Runner's Footprints

Runner's Footprints

Monday, September 11, 2023

Why a Post-Race Reflection

We spend weeks, months, and sometimes years chasing our goals. From early mornings day after day to all the sacrifices made to pursue a goal that lights you up and that is important to you. Whether it is to test yourself to go faster or longer, once we arrive to the day to test ourselves, it can go in a flash. A race is a celebration of our training. Sometimes, it can be perfectly executed or leave us questioning -- what happened. Post-race, it's important to take a moment to reflect on the wins of race day and the areas where improvement can be found. This allows you to identify multiple key elements to your race execution and training plan where you can celebrate the achievements and recognize what you've learned to be able to begin to visualize how to take what you've learned to your next goals. 

Below are some questions I share with my athletes to help guide their post-race reflection. I recommend taking the time to reflect and write down all the wonderful things that can come from training for a race and the race experience itself. I do this almost for every race of my own and it always gives me great insight on what I have achieved, where my weaknesses are, and what I would like to do next. Happy training and reflecting! Every experience is a learning experience. 

Post-Race Reflection
  1. Race name, date, distance, weather
  2. Describe the course. (Gain, point to point, race support, etc)
  3. Estimate finish time vs actual finish time?
  4. What do your mile splits show you about your pacing strategy? 
  5. Were there any factors out of your control that impacted your results? 
  6. Where you able to handle uncontrollable obstacles?
  7. Were you able to stabilize your emotions? 
  8. What was your fueling / hydrating strategy? Did it go as expected? How could you improve it? 
  9. What makes you most proud of this race? 
  10. What was your mindset before the race? Do you feel you can improve this? 
  11. What was your mindset during the race? 
  12. How was your sleep during race week and race weekend? Do you feel you can improve this? 
  13. How was your nutrition race week and race weekend? Do you feel it helped or hurt your performance? 
  14. What are the three major successes in your goal race? 
  15. Where are three major areas you feel you can improve on? 

If you found this helpful, please share this post with a friend or runner who can also benefit from this guide. It helps me provide additional guides and tips to the community. Thank you kindly for reading. 

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Heat Training Tips

Should I change my workout on really hot days? 
It depends on your goals. Physical performance in a hot environment can be compromised in three basic ways. As your body’s core temperature increases, it: 
  • Reduces the endurance capacity of the muscles.
  • Increases the body’s reliance on carbohydrate for fuel.
  • Compromises many aspects of cardiovascular function.
As you get used to the heat, you’ll be able to train harder and tolerate the heat better with these reminders: 
  • During your first hot weather workouts, cut back on your exercise duration or intensity. Go easier. Train shorter. 
  • Exercise in the early morning or evening when air temperature is likely to be cooler. 
  • Monitor your heart rate. Slow down if your pulse is higher than your target zone or if you don’t feel good. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Very critical. 
  • Pick a training route that provides lots of shade: parks or tree-lined streets. 
  • Know the symptoms of heat stress. If you have these symptoms stop, get cool, and rehydrate: nausea, dizziness, headache, chills, brain fog, muscle cramps, extreme out of breath, reduction or cessation of sweating.
  • Train with others when it’s extra hot. They’ll notice if you are compromised.

What kind of clothing will keep me cool and protected? 
  • Lightweight, loose, white, or light-colored moisture wicking fabrics help reflect the rays and allow better air circulation. 
  • UPF fabrics that protect skin from UV radiation. UD long sleeves with UPF 20+ are a great option.
  • Sunscreen with at least SPF 15 to protect against both UVA/UVB rays. 
  • Visor or vented hat with a wide brim to protect your face and eyes. 
  • Sunglasses
  • Ice bandana 

What factors affect my ability to tolerate heat? 
You will generally be able to handle heat better when you are physically fit. Elderly individuals usually don’t tolerate heat as well as younger individuals, but this difference disappears when active and fit senior citizens are evaluated. Other things that reduce your ability to tolerate heat include: 
  • sleep deprivation 
  • infectious disease 
  • excess body fat 
  • high humidity 
  • depleted muscle glycogen 
  • poor cardiovascular fitness 
  • sudden increase in training 

