Trail running became my new challenge this year.

I have always loved running and hiking but never really did trail running. I decided 2018 was the year I would finally start trail running. I signed up for the WTF quarter marathon, Hot as Hell quarter marathon, and the Cactus Flower Run Series.

The WTF quarter marathon was in January. It did not go well. I started off feeling pretty good. I thought I was running strong and taking my time to walk up steep inclines. I took a photo at the highest point. It was a gorgeous day! I crashed around mile 3. I thought I was not going to be able to finish. I had dizziness and felt like a walking drunk. Oh, did I mention I threw up? Yaaaaah, that was fun. You can read all the details on my wrap-up.

I signed up for the Hot as Hell quarter marathon but my anxiety got the best of me. It was the same company and trail as the WTF quarter marathon. I ended up switching to a virtual version and running in my neighborhood.

trail running I need to tackle one of the quarter marathons in 2019 to say FUCK YOU to the part of me that says I can’t do it.

The Cactus Flower Run Series consists of three races in the spring and three in the fall. The races are a 5k, 6k, and 7k at two different parks. I did the final race of 2017 and decided to go for the entire series this year.

The series started in March with the 7k. I did another virtual version. The day before became a clusterfuck and I wasn’t able to get home or eat before 10 pm. I woke up feeling like I was hit by a truck. In April I ran the 6k in 59:12. I had similar issues I had at the WTF trail run (without the puking, thank god) and did a lot of walking. The 5k was in May and I ended a run/walk in 44:26.

The fall series started back up in October with the 5k. Since the course is the same it is easy to compare and see how far I’ve come. I improved my time to 41:34 in the 5k. November was the 6k and I improved my time by almost nine (9!) minutes with a time of 50:53. Finally, the 7k was in December and I finished in 52:46! Shaved a few minutes off of the virtual in March but in December 2017 I ran it in 58:59 so in one year shaved off over six minutes!

What have I learned this year?

First, I found out I had vocal chord dysfunction and that was causing a lot of the dizziness I was experiencing. I got on medication and haven’t had issues while road running since. Second, I know I need to walk up some inclines in trail races. I am able to do some inclines (longer, less steep ones) but anything steep I need to walk. I’m ok with that. It means I can run the flat and downhills with some speed!

trail runningBut what about that dizziness?

I poked around the internet a bit and the dizziness I experience on trails might be motion sickness or vertigo. I have been to my asthma/allergist and my GP. They have tested me for everything that could be causing dizziness. Besides the vocal chord dysfunction, there is nothing wrong with me. I have an issue with looking down while I run. I know this. I do it during road runs as well. Apparently, looking down on the trail can cause motion sickness and/or vertigo. The good news is that means there is something I can work on to fix the problem.

In my very last trail race of the year, I decided to see if I could fix the issue and I DIDN’T GET DIZZY! I focused and kept my head up (often repeating the Oiselle phrase “head up wings out” and I didn’t have the issue. I assume it was a form of motion sickness from looking down. When I had people in front of me I tried to focus on them or if I was close the spot ahead of them that I wanted to take!

I am not ready to give up on trail races yet.

I love trail running. I love being outside, away from traffic, people, and the city. I crave the time on the trail. I am going to keep working on my form. I try to catch myself but it’s easy to get into a lull of running. My brain wanders and I go on autopilot! Now to decide which trail runs I sign up for. I am considering doing the WTF, Hot as Hell, and the series again. Call me crazy.

What tips do you have to fix my form and keep my head up?


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.