Thursday, December 2, 2010

Special announcement and new Website


I have recently launched a new website and branding strategy.

Trail Running for Women is now Run Wild Retreats. Over at the new website,, you'll find a blog, article archive and news about 2011 running retreats in Colorado, Canada and elsewhere.

Please also join the Run Wild community on Twitter, @trailrunwomen, and find me on Facebook at

Thanks to all my followers for making the change with me! Not only is the new site slick and more sophisticated, it will be updated much more frequently--promise!

Run wild,


Friday, November 5, 2010

Is there a right way to run?

Experimentations with running form.

After running basically the same way for 20 years, I never saw the need to mess with a good thing. But this barefoot running fad and minimalist footwear trend got me wondering, is there a better way to run?

I've seen people (mostly men) at trail races--even 100-milers--running totally barefoot or Vibram FiveFingers, and all I could think is how much their feet must hurt with no cushioning, rock protection or pronation control. After reviewing hundreds of shoes for Trail Runner magazine, I had become a firm believer in the value of a well-designed running shoe to enhance one's natural biomechanics.

But as I began testing minimalist models like Merrell's Trail Glove, Inov-8 X-Talon and New Balance Minimus, I discovered that when using these shoes, I unconsciously changed the way I ran.

1. Forward Lean

A few years ago I attending a running clinic with a local professional track runner named Carrie, who pointed out that I have a tendancy to "sit back". By running this way, I had developed extra-strong quads and very weak hamstrings, which I suspect may have contributed to ongoing issues with IT-band syndrome and chronically tight hips. Having my center of gravity too far back was limiting the range of motion in my hips and had caused significant muscle imbalances.

So Carrie took us a local high-school track and had us perform short sprints while leaning as far foward as possible (without bending at the waist) until we were basically "falling" forward. There was do doubt that I ran faster this way, but after practicing this technique for a few weeks, I developed a badly inflammed piriformis (butt muscle). So I reverted back to my old ways, and the piriformis problem cleared up.

2. Shorten Your Stride Length

I think what triggered the piriformis injury was combining the forward lean with a longer stride. At that time, I wasn't thinking about how my foot was striking the ground. But when using a minimalist shoe that has less padding under the foot (especially the heel), I was landing on my midfoot, which was easier to do with a slight forward lean (originating from the ankles, not the waist).

It turned out that the only to avoid heel striking was to keep my center of gravity slightly forward and my stride short.

3. To go Faster, Increase Cadence, Not Stride Length

But when it comes to running faster, lengthening my stride is not a good idea, especially on trails. It's easier to be agile and dodge trail obstacles when you are balanced with your feet underneath your center of gravity. So to speed up, I focused on cadence, upping my turnover and taking more steps per minute, while concentrating on landing on my midfoot.

By not landing with my heel extended in front of my body, running felt swift and effortless. While I am far from being a barefoot-running convert, the barefoot movement has certainly given me pause to think about what I could be doing better. As a result, I don't have problems with IT-band syndrome and, combined with specific core training exercise (that I will discuss in my next blog post), I am finally correcting the chronic muscles imbalances that have held back my running quality and mileage for so many years.

For more about good running form, see this great video by New Balance.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Trail Running & Wellness Retreat Photos

A group of amazing women assembled at Vagabond Ranch for the inaugural Trail Running & Wellness Retreat for Women was held on July 30 to August 1, 2010.

We were lucky with fabulous weather and dry trails (well, except for Friday night's soggy mud run).

Yoga instructor Wendy Kennedy leads the group through a series of strengthening and lengthening yoga poses for runners.

Sparkle and Jodi enjoy the sweet singletrack between Lost Lake at the Wolverine Trail.

After practising technical trail-running techniques on the rocky trail around Lost Lake, we take a relaxing break beside the water before a swift jaunt back down to the trail head.

Dana, Jane, Megan and Kimberly enjoy a water break on the Wolverine Trail. This day's 10-miler was a highlight of the weekend, taking our group of women of diverse running backgrounds--from "occasional" runners to others who have completed ultramarathons--to a spectacular ridge at 11,500 feet.

Thanks to (top row): Tamara, Tonya, Jenny, Joan, Lisa, Jodi, Kimberly, Jayne, Sparkle, Elinor (bottom row): Jane, Dana, Megan, Lauren, Leslie and (missing): Gina and Jackie for making it a fantastic weekend!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trail Running Camp Recon

I spent last weekend at Vagabond Ranch, site of the Trail Running & Wellness Retreat for Women in Arapahoe National Forest.

