Nine Treadmill Workouts to Get You
Through The Winter

Trail running training on a treadmill is like being a mountain goat stuck on a hamster wheel.

It is repetitive; there are no rocks and dirt; and the only rivers are the Class V rapids of sweat spilling onto the treadmill belt, splashing your neighbors on the elliptical.

But while potentially boring, treadmill time is also a major opportunity to control your training and make the most of your limited time. So grab a really good pair of wireless headphones, download fun music or interesting podcasts and try these nine workouts designed for trail runners to break up the monotony and jump start your winter training.

On Aerobic Days

The bulk of your running should not be hard. You should be maintaining an aerobic heart rate while rapping along to your music. These aerobic days are also a chance to improve running economy, or the amount of energy needed to run a given pace.

Upper-level aerobic runs can form anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of your winter training, depending on your goals. Here are two (mostly) aerobic workouts to make sure you don’t throw away your shot on the treadmill.

The Barracuda: 40-80 minutes easy with a fast 30 seconds every five minutes (starting at 15 minutes)

The pace chart of the Barracuda looks like sharp little teeth. The fast sections act as strides that improve your running mechanics and make you faster at all effort levels. On the strides, try to go the quickest pace you can while staying totally relaxed.

The Stairway to Heaven: 40-80 minutes easy with 50 seconds at 10-percent grade every six minutes (starting at 15 minutes)

This workout adds a strength component and changes up running dynamics, which is important because repetitive motion can increase injury risk. On the “hills,” think about a springy, powerful stride.

On Hard Days

Hard days are the butter sticks of training. Aerobic toast works on its own, but butter makes everything better.

However, you don’t want too much butter (nor to subsist on a diet of butter alone). After you’ve run your aerobic base miles, add some hard workouts to improve your VO2 max, lactate threshold and endurance.

The Progression Panda: 15 minutes easy, 4 x 30 seconds fast/3 minutes easy, 4 to 8 x (three minutes easy/two minutes moderate/one minute hard), 15 minutes easy

Start all hard workouts with an easy warm-up jog, followed by 30-second strides with full recovery to get your blood pumping and prepare for what is to come. The Panda starts soft with three minutes easy, but you soon learn the panda’s true nature as a ferocious killing machine when the bear comes out—two minutes moderate and one minute hard. Do four reps if you are a lower-volume runner, and up to eight if you are advanced. This workout is engaging and incorporates every energy system you will use in a trail race.

The Surprising Sloth: 15 minutes easy, 4 x 30 seconds fast/3 minutes easy, 8 to 15 x 1 minute fast/2 minutes easy, 15 minutes easy

This workout is mostly a sloth, with 43 to 57 minutes of easy running. But the claws of the workout are surprising with 10-17 minutes of fast running that jump-starts your VO2 max and improves your running economy. On the fast portions, focus on going the fastest you can sustain with straining. Similar to the Panda, do more intervals if you are a higher-volume runner, but never sacrifice quality for quantity.

The Long Liger: 90 minutes to two hours alternating between three minutes moderate, three minutes at 6-percent grade, and four minutes easy

Long runs are where many of the most important aerobic adaptations take place. The Long Liger has all the benefits of a long run while mixing up multiple stresses to keep you engaged. After an easy warm-up, break up each 10-minute set with some moderate running, some hill running and some easy running.

Winging it and Singing It: 60 minutes to two hours with every other song moderate

Do you hate numbers? Then cover the treadmill readout with a towel and just run by feel. When the song changes, increase the pace. When the next song comes on go back to easy effort. You can use this method any day of the week, even breaking it down by verse (for example, a hill repeat every time the chorus comes in). Let’s just hope that your playlist doesn’t have four-hour experimental jazz tracks.

On Purely Easy Recovery Days

Some days, even the aerobic runs are too much and you just need to slow down and smell the roses. Unfortunately, there is nothing that smells like a rose in the gym. So here are some ideas to break up the monotony of super-chill recovery days.

The Slow Climb: 40-60 minutes alternating five minutes level, five minutes at 2-percent grade, and five minutes at 4-percent grade

Start with the pace comically slow and keep it slow, just alternate the gradient every five minutes. Changing up your form in the hills will ensure you limit the repetitive pounding on your joints and bones.

The Invigorator: 40-60 minutes starting extremely slowly and increasing pace by 0.1 miles per hour every two to four minutes

On days you really, really don’t want to start, the Invigorator can get you moving. Start with a pace that is up to two times slower than your 5K pace. As you work into the run, increase the pace gradually. Ideally, at the end you’ll be moving and grooving, ready for runs to come.

Most importantly, remember that summer goals require winter focus. Go to work and punch the clock now—on the treadmill, roads or trails—and you’ll get to cash the checks when it counts.

David Roche is a two-time USATF trail national champion, the 2014 U.S. Sub-Ultra Trail Runner of the Year and a runner for HOKA One One and Team Clif Bar. He works with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play. Follow David’s daily training on Strava here, and follow him on Twitter here.

