The Pyrenees Stage Race runs 240K through Spain’s Pyrenees mountains, featuring 15,000 meters of vertical gain over the course of its seven stages. The race is the brainchild of Spanish ultra runners Tomas Llorens and Jordi Vissi, who modeled the race after the the Gore-Tex Transalpine Run, which travels through the German and Italian alps.
In its first edition last year, the race had 22 participants, who tackled the course in the required teams of two (or three). At 50K, stage three, captured in this video, is longest of the stages. The climbs look tough, but the sweeping views and happy company seem to make up for it.
Tendonitis: it’s one of the most frequently used words in the lexicon of running-related injuries, and comes in a variety of flavors. Chief among them is Achilles-tendon pain.
The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel. For runners, it is the lynch pin in propulsion, storing the energy we create when we land and then releasing that energy behind us to generate forward momentum. It is an important, high-stress job, and as a result the Achilles is highly prone to injury. Running too fast, too far, too soon can strain it, as can a variety of biomechanical errors.
Achilles tendonitis refers to inflammation from acute injury, with symptoms including warmth, swelling and tenderness. For these kinds of injuries, the prescription is almost always to stop running for a period of time.
However, a large majority of Achilles-tendon pain falls into another, altogether different category: chronic Achilles tendinopathy. Unlike tendonitis, tendinopathy often stems from overuse, and exists when the tendon is not inflamed, but simply tight and painful.
In these cases, rest alone is often insufficient if stiffness and weakness lingers. At the same time, a standard physiotherapy regimen of stretching and strengthening often stalls from a failure to address running efficiency and form.
As a physical therapist, I have found that the most complete, expedient, and sustained recovery from chronic Achilles tendinopathy often requires a multidimensional approach, tackling mobility, strength, stability, efficiency and pacing all at once.
The Four Dimensions of Care
Mobility: full and healthy motion of muscles, tendons and joints.
Stability and strength: the ability to fully and powerfully move a segment on a stable base.
Efficiency: moving in such a way that maximizes propulsion and limits wasted (and pain-generating) energy.
Pacing: gradual progression of activity, without overloading healing tissue.
Applying the Four Dimensions of Care to the Achilles Tendon
Soft-tissue mobilization: massage and stretch the tissue
Massage not only the tendon, but also the foot tissues and the entire calf. This can be done professionally with a deep-tissue massage, or with foam rolling or a stick massage. Self active-release techniques can also be helpful: applying pressure to the Achilles tendon where it is tight, then actively (or passively) pumping the ankle.
Short bouts of frequent stretching also helps increase and maintain mobility. This is best done after some soft-tissue mobilization. Stretch for short periods (10 to 60 seconds) and alternate legs, stretching both the affected and the unaffected sides. Stretches to consider include both the standard wall ankle-dorsiflexion stretch and a plantarflexion stretch (pull your foot toward your buttocks, or simply sit on your heels while kneeling).
Ankle stability: strengthen the calf-Achilles complex
Go beyond a standard heel raise. If the pain is not acute, consider doing small single leg hops, maintaining a “tall” leg position, with only a slight amount of ankle and knee bend. Sets of 10 quick hops provide functional strength and stability to the entire leg. They also help to facilitate quicker tendon healing, as quick-bounce plyometric activity has been shown to be most effective at scar-tissue remodeling for chronic tendinopathy.
The number-one factor in chronic Achilles pain is over-striding. Over-striding occurs when the foot lands significantly in front of the body. Ideal running mechanics place the trunk in a forward-leaning position, with the foot landing beneath the chest and then pushing behind the body. Avoiding over-striding can be as easy as increasing forward lean. This may sound counterintuitive, but it nearly always lessens landing stress.
Staying “tall” throughout the stride also decreases Achilles tendon stress. When the knees sink down in the landing phase of the running stride, the result is a passive over-stretch that can cause repetitive strain to the calf and Achilles. Keeping the leg nearly straight throughout the landing and stance phase limits that over-stretch, and also increases push-off power.
