Shared posts

09 Sep 18:16

Trail Stoke: Winter Is Coming

by zoe hrom

It’s that time of the year in the mountains. And if you’re out in the mountains this week or next, depending on where you are, you’ll probably be able to feel it and smell it in the air. I love that smell, but I know what it means.

Summer is waning. Winter is coming. 

As I write this we’re just hours into September, but I’m also looking at newly fallen snow on Colorado’s two highest peaks. 

“It will be gone quickly,” my buddy Andrew Letherby says, almost in a forced optimism knowing that holding off the change in seasons, even if it seems early, is a futile fight. He’s right, of course, but so am I.

Although there California’s Sierra Nevada are still steeped in temperatures in the mid-80s and most of the Appalachians in New England haven’t dipped below 50 degrees at night, the first flurries of the season have already fallen in the high country of Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. 

Summer is waning. Winter is coming. 

And as I write that, I feel both great joy and a tinge of sadness. Great joy because I love the winter, perhaps even more than summer. I love cold, snowy conditions. I love trail running, skiing and exploring in the mountains in the winter. But sadness, too, because, let’s face it, summer is never long enough. #NeverEnough

Even with nary a trail running race on my schedule for the first time this century, I thoroughly enjoyed the summer. Despite (or maybe because of) the limitations of COVID-19, I ran countless miles in Colorado, ambled my way up several of the state’s 14ers (and more importantly this summer, I also ran trails up several 13ers). I ran many new trails (for example, up and down 13,961-foot Mt. Ouray in south-central Colorado) and several old favorites (the Pawnee-Buchanan loop near Boulder), too. Most importantly, it’s how I shared those moments with others.

I watched the sun rise dozens of times while running and also witnessed several of the most glorious sunsets of my life out on the trails. I ran with new friends and old. I explored old mining ruins, was amazed by wildflowers and stunned by the scenery. I saw countless deer, fox, snakes, elk, marmots, picas, bald eagles and mountain goats, and I joyfully chased a butterfly on many occasions. I completed a 100K vertical challenge. And, also near and dear to me, I helped raise money for three friends in need by way of my own trail running. 

And no, it wasn’t without challenges. I have to admit, I took a few wrong turns on trails, put myself in a few dangerous situations and also had to skip runs because of work, injuries and a variety of other issues.

I wasn’t the only one who relished on the trails this summer. There have been thousands of new Fastest Known Time (FKT) marks set this summer, and, at least according to my Instagram feed, numerous peaks bagged, amazing coastline trails that have been run and even a few race finishes. Perhaps more than ever, we’ve been out and about on the trails, running to our heart’s content as a way to escape, relax, rejuvenate and refocus in order to keep fighting the good fight known as life. 

Summer is waning but I still don’t want it to end. There are always more trails I want to run, more mountains I want to summit, more moments I want to experience. While I realize there is plenty of summer and fall running to be had over the next few weeks, the colder temperatures of the transitional autumn season tends to bring an icy sheen up high, making it more difficult and sometimes dangerous for dawn patrol runs to craggy scrambling routes. 

I love trail running in the winter, inhaling the cold, seeing my breath and feeling the distinctive crunch under my feet. When it’s snowy and cold, trails are less crowded and every run (including those on roads) can feel like an adventurous trail run. So I can’t get too upset that summer is winding down, especially knowing that I’ll probably be skiing in a few months and soon be wearing spiked trail running shoes until March. I will certainly recall those warm, summery moments when I’m running with cold toes and fingers in early January, just as I’ve thought about many cold-weather adventures while sweltering in the heat this summer.

And yes, the snow will melt with the spring thaw and the splendor of the summer mountains will return next year. That will undoubtedly present me with new quests and endeavors to experience and share, rekindle unconquered challenges and maybe even include a trail running race or two. Next year can be great, too, but it still won’t be the uniquely amazing summer that this one was.