Gina Slaby’s Unlikely Path to Breaking the 100-Mile World Record

Gina Slaby has won every single trail race she’s ever entered. Except for one. On December 10, 2016, she came in eighth place at the Desert Solstice 24-hour race.

The reason she came in eighth is not because she bonked, nor because she was too slow. It’s because halfway through the race she decided to switch to the 100-mile event, and break ultrarunning legend Ann Trason’s 100-mile World Record.

Slaby, now 35, was 10 years old when Trason set her record of 13:47:41 at a road race in 1991. Slaby broke that record by a mere two minutes, with a finishing time of 13:45:49.

A runner by accident

Slaby’s path to the sport began in 2005, when she joined the Navy after college. The Navy requires all officers to take a Physical Readiness Test (PRT), one stage of which is a 1.5-mile run. To pass, participants have to run the mile and a half in a minimum of 15 minutes. Nervous she might fail Slaby started training.

To her surprise, she enjoyed it. The PRT came and went, and Slaby kept running, gradually increasing from one mile to 10.

When a new officer arrived at the station, Slaby began tagging along on his training runs (spoiler alert: that officer is now her husband). Steve Slaby was an experienced runner, with a marathon PR of 2:29 and a second place finish at the 2006 Hellgate 100K to his name. Within weeks, Slaby’s mileage increased to half-marathon distances.

She and Steve were stationed on an island off the coast of Africa. “It was a tropical climate: hot, sunny, humid,” she says. “I had never trained before, so I had no idea that those were awful training conditions.”

The island measured 36 miles long, and on their longest run they covered it tip-to-tip. “I guess that was my first ultra,” she says.

A competitive streak

Intrigued by the challenge of distance racing, Slaby joined the Navy running team for the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon. “I didn’t even know what a good marathon time was,” she says. She finished in 2 hours 55 minutes, earning first-place female in the military division and fourth-place female overall.

In between postings in Hawaii, Ethiopia, Africa, The Philippines and in the United States, Slaby continued to race marathons whenever she was able, ultimately setting her sights on the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012. When she was able to, she trained on a track. Other times she had to get more creative, as when, assigned to off-shore duty on a boat on the coast of Hawaii, she made do by running laps around the deck.

“It was all about finding my personal best,” she says. “I wanted to know just how fast I could be.”

Slaby’s husband was still an avid trail runner, and so in her spare time she mixed in a few trail races, including the 2009 Tantalus Tripple Trek 50K and Peacock 54 miler in Hawaii, the 2014 H.U.R.T 100 and the 2015 Capitol Reef 100-miler. Unlike with road racing, Slaby treated these trail races as fun experiments, with little hope other than just to finish.

She won first female at all of them.

Road to trails

After the 2016 Olympic Trials, which took place in Los Angeles last February, Slaby decided she was ready to move to trail running full time. “Marathons can be frustrating, because if some variable—like weather—turns bad, you’re going to suffer and have a bad time,” she says. “With trail running, every course is different, so it’s more about the head-to-head competition. Time doesn’t matter. What matters is who shows up.”

That spring, she went on to win first female at the Lumberjack 100, Orcas Island 50-miler and the Vermont 100.

“That was a tough day,” she says, regarding the Vermont 100. “I only had four months to train. I went out too hard and my quads got beat up at around mile 60 or 70.”

Slaby on her way to winning first female at the 2016 Vermont 100, with husband and pacer Steve in tow. Photo courtesy Donna Groome.

Breaking the record

The Desert Solstice is essentially an ultra-distance track meet hosted by the trail-racing organization Aravaipa Running on a 400-meter track in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a course known for records, at both the national and international level.

But a 100-mile women’s world record was nowhere on Slaby’s mind when she showed up on race day, registered for the 24-hour event. “I wanted to make the 24-hour national team,” she says. She started at an eight-minute pace, with the plan to scale back as her body started to hurt in the later stages of the race. But things never really started to hurt.

“There were some low points, where I worried if I had gone out too fast,” she says. “I worried that my quads were going to lock up, or that nutrition was going to be an issue.” The worst it got, she says, was a set of very tight calf muscles.

Around mile 70, her husband started yelling to her that she was ahead of world-record pace. So, mid-run, she decided to switch from the 24-hour race to the 100-mile race, and go for the record.

“It was a great feeling,” she says, of the moment she stepped past the 100-mile mark. “I didn’t expect to [break the national record] that morning. Ann Trason is a legend, and to even be talked about in the same sentence is a true honor.”

Slaby still has her sights on qualifying for the 24-hour national team, and making it to world championships, which will be hosted in Belfast, Ireland, in July. “I want to feel like I’ve contributed [to our country],” she says.

The Art of Stress Management for Runners

The body doesn’t know miles. It knows stress. Adjust your training based on stress and don’t mimic the training of someone living a different life.