Pacing: be patient Chronic Achilles-tendon pain is very pesky. It requires a delicate balance of stress: small but substantial bouts of activity (including stretching, strength and running loads) balanced with frequent bouts of rest. In your return from Achilles pain, having fully addressed mobility, stability and efficiency, progress gradually, even if that means running a mile at a time. Your goal should not be zero pain, but to feel a little better each day. If you do, then go another mile. Then another. Before you know it, you’ve broken the pain cycle!
Joe Uhan is a physical therapist, coach and ultramarathon runner. He has a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, and is a USATF Level II Certified Coach. He ran his first ultra at Autumn Leaves 50 Mile in 2010, and since has placed 4th at the 2015 USATF 100K Trail Championships (and 3rd in 2012), second at the 2014 Waldo 100K and finished M9 at the 2012 Western States 100. He owns and operates Uhan Performance Physiotherapy in Eugene, Oregon, and offers online coaching and running analysis at Uhanperformance.com.
This year Jax Mariash, 36, of Hood River, Oregon became the first woman to complete the Four Desert Race Series Grand Slam Plus. The 4 Desert Race Series is a series of four 155-mile stage races that take place over the course of a year through some of the world’s most remote and foreboding landscapes—Namibia’s Sahara Desert, China’s Gobi Desert, Chile’s Atacama Desert and “The Last Desert” in Antarctica. The courses are rugged and self-supported: runners must carry everything they’ll need to survive on their backs, except hot and cold water, medical supplies and a tent space to share with nine other racers, which are supplied by the race directors.
Mariash, who also runs her own marketing company and an upscale coffee/roasting shop in Hood River, Oregon, made history in the series as the second woman ever to secure a first place finish in all of the traditional 4 Desert Races and the first woman to complete a Grad Slam Plus. The Grand Slam Plus adds a fifth roving race- this year in Sri Lanka- where Mariash finished in second place. These combined performances earned her the title of 2016 4 Deserts Female World Champion.
Somehow, Mariash still had enough energy to answer a few questions for Trail Runner about how she was able to train, travel around the world and manage her businesses.
How do you fit training around the demands of managing two businesses
A typical day starts at 4:30 a.m. with a huge cup of STOKED coffee. I work until it is light and then usually go out on my first run. Then I am back to working again, usually in my running clothes still. Later, I will go for another small run or just put all of my focus on recovery with a massage or a short nap. Then I work until 10 p.m. and pass out. In between I sneak in snacks and meals, typically on the run.
How did you train for the series?
I trained 45-100 miles a week. Each week would include one or two runs with a pack loaded with the actual gear I would take, two long runs, two speed days, two double runs and then medium-long runs that were 11-14 miles. I was focused on pushing volume, keeping up with speed work and building strength.
All of the running training was typical, but what became just as important was nutrition and recovery. I drank a can of Beet Performer every single day. I event brought 11 cans of Beet Performer to Antarctica. It really makes a difference in stamina and endurance. For recovery I had a massage once a week. I also meditated every single night, focusing on positive affirmations and visualization.
What was a typical day like during the race
I would wake up at 5:20 a.m. each morning, creep out of my tent, eat oatmeal with protein powder and drink coffee. I would sit by the fire and visualize a successful day coming. I made sure I was done eating by 6 a.m. to snuggle back into my sleeping back and rest for 45 more minutes.
At 6:45 a.m. I went into go-mode. I’d slather on sunscreen, prepare my [food and water], get dressed and pack up before the course briefing began at 7:30 a.m.
Once finished for the day I could pass out, or if it was too hot I would blog on the cyber tent tablet. By 6 p.m. I would eat my dinner (most of the time mac and cheese) and by 7:30 p.m. I was back in bed for a [one-hour] stretching regimen. We’d typically fall asleep with the sun, making for early nights in Africa and late ones in China.
What were some of the physical challenges you overcame during the series
In the 11 months [spent on all five races] I experienced a tight IT band, vomiting episodes, a sprained ankle, blisters under my toenails, swollen feet, sun burns and nausea. It is really wild what we endure out there.
The most extreme day was in the Gobi March. It was 130 degrees that day, and we had to run 50 miles. At one point I actually ran out of water and imagined doing a face plant and dying. My shoes also melted and burnt my footpads, leaving me with serious blisters. It made for an excruciatingly painful final 10K two days later. The burns ultimately took seven months to fully heal.
