Allison Pattillo—Trail runners gathered June 20-22 in Estes Park, Colo., to talk gear, share tips and learn more about the sport at the first Estes Trail Ascent Conference. Attendees were able to check out the latest gear offerings, mingle with trailblazers like Anton Krupicka, Krissy Moehl, Brandy Erholtz, and Melody Fairchild, and hear the latest theories on training, nutrition and hydration. With attendees coming from around the country, passion for the sport, being in nature and the chance to hit some prime mountain trails were the unifying themes of the weekend.
Runners tend to be creatures of habit, and trail treaders are often just as focused on bettering times as their road running brethren. Conference panelists had the following tips for staying healthy and maximizing trail running fun.
Cross Train For Better Running
If you do just one type of exercise, different muscle groups tend to go on vacation,” said to Dr. Aaron Florence, an orthopedic surgeon in Estes Park, who says this rule applies even to a dynamic sport like trail running. “Be sure to add cross-training — run on the road, lift weights, hit the gym, ride a bike — to avoid overuse injuries.”
Florence also stressed the importance of good mechanics for both uphill and downhill running. Working on the negatives (the descent) when doing squats and lunges helps improve downhill running.
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When It Comes To Fueling, Everyone Is Unique
With options ranging from gels, chews, bars, and real food, the choices for nutrition can be overwhelming. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, except eating what works best for your body. But even that can shift through a long running or race day. Once you determine the calories you can process per hour while exercising (usually about 200–300), fuel your run with what tastes good.
“Being flexible and having options works best for me,” said ultra runner Krissy Moehl, who prefers solid foods to gels and makes her aid station fueling decisions based upon what sounds appetizing and what’s available.
Rarely do you find a water fountain or convenience store when you’re out on the trail, which means carrying water is a must. Handheld water bottles, hydration belts, hydration packs, and water purifying systems are all good options. Be sure to check for water sources along your route, and make sure you have enough fluid to carry you through your run.
When it comes to the bigger picture of participation in the sport, trail running is on the rise. Nancy Hobbs, executive director of the American Trail Running Association (ATRA), said there were 90,000+ participants in trail races in 2000. In 2012, that number jumped to more than 300,000. The growth is positive for retailers, race directors and those looking for running partners, but can place stress on fragile trail systems.
We Are Loving Our Trails To Death
Heavy traffic and environmental impact are resulting in closures on popular trails around the country. Katie Blackett, CEO of the Colorado Mountain Club, stressed the importance of keeping in contact with land managers and working closely with other trail users (think mountain bikers and equestrians) to create travel management plans to address issues and understand concerns.
Volunteer For Trail Maintenance Days
Look for or create trail maintenance days in your community. From showing up ready to work at an existing event, to encouraging your running group to host their own, trail work is essential for keeping trails open.
Be Good Stewards For The Sport
From sticking to marked routes, saying hello to other trail users, avoiding muddy trails, and picking up trash, simple acts of common sense and kindness help to promote the sport and generate goodwill on the trails.
Make Trail Running Accessible To Children
The freedom of trail running is a natural fit for children eager to explore the outdoors. Take your child with you on a run, organize a running group at a school, or be a coach. Melody Fairchild, head coach at the Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder, Colo., and a veteran road and trail racer, would like to see more fun and short-distance events geared towards kids to make races family events.
Get More People Out On The Trails!
Even with exponential growth, there is room for more trail runners. Whether your trail is a rails-to-trails conversion or high alpine single track, the community and allure of the sport make it one worth sharing with others.