Those words are simple to say, but are hard to understand, let alone put into practice. What do we mean when we say “stress” in the context of running? There are two main components: musculoskeletal and systemic.

Musculoskeletal stress is the breakdown of muscles, tendons and even bones that occur when you run. A little breakdown can do a lot of good—the body builds itself back stronger. But push a bit too hard, and a bit too long, and those small cracks can cause everything to shatter in the form of overuse injuries.

Running also causes the adrenal glands to release a stress hormone called cortisol, causing what I call systemic stress. Cortisol increases at the onset of exercise in order to help regulate glucose concentration in the blood, allowing the body to burn energy efficiently.

A little bit of cortisol is necessary. But too much leads to a progression of maladies. Think of your cortisol reserves like a reservoir: it may be full during hard training, but if the dam floods it can cause major destruction.

Stress overload starts with decreased performance. You’ll often notice the symptoms in everyday life before you notice them in your running. For example: abnormal fatigue walking up stairs, disrupted sleep cycles, or legs that involuntarily clench while sleeping. Keep pushing, and the body can essentially shut down as a defense mechanism, culminating in complex issues like adrenal fatigue and overtraining syndrome.

That said, in order for the body to adapt, it needs to be stressed. So when we are talking about how to structure your training, we are essentially talking about how to distribute stress in a sustainable way.

 

 

Training Stress and Life Stress

Not everyone responds to training stress in the same way. One of the athletes I coach recently ran 15 miles at 5:40-minute mile pace at an aerobic heart rate of 150 beats per minute (BPM). For his body, that is a swift jog, and doesn’t cause much breakdown or cortisol release. Meanwhile, I have other athletes running 10-minute mile pace at a heart rate of 175 BPM. These runners’ cortisol is flowing freely even though they are not running as fast. Why? Every body has a different threshold for stress.

Moreover, running isn’t the only activity that causes your body to release cortisol: a contentious meeting or hectic day at the office releases cortisol just the same as running hard up a mountain. When it comes to systemic stress, the body considers miles run right alongside meetings managed, children fed and protests marched.

Therein lies the problem with trying to mimic someone else’s training: that professional runner you follow on Strava may be setting aside two hours for napping each day, while you may only have two minutes to yourself when the kids finally start napping.

So for those stressed-out, motivated runners out there, here are 4 tips to use all sources of stress to your advantage.

 

  1. Adjust your training for life stress, reducing volume and intensity

The first tip is the most obvious: you must adapt your running to meet the realities of your life. For example, 60 miles per week is different for someone like me working from home with a dog than it is for someone commuting an hour to work, with kiddos at home. Even if we have the same exact fitness level, our daily stress levels are different. The busy parent might need to reduce training to 40 miles per week for the same total stress that I achieve in 60 miles. Never compare your training to people living different lives—it is unfair to yourself, and unfair to your adrenal glands.

In practice, you (and your coach, if applicable) need to flow with the contours of life. Make sure your training plan is complementary to your life plan, or you’ll end up shorting yourself in both.

The only way to do this is to start at a safe volume, with minimal intensity. Increase the volume progressively before adding hard workouts,—many coaches advocate for no more than a 10 percent increase each week.

Remember, though: different bodies respond to stress differently. For many runners, fatigue is not an issue of inadequate mental toughness or unwillingness to suffer, but being so mentally tough that you suffer too much. Listen to your body, and always be willing to adjust when needed.

 

  1. Flex your rest day muscle

 Taking just one rest day each week automatically builds 7.5 weeks of healing into your training each year. Over time, rest days can be a prophylaxis against stress-related injuries and burnout. Most of my athletes use Monday as a rest day (unless it’s a holiday from work).

However, a great option for busy people with less predictable schedules is to have a flex rest option. With flex rest, you are required to take one day off each week, but you mix it up based on which day would alleviate life stress the best. There is no better cortisol-reduction method than sleeping an extra hour or two.

 

  1. Eat well, most of the time, and eat enough, always

 Fueling is one of the simple ways to control how the body reacts to stress stimulus. Chronic underfueling can cause big spikes in cortisol, leading to symptoms of overtraining, and sometimes long-term health issues.

Try to get into a food routine that optimizes health. For runners that are training hard, that means erring on the side of overfueling..All of my athletes have “Burger Sunday,” or the vegetarian equivalent. Forget about the stigma of “unhealthy” food, since almost all food is good food when compared with the negative side effects of under-fueling.

Be sure you are on top of your iron intake as well—many runners are training through iron deficiencies that hurt performance long before they are classified as anemic. Almost all of the female runners I coach (and many of the men) take an iron supplement. The same goes for Vitamin D.

 

  1. Reduce structure and self-judgment when it’s not needed

Life is unavoidably stressful at times. However, training doesn’t have to be. You can reach your running potential without track intervals or a GPS watch.

