Tips for the Trail – Lessons Learned on the Trails — XTERRA — 8-23-2013

Rachel C

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published on XTERRA August 23, 2013

I’ve run competitively since I was a teen.  I enjoy the process of training. I like learning what my body is capable of when I put myself out there. I love traveling to places I might not otherwise ever go in the name of a race or a beautiful run. I embrace the thrill of adventure. I enjoy meeting other runners from all walks of life, of whom I am connected through trail running and our appreciation of nature.

Rachel CIn all of my running years, I have learned many hard lessons right along with the wonderful feelings of bliss while dancing through Nature’s playground. Ebb and flow, right?

Sometimes I wish I had someone to teach me about the ups and downs of running, rather than learn it by life’s fire. It is one of the reasons I write for XTERRA. I want to help you to have the best XTERRA running experiences ever. It always helps to receive advice from others who have already been where we want to go.  Below please find some of the trail running lessons I’ve learned along my way.

Preparation is golden. I am a very busy girl. Over the years, my overfilled life sometimes left me with very small windows to train.  Lack of preparation resulted in issues with dehydration, getting lost many times, bonking, getting caught in snowstorms in a pair of shorts and a sports bra, among other things.  I learned over time that if I take five minutes the night before to check the weather, lay out proper shoes, clothes, calories and water, I am set for my run and avoid very bad things from happening!

Not every race is our best.  In my dream world, all of my training would add up perfectly and I would win every race and feel fantastic. In reality, despite my best efforts, sometimes races don’t go as I wish. Over the years, I’ve learned that I cherish my wins and losses all the same. I wouldn’t know to appreciate the perfect race if I hadn’t experienced devastation.  It is all part of the journey and I feel I am a better human learning to accept when things don’t go my way.

Weather dynamics happen. As long as we dress appropriately, any kind of weather can be incredible for running.  I lived in Salt Lake City for 14 years, complete with four seasons each year. Before I had my son, I remember going to school, work, and fulfilling many other daily obligations.  Sometimes it would snow all day causing travel and everything else to slow down significantly. My run couldn’t happen until very late at night.  My favorite snow memories come from nights after a long day’s snow. The clouds would clear, yielding neighborhood roads empty of cars and people, yet filled with soft white cold.  I would head out into the dark and pad softly deep into the peaceful night.  The most extreme of weather can grant the greatest gifts.

Injuries are not the end. My running days have been filled with the highest of highs and also deep lows. Struggling silently through injury and illness helped me to appreciate greater than I could possibly imagine my times running fast and free. Life is about balance. When I couldn’t run as I loved, I was able to appreciate extra time spent with my adorable son, Canyon.

Stomach problems. Every runner I know at one time or another has stomach problems during a race or training run.  Take note of hydration, electrolytes, and nutrition that works for your body during training.  When you race, don’t change the world. If it worked during a training run, it will probably work in your race. Sometimes we get sick anyway.  Two years ago I contracted E Coli from a salad on the way to a race. I somehow ran 80 of a 120 mile race in the high Colorado Rockies with it. I initially was treated for altitude sickness. It was only after I was sent home in first stage kidney failure and was passing blood that I learned from my doctor what was wrong.  That is another hard lesson I learned. A race is not worth your life or health. That one took me two years to bring full circle. I finally went back and completed TransRockies Run with my husband last week with joy and health. I love when things come full circle.

Know the course. It is always a great idea to study a course for training and racing. If you are trying to run a fast time, it will assist you to know when to go hard and when to conserve.  It also helps so you avoid getting lost. Yet, getting lost can turn into a good memory. A few years ago I ran a 6 mile hill climb in Ketchum, Idaho, up Mount Baldy. I was thrilled to place 2nd overall, which sealed a second place title in a national series. Rather than take the tram down, I asked the race director for a different route back to town.  It was nine miles. On my way down I missed a turn and ended up running 20 more before I somehow found my way to a highway in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately a kind woman driving by gave me a ride back to town. It was a scary experience as I had no water or food and was very bonked. I was fortunate it ended well. On the other hand, I learned I was capable of running a marathon distance.

Celebrate each run.  Running is a gift for us all. There are many people who cannot, or believe they cannot run a step. We are fortunate to be a small, yet growing percentage of the population willing to do what it takes to get out there and “Live More.”  Regardless of being fast or slow, enjoy your running. Love the feeling of pushing and feeling and learning that you are capable of much more than you ever imagined. The not so good runs and races give perspective and appreciation for when you run fast and strong and fierce.  XTERRA running is wonderful. It gives us the balance health, community, and appreciation for our amazing bodies.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, including the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run, and placed ninth overall in the women’s field at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor, and is a certified running form and endurance coach. She can be reached atrcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her onwww.twitter.com/newageathlete.