I still don’t want to let go of this summer, but I know I have to. With the changing of seasons comes real change. It’s the only constant in this world, and it’s best that we lean into it. With those changes comes evolution, new perspectives and a blank canvas that, of course, can be painted with plenty of carryover ambition, but new also with new ideas, new adventures. We can’t hold on to yesterday; we can only look forward with joy and excitement about what’s to come. 

Summer is waning. Winter is coming!


Brian Metzler was the founding editor of Trail Runner Magazine and now serves as a contributing editor and columnist.

The post Trail Stoke: Winter Is Coming appeared first on Trail Runner Magazine.

09 Sep 18:15

Getting Started With Trail Running

So you’re thinking of trying out trail running? Trail running is a great way to get out in the peaceful outdoors. Its hard to beat running through a forest with nothing but your breath as company
09 Sep 18:15

The Training Power Of Adventure Flex Days for Trail Runners

by Mike Benge

I am not sure if it’s the American spirit, or the human spirit, but there is some type of whisper deep within our souls that says, “I am going to do whatever I want to do.” You know those warning labels that say “DO NOT EAT THESE TIDE PODS”? I bet those labels are directly responsible for thousands of people eating Tide Pods, and dozens of people sticking them who knows where else.

Following a plan—even one that is based in science and expertise—can feel like we’re being constrained. I imagine that’s part of what we’re seeing with people who refuse to wear masks during a pandemic in public places full of vulnerable people. Don’t eat this Tide Pod, you scientists say?! You said nothing about putting it into my colon. I think for myself!

Training plans can rouse that same voice for some personalities, just with much lower stakes. As soon as a number of miles goes on a spreadsheet, it’s the only wrong number. Running six miles with hill strides is cool. But you know what’s cooler? 42 miles with 30,000 feet of vert. Or maybe 0 miles and a swim in shark-infested waters. 

Adventure flex days build playtime into a long-term growth plan, supporting aerobic development and psychological sustainability. 

This article is about finding a happy medium between a fully structured plan and a fully unstructured adventure schedule. Adventure flex days build playtime into a long-term growth plan, supporting aerobic development and psychological sustainability. 


Adventure Flex Days Defined

The joke-based analogies to start the article seem to put the onus on that athlete who doesn’t always want to follow a plan. But through coaching and recognizing my own insecurities, I have seen that demanding strict adherence to a precise plan can often be a problem of a coach instead. “If I can only control almost every variable,” I would think, “this athlete can be happy and healthy and fast forever and ever.” 

It doesn’t work that way, though. The line from training intervention to outcome does not follow a set equation. Instead, it looks like the flight path of a seagull that snatched a pot brownie from the picnic basket. Accepting that uncertainty is a key for coaching, I think. Adventure flex days are as much about a coach letting go of the illusion of control as they are about building in flexibility for an athlete.

The line from training intervention to outcome does not follow a set equation. Instead, it looks like the flight path of a seagull that snatched a pot brownie from the picnic basket.

For athletes I coach, adventure flex days mean they can do any activity they want, as long as it’s not incredibly stressful. Biking, hiking, climbing, easy running/trekking, swimming, trampoline with the kids, anything else they can think of. They aren’t always programmed directly into a plan, but I always want them implied on certain days.


There are only two ground rules for adventure flex days:

-Ideally, there is an easy day or rest day following them

-While an adventure can be long, it should not be too hard without accounting for the stress in the remainder of the week


In a typical athlete week, a schedule might look like this:

Monday: rest and recovery

Tuesday: easy run and strides

Wednesday: workout

Thursday: easy run (Adventure Flex Day #1)

Friday: short and easy run/x-train

Saturday: long run

Sunday: easy run and strides (Adventure Flex Day #2)

That type of schedule balances speed and running economy development with the leeway to be spontaneous. And spontaneity isn’t just about psychological sustainability. Mixing activities can have big physical benefits too.

