Changing Gears

A transition from winter recreation to summer trail running.

Words by Zachary McCarthy

It’s mid April and to my Huskies dismay, the snow in my backyard has now melted away. The skiing is done and it’s time for me to start shifting gears to the trail running season ahead. I have to be honest with you all, I don’t run in winter and this makes the transition crucial for the month ahead. I’m now in my second week of running and I keep thinking about how good I felt last season and how bad I feel now. To some extent, I feel almost disappointed in myself but on the other hand, I need to take a step back and give myself a bit of time to get back to where I was. To get the running legs back. So, with taking a step back in mind, I decided to take some time and write out goals and objectives for the season ahead. 

At first I started listing out only physical goals. To complete a certain effort in a given time, to average X amount of vert per week, signing up for races, etc. The physical goals are important to me, I get a substantial sense of pride from certain efforts when everything lines up and I’m pushing myself to the best of my ability.

“It’s me vs. myself. I know if I could have done more, I know if I skipped out on training days, and I know if I’ve done everything I can. When I know I’ve done everything I can and everything comes together, that feeling of accomplishment is unmatched.”

However, I don’t want to focus on this. I’ve come to the conclusion that only focusing on the physical goals is a toxic mindset. Both from what I see in others and how I feel myself that’s how people get burnt out and running becomes more work and less play. I try to remind myself what the essence of trail running is. For me it’s about enjoying the time out there, moving free and adventuring, listening to my body, and sharing it with others.

In my mind enjoying the time out there often means taking an extra second to “smell the roses.” To smell the fresh air, listen to the birds, feel my feet carrying me along the trail, and to mentally disappear into the forest. Slowing it down and enjoying the incredible scenery and location of where I am is important. I’m a trail runner and mountain runner so my runs almost always bring me to incredible locations and views. Mountain top vistas overlooking the White Mountains of Maine and New Hampshire. But there’s a competitive side of me saying keep going, keep pushing. Learning to silence this competitive side and enjoying the simplicity of being out there is key. 

Moving free and adventuring is in my opinion the best part of trail running. While skiing, biking, or whatever other mountain activity it may be is a blast. On the moving free end there is something absolutely magical about being unencumbered with next to no gear and traveling with ease peak after peak. Those days when your body feels good and you don’t have the weight of hiking packs holding you back are truly special.

This magical feeling is something that I need reminding of sometimes. On the

adventure side, the sense of exploration is incredible and looking back at what was done for a given effort is almost always mind blowing. Going to a new area and exploring for the first time is exhilarating with new sights around every corner and something that I’m sure will never get old to me. 

While there is next to no gear needed, the choice in gear you do bring can make all the difference. That is why I’m personally excited about Norrona’s new senja trail running collection. Everything is well designed but a few items stand out to me. The senja Equaliser shirts are the lightest weight clothing items I’ve owned, making long summer days with full sun protection feel great. I’m a baby when it comes to starting cold and the new senja Warm1 Hood paired with the Equaliser shirt has been my new best friend for this, however at the same time it’s not too warm and it packs away great. Lastly the vest, I was hesitant here, truly loving the old vest I owned; however the senja Econyl70 has far exceeded my expectations with overall functionality, fit, durability, and comfort being incredible

“It doesn’t take a ton of gear, but it’s important to feel great about and in the gear you need.”

Listening to my body sounds pretty straightforward and simple. However, it is one of the most crucial aspects for myself in finding a balance between physical goals and loving the time out there. Not every week is going to feel the same, and not all runs are going to feel great. I previously stated “traveling with ease peak after peak” in reference to moving free in the mountains. This only happens when I listen to my body. Some days I’ll have it in my head that I’m going to do a certain run or effort but I feel exhausted. If I don’t listen to my body I start digging myself into a hole of a lack of energy or motivation that’s hard to get out of. A funk of sorts stemming from wanting to hold myself accountable but doing too much. So listening to my body is more or less taking a step back and not running or cutting back a run when I don’t feel great. But when I do feel great, I don’t have to pay attention to mileage, I run to my heart’s desire, and simply enjoy how my body feels.

My last goal for the season is sharing it with others. For many with myself included, running is an incredibly personal thing. I enjoy putting headphones in, tuning others out, and moving how I want to move without a concern for anyone else. When getting out with others it’s easy to get in my head about slowing them down or them holding me up. Particularly if I’m feeling really off getting in my head about holding others up. This is a horrible mindset and I try to remind myself of that. Social runs are for just that, the social aspect. Throwing all concerns of pace, time, mileage, etc out the window alleviates much of that feeling and instead pulls everyone back to a social pace that can be held all day and running that just feels good. Not feeling good after because you pushed yourself but good while going because it’s genuinely fun to be sharing with another person at a social pace. I’m looking forward to enjoying more social runs this season and not sitting in my head about them.

Zach’s favorites

warm1 Hood
A lightweight and quick dry mid-layer for trail running.

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econyl70 7L Pack
A vest pack made for trail running.

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