The first two days featured panel discussions and covered topics from shoe and gear developments to trail running advocacy and stewardship. Each of the ten sessions was moderated by a leader in the trail running industry who encouraged discourse among the panelists as well as a question and answer period which engaged the audience.
During the kick-off session on shoe and gear developments, a comment which was sure to please fellow panelists Scott Tucker, Pearl Izumi, Bryan Gothie, New Balance, and Henry Guzman, Boulder Running Company came from Adam Chase who said, “Everyone should have a lot of shoes.” For the trail runner, Chase suggested four different pairs of shoes for the different types of trail running one might do. “It’s like a tool box,” Chase explained, “You have to have the right tool for the right run.”
During this first session, there was a question whether a shoe that works for an elite-level athlete ambassador would really be a shoe the average runner would be interested in purchasing. That question sparked a comment from Gothie who said, “Actually, people see the photo of Anton (Krupicka) careening down the hill bare-chested, with his hair flying freely, sporting a full beard and they say, ‘I want that shoe.’” So the answer seemed to be a resounding, “yes,” people are influenced by elite athletes in the sport when making their shoe choices and purchases.
The second panel was entitled, “Effective training and injury prevention.” Dr. Scott Taylor, a podiatrist with the Estes Park Medical Center, talked about the terrible 'toos.' Taylor said, “I see athletes that have been doing too much, too soon, too fast.”
The discussion led to cross training whereby exercise physiologist Adam St. Pierre proclaimed, “I think of all training as simply training. Whether you are cycling, running, skiing, lifting weights…it’s all part of training.” Having coached athletes in Boulder for the past 15 years, he suggests that athletes figure out how much time per week they have to train and then he helps them sort out what type of training is going to work best for them whether it is quantity, or quality. “If you have 10 hours per week, does that translate to five trips of two-hour runs in the mountains or something different,” said St. Pierre.
Erholtz talked about rest, diet, and the importance of each. She also suggested athletes chart their training and race efforts so they can look back to see what worked well on the good effort days, and what didn’t work well when there was a bad workout. “If you have a bad race effort and look back and see that you had four hours of sleep and a bad meal the night before your race, you might want to change your pre-race preparation,” said Erholtz. Dr. Aaron Florence, an orthopedic surgeon at the Estes Park Medical Center, further discussed the importance of rest stating, “When you don’t rest you will eventually pay the piper. You need to figure out if you want to pay the piper with injury, illness, or rest. I would choose rest.”
Bryce Thatcher, know for his FKTs (Fastest Known Times) and founding several hydration companies, including Ultraspire where he presently works, often gets a ‘sweet stomach,’ from too much acid after taking in gel after gel on long efforts. He’s found that he needs to keep calories in on his longer efforts (upwards of seven hours) so he uses Tums to lower the acid levels in his stomach. Thatcher said, “I take one Tums tablet every two hours and uses a combination of fat and salt to help settle my stomach. My favorite is salty cashews. I don’t start the cashews until about four hours into the effort.” Thatcher likes to be on a schedule with his caloric intake, conversely, ultra runner and Patagonia athlete Krissy Moehl doesn’t like to be on an eating schedule at all, but both agreed that athletes have to find out what works for them.
Chase spoke about aid stations at ultra-distance events and the variety of sweet and salty offerings, “Sometimes it takes looking at the smorgasbord for your body to speak to you. Usually that is your answer as to what your body needs.”Moehl added, “Be aware of your body. Spend time on the trail and be flexible.”
On day two, one of the most compelling discussions centered on trail advocacy. Adam Feerst, race director, and founder of a Denver-based trail running club said, “We take it for granted if there is a trail, we should have access to it. We can’t take for granted that access is always going to be there.”
Katie Blackett, CEO of the Colorado Mountain Club, said there are three to four times more trail users than in the past decade and, “We are loving our land to death. Therefore, we need to create really smart trail systems that could handle 50% more users. We need to build, or improve our current trail systems.”
Blackett shared several reasons trails might be closed to user groups, “Lack of funds for repair and maintenance, erosion, and protection of wildlife corridors.”
She suggested trail runners learn the facts surrounding trail corridors and land usage and work to gain much-needed clout. “Trail runners should go to local non-profits and community groups. They need to learn about the issues facing their trails and get involved. Figure out what all user groups agree on and focus on that. We (various user groups) may not get all we want, but we can focus together on the big prize.”
Buzz Burrell, founder of the Boulder Outdoor Coalition and long-time trail runner said, “The world is run by those who show up at the meetings. They are the ones that make things happen.”Feerst agreed and said, “We (as trail runners) need to be visible. We need to go out there as good stewards.”
The final session brought the conference full circle discussing not only the future of trail running, but also what was attractive about trail running in the first place.
Melody Fairchild, arguably the best female high school female distance runner in the history of the United States, now nearing age 40, transitioned to trail and mountain running over the past few years. She was on back-to-back gold medal winning teams for the U.S. in 2012, first at the World Mountain Running Championships, then at the World Long Distance Challenge. “I’m a mountain girl. I grew up in the mountains west of Boulder. Trail running stimulates the senses, creates community, and is also easier on the joints. The great thing about trail running is that people can have whatever they want out of the experience. What made me so happy was adding trail running to my career as a runner. It just completes my career.”
In wrapping up the conference, director Terry Chiplin said, “We have a job as trail runners to educate the general public to who trail runners are and what trail running is and this has been one of the goals of the conference…to start this process. We need to consider how we as trail runners become more organized with existing groups, partnering so that we have a voice and maintain access to the trails we love to run on.”
Looking toward 2014, Chiplin said, “The feedback we’ve had already, plus what has come out of the panel discussions, gives us a lot of valuable information to take away and then come back with an even better program next year.”
For more on this year’s conference, visit this link.
Story and photos by ATRA Executive Director +Nano Hobbs.