The weather was perfect for trail running and ranch staff were busily preparing the lodges for the summer season, making sure that all the facilities (including the solar-heated pool) were in fantastic condition in time for the retreat.

Vagabond is the ideal place for immersing yourself in the alpine wilderness and letting go of your hectic routine, commitments and responsibilities back home.

We'll enjoy rejuvenating yoga classes, trail running through alpine meadows and past alpine lakes, evening campfires will immersed in the forest's stillness.

Vagabond Ranch lies at 9000 feet in elevation at the foot of Cascade Mountain (shown here). Unfortunately the mountain pine beetle have ravaged the forests in this area, but regardless, this alpine landscape is rich in beauty. Wildflowers were in full bloom during my recent
visit, and I was lucky to spot moose, elk and deer during my brief two-day visit.

One of our runs will take us to Lost Lake, by way of a short, rocky, rooty trail where we'll practice technical-trail running technique. Since there isn't an official trail around the lake, we'll have fun scrambling over boulders and scooting around trees to circumnavigate the small body of water that takes about 15 minutes.

Semi-shaded Sherman Creek Trail will take us from Vagabond Ranch to Lost Lake and the other connecting trails.

From Sherman Creek and Lost Lake, we'll enjoy soft, smooth singletrack on the Gilsonite and Wolverine Trails. This area offers a combination smooth singletrack and rooty, rocky sections that are mostly shaded by tall trees. If we get high enough, we'll be rewarded with spectacular views of Grand Lake, Cascade Mountain and other parts of Arapahoe National Forest.

We have a wonderful group of women coming together for the retreat so far, with a few more spots still available (as of June 24).

We will have two run leaders guiding the group, so everyone will be able to run at a pace and distance that is comfortable. The emphasis of each outing will be on even energy expenditure (pacing), trail-running technique, staying fueled and hydrated on the trail and having fun! The presentations will cover training, building endurance, preventing injury, gear and our experts will answer your running questions!

If you are interested in participating, email today!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spaces filling fast at trail-running retreat!

Spaces are going for the Trail Running and Wellness Retreat for Women and I can hardly believe it's only two months away!

Putting this retreat together has been a long-term personal goal because when I think about all the ways in which running enriches my life and how much I wanted to share those experiences with other women.

So far we have women from California, Idaho and Denver! Many questions I have received regard how to get to Vagabond Ranch (pictured) from Denver International Airport, and the answer is that it's only about a three-hour drive. If you fly to Denver, I suggest taking a morning flight so that you arrive by midday, and then take a shuttle service or rent a car at the airport for the weekend. I can provide specific information about both these options.

Aside from the logistics, the more important questions are about trail running! I have reports that the trails are going to be in fine shape this summer, though it's still a little too snowy to test-run them quite yet. But I am heading up to the ranch in a few weeks to scout our routes. The women registered so far vary greatly in their running experience, so as planned, there will be a faster and a slower pace group to accommodate everyone.

My dear friend Wendy Kennedy will be our yoga instructor. I've taken many classes with Wendy over the past couple of years in Carbondale, and her calm manner and in-depth knowledge of Anusara yoga means that she'll have all us runners limber and relaxed by the weekend's end.

I am also excited to report that several running companies have offered gifts for the goodie bag. Everyone will receive items and or deep discount coupons from these fantastic companies:

Montrail trail-running shoes (
Mountain Hardwear clothing (
Sugoi clothing (
GoLite (
GU energy gel (
Road ID (
Ryders Eyewear (
Trail Runner magazine (

We hope you'll join us!

And you'll soon find more updates and news about the retreat on our Facebook page!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Friendships Built on Long Distance

When I read this fantastic story in the New York Times today by fellow running writer Sarah Bowen Shea about elite marathoners Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher (pictured), I instantly thought about the women I am so lucky to have in my life who inspire me, motivate me and teach me about what it means to be a mom, a runner and a friend.

I began the perfect Mother's Day with a trail run on Carbondale's Red Hill with my good friend and training buddy, Joy Schneiter. As we always do, we spent almost the entire 3-hour run talking about running, our careers, being moms and wives. Along with another good friend, Sari Anderson, we've shared many wild experiences related to our first ultramarathons, training through pregnancy, resuming running after childbirth, and now, training for our first 100-milers.

