What ignited your passion for trail running? And when did your journey begin?
I have always been a runner in the smallest sense of the word. I ran XC in middle school and high school but never really took it seriously. When I was living in Flagstaff, this random guy from Colorado moved into town and got a job at the Whole Foods I was working at. I got to talking to him and told him I was a runner so he invited me on a run. Little did I know I was not a “runner” in the same way he was a “runner”. He took me on a couple of runs that were short and a mixture of trail and road, but still very difficult for me. He eventually invited me on what would be my first true trail run: 3 Passes Loop in Sedona. He hooked me up with some trail gear he had and went on our way. Sure enough a little over half way through I found myself walking. a lot. I could barely finish the run on my own two feet and even managed to lose 2 of his water bottles. I couldn’t even eat afterwards! It was one of the hardest things I had ever done and funny enough all I wanted to do was get better.
If you had a single piece of invaluable advice to give yourself before the journey began, what would you express?
Don’t compare yourself to others. I still struggle with this to this day. The only person you should be competing against (in training at least) is yourself. As long as you can improve on YOUR times and YOUR fitness, you’re on the right path. Trail running is something that you improve on with consistency and putting yourself out there, so just do what you can do and it will all fall into place!
What motivates you to get out the door?
For myself, I know that if I don’t get my run in for the day, I feel off physically and emotionally. Oddly enough getting in my run makes me feel more energized rather than exhausted. Also if I don’t run when I know I should have, I begin to feel guilty and doubt myself. I start to think I’m not going to be ready when I need to be for big days in the mountain or even race day. It also allows me to sustain my terrible diet without feeling as guilty as I would!
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?
I think I find myself on Phoneline Loop the most. I like it because you get the climb out of the way in the beginning, and from there on you just cruise above the canyon with great views and you usually can get a breeze up there. It is also nice if you are someone who is always running late like me because you finish on the tram road so you can end your run in the dark without any problems. If I am looking to get in a bigger run, I love Bear Canyon Loop. Within an hour it feels very remote and there’s plenty of opportunity to see some wildlife.
You relocated from Flagstaff. What a mecca for trail running. Many elites coming out of there these last few years. Tell us the contrast between running in Tucson and running in Flagstaff.
I was pleasantly surprised when I moved to Tucson. The trails here will definitely keep you honest! The most obvious differences are the weather conditions and elevation differences. Flagstaff is at 7,000 ft so the climate is a lot cooler and the air is much thinner. The terrain is a lot more rugged and rocky here in Tucson and there are a lot more critters you need to look out for here than in Flagstaff. I didn’t run in every trail in Flagstaff but I would say that vert comes a lot easier here down south! You can shoot right back up to 7,000 ft from the dessert here which I think is really fun. One thing I do like about Flagstaff is the Urban Trail System. You are probably about a mile from a trail at any given moment in Flagstaff and that trail connects to a spiderweb of trails throughout the city and even beyond. This makes front door runs really easy. I’m lucky to live close to the river path now so I still have that luxury somewhat.
On average, how many miles are you putting in on a given week? And what is the ratio of trail to road/track miles?
I’d say on average I put in 50 miles a week. My running schedule has kind of taken a dive lately since we got a puppy a month ago but I still manage to get out the door! I would run 100% on trail if I could but it’s hard to commute every day for a run. I’m probably sitting at about 60% road running and 40% trail running. I tend to run a little easier on the road and go after it a little more when I am on trail.
What was your first race? What was the biggest single lesson of that first race?
My first race, other than cross country and track meets was the 2020 Black Canyon 60k. I learned so many things, but my biggest lesson was that you can’t fuel off fruit all day. I still need to dial down on my running nutrition but I’m getting better. Looking back I feel so silly because I was eating so much watermelon during my race and watermelon barely has any calories which is exactly what I needed. For my next race I plan on sticking to downing “x” amount of calories per hour. Just need to learn my body a little more!
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 haven’t been able race since! Raceday was February 15th 2020 and shortly after the Coronavirus shutdown racing and the whole country for the foreseeable future. Once we can race again though, I think I want to stick to 50-60k distance until I can get that dialed in and then work my way up.