First, do most runs at an effort that seems easy, and take pride in running slowly. Training mostly slow and racing much faster is the hallmark of a good training plan.

Second, include one workout a week (two at most) doing fartlek-style intervals, rather than distance-based intervals— 10 x 90-second intervals instead of 10 x 400-meter intervals—to avoid self-judging based on pace.

Third, and most importantly: relax and remember to enjoy the process. As the great scholar Ferris Bueller once said, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The goal of training should never be to run the fastest time you can, nor to reach some arbitrary goal, but to have experiences, make memories and love the moment.

The Bueller-philosophy was my wife, Megan’s idea. She is a pro runner and full-time medical student. That is: she’s busy. Over time, we have learned that she needs to reduce her training by 10-20 percent while working (from 90 miles per week to 70-80), with just one focused workout each week, rather than two. She always takes a rest day, and she is never far from a healthy, high-calorie and nutrient-dense snack.

This past Sunday, we went for an ambling 15-mile run through redwood trees near our California home. Her training goal wasn’t to get any particular physiological adaptation, but to make a fun video of our dog that we’d have to laugh at for the coming week.

 

 

In a perfect world where training does happen in a vacuum, a pro like Megan may have done those 15 miles faster, with some hill strides and no stopping. But in the real world that isn’t always the best idea.

I knew that we had made the right decision when we got back to the trailhead and she stopped, laughed and did a little dance. It looked like stress was the furthest thing from her mind.

David Roche is a two-time USATF trail national champion, the 2014 U.S. Sub-Ultra Trail Runner of the Year and a runner for HOKA One One and Team Clif Bar. He works with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play. Follow David’s daily training on Strava here, and follow him on Twitter here.

Marathon de Sables and Badwater,
a Runner’s View

Marathon de Sables and Badwater 135 are considered to be two of the hardest races ever. The first takes runners 156 miles through the Moroccan Sahara. The other involves 135 continuous miles from Death Valley, the lowest point in the United States, to the trailhead for Mount Whitney, the highest point in the United States. Both courses are famous for their alien landscapes and hostile temperatures.

This video follows 2014 Badwater champion Harvey Lewis as he runs the Marathon de Sables, and five-time Marathon de Sables winner Mohamad Ahansal on his first attempt at Badwater.

A Beginner’s Guide to Foam Rolling

When I first started running in college, I was a 200-pound ex-football player. On those first runs, I looked and felt like an arthritic rhino. I will never forget is just how terrible running can be at first. It gets better, then it gets amazing, then it gets transcendent—but at first, everything hurts.

I went through the progression of maladies. My shins got angry, my knees got irritated, my feet were furious. I ran through it all, until my hip attacked with wrathful vengeance. The ball joint locked up and clicked. I couldn’t move my leg.

When my physical therapist found out I didn’t use a foam roller, she said something I will never forget: “If you want to be a runner, commit to foam rolling every day for the rest of your life.”

I bought a foam roller, made myself squeal, and the pain went completely away in three days. I was converted.

Now, I am a 140-pound weakling, but I still use the foam roller every day. I honestly think foam rolling should be taught in schools.

But it’s not taught in schools. So here is a quick tutorial.

 

Foam Roller 101

Buy the hardest foam roller you can find (most simple models are between $10 and $30). Then, use it after your run every day for 5 to 10 minutes.

I instruct my athletes to use it while watching TV at night, starting a stopwatch and staying accountable to roller time. As an added bonus, most small children, dogs and cats view that as a great time for floor wrestling.

In no particular order, foam-roll these areas: IT bands, quadriceps, hip flexors, groin/inner thigh, calves, shins, butt and low back. Not sure how, exactly, to roll out each of these areas? Here’s a quick video tutorial.

Spend time with your foam roller, and you’ll be spending more time on the trails. Roll it, so you can rock it!

David Roche is a two-time USATF trail national champion, the 2014 U.S. Sub-Ultra Trail Runner of the Year and a runner for HOKA One One and Team Clif Bar. He works with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play. Follow David’s daily training on Strava here, and follow him on Twitter here.

Power Up Your Lower Legs

The lower body works as one long chain of muscles promoting movement. When lower-leg muscles are weak, your foot will not be able to stabilize on the trails, and the large muscles of your upper legs are unable to work at full power.

“The best exercises for the ankles are also ones that involve stability challenges,” not just pure strength, says Dr. Heather Vincent, director of the University of Florida Health Sports Performance Center.

Plus, research conducted by Wake Forest University and the U.S. Army Research Institute has found that, as we age, biomechanical function at the ankle decreases at a faster rate than at the knee or hip complex, making strengthening work all the more important. Here are five exercises that target the lower leg.

 

Photo by Randall Levensaler

 

1. Single-leg squat

Strengthens the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. Stand on your left leg with your right foot up off of the floor, holding onto a stable chair for balance if needed. Bending your left knee and hip, sit back and lower your body into a squat about six inches (you will be well above two-legged squat position). Repeat on your right leg.

