For myself and for most people who have yet to set sail on their 2010 training programs, this time of year is all about finding the joy in what you do. The rest of year was drawn out through a schedule which was tied to a series of races. Now that it is over, my motivation to get out the door is driven by whether or not something I do will be fun. When it stops being fun, I have to find something else or take a break. For some, that is focusing on other sports outside of the swim, bike, run regimen we all know so well. For me, if you couldn't tell, my fun lies in just running.
Unlike other sports, running allows the freedom to go wherever or whenever you want. One of my goals this time of the year has been to discover new places to run. I know my immediate neighborhood pretty darn well by now, since I have been using the trails and roads around it exclusively over the past season, since we moved in February. So sometimes when I need to find that "fun factor" again, I need to explore something new. After some searching around online, I came across a website that provided an excellent description of some areas I had never known existed, many of which are within striking distance of my house.
So recently, I set out on foot to explore one of these routes. Turns out, this trail begins only a short distance from my house! I've been driving past this road for nearly a year and never once noticed a trail. Shame on me! But thanks to this handy website, I've found a new place I like to call my playground. This route offers everything one could ask for in a trail. Parts of it are paved, while most of it is soft dirt or gravel. It offers fun "obstacles" such as creek crossings where you have to jump. In other cases, you have to focus while you cross (or else, you will get wet!). And lastly, it follows the path of a creek, leaving you with constant scenery.
On my initial outing, I set out following a pretty intense couple of days of rain. Though this made crossing some areas a bit tricky, it also made for a flat out fun time. When it was all said and done, I had traveled 12 miles and was craving more. If I had been training for a marathon, this run could have easily been pushed to much further distances. When I reached my turnaround point, it wasn't really my planned point. I thought the trail continued to meet up with another trail, but on this initial run, I got a bit "lost", so I just turned around and came back the way I went out.
In the future, I hope to link up to another trail network and continue to explore these parts. Running in the woods into unknown territory brings back a sense of unknown, which is rare after you feel like you've explored every possible option. It's encouraging to know that there are so many places I have yet to explore. Add to the fact that each time you return to trails like these, the conditions and scenery will be different depending on the season.
I think its safe to say I've found a trail I'd like to call my playground.
I'd encourage everyone to re-evaluate your typical routes you use day in and day out and find something new to change it up and have a little fun. This can be done simply by using GoogleMaps or any of the number of sites that allow users to post routes, such as MapMyRun or TrainingPeaks. I know there are a ton more sites out there, so these are just a few to get you started.