Then there was the dust storm that blew down camp and caused an evacuation of our last camp on the 50-mile day.
What was the most difficult race in the series for you
I caught myself after each race saying it was for sure [the hardest] one, but looking back, The Last Desert was the most difficult for me. It absolutely stripped my energy.
The other races took, on average, 30 hours, but due to the exhausting terrain out in the Last Desert, it took 40 hours to complete the 250K. The snow was so slushy that your whole body ached at night from being fatigued and swollen. I felt like multiple parts of my legs were on the brink of injury every day.
Founded in the 1990s, the Trail Animals Running Club (TARC) is the Boston area’s largest and oldest trail club. With a credo of “no runner left behind,” and a penchant for lighthearted trailside pranks, the trail animals have become a pseudo family for many Boston-area runners.
This film, by New England-based documentary filmmaker Lindsey Topham, follows several of the club’s leaders, delving into their mission to conserve both trail running culture and the trails themselves.
The full-length film debuts on February 26 in Arlington, Massachusetts.
After an overambitious racing season in 2015, I found myself sick and fatigued. For weeks I had I set aside my exhaustion in lieu of off-trail adventures with friends.
Then, during a late fall bushwhack up Oregon’s Mount Jefferson, I lost my footing on a wet root and gave my ankle a solid twist. My right shin started aching immediately, but hanger and fatigue made me hobble through the pain back to the car. Unfortunately, the pain and fatigue didn’t subside in the following days. Stubbornly, I decided to keep running, and provoked an even more debilitating stress fracture that lasted the better part of eight months.
There was a silver lining though: that stress fracture led me to discover that I was suffering from an iron deficiency (ID).
Up to 82 percent of elite female runners and 41 percent of elite male runners test as iron deficient, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Athletes on vegetarian or gluten-free diets are even more susceptible, because the body can only absorb three to 15-percent of iron found in vegetables, grains and supplements, as opposed to 25-percent of the iron found in meat.
Iron deficiency’s most well known symptoms are fatigue and decreased athletic performance. However iron stores also play a significant role in maintaining bone health and proper immune function, so recurring bone injuries or illness can be a sign of a potential iron deficiency.
Bone Health According to a study in the Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 21-percent of track runners have experienced a stress fracture. The same study showed that iron deficient cross-country runners are twice as likely to experience an overuse injury than those with normal iron levels. Because iron is a necessary chemical component for bone to repair and rebuild itself, athletes with normal iron levels have higher bone mineral density and are thus at a much lower risk for overuse injuries.
“A body deficient in iron will have as hard of a time building bone as a carpenter lacking nails would have trying to build a house,” says Taylor Thompson, an MA in exercise physiology and former assistant running coach for Boise State’s cross-country and track-and-field teams. “While you can’t build a house solely with nails, you’ll have a hell of a time building one without them. The same goes for your bones.”
Immune Function In addition to its effects on bone health, iron deficiency can also cause immune weakness. Your body’s immune system relies on Natural Killer (NK) cells to find and kill infections, says Thompson. Athletes who are deficient in iron tend to have lower NK cell counts, and thus become more susceptible to illness.
A double-blind study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism investigated 23 female distance runners’ iron status and immune function during two weeks of intensified training. The results showed that ID runners had significantly lower NK cell counts after this two-week period than their counterparts with normal iron levels.
Women are not the only one’s whose immune function is compromised when iron levels are low, however. Thompson conducted a study on both male and female track and cross-country athletes in which training reductions were prescribed for ID and non-ID athletes of both sexes suffering from injury (stress fractures, muscle strains, etc.), illness (mononucleosis, respiratory tract infections, flu, etc.) or fatigue. The ID group of athletes experienced twice as many partial and complete training reductions (74 percent) as the non-ID group of athletes (35 percent).
Getting Tested If you suffer from recurrent overuse injuries and illness, consider getting your iron levels tested. The blood test is quick and easy, and can be performed at any physician’s office or health clinic. Since serum ferritin (SF) is the major iron-storing protein in your body, when you request a test from your doctor, be explicit that you want your serum ferritin levels tested. Results below 35ug/l will land you in the ID category.