The more I coach, the more I see the benefits of incorporating cross-training. Weekly running mileage matters only as a proxy for growth, rather than as the driver of growth. Adventure flex days introduce physical stress while providing a mental release, possibly adding up to a greater adaptation stimulus than a few more miles ever could. 

Aerobically, longer low-intensity days can increase capillaries around working muscles while improving fat burning capacity. When mixed with more traditional running training, they can reinforce an extra-strong base throughout a training cycle.

Musculoskeletally, mixed movement patterns may help support a durable and strong athlete. That’s the key word: athlete. Viewing yourself as “just a runner” sells short all the amazing things a body can do, and it may also increase injury risk. Even for an athlete that sticks to the perfectly designed plan, I want them to do strength work that helps them embrace their athletic selves. And sometimes, that strength work can be playing soccer or climbing or hiking. It doesn’t need to look like a gym workout to get the same benefits.

An athlete doing 60 running miles per week can be outperformed by the same athlete doing an adventure-driven 30 running miles per week as long as the adventure athlete reinforces speed development, depending on stress and a million other variables that are highly variable among individuals. 

The potential downsides of adventure time are primarily related to how the biomechanical and neuromuscular systems interact with running fitness over time. There’s a reason Tour de France cyclists or specialized climbers are not fantastic runners. Specificity matters for how the brain and body interact to support efficient movement that turns aerobic fitness and physical strength into speed. However, mixing pure adventure days with easy running and fast strides/smooth workouts on other days is plenty to get positive feedback cycles going between aerobic development and speed development. 

To put it another way: an athlete doing 60 running miles per week can be outperformed by the same athlete doing an adventure-driven 30 running miles per week as long as the adventure athlete reinforces speed development, depending on stress and a million other variables that are highly variable among individuals.  


Adventure flex days can turn into adventure flex weekends or weeks or even months. 

As I learned to let go of my coaching insecurities, I have seen these unstructured training elements work for pros and athletes just starting out. The key is to find what is sustainable for you, being willing to mix things up for adventure, as long as it supports belief in a long-term process rather than acting as an excuse for not going all-in on your athletic potential. Sometimes athletes will say, “I am an adventurer, I don’t really care about finding my athletic potential.” And later I’ll get to know them and they’ll tell me, “I cared so much that I used adventure as a defense mechanism against making myself vulnerable.”

Let’s not be afraid to go ALL-FREAKING-IN, with all-caps and vulnerability. But going all-in doesn’t have to mean dedicating your athletic life to every single number on a running plan. 

Weekly mileage matters some. Speed matters more. Consistency matters most. Adventure flex time can help some athletes bet on themselves through long-term consistency. 


David Roche partners with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play. With Megan Roche, M.D., he hosts a weekly, 30-minute podcast on running (and other things), and they wrote a book called The Happy Runner


The post The Training Power Of Adventure Flex Days for Trail Runners appeared first on Trail Runner Magazine.

09 Sep 18:15

Two Women Tackle The Adirondack 46 High Peaks

by zoe hrom

Two headlamp beams cut through the stagnant air of an otherwise unremarkable Monday morning. An unofficial race was underway in the rugged mountains of upstate New York. Two women were pushing for the Fastest Known Time for the Adirondack 46 High Peaks, mountains above 4,000 feet in the Adirondack Park. (Later surveys found four to be under the mark, though they remain included.) Alyssa Godesky and Sarah Keyes were mere hours into a 160-mile expedition with over 60,000 feet of elevation gain to find out how fast they could climb all 46. Each athlete had picked a different route, based on her knowledge of the trails and personal strengths. 

Ryan Atkins, who holds the current record, served as a guest commentator on and provided updates. Last July, he set a high bar with a lightning-fast time of 3 days 5 hours 52 minutes. “ADK trails are steep, wet and relentlessly technical. I’ve never been anywhere with consistently harder trails,” he said.

