We are excited to introduce a new section to our newsletter called “Trail Talk” with our very own Mike Foote.  Mike is an avid trail runner and ultramarathoner, as well as a member of the Run Wild Missoula Trails Committee. Each month, Mike will cover different topics in the world of trails and trail running in this section of The Runner’s Edge e-newsletter. The subject for this months edition is:

Why Winter is a Good Thing for Your Trail Running

If you are a trail runner in Missoula and you are anything like me, you tend to be torn during the cold and dark winter months of Western Montana.  On one hand, you are excited about snow, and skiing, and cutting back a little bit on your weekly mileage, but on the other hand, you have a hard time saying goodbye to the miles and miles of singletrack you have come to call home since they melted out in late spring of last year. We are blessed here in Missoula to have such an extensive and accessible trail system, however, during the winter months some of our favorite escapes can be so close, yet feel so far away. Each and every year I struggle with this transition.

So, with that said,  I’ve chosen to take on a new approach to this issue and highlight all of the reasons why winter is a good thing for trail running.

  • Winter is a good time to take a break

Yes, I said it.  This is a great time of the year to take a break from the constant grind of mountains and miles. Your quads will thank you. Trust me. If you have your eyes set on some big adventure runs or races in the summer, now is the time to come up with a game plan to achieve peak fitness for them.  Be patient. A little extra time spent planning and prepping for the upcoming season will go a long way into the spring and summer months.

  • Winter is a good time to work on your form

One of the reasons I always give folks when they ask me about the benefits of trail running is the forced body awareness that I do not achieve while running the roads.  The slight undulations and convexities in the trail, the perpetual dodging of the roots and rocks, the lateral movement and the constant quest for fluidity and efficiency on such a dynamic surface can be meditative.  Enter ice stage left.  While running on a slick surface I am forced to be intentional with each and every foot strike. Keeping my hips directly above where my foot falls and not breaking over at the waist no longer become mantras, but necessities so that I remain upright at all.   I find on a real icy trail my eyes will water due to the concentration on footing I have. In a slightly masochistic way, I find these runs to be really fun and engaging. They keep you in the moment, and when you begin to ramp things up in the spring, these runs will translate.

  • Winter is a good time to cross train

The slick and icy nature of our favorite singletrack is also a good excuse to find somewhere to do a bit of cross training and work on strength and agility. There are numerous gyms in town, which offer group circuit classes, but I find that the circuit training group class offered by Momentum AT downtown on Main Street does a good job of raising my cardio, while integrating strength exercises for all of the major muscle groups, including my core. The strength that I build now will lay the foundation for the upcoming year and allow me to maintain good form towards the end of a long run, or hard training week.

  • Winter is a good time to map out your races for the upcoming season

Now is also a great time to look towards the upcoming season to see which events suit your fancy.  The Runners Edge is offering more trail races each year and so will Run Wild Missoula.  Think about training towards events such as The 11 Miles to Paradise Trail Run near Paradise, MT.  Or the Classic Run Wild Missoula Double Dip.  It’s not even too soon to begin thinking about the Blue Mountain 30k in October!

  • And if you must go trail running (which I encourage!)

Find the best traction system that works for you. Weather it is screws in the sole of your shoes, Yaktrax, ice spikes, etc…. this will help you to access trails you thought were off limits until April.  Look for south and west facing slopes off of Mount Sentinel, or anything in the N. Hills.  If you think of the ice and snow as a challenge, not a deterrent, you can enjoy year round trail running possibilities in the area.  If you currently do not have an option yet for winter traction, come down to the Runner’s Edge and see what is available to you.

Happy Trails!