Getting Enough Iron For many, the fix for iron deficiency is as simple as consuming more iron-rich foods. The best sources of iron include beef, fish and poultry. Vegetarians can find their daily dose of iron in quinoa; beans; lentils; dark, leafy greens or raisins (among other options). Some breakfast cereals and breads also carry a fair amount of iron— though remember, the calcium in milk inhibits the uptake of iron.
Even with an iron-rich diet, some people may need to take supplemental iron. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that among highly trained female distance runners, the iron deficiency rate is 82 percent, even though 75 percent of the athletes studied were fulfilling their dietary recommendations for iron.
Thompson recommends taking liquid iron with a shot of orange juice and a 500mg vitamin C pill to ensure maximum absorption. He also recommends that athletes supplement 30 minutes prior to a meal so as to avoid consuming calcium near supplementation, as calcium blocks the absorption of iron.
Consult a doctor before taking supplemental iron: the amount your body needs will vary based on your individual iron levels, which should be retested every three to four months. Supplementing your iron when you have normal iron levels can carry some serious health risks.
Last weekend, HOKA One One athletes Sage Canday and Tim Tollefson took third and fifth place respectively at the Vibram Hong Kong 100K. This video, by Run Steep Get High, offers an inside look at their preparation for race day, following the two athletes through airports and city cabs, and onto the streets of Hong Kong, including a pre-race interview at a local running store.
On a dark Alaskan evening in October, Shawn McTaggart, 39, found herself layered in fleece, doing lunge repeats in the sauna of her local gym. She knew what onlookers were thinking: Oh honey, you’ll just lose water weight.
But she wasn’t trying to lose weight; she was training for her next ultra, the HURT 100 Mile Endurance Run in Honolulu, Hawaii. Coming from cold, dry Palmer, Alaska, she knew she had to train specifically for Hawaii’s hot, humid climate, hence the sauna workout.
Apparently her fleece-entombed sweat-fests worked. January 14, 2017, McTaggart walked away with the win for women and tenth place overall.
While McTaggart may be better known for twice completing the thousand-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational (and twice completing the 350-mile stretch), which spans from Nome to Anchorage, she has also been crushing shorter (read: less than 1,000-mile) races for the last 12 years. Since 2011 alone she has been among the top 20 female finishers at 31 races ranging from 14 to 350M.
Trail Runner caught up with her to learn about how she trained for HURT while living in Alaska, whether 100 miles is really any easier than 1000 and more.
After running 1,000 miles, does a 100-miler feel like a piece of cake
No. I love them but they’re just hard. It’s hard to get your stomach and your sleep dialed in. The longer distances are more up my alley because you can eat all the time and sleep whenever you want. Training for this race kept me focused and honest. Typically during the winter I’ll blow off a run and figure I can just get fit during the [multi-day] race, but I didn’t have an option this time. It kept me on my toes.
It sounds so cliché, but you really have to dig deep [for longer races]. It’s more about the loneliness. For this weekend it was more about going through the pain.
How did it feel running a lap course as opposed to an extended point-to-point
It was uncomplicated. It was just so simple to go out and run and not think about gear, just wear[ing] a shirt and shorts. I didn’t have to plan out aid stations with drop boxes. It felt really liberating.
The sections were varied, [which] helped me get through because it started to feel too familiar. [Seeing] the other runners out there so often […] was just so cool. Without fail everyone was like, “good job, you look great.”
How did you train for the heat, coming from Alaska
My dad helped me insulate an outdoor room and we put a bunch of heaters in there, thinking it would be a sauna. It totally didn’t work. I’d turn the heaters on [after work], and then go out there 30 minutes later, and it would be 32 degrees.
Then I joined a gym with a really nice sauna and steam room. I had them to myself and wore layers and layers of fleece and would do lunges. From October through the end of December, I worked up to being in there for about an hour.
How did the race go, compared to your expectations
Everyone says it’s like breathing through a straw, but [the humidity] was not as bad as I imagined. I think that really helped me. And the course was nice; it was so shaded. That made a huge difference. […] And it was nice to not breathe through a snotty neck-gator.