 

Photo by Randall Levensaler

2. Standing calf raise

Strengthens the calf muscles. Stand up straight and, for the most gains, hold a dumbbell in each hand. Lift both heels. Pause, then slowly lower your heels to the floor.

One-legged calf raises, which increase the stability component slightly (but necessitate lighter weights, therefore reducing the strength gains a bit) are another option.

 

Photo by Randall Levensaler

3. Seated calf raise

Strengthens the calves in a slightly different way than standing calf raises, and increases ankle mobility to absorb the uneven terrain of trails. While seated, lift both heels up, pause for a second, then slowly lower, stopping just short of the floor.

 

Photo by Randall Levensaler

4. Stationary lunges

Strengthens calves, glutes, quads and hamstrings. Step forward with your left foot about three feet. Lift your back heel. Bend both knees and lower your hips toward the floor about six inches (or more if able to keep your torso stabilized). Push through your front heel and extend both knees to complete one rep.

Photo by Randall Levensaler

5. Holding lunge with heel raise

Strengthens quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Step forward and lower your body into a lunge position. Hold that position, lift and lower your front heel, doing 12 to 15 reps. Release the position, and repeat on the other side.

 

Photo by Randall Levensaler

6. Wall slides

Like lunges, these keep the lower-leg muscles under constant tension, as well as strengthening the quads and hamstrings. Stand with your back against a wall. Place both feet forward, about two feet from the wall. Slide down toward the floor until your upper legs are parallel to the floor. Hold for 10 seconds, then slide up the wall to return to your standing position.

Photo by Randall Levensaler

7. Standing toe raise

These strengthen the tibialis anterior muscle that sits on our shin bone and is responsible for lifting the toes. While standing, keeping your torso straight and without rocking back with your hips, lift your toes, then lower half way to the floor.

Five Trail-Running Resolutions

Clichés are like pairs of underwear. Most people use them without ever stopping to ask why. New Year’s resolutions are often much the same.

We’ve all heard those jokes about “resolution runners” who take up treadmill running at the gym, at least for the first few weeks of the year. But resolutions have a purpose. They are an opportunity to re-think our approach toward everyday life, not just for the next 12 months but for the long haul.

Trail running is a year-round lifestyle, so to get the most out of our training, we need to focus on resolutions that can apply to every run.

Here are five important resolutions for a runner who thinks long-term.

1. I will endure the Trial of Miles.

To find your potential as a trail runner, you have to put in lots of miles.

If you’ve read this column over the last year, you’ve heard me bandy about terms like lactate threshold, VO2 max and biomechanical efficiency. While that stuff matters, it is mostly playing at the margins. The majority of your development comes from being a lunch-pail runner—punching the clock day after day, putting in as much work as you possibly can.

John Parker, author of the self-published novel Once A Runner, captures the essence of running training perfectly:

“What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”

Be smart, but run lots. The Secret doesn’t care about marginal gains.

2. I will do strides two times a week.

While overall mileage is most important, you still need to develop the ability to go fast. Strides make fast feel easy, allowing your everyday pace to get faster too.

At least twice a week, add fast 20 to 30 second accelerations into your normal, easy runs, focusing on going as fast as you can while staying totally relaxed and using typical long-distance form. At first you will feel like an awkward baby deer, with much flailing and little forward progress. But over time, Bambi will grow into a smooth, powerful deer mama ready to fly through the woods.

3. I will foam roll every day and stop running when an injury is coming on.

Most things that involve the word “roll” are awesome: cinnamon rolls, rock and roll, Rick Rolling. Foam rolling is no different.

Most of us can’t live in a pro-athlete training facility with a full-time masseuse on call. Instead, commit to foam rolling five to 10 minutes every day. Spend time on your calves, shins, quads (inside and out), hips and low back. Do it every day for the rest of your life. You know how you’d never go a whole day without remembering to eat food? Foam rolling should be no different.

However, even with lots of easy running and the most roll-tastic precautions, you can’t prevent every injury. The key is to not turn minor niggles into major issues by trying to run through them. If it hurts, take a day off. If it still hurts, take more time off.

A few days off is nothing. A few weeks off is not great. A few months off is the worst. Take control of your health and rest for a few days when needed to prevent major issues.

4. I will always fuel adequately.

Strong lasts, frail breaks.

If you are training hard, eat enough every day. Even one day of an energy deficit can increase injury risk and diminish performance. If you need to lose weight for health, don’t try to train hard at the same time.

And remember, there is no such thing as an ideal runner’s body type. Does your body run? Then you have a runner’s body type.

5. I will smile every mile.

2017 is an opportunity to take control of how you perceive the daily grind. Let’s face it: diligent, year-round running training can be a slog at times. For every moment of transcendence on a beautiful trail, there are 10 moments of nearly pooping yourself behind an unlit tree at 5:30 a.m.

