Lions and tigers and grizzly bears oh my!

 “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say “You step into the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Bilbo Baggins (J.R.R. Tolkien 1954; The Lord of the Rings, ISBN 0-618-00222-7.

I agree with Mr. Baggins that it is a dangerous business stepping out your door. Particularly to go for a run.  Dogs, cars, snow, ice, wind, heat and bears? “Bear biologist: Trail Runners New At-Risk Group in Grizzly Habitat” read the article headline in area newspapers.   Trail runners – at risk? Really? I guess I had never really stopped to consider anything but heading out on trail – the majority of the time solo. Long runs deep into the back country – usually an out and back.  Sometimes just a long easy run, other days either fartlek or tempo. Maybe 8, 10, 12 or 15 miles. Who knows?  Often I am running hard enough that I don’t watch anything but the trail at my feet.  One glance left or right and you could be on your face.

Encountering bears while trail running as expressed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist has at times crossed my mind.  I have respect for the beasts – but won’t allow such to keep me on the porch. Running single track back woods trails have become a staple on my training schedule.  I like the variety trails present.  I like up.  I like down.  Boulders, streams, roots, fallen trees, dirt, mud, bring it on!  I have never had a “bear encounter” while trail running.  I have seen plenty of sign (see the griz print below) but never up close and personal.  Probably have spooked a few and didn’t even know it. I have had more confrontations with dogs and moose.

If you venture out on trail in bear country don’t get stupid.  Watch your blind corners.  Be cognizant of your wind and noise.  (Running trail can be a quiet experience – yea!)  If you have a dog you run with – take them along. Make sure someone knows where you are headed and when to expect your return. One of my daughters asked me once where I was running. She was unfamiliar with the trail and expressed concern regarding my safety. I told her “just find my truck and then start watching for buzzards and magpies”.  She failed to find the humor.

Obviously the more runners heading out on trail in bear country will increase the probability of an encounter.  Let’s not get lax with the inherent risk.  Take precautions – but get out there and enjoy the trails.  Use them as a training tool that no treadmill, track or road can compete with.

Training Tip: when working with a runner – I like to incorporate variety in the training schedule.  If you find yourself repeating workouts that are beginning to lose their freshness – then mix it up.  Tinker with the where, frequency, intensity, etc.  Experiment with a new workout.  Move out of your comfort zone.  Make sure you have an objective for each workout.

Next up – Continental Divide Running Clinic 2011 Staff review – John Zombro PT.  Until then – enjoy the run!


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