The first three loops felt really good. The last two, not so much. When I got to the lead I just tried to remain outwardly focused. I didn’t want my pride to get caught up with me. I got a lot of help: my husband paced me on a leg and then a friend had to drop so his pacer paced me—a local Hawaiian—who knew the trail really well. He helped a lot. I couldn’t have done it alone. I don’t know what happened out there. It was amazing.
What are the low points like on the 1000-milers
It’s just hopelessness. The pace is so slow that it seems like an impossibility to get to the next checkpoint. Every 10 miles takes about four hours. There’s no out. I will have periods where I’ll sit on my sled and feel bad.
I signed up for a big triathlon this summer, so I’m learning how to swim. I’ve been taking lessons since October and I can now put my face in the water.
Last week Trail Runner traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the Winter Outdoor Retailer trade show, where we scoped out the newest gear due to hit the markets soon. After three days of serious window shopping, we can attest that there are lots of exciting new products coming down the pipeline. Trail Runner will be testing and reviewing many of those products (stay tuned).
In the meantime, here’s a list of new gear we were most excited about.
1. Shoes with built-in gaiters
The idea of a running shoe with a built-in gaiter is not a new one (think Salomon Snow Cross and La Sportiva Crossover, with their full outer shell-gaiter combo). However, this year even more brands are jumping on board with the trend.
Scarpa’s Neutron G (available fall of 2017), features a waterproof, breathable Outdry upper that extends past the ankle into a full, contiguous gaiter. A waterproof zipper curves over the mid-foot and around the outside of the ankle, where it secures with a Velcro tab. With Vibram Icetrex grip on the outsole, this shoe is meant to shine in wet, wintery conditions.
For fall 2017, La Sportiva is expanding its offering of gaitered shoes, with the Uragano GTX, a waterproof shoe with a stretchy, sock-like mesh scree-guard that is attached to the top, outer edge of the shoe and slides over the foot (no zippers). The shoe is waterproof, though the gaiter is not, making the Uragano GTX a gateway between the brand’s non-gaitered waterproof running shoes and the more aggressive Crossover.
Fans of Under Armor’s Michelin tire-treaded shoes will be excited to learn that the new Fat Tire 2 and Fat Tire Ascent launch in Spring 2017. Both shoes have been updated with a Boa closure system, like that typically found on snowboard boots, while the Ascent model features a short, close-fitting, sock-like stretch gaiter attached to the inside of the shoe and extending to the ankle. The gaiter on the Fat Tire Ascent is shorter than the gaiter on the La Sportiva and Scarpa models.
2. Hand-held soft flasks
Runners who have avoided handheld bottles in the past will be excited to learn that several brands are coming out with lighter-weight and less cumbersome handheld soft flasks.
Camelbak’s new 500ml Quick Stow soft flasks come with four elastic bands that can be used in any orientation, giving you the freedom to wear the bottle in the most comfortable position. The soft flasks are also available in an insulated version.
Osprey’s take on the hand-held soft flask features a 250ml bottle and a more minimalist strap design that runs between the thumb and forefinger.
3. Heated foam rollers and massage balls
Your dreaded, oh-so-painful foam rolling session is about to get a lot more fun. This heated roller twists in half to fit into a conventional microwave.
The device is not actually made of foam, but rather a dense urethane, which the company claims won’t break down even after repeated rounds in the microwave. In our test on the floor of the convention hall, it felt similar to a hard foam roller, though the heat seemed to alleviate (or, at least, distract us from) some of the pain normally associated with rolling out.
After “cooking” for just 20 seconds, it stayed warm for the duration ofour impromptu 10-minute rollout session.Along with the “foam” roller, Moji will be coming out with a full line of heated self-massage balls and strap-on heating packs.
4. Minimalist waterproofing
Thanks to new technology from Gore-Tex, brands can now wear their waterproofing on their sleeves … literally. With Gore-Tex Shakedry technology, the waterproof membrane is actually the outer shell fabric. This, says the company, means no DWR-treated face fabric and no wetting-out after long-term exposure to rain or water. Shakedry jackets probably won’t be as durable as your traditional three-layer shell, but we’re excited to see what the new technology means for breathability. Several other companies, including Arc’Teryx, Dynafit, Mammut, The North Face and Under Armour, will soon be coming out with jackets in this material.