But it’s the spectrum of experiences that makes running so empowering. Embrace the full spectrum and smile through the low moments. If you smile, you’ll remember why you are doing this in the first place.

These aren’t just resolutions for 2017. They are resolutions for the rest of your life. We run for the long haul; not just for the good times, but for the bad times, too. Our resolutions should do the same.

David Roche is a two-time USATF trail national champion, the 2014 U.S. Sub-Ultra Trail Runner of the Year and a member of Team Clif Bar. He works with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play. Follow David’s daily training on Strava here, and follow him on Twitter here.

Notable (Short Distance) FKTs of 2016

The sport of trail running continues to grow and, with it, the popularity of fastest-known-time (FKT) attempts. Thru-hiking routes like the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail are certainly the most widely known, and records on those trails tend toward high profile. However, trail fiends have been attacking shorter routes and single-peak FKTs with just as much gusto.

Here is our list of five top FKT achievements in the shorter-distance category. The list is in no particular order, and in no way represents all of the FKTs set in the past year. If you feel there is an achievement missing, please share it in the comments below!

 

White Mountains Direttissima, New Hampshire
Andrew Drummond

5 days 23 hours 58 minutes
240 miles
78,000 feet elevation gain
July 24-30

Direttissima is Italian for “direct route,” and it is the term Hank Folsom of Randolf, New Hampshire, adopted to name his linkup of 48 4,000-foot summits in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The route involves a combination of roads, trails and some off-trail navigation, totaling 240 miles and 78,000 feet of elevation gain.

This summer, trail runner and ski-mountaineer Andrew Drummond completed the linkup in just under six days. The last known completion of the route dates back to 1970, when Folsom broke the effort up into separate day hikes over a 19-day span.

“Checking off your 4,000-footers is a right of passage in the White Mountains,” Drummond told Trail Runner, “But it usually happens over an extended period of time. Just the thought that you could link them up and do them in a week or less and completely self-supported—I really gravitated toward that.”

 

Nolans 14, Colorado
Meghan Hicks

59 hours 36 minutes
~100 miles
44,000 feet elevation gain
September 9-11

Nolans 14 is a demanding 100(ish)-mile challenge to link 14 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado’s Sawatch Range in under 60 hours. With no set route, each individual must figure out what they conceive to be the fastest way to complete the linkup. Less than 20 people have completed the challenge since it was first attempted In 1999.

This August, Meghan Hicks, 37, of Moab, Utah, set a women’s FKT—and became the route’s third female finisher. Last summer, Anna Frost and Missy Gosney reached Nolans 14th summit in 57 hours 55 minutes, but stopped the clock before reaching the final trailhead, causing some dispute about whether to count their run as a “finish.” Hicks reached the 14th summit in 57:18 and the final trailhead in 59:36, which means she holds the female FKT for both endpoints.

Hicks is the 2013 women’s Marathon de Sables champion, among other top finishes at races like Hardrock, Squaw Peak 50 and Texas’ Big Bend 50. Of Nolan’s, she told Trail Runner in September, “Some lines I practiced four times just this year, trying slightly different variations to see if one route was faster or better for me.”

 

Grand Canyon R2R2R, Arizona
Jim Wamsley

5 hours 55 minutes 22 seconds
42 miles
10,000 feet elevation gain
October 4

Crossing from the South Rim of the canyon to North Rim requires descending more than 5,000 feet to the Colorado River, running through the corridor of the canyon and ascending another 5,000-plus feet to the North Rim. In October, recent trail running breakout star Jim Walmsley set a new FKT of the rim-to-rim-to-rim (R2R2R) challenge.

Until this year, the Grand Canyon R2R2R record was held by Rob Krar, whose 2013 run (6:21:47) put him on the trail ultrarunning map. Walmsley shattered that record by 25 minutes, breaking the six-hour barrier and sending shockwaves through the trail-running world. Wamsley also beat Krar’s rim-to-rim record by about six minutes.

In an interview with Trail Runner, Wamsley said that he didn’t have much trouble with traffic on his way back up the South Rim, “I think the people who saw me thought, ‘This guy looks like he’s gonna die—let’s get out of his way.’”

 

Trans Zion Traverse, Nevada
Joelle Vaught

8 hours 26 minutes 9 seconds
48 miles
10,000 feet elevation gain
May 20

The Trans-Zion Traverse runs west to east through Zion National Park, from Kolob Canyon to the East Entrance Trailhead. Since there is no single trail linking the canyon west to east, the traverse involves plenty of piecemeal route planning. Deep sand and steep climbs pose a challenge to those who tackle it.

For new female record holder Joelle Vaught, the biggest challenge was staying on the correct route. “I took one wrong turn in the first 10 miles and had to backtrack to get back on course,” she says, “I was unfamiliar with the trails, so I wrote all the trail names that I needed to be on my arm and had a map with me.” Vaught, 42, is from Boise, Idahoe. Bethany Lewis set the previous record in 2013.