How can I teach myself to handle the heat better? 
The best way to promote heat acclimatization is through exercise training in a hot climate, particularly for athletes who will be competing under hot conditions. Continuous or intermittent aerobic training causes your body to acclimatize after about 7 to 14 days. Just make sure you start slowly and watch for signs of heat stress. For the first few days, exercise aerobically at about 60 to 70% of your maximal heart rate. Then gradually increase both your training intensity and volume. Adaptations that occur as you get used to the heat include: 
  • earlier onset of sweating 
  • higher sweat rates 
  • lower body core temperature 
  • increased blood volume 
  • overall improved ability to tolerate heat
  • lower heart rate response to submaximal workloads 

How much and what should I drink? 
In normal temperatures, the average sedentary person is recommended to drink approximately 0.5 ounce per pound of bodyweight of non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages daily. Warm weather and exercise place even higher demands on the body for fluid. If you start an exercise session well hydrated, you’ll go a long way towards maintaining performance and personal safety. Water is the optimal beverage choice; however, fruit juices, smoothies, seltzer waters, milk and herbal teas are also choices -- be mindful of extra calories. Remember that beer, coffee and caffeinated soda draw fluid out of the body since alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, however, not as dramatically as previously believed. 

Don’t rely on thirst as an indicator of your body’s need for fluids. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re dehydrated. If your urine is dark and there’s not much of it, you’re dehydrated. Increase your fluid intake. Some general guidelines: 
  • Drink fluids until your urine is pale yellow to clear and plentiful. 
  • In general, drink as much fluid as you can comfortably tolerate both before, during, and after exercise. Drinking small amounts frequently usually works better than drinking a large amount once or twice. 
  • Cool beverages are absorbed more quickly than warm beverages. 
  • The stomach can only empty about 1 quart of fluid per hour into the body during exercise. If you drink more than that you could feel bloated. 
  • You’ll often see athletes pouring cold water over their head during a race or competition. While this may provide some temporary relief, pouring enough cold fluid into the body is more effective in dealing with hot temperatures. 
  • General guidelines for fluid intake are: 
    • 2-3 cups about 2 hours before exercise
    • 1 cup 5-10 minutes before exercise 
    • 1 cup every 15-20 minutes during exercise, especially in warm weather 

What about sports drinks? 
If a vigorous exercise session lasts longer than 60 minutes, it’s a great idea to drink a sports beverage during the activity. You should choose something with a minimum of 4 to 8% carbohydrate along with electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc.) depending on the length of time you are exercising. My favorite is Electrolit, which provides all the above in an optimal ratio. It promotes fluid absorption while providing caloric energy. Many people consider sports drinks unpleasant during rest, but appreciate these lightly sweetened or flavored beverages while participating in sports. Athletes tolerate various beverages or sports drinks differently. Therefore you should never experiment with a new drink during a competition. Your training workouts are the time to try new and different options. 

Do the fluid recommendations change after I’m through exercising? 
Some athletes find it helpful to weigh themselves both before and after a workout. For every pound of weight you lose during a workout, drink 2.5 to 3 cups of fluid. Rehydration occurs faster in the presence of sodium (salt), regardless of whether this sodium is in a sports drink or food. 

To replace muscle glycogen stores and speed recovery from the workout, you should start replenishing carbohydrates within 15 minutes after exercise. You may not feel like eating so soon after a workout, but a sweetened beverage like Maurten Drink Mix will often hit the spot. You’ll get more carbohydrate per ounce of fluid if you opt for a caloric drink. 

What about heat cramps? 
Heat cramps are brief, often excruciating muscle contractions that can occur in athletes who sweat a lot, especially when exercising in a hot environment. Usually this happens because the person is exceeding a pace they are accustomed to and/or have lost a large amount of sodium chloride through sweating and hasn’t taken in enough sodium when replacing fluid losses. Mild heat cramps can be treated by drinking 1 liter (about 1 quart) of water with about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in it. Athletes with normal or low blood pressure shouldn’t restrict their sodium intake. Salt tablets may help some athletes if they've trained with them, however, have been found to be a gastric irritant in some athletes. 