Merino-wool-apparel brand Ibex is releasing a new, waterproof shell made entirely from merino wool. How is that possible? We asked the same question.
The waterproof qualities come not from a chemical treatment or DWR finish, but from the fibers’ weave, which naturally sheds water. This means the jacket is made in a single layer, as opposed to the multi-layer construction of typical waterproof shells. It appears, however, that this doesn’t compromise on waterproofness: we spilled a glass of water over the jacket and it beaded up and ran off without wetting through at all.
5. Foam in unusual places
The struggle to make gear lighter is never ending. Lately, several brands have turned their attention to foam as a place to cut down on weight.
First up, we visited the Crescent Moon booth, where we checked out the first ever EVA-foam snowshoe. These snowshoes are made from the same dual-density foam found in most running shoes, with a section of harder, spiked plastic in the middle of the outsole, for increased traction. They’ll be available fall 2017.
Also for fall 2017, Salomon’s new Sense Ride shoe features Opal Technology, a foam that is, according to the company, approximately 50 percent lighter than traditional EVA foam, with higher resiliency for extra bounce. We can’t wait to put them to the test.
Running-related injuries are insidious little devils. You’re flying along, feeling like a Greek god. Then, you suddenly feel a small pain. Confident in your god-like strength and health, you ignore the pain and keep running. But over the course of the next few days, it worsens. Before you know it, you go from flying high to flying directly into the sun. Running training has a unique way of making you feel like a god, only to find out you were Icarus all along.
Smart running training is all about avoiding the sun while still harnessing that god-like power. Unlike cyclists and swimmers, who can train harder and longer without risking impact-related overuse injuries, runners need to be more strategic.
Frequency over volume
Strategic training requires an emphasis on frequency, rather than volume, so that the body can adapt without overdoing it on any one session (or combination of sessions). In practice, that usually means building up to five or six days of running per week, distributing the training stress to avoid overuse injuries.
How do you decide between five and six days? I generally recommend five running days per week for beginners in their first year or two of running, injury-prone runners with a history (or fear) of overuse injuries and many older runners. Young, advanced, durable runners should aim for six days days (or even seven, if planned by a coach).
Running 5 days per week also leaves more time for other things in life, like family, work, baking cookies and cross training (skiing, biking, cookie eating). With 5 days of running, you can reduce injury risk while getting almost all of the adaptations you need to reach your running potential—and you’ll beat everyone with their foot in a boot from an overuse injury.
How to design a five-day week
I started coaching Pamela Ross two years ago, after seeing her sprint across a finish line and being blown away by her powerful running form. Pamela checks a few of the boxes in the five-days-a-week category. She is busy, working multiple jobs. She has a history of shin injuries. And, at the time, she was relatively new to running.
Over time, through trial and error (and recurring shinjuries), we settled on a five-day week training plan that has kept her healthy for the long haul.
The Pamela Principle has, in turn, helped lots of other athletes on my team, including stars like Nicole Mericle, who finished second at the 2016 Obstacle Course Racing World Championship, and Mark Tatum, who has won multiple age-group national championships in his 50s.
The Five-Day Running Week generally looks like this:
Tuesday: 15 percent of weekly mileage at an easy pace (with strides for advanced athletes)
Wednesday: 20 percent of weekly mileage with a workout (speed-oriented for advanced athletes with a high level of fitness; hills for beginners, older athletes and advanced athletes starting a training cycle)
Thursday: 15 percent of weekly mileage at an easy pace
Saturday: 30 percent of weekly mileage in a long run at an easy/moderate effort somewhere between marathon pace for lower-mileage runners and 50-mile pace for higher-mileage runners
Sunday: 20 percent of weekly mileage at an easy pace (with strides for advanced athletes)
Most important to note: the mileage doesn’t vary all that much from day-to-day. The most egregious mistake I see in a lot of training is to have one run or workout constitute 50 percent or more of the total training stress in a week. Most bodies simply won’t be equipped to handle the volume of stress without appropriate training frequency.
