerges from its winter hibernation. I found myself running a little harder, feeding off the energy that was being unleashed this spring.

And that brings me to the continuing reward of all that training in the weeks and months beforehand. I felt strong from the get-go, powering up that first hill, then flying downhill into a deep ravine. I was then confronted by a steep uphill, which I dispatched quickly. After taking in the view from the top, I took off on the final couple of miles.

The trail, called Ho Chi, is one of those undulating, roller-coaster stretches that are a lot of fun when you’re fresh, but pure labor if you’re a bit pooped. That day, however, I had plenty of gas left in the tank. I dug in on the uphills, and feeling strong, I opened up on the downhills.

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Do you ever pick it up so fast that you can literally hear the speed in your ears? Like you’re slicing into the wind? It doesn’t happen on my normally slow plod, but it’s a familiar sound when I sprint, or get on the bike, or hit the slopes. Speed. Air whipping past your head as you cut through it at ever-increasing velocities. I set a pace that bordered on wild abandon for no other reason than I could.

That felt awesome. To feel that fresh, that strong, was a wonderful prize to claim after a pretty busy winter and spring of training and racing. Gone were the crowds of race day and the drudgery of tired legs. I had the trails mostly to myself – surprisingly few people were out, despite the blue skies and 59-degree temperatures.

Fine by me. There comes a time where sport is sidelined. Training and fitness take a back seat. What emerges is something much more akin to play.

Isn’t that one of the major reasons we do this? Sure, a lot of people get into running and a whole bunch of other fitness endeavors to lose weight or otherwise get healthy. It’s a lot of work. But why? To enjoy life? If you could combine the two, why wouldn’t you?

Whenever a sport ceases to be fun, it’s not a sport anymore. It’s a job for those who get paid to participate. For the rest of us, it’s a task. A chore.

To get anywhere, there will be work involved. Probably some suffering. But at some point it needs to be enjoyable.

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And that’s where I found myself. Dirt under my feet. A wooded canopy overhead. A cool breeze in my hair. It was just four miles, but a joyous four miles that I welcomed with an almost childlike bliss.

Now who doesn’t need that?

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

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72 thoughts on “Enjoying the fruits of my labor

  1. There’s such a peace with trail running. I usually leave the headphones at home and take it all in, too peaceful for Lady Gaga.

  2. I’ve been considering running on trails but have been putting it off. These pictures looks beautiful and you’re run sounds so relaxing! Much more peaceful than whizzing cars and traffic lights.

    • You should! Depending on the trail, you have to pay more attention to the ground (can’t zone out like you can on pavement), but the tradeoff is being in nature, a tremendous workout and stronger running performance all around. Find some trails and hit it!

  3. The beauty of blog surfiing is to enjoy vicariously what others are up to. Thanks for sharing. I’m not a runner myself, I enjoy a stroll (headphones firmly in place) on a sunny day. And gardening gives me the same sort of high that you most likely get from running. Nice post.

  4. I like when the endorphins kick in, and the high takes you farther each time. I remember this fondly from before having three kids. Someday, maybe I’ll get back there again. Thanks for sharing the memory and reminding me of mine.

    • Thank you! A lot of places in the Midwest and Southern Plains lack the amazing spaces of the Rockies, PNW or the Appalachians. But here in Tulsa, we’re lucky to have an urban wilderness area that is within 15 minutes of my home. More cities could stand to block off land for this sort of place. We’re blessed.

  5. I grew up in the woods in Wisconsin… Wish I could live there again for my 3 kids. Outside is awesome! You mentally took me back there describing your run on trails… Lived in OK 2 years though and hated it… I live for the north woods. And winters!

    • I really dig Wisconsin. Lakes, woods… and beer! Oklahoma is an acquired taste, but I’ve learned to really like it. Good people, all kinds of different ecosystems, and nice trails close by here in Tulsa.

  6. I like this–not the trail running, which equals immediate injury for me–but rather your broader philosophical point, which is nice recapitulation of Aristotle: pleasure intensifies and completes activity. It’s true that we don’t need things to be fun all the time, but we can’t permanently dispense with joy in our activities

    Congrats on being fp!

  7. Great post! I can’t always find a true trail close by, but I do prefer the country roads or the trails through the green spaces around here to the streets and sidewalks anyday! Thanks for reminding me to ENJOY the run!

    • Most definitely. There is a time to put in work, but there has to be a time to enjoy all the good stuff that goes with getting outside and expressing yourself physically. Thanks for reading and for your comment!

  8. The uncomplicated beauty of this piece is a universal theme of uncovering joy in the present. I am certain there are others whose footsteps came before your own who missed the moment entirely. Well done.

  9. Completely agree with your sentiments. Trail running wakes bits of your body up that you just don’t get with pavements. Have favoured my bike recently. Will have to get back to the trails.

