Trail Running Essentials
- by Monique Bienvenue
After I ran my first half marathon, I was instantly hooked. The thrill of pushing your body past its limit, getting those endorphins and crossing that finish line is absolutely addicting! It wasn’t long before I found myself looking for other races to run, and gradually stepping up my mileage and training.
As the miles began to rack up, however, I found that I was starting to feel tired (both mentally and physically) so I made a promise to myself to keep running fun! Balancing a full time job, training, traveling, a social life and everything else that life entails can be exhausting, which is why I decided to run one “destination race” annually. (I mean, training for a race that is located in a place that you’ve never been to is not only fun, it's also super motivating.)
With that being said, earlier this year I made the decision to register for the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon in Colorado. Not only is this race located in Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s also a trail race that sees three miles worth of nothing but elevation gain. Sounds fun, right? Well, I thought so until I remembered that I live in Fresno, the heart of California’s Central Valley and the home to some very FLAT trails.
After countless days of research and numerous hours spent on the internet looking up, “Trail Running for Beginners” I decided to contact an old friend of mine, Dani Moreno.
Growing up in SoCal, I had the privilege of going to Warren High School, an awesome school with an amazing athletic program. Dani, an all-star athlete and prestigious runner, was one of my classmates and an all around cool person. After graduation, she went on to run for UC Santa Barbara and is now one of the faces of Rabbit, an up and coming brand of apparel for runners. She’s also a beast on the trails and has won some notable races.
After talking to Dani, it was clear that I couldn’t treat this race as any of the ones I’ve ran in the past. Trail running is its own entity, and training for it requires ample thought and preparation. One of the questions I asked Dani was, “What are some of the essentials of trail running?” and she had a lot to say. So instead of trying to sum up what she said, I’ve decided to share her insight with all of you in a neat and orderly Q&A format.
So here we go, "Trail Running Essentials" as told by pro-runner Dani Moreno!
Q: How long have you been trail running, and what inspired you to begin?
A: Trail running kind of happened by accident, but it’s the best accident that ever happened! I've always loved the outdoors and hilly runs but they never really fit into my regular workout regimen in college. After I graduated, I headed straight for my local front range and haven't looked back since.
Q: What about trail running appeals to you most, and why do you think that other outdoor enthusiasts would enjoy the sport?
A: Trail running is dirty; it requires you to think, to problem solve and to use different muscles. It requires a special kind of endurance. For me, I was always getting injured and I feel like trail running has made me and my paws (legs) a whole lot stronger!
Q: On average, how long are your trail runs and what do you eat to fuel your runs?
A: I honestly don’t keep count, I just make sure to get to the top of the mountain. I would say I run between 45 minutes to two hours depending on how I am feeling. As far as fuel is concerned, I’ve tried different food pouches but Noka is the best. Combine Noka with a Kombutcha and I’m a really happy camper.
Q: What advice do you have for people who have just started to hit the trails?
A: Have fun! Be wild and free; trample the ground like an animal and be okay with getting dirty. Also, be sure to invest in a pair of trail shoes; I didn’t realize that having shoes with tread made specifically for trails would make such a difference - but they have!
Q: Are there any key workouts that would help someone (like me) prepare for a trail race?
A: If you're just getting into trail running I wouldn't worry about specific workouts - just make sure get used to the new terrain and have fun! It's important to note, however, that if you are looking to improve your times, ankle strength and balance are key! For me, writing the alphabet with both feet at least two times a day has made a big difference in my ankles. As far as balance is concerned, you can attain it in many different ways, but I've found that climbing helps a lot, as well as a core work and one legged exercises.
Q: Has rabbit’s apparel made a difference in your training? Would you recommend the brand to other runners?
A: rabbit apparel is light, simple and gets the job done better than any other clothing brand I've worn. I can go on and on about their shorts... they’re honestly my favorite shorts out there. In addition, the band around your waist won’t bother you when you start to get sweaty because the fabric doesn’t stick to your skin. I also really like the simplicity of rabbit apparel because I can wear it with anything and it always matches! I would definitely recommend rabbit to everyone - readers can even use my code “DANIRUNSVERT” to get 20% off their purchase.
Q: What about shoes? Do you have a favorite brand?
A: Hoka Speed Instinct all the way; they’re the perfect training and racing shoe! For me, I love the stucco type grip for downhill running. I'm a dancer when I run downhill, meaning I stick my foot on all the rocks and/or all the in-betweens, and this shoe is perfect for that. The heel is also much thinner on the Instinct in comparison to their other shoes, so if you’re running downhill you should refrain from landing on your heel and focus more on landing mid-foot. If you're a first time trail runner I would actually recommend the Speed Goat, it provides more stability and a cushioned heel for easy descents.
Q: I’m huge on skin care; do you use anything specific since you’re always out in the sun?
A: Yes, I'm a huge advocate for sunscreen! I know many current and former athletes and coaches who have experienced skin cancer scares. With that being said, I recently discovered a brand of sunscreen that I absolutely love and adore: Avasol. A company based in Santa Barbara, Avasol is conscious about its ingredients and the impact it has on the environment, two things that are really important to me.
Q: Are you training for anything specific right now?
A: At the moment, I’ve got my eyes set on the USA half and full trail marathon. I’ve been training on and off since February, so my training is set to pick up again with those two races.
With my next race set to take place in approximately three weeks, Dani’s advice has been crucial to my training. Never in my life have I ever ran so many hills, and I’ve definitely put some serious mileage on my car so that I can run in Yosemite or Shaver Lake; the trails there are stunning! In addition, I’ve found that it’s absolutely imperative to have all the necessary equipment, and be properly fueled for any sort of trail run. See the links below to learn more about the items Dani mentioned earlier.
So do I feel ready for the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon? Absolutely. Only time will tell what my overall experience will be like, but the training process has been an absolute blast and I'm certain that I'll register for more trail races in the future! With that being said, I wish everyone luck on the trail(s) and should anyone have questions regarding trail running or the items noted in this post, feel free to reach out!
Note to the reader: Since I’ve talked to Dani about trail running, I’ve actually invested in rabbit’s apparel, and am now an ambassador for the brand! I cannot stress how amazing this brand is; I haven’t chafed while wearing it and the material is incredibly light, breathable and super cute! I’ve also tried out Avasol’s sunscreen and have nothing but good things to say. You can use it as a tinted moisturizer or alone; nonetheless, it works well and is good for you AND the environment.
Visit these websites for awesome running apparel and trail running suggestions!
Hoka One One: www.hokaoneone.com
Trail Run Project: http://www.trailrunproject.com/
Trail Runner Magazine: http://www.trailrunnermag.com/
Ultra Signup: http://ultrasignup.com/