What ignited your passion for trail running? And when did your journey begin?
Running on the road hurts!! And I love the desert, so why not explore it more, on two feet?!? I think my first race was Pemberton 50km, then OP50 2012.. cause why not jump right in?
If you had a single piece of invaluable advice to give yourself before the journey began, what would you express?
Trail running is definitely more about the journey than the destination. I run in the forest, on the mountains, and in the desert to find comfort and peace. To decompress. So what’s the rush? We get so caught up in hitting paces and getting through workouts as fast as possible. Sometimes, you have to walk… and while walking you get to take in the view, touch the rocks and notice the forest around you. Also, always bring TP/wipes
What motivates you to get out the door?
The need to connect with nature. The desert is so special (but also sometimes mean). The time on trail is your time. You get what you need… whatever that is. I work in a field where I need to talk to people constantly, so I enjoy solitude… It helps me to hit the ‘reset’ button.
And I love the TTR’s (Tucson Trail Runners) group, who have become like family to me. Like minding people who get it and motivate me to be better.
I have to admit , I also have a pretty intense competitive side. So of course, I want to improve. As I get older that becomes less of a priority, but it’s still there.
Sabino Canyon has so many trails and routes. Some that begin and extend beyond the confines of Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Where do you find yourself most often running? Why?
My favorite will always be Phoneline. It was the first trail I ran in Sabino and holds a special place in my heart. It really hurts sometimes but is always a good gauge of my fitness. It’s a guarantee I’ll stop dead in my tracks at some of the views and flora, and will always take photos (I’m sure I have the exact same one from multiple runs) .
I have also started to enjoy Blacketts more , especially on Thursday when I know there’s a chance to meet for pizza and beer after
On average, how many miles are you putting in on a given week? And what is the ratio of trail to road/track miles?
Wow , that really depends. I tend to alternate pretty high weeks (hiking, biking , running) with a relaxed week . I did 160 miles in Tahoe a few week ago and did very little the next couple. Generally, 50-70 though. Mostly trail. I am now training for the Tucson Marathon, so there will be more road miles. I really enjoy track so I like to do that once a week.
You explore quite often beyond the confines of Tucson, even beyond the confines of Arizona. Tahoe recently. What are some of of your favorite locations to run trails thus far outside of the Tucson area? And nearby Tucson, a few trails that you would recommend to others?
I just ran in the Chiricahua Monument this past weekend , which was tough but beautiful (about two hours drive). Oracle State Park has a wonderful trail system and is not that far away. Pinetop has 200 miles of beautiful and fairly easy (other than the altitude) trails , Flagstaff has Mount Humphreys and the AZT which are beautiful. Catalina State Park , Honeybee Canyon, and even the 24 Hours in the OP bike course (16 mile loop) off of oracle hwy are all pretty flat and non technical.
Sweetwater is another one of my favorite flat trail systems (west side) . My secret favorite trail is Linda Vista. If you’re feeling really adventurous do Pusch Peak (at you’re own risk).
Of course, Picacho is a must do as well.
East side? Agua Caliente will kick your butt.
You have quite a few races under your belt. What was your first race? What was the biggest single lesson of that first race?
I can’t remember my first race ever (would have been an 800m in high school 30 years ago).
My first trail race? It’s okay to walk… in fact, it can be faster than running the whole race. So practice fast hiking. It can be your secret weapon.
Since that first race, how big has that collection of races grown? And what are some of the lessons that you've learned since?
I’ve done more running races and triathlons than I can count. I think I’ve always done the best when I’ve removed specific expections of myself. When I go in with the goal of doing my best and having fun, I tend to do much better.
Race day really should be a celebration of all your hard work. “You know that song, so go out there and dance”
With all the race distances that you've run? Is there a favorite distance? A preferred surface?
Hardest question…. there are aspects about every race that I like. I haven’t done a 100 miler yet, but I think I’d really like it and plan on doing one soon.. the mental turmoil is appealing (messed up right?). I have done a 6 day stage race which was really great as I seem to be able to just keep going slowly, for a longer period of time. Ironman will always be my favorite triathlon distance.
5 and 10ks on the road are my least favorite.. too short
I think I’m a good descender… on trails (not MTB) . So anytime the finish is a downhill I’m happy.
Definitely trail for longer stuff.. I’m old and my body can’t deal with asphalt for longer than a marathon
Gear in general is so subjective. Before we begin breaking down the gear that you use, what is the one piece of gear that is the highlight of your arsenal?
