River Crossing

River water levels are pretty high right now with all the snow runoff. The news has covered multiple deaths or near enough over the past month of people who have ended up in the water one way or another and never made it back out.
As trail runners, we bound through rivers on a regular, if not frequent basis, without much of a thought. With the level of water in Utah’s rivers, I suspect most runners would stop and think about crossing the river. I would. There are definitely going to be times where the risk is too high to cross a river. You’ll have to make that call depending on your experience, the availability of security items, and what you have to loose.
Here are some tips for safely crossing a river:
First take a look around and decide if the section of the river that meets the trial is the best place to cross at the time. There are a lot of conditions which can effect the volume of water flowing including: weather, temperature, time of year, and debris. The safest route on one day can be different on another, so even if you’ve crossed at the same point the day before, make sure it is still safe to cross in the present.
Prepare to cross by releasing the clip on your hydration pack (chest and/or waist). If you go down in the water, you need to be able to get the pack off. The pack will weigh you down and is another object for the water to grab onto. If you have other things about your waist, take them off and stick them in your pack or clip them on. You can even try throwing them over to the other side.
Foot placement and shoes are key factors in getting across so make sure your shoes are secure and that you have the proper ones on. You’re not going to be able to see the bottom of the river. Slipping because of wet or rolling rocks is a definite possibility. You also have the force of the water pushing against you to content with. I know some runners put plastic bags over their feet, cross barefoot, and some hikers carry sandals for crossing. You are more likely to slip with sandals or with bags over your feet. Wet shoes is better than wet head to toe. As for the barefoot, you need to protect your feet from sharp rocks, sticks and other such stray objects beneath the surface of the water. Wet feet are better than bleeding feet.
Check down river as well as up river. You don’t want to cross where there is wood, trees, branches along or overhanging the banks. If you are swept downriver, you can get pushed against these and actually pulled under them. Not a good place to be. Rocks and curves in the river can create an eddy, which is a place where the water actually flows upstream. These can be a safe haven.
Look for rocks protruding from the river. Behind the rock the current is usually not as strong, but along either side it can have more force. Standing behind the rock can give you a break from the force of the river. Do not cross in the whitewater part of a wave
Crossing where the river is narrow may make sense at first glance, but the current is actually stronger at narrow points. An island in the middle of the river is a better point because it breaks up the current and force of the river.
Use trekking poles or a large stick to help you balance and to probe the river in front of you checking for large rocks or deeper parts. If you are out with a running partner or two, cross together. If you walk side by side, the person more upstream will break the force of the water for the person next to them.
If you do go down and are being swept down stream, put your feet down river. It’s better to have your feet hit something rather than your head.

Trail Runner Road Running?

As a trail runner, I have looked at road runners with curiosity, especially those that run canyon roads. I always wonder why would you run on the road if you are right by a beautiful trail?

Is there a place for road running in a trail runners training? Yep. There are a number of reasons to run on the road as a trail runner. It’s not ideal and I try to avoid it when I can.

On vacation, it can be difficult to find nearby trails where you can get your daily dose of running, but you definitely don’t want to skip your run, so you head out on the road. Another reason to run on the road while on vacation is if you are in a place where the city because of buildings or culture is an attraction. There’s no better way to explore than running up and down streets.

Winter can be a challenging time to find trails clear enough of snow that they are runnable and not all runners take winter off or change to a winter sport. Road running in the winter poses its own challenges because it gets dark earlier and light later, make sure and take a headlamp, tail light, and reflective vest. You also need to watch for sliding cars.

Convenience is another one. Sometimes you just don’t have time to get to the mountain, but you need to run. Runners are busy people with family and work obligations. Fitting in a run can be a challenge some days. It’s okay to run on the road when you’re short on time. The trail will still love you.

Supporting a fellow runner. Beginning runners can be hesitant to jump right to trail running. If you’re pulling someone into running. Running on the road is permissible, in fact, supporting a fellow runner who is running the road is pretty much always permissible. Trail runners are some of the most community oriented runners who would give you their last drop of water or piece of food on the trail.

Recovering from an injury, especially one involving twisting of a joint. The uneven surface, rocks, roots, and river crossings ubiquitous in trail running increases the risk of re-injury. Running on the even predictable surface of a road may get you back out running earlier than if you wait until your body is ready for a trail. And the earlier you can get back out there, the less fitness you lose.

Running on the road is different than running on trails, pretty obvious. I suggest road shoes rather than your trail shoes for a few reasons. The pavement will ruin your trail shoes and trail shoes have thinner bottoms than road shoes. If you are going to be running on the road for more than a week or two, think about grabbing a pair of road shoes.

Definitely invest in a reflective vest, headlamp, and tail light if you’re running in the dark. Cars need to be able to see you as early as possible. Wearing earbuds is also something to think about because you need to be able to hear the cars approaching you.

I know there is research out there that says your body adjusts to the surface you are running on and that there is the same impact to your body regardless of what you are running on, however, my experience is different. My muscles feel the road a lot more than the trail. I can run a fifty-mile race on trail and not be sore, but if I run a marathon on the road, I’m sore.