  10. I’m never into running, and it could be just my last choice for a sport or for a fitness activity. And ironically, I was once a member of a running team “mainly” because of my ex, but I never understood the bliss that runners attain when they get to run whatever distance. But when I read in this post, “…but a joyous four miles that I welcomed with an almost childlike bliss,” I got curious and now I’m thinking of going out sometime for a run along a trail. Expected, it would be mostly labor for me since I easily get tired from running, but I also think it would be more than great to breathe along with nature and feel alive with it every now and then. 🙂

    This post is great! Thanks for sharing your bliss 🙂

    • Great take! I’ve been in that place. But what I found is that when I picked my own pace and just enjoyed being outside, it became much, much more enjoyable. I hope you find some good trails, see some cool stuff and learn to revel in your ability to get out there and move, sometimes with abandon. It’s a great feeling. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  11. just ran this a.m. one good thing: i went too far and am too tired to do yard work!
    i switched to “dirt” in the mid-1990’s after being especially battered during a downhill pavement half-M. since i ‘train’ mostly on dirt, i can handle the occasional paved 10k.
    are all those photos of being outdoors in/on the trails in OKLAHOMA? (a pleasant surprize to this snobby colorawdoughan)

    • You would be surprised how diverse the landscape is in Oklahoma. Prairie in the west and central parts of the state, and a small dune area; eastern Oklahoma has lots of hills and small mountain ranges covered with forests. In the southwest part of the state, a small, ancient mountain range in a semi-arid place that is home to some of the finest rock climbing in the Southwest. Where I live, it’s not hard to find green, wooded and hill areas. Tulsa is basically right on the edge of where the Ozarks begin. So we’ve got some trails!

  12. I only run on quiet country roads or off road. There’s nothing like being the only person around to see a muntjac deer standing in the middle of a field (not that they usually hang about for long…).

  13. beautiful description of running. to me it means freedom. it’s the taste it leaves on your tongue, the memory of the places you have been. you can be speeding along and yet appreciate every step. running is to be enjoyed, not made a chore of 🙂 glad you have re-discovered your love of it and re-knewed your enthusiasm, welcome back 😀

    • Thank you! It was another good one today. Not on trails, but still pretty great. The feeling after a good, hard run is something that helps carry me through the day. Thanks for reading!

  14. From the pictures, sure looks like a magnificent trail to run. I’ve always been into running myself, and I went on a somewhat hungry, obsessive marathon binge about five years ago running marathons in ten different states. These days, I stick to running on my own terms and cycling mainly. There is nothing that can be as motivational as a solid run. I enjoyed your prose in this post.

  15. I LOVE trail running. Obsessed could be a word as well. I just feel out of whack if I don’t get to run one in a few days. Nature is great like that … it re-energizes me and makes me feel like anything is possible. Thanks for sharing the love of the trails.

    • You’re quite welcome! I’ve fallen in love with it too. It has practical uses in terms of training, but more than anything, it’s just plain fun. And I really dig trail races. Thanks for reading! I dig your blog, BTW. Lots of interesting stuff in there.

      • Thanks so much. I have converted to only doing trail races because I just couldn’t get excited running on roads anymore. I agree with you completely that trail running is just plain fun. I always say … even if I’m having a crappy run it can always turn into a beautiful hike. If you like trail races I have 2 AMAZING ones posted on my blog… 1 in Aspen and 1 in Fruita, CO. I appreciate your kind words about our blog. Nice to find another kindred soul and lover of all things outdoors. Have a wonderful day outside today 🙂

      • Would love to do trail races in CO. I think I’d have to start shorter, just because I live at 800 feet! But it would be awesome to run trails in either of those places. I’ll look for your write-ups on them.

  16. I understand that racing is important and gives you goals to work towards/keep you motivated, but why should you have to abandon them for trail runs that you love so much? When I ran track in high school, some of the most rewarding days were not the 400 repeats, but the road runs out into the country. If it were me, I’d run what you love for the sacrifice of a couple minutes of your PR race.

    • They weren’t totally abandoned. I still got in trail runs about once a week. However, there comes a time where you just have to get road miles in to get used to the punishment a long race on pavement brings. Time on your feet. It’s hard to mimic that on trails, mostly because the surface is softer. That said, a good, hilly trail run is something every runner should incorporate into their training. Best running cross-training around.

  17. I have been running my entire life and never had much of an opportunity to trail run since I have always lived in a city. It sounds really energizing and I am not going to give it a try!

    • You definitely should. In short, here are the concrete benefits: Softer trail surfaces are easier on your joints; the technical nature of trail terrain can make it similar to running, agility drills and stadiums; the effects of being in a natural setting are good for your mind and mood; and if you want hill work, most trail courses don’t shy away from elevation gain. Give it a shot!

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