Monday, July 21, 2014

Running on the Mirror Lake Highway

The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the opportunity to run.  The section where we host starts at 8000 feet and goes up from there, so it’s an excellent place to train.  It is also a 50 mph, two-lane highway with not much shoulder, so safety is a priority.  Here are some tips for staying safe while running along this spectacular highway.

1.  Wear Bright Colors.  While some of my favorite running shirts are grey, this is not the time to be the same color as the highway.  Bring out the reds, yellows and greens!
2.  Run Facing Traffic.  This is running safety 101.  Why?  Because it works.  I’ve noticed that when an oncoming vehicle sees me, if it’s able it will veer wide around me.  I always wave and mouth the words “thank you.”  Sometimes I get a wave, a honk, even a fist pump. 
3.  Listen Up.  I love listening to music when I run.  But I always leave the ear bud out of my right ear so I can hear what’s happening on the highway. 
4.  Yield to Wildlife.  I know – you don’t get this type of advice in most running posts.  Here on the Mirror Lake Highway, though, there are often deer and moose crossing the road.  I stay out of their way.
5.  Yield to Bicycles.  The Mirror Lake Highway is a popular road for cyclists.  Since they ride with traffic, and since there’s no real bike lane, I always jump off the road and wait for them to pass.  That way they are never put in the position of hitting me to avoid a passing car – or being hit by a passing car to avoid hitting me.  I usually get a thank you as they pass.
6.  Let Someone know what direction you’re going and how long you expect to be gone.  Just in case…
This is my second adventure in training at high altitude, and this time it comes with a pretty steep climb.  There is a 300’ elevation gain in the first 2.25 miles from Shady Dell to Cobblerest – and it gets steeper from there.  The tips below will sound familiar as they are based on sound running advice no matter where you run.  They just make even more sense when you’re running at altitude:
1.  Hydrate.  Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your run. Then drink some more. Dehydration occurs more quickly at higher altitudes.
2.  Fuel.  Runners burn anywhere from 400 to 800 calories per hour.  I like to run in the morning, and I don’t like running on a full stomach, so I usually eat half a protein bar before I go out, and then munch on sport beans throughout the run. 
3.  Wear Sunscreen and Lip Balm.  The sun’s ultraviolet rays are more potent at higher altitudes.
4.  Wear Insect Repellent.  Nothing is more annoying than having to break your stride to swat a mosquito away – unless it’s being bitten by that same mosquito.
5.  Warm up.  The objective is to get oxygen to your muscles, and since there’s less oxygen at high altitude, I find I do a lot better if I stretch and then walk half a mile before I start running. 
6.  Build Distance Gradually.  I started with two miles and added half a mile each run until I hit a baseline run of 4 miles.  I’m now adding ½ mile each week to my long runs. 
I like to start out uphill – that way finishing downhill is a reward.  I do start downhill once in a while – just to prove to myself that I can. 
My final tip – and the one I like best – Enjoy the Run!

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