You would think we'd planned to have our children at the same time (my son Reed and Joy's daughter Selah were born four days apart), but it's funny how fate has a way of working things out. Now, as we ramp up our mileage in anticipation of our upcoming 100-mile debuts —Joy is running the Tahoe Rim Trail and I am running the Leadville Trail—we are learning the ropes together.

And despite having given birth to her second child, Axel, barely a month ago, Sari is already back to running, though we consider her somewhat of a superwoman considering that, three years ago, just five months after giving birth to her first child, Juniper, she competed in the grueling Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, placing second against other world-class teams. During the the six-day event in the United Arab Emirates, her four-person team spent each day desert running, sea kayaking, mountain biking and doing ropes challenges in the blazing heat. Late at night and early each morning, while the other athletes slept, Sari was up pumping breast milk to keep her milk production up while away from her baby for 10 days. Her strength and dedication—to her sports and motherhood—amazes me.

Thanks Joy and Sari!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

AKALI Project Athena Racing Series kicks off with "Mom-orable" Experience on Mother's Day Weekend in San Diego


Survivors of Serious Illnesses or Injuries Race for Free

The AKALI® Project Athena Racing Series begins its inaugural season on Saturday, May 8 (Mother's Day weekend) in San Diego, California. This unique recreational series offers a variety of run/walk/adventure activities for all skill levels and age groups—15K God/Goddess Race, 6K(ish) Athena Team Trek, and Merrell Mini Athena and Mini Zeus Kidz Challenge.

Adult women - mothers, sisters, girlfriends—are encouraged to fill the field of over 200 entries for the Athena Team Trek. This has been created as a non-competitive “scavenger hike” for teams of two to six women who will hike together and encounter fun team challenges, like the Electric Slide dance, along the way.

And for either the 6K Team Trek or the 15K Race, Survivors of medical or physical challenges, such as cancer patients, will receive complimentary registration courtesy of Project Athena. All other registration fees are 100-percent deductible, assisting San Diego-based Project Athena Foundation. The Foundation helps female survivors of medical or traumatic setbacks to live their athletic dreams as part of their recovery.

Event Details

8 a.m. 15K God/Goddess Trail Race. Men and women will be challenged to run or walk 9.32 miles on mountain trails*. This timed event is open to individuals and teams. For teams (two to six people), one time will be posted when all members cross the finish line.

9:30 a.m. 6K(ish) Athena Team Trek. This is an adventure “scavenger hike” exclusively for women, with two to six members on each team. This journey combines elements of education, fitness and fun, customized to each market. In San Diego, the Mission Trails Regional Park route will highlight regional geological and ecological history, with participants winning prizes for doing fun team challenges, like the Electric Slide line dance, along the way.

10:30 a.m. Merrell Mini Athena and Mini Zeus Kidz Challenge. Children 12 and under can showcase their skills on a quarter-mile obstacle course. The start/finish is adjacent to the 15K course so that adults can participate in one event and then become cheerleaders for the children.

WHERE: The inaugural venue of Mission Trails Regional Park is eight miles northeast of downtown San Diego. The park has a total of 5800 acres, including over 40 miles of mountain trails.

Registration is available at Fees range from $55 per adult, $35 per child, Survivors are free.

About Project Athena

Project Athena was founded in 2007 by southern California resident Robyn Benincasa (pictured), an accomplished athlete, firefighter, motivational speaker, and women’s advocate. The two-time adventure race world champion and 10-time Ironman finisher was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, in 2007, and this nearly ended her athletic dreams.

But 20 weeks after hip-resurfacing surgery, she completed a marathon. Inspired by a supportive group of girlfriends who are also survivors, Benincasa then formed the Project Athena Foundation to create a “goddess” network, helping other women who face medical setbacks embrace recovery and conquer physical fitness goals.

Project Athena owns and operates the AKALI® Project Athena Racing Series, which benefits the Project Athena Foundation. In just two years, the Foundation has helped women across the U.S. complete running, walking and adventure events, from a 5K race to a marathon on the Great Wall of China, and an ultramarathon in the jungles of Costa Rica.

More Races

After May 8, there are two more U.S. stops for the AKALI Project Athena Racing Series-

Saturday, August 28 – Nashville, Tenn. at Percy Warner Park
Saturday, October 23 – Raleigh, N.C. at North Carolina State University

Fore more information, go to