 

Teton Grand Traverse, Wyoming
Nick Elson

6 hours 30 minutes
17.9 miles
12,444 feet elevation gain
August 16
Starting at 6,700 feet on the valley floor of the Grand Tetons, the Grand Traverse connects 10 summits ranging between 11,000 and 13,770 feet. With 12,444 feet of elevation gain in just 17.9 miles, and sections of free-solo climbing rated 5.7-5.8 (ratings which most people would rope up for), this route is not for your average trail runner.

For the past 16 years, professional climber Rolando Garibotti has held the record on this iconic route through the Tetons. However, on August 16, Canadian Mountain Running Champion Nick Elson was able to take 16 minutes off of Garibotti’s time. “Although I wasn’t climbing at the same level that Rolando was when he set the previous record, the hardest climbing on the Traverse was still quite a ways below my max by about five number grades,” says Elson.

“I was inspired to try the Grand Traverse not so much because I thought I could break the record, but because I knew that the bar had been set so high that it would force me to give it my very best,” he says. “I was also really fortunate that a friend put me in touch with Rolando who was really generous in providing me with beta and encouragement.”

When asked about the dangers of moving over such technical terrain that quickly, Elson admitted that a large portion of the Traverse is on terrain where falling could be fatal. However, he also pointed out that “there are only a few sections where the climbing is into mid-5th class and I made a point to really relax and not rush in those places.”

 

Mount Rainier (14,410 feet), Washington
Uli Steidl

4 hours 24 minutes 30 seconds
15 miles
9,000 feet elevation gain
July 26

Mount Rainier is no walk in the park and it’s certainly no simple trail run to the top. At 14,410-feet, Rainier is the highest point in Washington State and the fifth-highest peak in the contiguous USA. Climbing to the top involves glacier travel and 9,000 feet of elevation gain, and is something that only experienced mountaineers should attempt.

This year, Uli Steidl, equipped with an ice axe, a pair of crampons and intimate knowledge of the route and its conditions, climbed Rainier in record time, taking 16 minutes off of the previous record held by Willie Benegas which had stood for nearly eight years. This was Steidl’s 15th summit of Rainier.

“I think long-distance running and mountaineering complement each other well,” he says, “I have enjoyed both for a while so it seemed natural to combine the two.”

When asked about the dangers of taking on the route as a solo climber, Steidl says, “Going solo, fast, you’re less likely to get hit by rock- or icefall, but more likely to get hurt or die if you fall into a crevasse.

 

Honorable mentions:

Longs Peak Triathlon
Anton Krupicka and Stefan Griebel

9 hours 6 minutes
79 miles cycling, 14 miles running, 7 pitches rock climbing
11,500 feet elevation gain
August 16

Mount Whitney (14,505′)
Gina Lucrezi

5 hours 29 minutes 22 seconds
22 miles
6,100 feet elevation gain
August 10

Top Stories of 2016

Over the past year, a lot has happened in our not-so-little world of trail running. Here are just a few of the biggest news stories from 2016 (quantified by number of page views). It’s a list that’s got a little bit of everything: new faces, new speed records, epic finish-line moments and remembrances of those we’ve lost.

See a story that you think is missing? Feel free to share it in the comments below!

1. Karl Meltzer Breaks Appalachian Trail Speed Record

For ultra veteran Karl Meltzer, when it came to the Appalachian Trail Speed Record, the third time was the charm. After two previous attempts, the 48-year-old Utah resident set a new speed record of 45 days 22 hours 38 minutes, besting previous record holder Scott Jurek’s time by 9 hours 29 minutes.

read more…

 

Kilian Jornet (left) and Jason Schlarb after finishing the Hardrock 100 together, in first place. Photo by Alex Kurt

2.   Jornet, Schlarb Call It a Draw at Hardrock, Becoming Co-Champions

For the firs time since 1997, Colorado’s infamously difficult Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run ended in a tie. Spanish mountain runner Kilian Jornet and local Coloradan Schlarb kissed the white rock together early on the morning of July 16. They ran an unofficial time of 22 hours 59 minutes, missing Jornet’s clockwise record by just under 20 minutes.

read more…

3. Beloved Oregon Runner Todd Ragsdale Found Dead After Trail Run

In February, the community of Ashland, Oregon, was devastated by the death of local runner Todd Ragsdale. Ragsdale, known for his sense of humor and love of running in costumes, had been reported missing when he didn’t return home from a run.

read more…

4. Runner Dies During Ultra Fiord Patagonia

In April, a Mexican runner named Arturo Héctor Martínez Rueda passed away during the Ultra Fiord. The race, held in Chilean Patagonia, was in its second edition, and the cause of death was presumed to be hypothermia. The incident spurred debate among the ultra trail community regarding negligence on the part of the race organization.

read more…

Hayden Hawkes after besting a strong field at the Speedgoat 50K. Photo by Alex Kurt