Godesky is a professional triathlete who’d heard about the 46 FKT at an Ironman in Lake Placid. Intrigued by the concept of climbing mountains as fast as one can, she began to explore train running. In 2018, she set the women’s FKT for Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail in five days, two hours and 37 minutes, which gave her confidence to pursue the 46. 

Unlike the Long Trail, the 46 involves bushwhacking and requires off-trail navigational skills. For two years, Godesky scouted the mountains, contemplated different routes and stood atop 38 of the 46 summits, honing her navigational skillset and off-trail travel. 

Keyes grew up in the Adirondack Park,  at six million acres is the largest state park in the nation. In high school, she tried cross country but got bored and stopped running as soon as she was out of the coach’s sight. Nearly a decade ago, Keyes used running as a means of distancing herself from an unhealthy relationship.  In 2015, she placed third overall in the short U.S. Skyrunning Skyrace Series. 

When Godesky and Keyes learned of one another’s intentions, they chose the same start day. 

“It added a special competitive component that can sometimes be lacking in FKTS. And that part was particularly welcome in a year without much ‘official’ racing,” said Godesky.

Godesky and crew

Not The First, But The Fastest

 The race component was a first for the 46 FKT, but press was also spinning it as a women’s first until social media brought to light a little-known 6 day 22 hour 4 minute completion of the 46 by Nancy LaBaff, 59, and Claudia Warren, 61. When asked how she felt about Godesky and Keyes, LaBaff was excited, “I love seeing women challenging themselves. It’s important for other women to get out there and try because it inspires others. We need women empowering women.”

At the beginning of day two, things began to unravel for both the women. Rain and dark made navigation challenging and Keyes, a registered nurse, took instant note of a pain that began in her right foot and slowed her down significantly on otherwise fast terrain. 

When the two women finally encountered one another on the trail, Godesky was unaware of Keyes’s condition. “She looked fresh and she looked good,” said Godesky. “I didn’t let my guard down.” By the end of day three, the race was close with Godesky at 37 peaks and Keyes at 32, but Keyes was literally crawling in places and questioned if it was safe for her to continue. 

“No one ever talked about quitting,” Keyes said of her team. They kept her feed, fueled and encouraged her to keep walking. A full day behind her projections, Keyes said “it was a fine line between crying and laughing.” She also knew Godesky was closing in on the finish. 

The Final Push

It’s hard for the mind to do math when running on little sleep, but at the dawn of the fourth day, Godesky knew. On her last summit, Giant, she looked over the miles of terrain she’d covered and the clouds parted just enough for a golden sunset. The wave of mountains seemed endless and it was hard for Godesky to believe she’d stood atop every High Peak since Monday.

 Night was falling and she still had the final descent before the time officially stopped at the trailhead. The last half mile was steep and technical. Godesky heard a whistle, and new that she had reached the trailhead. She emerged from the woods to embrace her family and crew. She clocked in at 3 days 16 hours 16 minutes, the fastest women’s time and second fastest overall time.  She’d covered a staggering 159 miles and 67,412 feet of elevation gain. “[The Adirondacks] are simply unmatched in their ruggedness and beauty,” Godesky said. “Hopefully I’ve put hiking a few High Peaks on some people’s radar who weren’t thinking about it before. That would make everything more than worth it.”

Keyes finished the following day on Whiteface, the fifth highest mountain in the state and otherwise known for ski racing in two Winter Olympic Games. Friends joined and for a moment she was able to forget the intense pain radiating through her feet. She sat for several minutes on the summit, surrounded by a gray fog. Despite her injuries, she’d completed the 46 in 4 days 22 hours 15 minutes. “It took several days for me to see the accomplishment in this and I’m still enjoying that feeling. It also hasn’t taken long for the ultra amnesia to set in, I don’t think I’m finished with this yet.”  

Bethany Garretson is an Environmental Studies instructor at Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York. She’s a passionate mountain climber, social advocate and writer. 

The post Two Women Tackle The Adirondack 46 High Peaks appeared first on Trail Runner Magazine.