Here, 50 percent of the total weekly training volume is concentrated over the two-day weekend, so the Monday rest day is strategic and necessary.. For the remainder of the week, the athlete channels his/her energy towards a small workout on Wednesday, bookended by easier runs on Tuesday and Thursday. The Friday rest day lets athletes recover from the stresses of the week, primarily the Wednesday workout.
The Pamela Principle in Practice
Pamela has settled into a sustainable 50 miles per week, all done before or after work, usually in the dark and always with a smile. It’s not the sexiest training, or the most ambitious, but she has stayed healthy, which has allowed her to become an amazingly fast runner.
Since discovering the Pamela Principle a year ago, Pamela has won a few small, local California trail half marathons. Best of all, she has stayed healthy and happy with her running. This past Saturday she placed third female at the Inside Trail China Camp Half Marathon, running one of the fastest times in the history of that course.
So if you’re looking for a simple, repeatable way to start your running journey, try the Five-Day Running Week. It’ll help you reach great heights without flying too close to the sun.
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.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that you don’t need to run an ultra marathon distance to have an incredible trail running experience. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran, or hitting the dirt for the first time, here are 10 shorter runs that should be on your radar. Some may test you to the max as you ascend thousands of feet, while others are perfect for a quick shakeout.
Bond Brook Trails
Augusta, Maine Nestled in the heart of Maine’s capital city, Augusta, are the Bond Brook Trails, a 270-acre slice of forested paradise beloved by local runners for efficient lunch-break therapy. From the primary trailhead on the south side of the preserve, build your own five-mile trail adventure by linking up combinations of grassy lanes used for Nordic skiing in the winter. Thirteen challenging singletrack trails, built for mountain bikes, are equally popular with runners.
Distance to nearest town: one mile from downtown Augusta, Maine
Mileage: Numerous .5-1.5-mile trails can be linked up for your preferred distance
Elevation gain: Several hundred feet
Lancaster, Pennsylvania The 63-mile Conestoga Trail System (CTS) is a favorite of southern Pennsylvania trail runners, including Lancaster native, now Nike Trail Elite athlete, Zach Miller. Miller honed his technical prowess here, next to the mighty Susquehanna River, before moving westward. Describing its “thick forests, steep climbs and descents, flowing creeks, and phenomenal views”, Zach recommends jumping on the CTS at the Martic Forge parking lot for a 10-mile out-and-back culminating with expansive vistas of the Susquehanna River from the top of Pinnacle Overlook. Just be ready for what Miller calls a “roller coaster of rocks and singletrack that will unveil your weaknesses, or strengths, and whip you into shape!”
Distance to nearest town: 11 miles from Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Mileage: 10 miles
Elevation gain: several hundred feet, with technical sections
With a nickname like The Natural State, and a total of 2.5 million acres of National Forest land and 50 State Parks, it’s only fitting that Arkansas is increasingly known as a trail destination. Whet your appetite for Ozark trail running with the 8.5-mile Pigeon Roost Trail in Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area. The trail is named for the now-extinct Passenger Pigeon, which roosted by the millions here while being hunted to extinction. Nowadays this forest is home to bald eagles, wild turkeys, bobcats and black bears.
Distance to nearest town: 21 miles from Bentonville, Arkansas
Mileage: 8.5 miles
Elevation gain: 500 feet
La Luz Trail Albuquerque, New Mexico
You’ll be seeing the light halfway up this 7.2-mile bruiser that climbs nearly 4,000 feet to the top of the Sandia Mountains above Albuquerque. 2014 Speedgoat 50K champ Sage Canaday ranks La Luz “one of the top US trails because of its natural beauty and how iconic it is for endurance athletes in New Mexico.” Don’t forget cash – the best thing about this run is that you can have a burger at the top, and board the Sandia Peak Tramway to descend in satisfied comfort. However, the tram won’t drop you off at your car, unless you start the run by parking at its base to join La Luz via the Tramway Connector trail, which piles on another 2.5 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
Distance to nearest town: 17 Miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico
Mileage: 7.7 miles
Elevation gain: 3,500 feet
Cohab Canyon to Grand Wash
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah Get ready to enter a sci-fi universe of honeycombed rock fins, towering arches and a spectacular gorge, all in just seven action-packed miles. From the Park’s historic Fruita town site, kick off this point-to-point adventure by heading straight up Cohab Canyon Trail, where you’ll be stopping to snap pictures by the half-mile mark. Bang a right on the rigorous, but perfectly marked Frying Pan trail, to go up and over the Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef’s signature geologic landform. At the juncture with Cassidy Arch Trail, descend steeply into the chasm of Grand Wash, and cruise the last two miles through a jaw-dropping but non-technical slot canyon. Note much of the route travels through flash-flood terrain, so be sure to select a kind weather day to avoid biblical catastrophe. Bonus: add a half-mile in each direction to run over the sublime Cassidy Arch.