5. Hayden Hawkes Crashes Speedgoat

By now the name Hayden Hawkes is practically household. But in July, when the 25-year-old flew across the finish line of the Speedgoat 50K for the win, he was an unknown. The former All-American cross-country star came to trail running after falling short on his goal to make Olympic Qualifiers in the 10K. “I guess I thought I could do pretty well at trail running,” Hawks said in an interview with Trail Runner after Speedgoat, which was his first 50K race. “But I didn’t know I could do this well.”

read more…

6. The Fastest Trail Runner You’ve Never Heard Of

Tristan Williams, 29, is a carpenter with the Appalachian Mountain Club Construction Crew. He’s also one of the best mountain runners on the East Coast. He routinely finishes races in the top-20, just behind the likes of Sage Canaday and Rickey Gates. He helped pace Scott Jurek through the White Mountains on his 2015 record-setting run. But you’ve probably never heard of him.

read more…

7. Kilian Jornet Abandons Everest Attempt, Citing Weather

This year, Kilian Jornet’s “Summits of My Life” project took him to Mount Everest, and the trail-running world waited for weeks to see if the Spanish mountain runner and ski mountaineer could really pull off a speed record. Three weeks in, Jornet abandoned the attempt due to poor weather conditions.

read more…

Courtesy of Jared Campbell

8. Catching Up With Jared Campbell, Only Three-Time Barkley Finisher

In April, Jared Campbell became the first person to finish the infamous Barkley Marathons three times. He was also the only finisher of this year’s race. Trail Runner caught up with Campbell to discuss Barkley, training and what big adventures he’s planning next.

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9. How an Insanely Busy Married Couple Swept the Way Too Cool 50K

This summer, David and Megan Roche won both the men’s and women’s races at the Way Too Cool 50K in Cool, California. To call them a trail-running power couple is probably an understatement. The two have been dominating shorter distance trail racing for several years now. On the side, David works as an attorney with the Environmental Law Institute, while Megan is a full-time medical student at Stanford University. Trail Runner caught up with the Roches to talk about how they manage their busy schedules with the demands of being professional athletes.

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10. Fifth-Place UTMB Finisher Disqualified After Testing Positive for EPO

In July, news was release that fifth-place finisher from the 2015 Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc, Gonzalo Calisto of Ecuador, was disqualified after drug tests came back positive for EPO.

read more…

Record-breaking Roadster Ryan Hall Finds New Joy in the Middle of the Pack

At the finish line of the XTERRA Trail World Championships in Hawaii. Photo courtesy Ryan Hall.

Ryan Hall is arguably one of the fastest and most decorated marathonersin United States distance running history. The two-time Olympian won Olympic Trials twice, earned the fastest debut marathon time ever run by an American at the time, ran the fastest Boston Marathon time ever by an American and, in 2007 set an American record for the half marathon of 59:43, which has yet to be broken.

In January 2016, at the age of 33, Hall retired, following years of fighting low testosterone levels and chronic fatigue. Now he’s found his way to the trails. In June 2016 Hall participated in the 140K Asics Beat the Sun race in Chamonix Mont-Blanc. This past fall he ran the XTERRA Trail World Championships in Hawaii.

Trail Runner caught up with Hall to chat about his appearance at last fall’s XTERRA Trail World Championships in Hawaii, how his relationship to running has changed, what he’s doing differently this time around and whether he prefers trail running to road racing.

 

What have you done to build your heath back since retiring from professional running
I’ve gotten really into weight training, which I think has really built my body back up after 20 years of stripping it down through running. I hit the weights hard for about an hour a day. It’s way more fun than running and my body feels better doing it. If I start to run a lot I notice the fatigue coming back, so I keep my running to 30-60 minutes, all easy.

 

How has running changed for you since retiring from professional running
It’s completely different now. My body has changed, so trying to run fast isn’t fun. However, doing hill sprints is really fun. I have a lot more power in my body from the weight training.
Now it’s all about enjoying beautiful places alongside great people. Trail running has that in spades. It’s much more beautiful, and the atmosphere is much more low key. There is a greater value in having fun, compared to the roads where time is usually a big goal.

 

What has been the biggest challenge in taking up trail running
At XTERRA World Championships the downhills were super technical, muddy and hard. I got worked on the downhills. I just had to move off the trail and let other runners fly by me. I was laughing at myself and how arthritic and old I felt running downhill.

 

How did you train for the XTERRA race
I didn’t really train, and I wasn’t running to compete. I just did 30-60 minutes of easy running per day and 60-90 minutes of hard weight training per day. I wouldn’t recommend my training approach.

 

Do you think you’ll continue competing in trail races
I would love to keep going to trail running events, but I won’t be trying to run fast anymore. I’ll just enjoy myself and have fun. I think if I limit my running to 30-60 minutes per day and keep it super easy I won’t get fatigued again, as this is a very small fraction of what I used to do when running professionally.