The Laramee Filter: pseudorandom thoughts, subsequently put on the Internet.
Tom Laramee
Date Published:
March 19th, 2021
Word Count:
827 (7:30 read time)
Filed Under:

Trail Running Rollup from Last Year

I decided in late 2019 that I wanted to start trail running[1]. I hike regularly, and sometimes while hiking I've thought "I'd really like to run this trail instead of walking it". And so I decided that I would try to do 26 trail runs in 2020[2], and while it took 362 of 365 days to pull it off, I ran my 26th on Dec 30th (the 1st one was on Jan 3rd).

I'd like to share some random stats/observations, in no particular order:

  1. I would never run 11 miles on pavement, but apparently I'll happily do so on a trail of dirt and rocks and crossed by the occasional downed tree, all in the middle of nowhere. I find running on the street, or around Greenlake, to be really boring, and so I've mostly stopped that type of run.
  2. The first mile is the hardest. If I remember my exercise science correctly, this is because the Kreb's Cycle hasn't kicked in yet (this take 10-12 minutes to begin), so your body is not producing the energy you need for exercise.
  3. The average run was 6.36 miles with 1,334 feet of elevation gain. That may not seem like much, but I think the way to really understand it is to go outside and run up, say, a few hundred feet of gain over a mile or two, and just see how that feels.
  4. The longest run was 9.5 miles (Thompson Lake) with 3,084 feet of elevation gain. I didn't actually make it to the lake, due to (a) there was lots of snow (b) i ran out of water (c) I was alone, in the middle of nowhere, and kept getting lost because the trail was under snow (d) I had no GPS locator, no cell service (I made it to within 1/4 mile of the lake, and if I had had a map, I would have gone all the way).
  5. My nominal pace is in the 11 to 15 minutes per mile range. it's wickedly variant, e.g.: it took me 20 minutes to find a place to cross a creek once, and that sort of thing just lays waste to any kind of pacing. It's just difficult to keep a reasonable pace when all you're worried about is breaking an ankle. When the landscape is reasonably civilized, I'm around 11 minutes/mile (which also may not seem like much, but by all means, run up a thousand feet of gain and then measure your pace in the subsequent mile - it definitely suffers). They say true wisdom is gained through experience!
  6. I've started running longer distances in 2021 (this past weekend I ran 11 miles). as a result, I've had to start bringing some calories along with me to consume along the way. otherwise, I just run out of energy and hit the wall (usually right around the 7 mile mark).
  7. I've stopped bringing more than 8oz of water. I bring a small device to filter water instead, and try to run in places where there are creeks and lakes, which is really easy to do here in the Pacific NW.
  8. The most likely injury is easily a broken ankle. The 2nd most likely is a broken leg. To mitigate this risk, I now bring a GPS-enabled personal locator.
  9. Easily the most punishing/soul-crushing run was called Rainy Lake, which is about 7 miles in length and has 2,700 feet of elevation gain. This run is a symphony of misery and punishment and you would have to be out of your mind to think of it as a trail run.

Here's part of the spreadsheet I keep to see how the trails compare. I'm pretty sure green means:

The red means:

Did I Mention I'm a Big Fan of Spreadsheets?
[1] I've never really talked about why I made this decision. It's largely based on my perception that I have a limited number of miles I'll be able to run in my lifetime, and so I need to (a) use them wisely and (b) conserve them. I was in a pretty bad car accident when I was 16 years old and both of my knees were injured. Since then, I've struggled with periodic pain when running, and feel lucky that I'm still able to run as much as I do. I figure: if I have a limited number of miles I'll be able to run, well, they should be the most satisfying, fulfilling, and interesting miles.
[2] The calculus behind the number 26 is as follows: I have, at most, every other Sunday morning free (due to my custody schedule), and so that's 24. Add in Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, and spring break, that's 3 more. I figure I won't be able to make all of these, so, let's plan on skipping one.