Heat acclimatization appears to reduce the incidence of heat cramps. Heat cramps can be prevented by following the above suggestions for fluid intake, having adequate sodium in your diet, and gradually progressing your training. 

How do I know if it’s too hot to exercise safely? 
Eighty to ninety percent of heat loss in a hot, dry environment is from the evaporation of sweat. However, in a humid environment, moisture in the air doesn’t allow the sweat on your body to evaporate as efficiently. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s the evaporation of sweat, not the sweat itself that cools us down. So exercise in humid heat is a lot riskier than exercise in dry, hot conditions. Check the weather chart below and if the “apparent temperature” is in the danger area, it’s a good day to take a break or exercise indoors.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if you would like help in creating a training plan that is customized to your goals, your fitness level, and your lifestyle. Thank you for reading and sharing with a friend who might find this helpful! 

Monday, May 1, 2023

How to Fuel for Endurance

There is a great deal of info available regarding healthy eating and nutritional science. One important question to ask yourself to start: what are your nutritional goals? Is it to: improve your gastrointestinal health and microbiome, lose or maintain weight, build muscle, and/or fuel properly for optimal performance? Each have their own nutritional protocols and biological mechanisms. Given there can be a great deal of overlap, it is important to identify your primary goal in order to explore and experiment with what will work best for you. Below are my tips and fueling examples on "How to Fuel for Endurance" in training and races to optimize your performance and recovery. 

Training/Racing LESS than One Hour:
    Normally, you do not need to emphasize too much about consuming calories before or during training that is less than one hour. Our bodies have large caloric reserves, particularly lipid and glycogen storages. If it has been several hours since your last meal, you can choose to fuel with a small snack with calories for satiety. Or if you need a quick pick me up, a caffeine dose before can be helpful as long as it is in the first half of the day. Caffeine anhydrous does not have calories (it is a stimulant), which is normally recommended about 30 minutes before +/- 10 minutes depending how tolerant you are to caffeine. 

    After training, aim to consume a high quality protein source either as a drink or smoothie mixed with simple carbohydrates to facilitate absorption or in solid form such as: lean chicken, grilled fish, salmon, hummus, etc. The optimal post workout nutritional ratio is a 3:1 ratio of carb to protein. Research shows this carb-protein combination consumed within 30 minutes of exercise nearly doubles the insulin response, which results in a faster replenishment of glycogen stores. 

Training/Racing MORE than One Hour:
    Here is where you will want to focus on calorie quantity and quality depending how long and intense you are training. For any long training session and/or endurance event such as a marathon, ultra, or triathlon, training the GI (gastrointestinal) tract to process calories during exercise takes practice and experimentation with what works best for you. You can find an immense array of high density calorie mixes to help facilitate fueling during training/races. My recommendation is try several different products during your long runs/rides to see what is palatable and what settles well with your GI tract. I have trained with a variety of fueling sources in order to have a pretty durable GI tract to be capable of processing almost anything during marathon training, ultras, and ironmans. I also prefer solid foods during lower intensity sessions and/or longer training sessions of several hours because my palate gets tired of all the simple sugars. My philosophy is train with as many products as you can to explore with what works for you in training and then hone in on the one or few products that are your favorite to find the frequency you can consume it during your races to optimize your race performance.

    Consume high quality complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) mixed with protein and/or healthy fats before and after.  During activity is where you want to opt for simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates (monosaccharides or "sugars") are the preferred choice of macromolecule to be processed during activity, as it gets absorbed into the bloodstream primarily. The amount of calories will vary per individual. For example, if you are running near or at your race pace, you want to stick to a steady flow of consuming simple carbs. Your GI tract is not able to process calories as efficiently the closer you get to race pace. If you are cycling, you can normally process more calories than when you are running; therefore, you can consume more on the bike. 