Distance to nearest town: 12 miles from Torrey, Utah
Mileage: seven miles
Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge Hilton Head, South Carolina
The Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge is just a quick drive to the west of Hilton Head Island, with its ritzy fine dining, golf courses and tennis courts. During the easy 3.5-mile one-way jaunt to White Point, you’ll dodge hungry alligators, and if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of dolphins close to shore. Regardless, you’ll feel like you are running through history: the island was first settled by Native Americans and was later home to a cotton plantation until 1937.
Distance to nearest town: five miles from Hilton Head, South Carolina
Mileage: seven miles
Elevation gain: flat
Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower Trail
Johnson City, Tennessee Treat yourself to panoramic views of the Unaka Mountains from Pinnacle Mountain’s summit watchtower after testing your legs and lungs with a 1,700-foot climb over 4.5 miles. Like many newer trails favored by runners, this one was built for mountain biking, so expect to share the trail with numerous bikers on a busy day. Your eyes will rejoice in the scenery, as your joints will thank you for selecting such a smooth, runnable trail as you descend back to the trailhead.
Distance to nearest town: 10 miles from Johnson City, Tennessee
Mileage: nine miles
Elevation gain: 1,700 feet
Sheep Pen Canyon Trail Davis Mountains State Park
Fort Davis, Texas Southwestern Texas is big country with limitless opportunities to explore remote and mountainous high desert terrain. Located halfway between Big Bend National Park and El Paso, Davis Mountains State Park serves up some primo trail running. Be sure to carry plenty of water, and be on the lookout for bears, lions and javelinas in the oak-juniper forest as you ascend to a plateau at an altitude of 5,000 feet. Make this an 11-miler by adding on the Sheep Pen Canyon Loop.
Distance to nearest town: three miles from Fort Davis, Texas
Mileage: five miles out-and-back on Sheep Pen Canyon Trail
Elevation gain: 550 feet
Electric Pass Aspen, Colorado
Towering mountains, a pristine alpine lake, wildflowers and fall colors, all at 13,000-feet above sea level: it’s rare to get this kind of package deal in any trail run, not to mention one that’s under 10 miles. But with 3,500 feet of high-altitude climbing over 4.5 miles, you’ll work for it. Ascend above the ghost town of Ashcroft to Cathedral Lake, and then continue above tree line to the gentle summit of Electric Peak. Soak in mega views of the Elk Mountains, including the fearsome 14,000-foot Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak, before retracing your steps, stopping along the way for an anti-inflammatory dip in Cathedral Lake.
Distance to nearest town: 14 miles from Aspen, Colorado
Mileage: nine miles
Elevation gain: 3,500 feet
Matt Davis- Steep Ravine-Dipsea Linkup
Stinson Beach, California This famed Marin County linkup in Tamalpais State Park is about as classic as it gets. In just over seven miles you’ll take on a hard climb, cool off in shaded forests, marvel at towering redwoods and traverse grasslands with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco. Start at the end of Belvedere Avenue and climb up the Matt Davis Trail for 1,500 feet. Make a right to descend Steep Ravine, and another right to finish down Dipsea, venue for the world’s oldest trail race and one of the most famous trails in the Bay Area. If you want to add more difficulty and distance to your run, head up Dipsea, and test your mettle with a grueling climb that includes 688 steps. Regardless, when you are at the car looking back up toward Mount Tam, you’ll be rubbing your eyes thinking it was all a dream.
Distance to nearest town: Stinson Beach, 23 miles from San Francisco, California
Mileage: seven miles
Elevation gain: 1,500 feet