With all the race distances that you've run? Is there a favorite distance? A preferred surface?
Well since the only distance I have ran is 60k that would have to be my answer. Although, I think if I were to take my 50k time on race day, it would be much more impressive than my 60k time. Lets just say it was a slow finish!
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?
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?
I just got the Hoka Torrents and I really like them, They feel less bulky than the usual Hoka trail shoe but still offer a good amount of support. I have definitely used mostly Hokas while on the trails in Sabino but I have recently gotten some other brands that I do enjoy as well. I used to have some Nike Pegasus trail shoes that worked really well on the roads as well so that used to be a go to since I finish on the tram road a lot when running Phoneline.
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’m pretty minimalistic when it comes to gear and clothing. My best running gear I’ve gotten have been gifts. I wear a hat always when running to keep the sun out of my eyes. I have a few nice pair of Nike running specific shorts, but other than that I wear “basketball shorts” as they have been called. I recently got Balega socks and they are the first socks that I have actually been able to notice an improvement in performance in. I usually wear the ankle height but I’m not picky. I typically wear old shirts that are more breathable, tank tops too, nothing special. My wardrobe could use some work for sure!
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?
I haven’t ventured too much into the world of night trail running, but I do have a Black Diamond headlamp ready to go whenever the occasion arises!
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?
For my bigger days on the trail, I have my Nathan VaporKrar vest (4 liter | 12 liter) which allows me to carry everything and anything I could need. For my. shorter days I have a small 16 oz Nathan Soft Flask that I like a lot. It has a pocket so I could even fit some nutrition if I needed to. I don’t usually wear my vest for anything under 13ish miles or so.
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?
I bought a used Garmin Fenix 5x on Offerup. It has worked really well for me, it gives me more information than I probably even need. The most important thing for me is mileage, pace, and elevation gain/loss. I think for someone who is new and needs a watch, it can be easy to be persuaded into wanting the bigger and the better model that gives you more information, but at the end of the day there are only a few stats that you need and the rest is just extra that may not even be useful for us to know. What’s most important I think is how your body is feeling. So learn your body and listen to that before you trust what your watch is telling you.
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?
I do not have any poles myself, but I would love some! Some of the trails around here require the use of your hands anyways so to be able to use some poles instead of crawling up , say, Pusch Peak would be very nice.
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?
This one is a constant battle for me. I’m always telling myself to eat healthier. I eat pretty casually, mostly based on cravings. I start almost every day with coffee, and try to drink as much water as I can throughout the day, but after coffee anything is fair game. I am not vegan or vegetarian I don’t really have any restrictions, even though I probably should. My usual go to’s are eggs or coffee for breakfast, burrito’s for dinner, and ice cream for dessert (and cookies if I earned it).
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’ve actually recently been trying all sorts of hydration mixes from Nuun tablets, Skratch Labs powders, and Liquid I.V. I really like Nuun and Liquid I.V. for pre-run hydration. During my runs I have tried things like Roctane and Tailwind that I think is working well, and mostly just straight water. After my runs there is nothing better than an ice cold Gatorade waiting for you at the car!
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?
This is also a work in progress for me. I still haven’t truly figured out how to best fuel my body on my bigger days in the mountains. I have found that I don’t do well with gels so I don’t have much of those. I do enjoy chews I’ve had a lot of Honey Stinger Chews, but any chews seem to work alright. I have a hard time taking in solid foods during my runs but I am trying to incorporate it more into my training. I end most of my big days feeling that I could have been smarter about my fueling, always learning in this sport for sure!
What nutritional methods do you utilize to recover post-run/post-race?
I usually just plan to eat whatever I’m craving and I even use that as motivation during my run. You gotta earn it! I almost always have Gatorade right after a big run and a large water bottle waiting for me. I’ve had a couple of recovery powder mixes that I really enjoy, but it’s not a regular thing. I probably over eat after bigger efforts, and I convince myself it’s “recovery”. I also usually try to just chug as much water as I can until I go to bed that night, and get a good stretch in either before I go to bed or the morning after as well.