Many things in life bring me joy, but as a mom and business owner who spends the majority of her time working from home with two kids in tow, trail running has changed from just being a passion of mine into something much, much more. Because when I begin my ascent up the trail, with Chopper, my Vizsla, leading the charge, a calm comes over me — a sense of peace that only true freedom can give me.
Although I might get only an hour or two away from kids per day, that hour or two is mine, and mine alone. No matter how stressed or overwhelmed I might be, when my feet hit that dirt and my legs start carrying me up that trail, and the sun begins to rise over the mountains, everything negative slowly drifts away … and a calm smile crosses my face.
These moments, this short time away, makes me a better mom, a better wife, a better businesswoman and a better human in every possible way.
A long trail run with my friends is my version of a “spa day,” and although I usually return home covered in dirt or snow (and smelling not too nice) instead of manicured, clean and pampered, I would choose a day on the trail over a day in the spa any day of the week. Why, you ask? Because the long- and short-term mental AND physical benefits of trail running far surpass any short-term benefits a spa might give me … and it’s also much cheaper, which probably makes my husband very happy.
The next question you might be asking is what I do when winter, or even summer, hits us in Yakima — when I “can’t trail run.” Well, here’s the kicker: I run year-round, rain or snow, sunshine or clouds in Yakima, and you can, too.
Honestly, one of the greatest things about living in Washington state is that no matter the season, great trail conditions are waiting somewhere. In the fall, I’ll head to the Enchantments to see the larches as they change into beautiful hues of gold. In the summer, I’ll make the trek to the west side for cooler days and a post-run dip in the ocean.
Sure, you might think it’s too cold (or too hot), or that the snow or ice will hinder your ability to get traction, but fear not. I have the scoop on what gear you need to get out safely in every season and weather condition — and have a ball while doing it!
Here is a list of what I carry (including my trail running pack) on daily runs as well as what I tell my clients to bring during our trail running clinics and adventure runs:
- Trail Running Pack — I wear a trail running pack no matter if I am running 5 or 25 miles. The reason is that you will then have a place to stow your layers as you lose them, as well as a place to put the items listed next that could honestly make or break your adventure. These packs should fit like a glove and not bounce around when you run, which can cause sores due to chafing. My favorite brands of running packs are Naked (these are a local brand right out of Vashon Island), Ultimate Direction and Salomon.
- Emergency Rescue Blanket/Space Blanket — These are only about $3 and could save your life if you get injured or stranded somewhere. They fold into a rectangle that could fit into the palm of your hand, so they don’t take up much space either.
- Whistle — Another potential lifesaver for any runner or hiker. In fact, my whistle has come in handy multiple times when hunters and target shooters were shooting in my direction and didn’t see or hear me. Many running packs come with this attached to them, but if they don’t, just snag a cheap one and attach it with a key chain ring.
- Wipes + Ziploc Bag — If you are a trail runner, you have had nature call to you while you are on the trail … most likely as far away from a bathroom as possible. And if it hasn’t happened to you yet, I promise it will. All I have to say is, bring what you need to take care of your business and clean up after yourself. Done and Done.
- Layers — Yes, we get some very cold AND very hot days here in Yakima, but that shouldn’t stop you from hitting the trails (I tend to run in the wee morning hours in the summer to beat the heat and if you run cold, I’d recommend running during the heat of the day in the winter). The main way to regulate your temperature when running (or hiking) is to wear layers so that when you get warm, you can easily take a layer off to cool down — or you can put them back on if you get cold again. I like lightweight layers that pack down small so that they can fit in my pack, and I ALWAYS run with a windbreaker, even on hot days, in case I injure myself or I run into somebody else who’s hurt. If you are in the mountains, without cell service, or far away from your car, being prepared for yourself and others is the way to be. And one more tip: start your run feeling a little cool — you will heat up quickly!
- Water, Water, Water — Staying hydrated is VERY important, especially when it’s hot out. That said, I’ve had more clients have issues with dehydration in the colder months because they have a harder time making themselves drink water. My advice? Fill your water bottles (your running pack will come with water bottles or a bladder to fill with water) with warm water in the winter and cold water in the summer so that you are more likely to drink what you bring. And don’t forget to hydrate before AND after.
- Sun Protection — This is crucial in Yakima because of how much awesome sunshine we get year-round! Make sure you slather up with sunscreen, no matter the season. Remember, the sun is stronger when it reflects off snow, so wear it even on those snowy days. Also, don’t forget to pack sunglasses and a hat (I wear a trucker hat year-round but on really cold days, I’ll put a beanie over my trucker hat until I warm up enough to take it off.)
- Snow/Ice Spikes — The ONLY brand of running spikes that I wear when running in ice and snow are Kahtoola. I’ve run at full sprint on 2 inches of solid ice in their MICROspikes and haven’t slipped once. These are my go-to for technical hiking and running trails, but I use their EXOspikes for less technical trails as well as icy and snowy pavement.
- Protection — Washington is full of predatory wildlife, which is important to be aware of. My advice is to know what predators live in your area and plan accordingly. Some runs I carry bear spray and a gun and other days I carry a lighter load — but either way, it’s better to be prepared than not.
- Headlamp — For longer excursions or ones that aren’t close to home, pack a head lamp. Not that I know firsthand (cough, cough), but running on a trail by iPhone light isn’t ideal.
- Snacks! — I saved the best for last. This is another item I always have in my pack, no matter the distance I am covering. You never know when you or someone you run into might need some sugar or just calories in general. So always bring at least a pack of energy chews (I love Clif Bar Shot Books) or an energy bar (my favorites are by Kate’s Natural Foods).