Again, very tough question. I am a fan of running with music (especially where I need to go hard) so headphones…. and my phone cause I take a ton of pics . But I also love to just listen to my surroundings, so not always the case. I also switch shoes often based on surface and specific trail (I probably have 20 pair). I hardly ever wear trail shoes, so Nike or Altra (Paradigm for trail), which I usually put Superfeet into. I also love my Salomon Packs (I have 3 different sizes), and if I’m doing a lot of vert , a long race , or Grand Canyon adventure, I love my poles – whole body workout, more efficient (IMO). If I’m using poles, my gloves. Also, I’m alone most of the time so the Garmin InReach (Explorer+ | Mini)is a necessity.
Also, I almost exclusively train in MALO republic clothes. They’re like silk and have NEVER given me chafing.
Footwear is such a personal preference. Perhaps more than any other piece of gear. With that put aside, what is your preference when running on the trails in Sabino Canyon. Why? And what is it about them that elevates your running?
Well, if it’s raining and I’m on Blackett’s I want traction. That’s when I’d wear Altra Olympus or Nike Wildhorse. Pretty much every other time, Phoneline, Bear Canyon, Esperero I’d wear Altra Timp (probably just Blacketts), Altra Paradigm, or Altra Torin Plush — That said, I don’t do well with zero drop (achillies issues) so I always put a heel lift and usually the Superfeet insoles.
I can’t say that any of those shoes ‘elevates’ my running. I think you need your shoes to feel good, make you feel secure (especially on Blacketts), and to decrease your chance of injury.
On the track , road or during a race that might be a different story… and yes, I own a pair of the Nike next % for fast workouts
Bottoms and tops. We live in such a mild climate here in the desert. With the assumption that it's not freezing outside...what's the garb your wear?
I get cold pretty easy, but usually if I throw on a pair of gloves I can deal with almost anything. That said, you can find me in a crop top and spandex shorts.. sometimes they’re short, sometimes knee length. I am not a fan of no show socks. Mine are usually mid calf
So many ways to pierce the dark of the trail at night. Headlamps, handheld lights, belt lights, and so on. How are you illuminating the trail?
Kogalla is the best by far. If I’m just walking/hiking it doesn’t really matter. I use a Black Diamond headlamp, or even my iphone (mt fuji). If I’m running, and maybe hallucinating a little, I need something with better depth perception… that’s Kogalla.
From the heat of the summer, to the cooler temps in the winter. Whether we are running longer distances, or shorter mileage. There are so many ways for us to haul our water and essential gear. Handhelds, waistbelts, and vests. What are you utilizing (brands/models) dependent on conditions and distance?
Salomon hydration pack, no question for me… I’ve tried all of them and this just fits me the best – I have a few different sizes. I’m sure every body is different so a lot of trial (skin irritation) and error here.
The watch. That digital device that so many runners utilize as a tool to elevate their running. So many to choose from that it can be overwhelming for some to decide what is enough, and what is too much dependent on their goals (Coros, Suunto, Polar, Garmin, and so on). What are you using currently (brand/model)? And how do you feel it elevates your running? What advice would you give someone that is early in their trail running journey on the purchase of a watch?
Are trekking poles an option in your arsenal? For those that may choose to make use of these tools, what would you recommend to them?
Absolutely. but you need to practice with them.. full body workout. I’ve always used Black Diamond but am not super impressed (broke after less than 100 miles) would be willing to try another brand… but definitely need something light and easy to fold and carry. Salomon has a really great quiver to hold them on your pack
Vegan, Vegetarian, Keto, Paleo, and so on. So many dietary lifestyles out there. All with advantages and disadvantages dependent on whom you speak to or their bias. Or simply just eating healthy or not. Where are you in this endless debate?
No comment… except that I’m mostly a vegetarian.. I have been anemic a few times and that is tough as a vegetarian but doable. I’m sure Mike Duer has more to say about this….
Whether it is 110f or 35f, hydration is the utmost of importance. We can go without calories, but we must be hydrated. An added layer to that hydration is electrolytes. With so many choices such as drink mixes, salt sticks, electrolyte capsules, and so on...how do you incorporate electrolytes? And what method(s) do you utilize to stay on top of your hydration?
I put Vitalyte in almost all my water if the run is 3 hours plus.. it is the best
Gels, drink mixes, chews, and a multitude of new options added to the selection of choices before us. Or perhaps you are fat-adapted? How do you stay fueled on the trail? Do you have a formula in which you decide calories needed?
You’re body cannot absorb more than 1.5 liters of fluid an hour. So I think a liter an hours is a good goal for longer training days or races.
I try for 100-200 calories/hour for anything longer than 3 hours. I do best with liquid calories. That is either Infinite (customizable), Vitalyte and sometimes, Spring Energy gels. Longer races (> 50 miles) I’ll actually eat food (PB or grilled cheese) .. and of course, Fireball or Honey Whiskey
What nutritional methods do you utilize to recover post-run/post-race?
Chocolate milk… beer
•All photos in this interview provided by Chrissy Parks herself. Thank you Chrissy.