    The longer the endurance training or event, the MORE essential it is to find a fueling strategy that works with your GI tract. You will find some athletes report after an Ironman, marathon, or ultra that they were sidelined, slowed down, or DNF’d (did not finish) due to GI distress, cramping, vomiting, etc. Most of the time, this is avoidable as it was due to lack of training the GI tract to withstand a fueling strategy (and the weather temperature also affects this making it even harder to process calories the hotter it gets), while racing for 4, 12, 24 hours, or longer. Physiologically, our GI tract can be trained; however, it needs practice equally as our muscular and skeletal systems need in order to endure the length of these events. My strongest Ironman, ultra, and marathon times have been from a combination of proper training, race execution, and the final touch of a proper fueling strategy. This has been practiced and honed in on during long training sessions. Practice different fueling strategies in training first before utilizing it in a race. Below are some examples I've used:

BEFORE: 100-500 Cal 1-2 hours before start
Electrolit for electrolytes (zero calorie has 3 flavors, caloric form has 15 flavors)
Vital 4U supplements premium (each packet has 12 pills with 80+ nutrients)
* Vital 4U pouches (4 flavors, 3 caffeinated levels)
* cup of MUSH oats with blueberries, walnuts, and Timeline Mitopure superfood
* cup of noosa yogurt with raspberries and almonds
* wheat bread toasted with almond butter and sliced banana drizzled with honey
* crackers with peanut butter, sliced banana, sprinkled with pine nuts
* lean grilled chicken or egg white omelette with veggies (for my afternoon or evening sessions)
* wheat bread with avocado, hummus, tomato, and tapatio (adds sodium)
* light smoothie with frozen banana, almond milk, flax, chia
* beef biltong or jerky
* Maurten Drink Mixes 320/160 (simple carbs mixed with water)
* Maurten Solid (225g Carbohydrates per bar)
DURING: 100-500 Cal/hr
* Maurten hydrogels (perfect during racing, comes in caffeinated and non-caffeinated forms)
* Maurten Drink Mix 320/160 (perfect for racing triathlons or when you carry bottles in road/trail races)
* Maurten Solid Bars (oat and cocoa flavors)
* nutty bars 
* salty trail mix
* individual packets of almond butter
* chips 
* crackers with cheese
* almond butter or avocado sandwich (for mountain runs)
* turkey sandwich with avocado, hummus, veggies, salsa (lunch on mountain days)
* Electrolit for electrolytes replenishment

AFTER: 100-500 Cal within 30 min of finishing
* protein drink or chocolate milk
* biltong or jerky 
* lean grilled chicken with wild rice and steamed veggies
* grilled fish with kale and couscous  
* blackened salmon with quinoa
* grilled shrimp or scallops with baked sweat potato 
* ceviche or mariscos with pico de gallo and air popped popcorn
Electrolit (replenish electrolytes lost)
* Maurten Drink 320 Mix (replenish carbs burned)
* Maurten Solid bars 

It is important to consume healthy nutrients within 30 minutes of finishing your activity because your cells are most active enzymatic activity in mitochondria to assist in a quicker absorption rate. Having a packet of protein powder helps conveniently to get the protein efficiently in when you're done training/racing. Within 1-2 hours or when your appetite returns (as some athletes report not being hungry post long endurance events), have the healthy, balanced meal. Every healthy meal will help strengthen body and set it up to be stronger for the next training session. Recovery happens faster by how we refuel. 

Your individual needs may also change as you become more efficient. They may change as you vary your intensity in training and races. You will notice some athletes will need less than others because they are either pushing at a higher intensity or have already trained to require less. What works for one may not necessarily always work for another. Experiment with what works for you and implement that strategy on race day. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

How to Recover Faster

Once we embrace the joy of running, we find ourselves looking forward to lacing up again for the next run, speed session, or mountain escape. The rate of our recovery determines how fast we can get back out there doing what we enjoy, and this rate of recovery is unique for each individual. When an individual introduces a new training stimulus, increases training volume, or as we grow older, the rate of recovery slows down and requires more attention. The good news is we have the power to influence our rate of recovery at any stage of life or training. Paying attention to recovery allows us to train safely, while minimizing the risk of injury. There are three areas in our recovery: 1) physiological, 2) neural, and 3) psychological. Here are 10 strategies to improve your rate of recovery.

1. Active recovery - Incorporate low intensity or low impact days into your weekly routine such as elliptical, cycling, swimming, and walking. Because of the influx of feel good chemicals that flush into our body during and post workout, we may want to go hard everyday. However, active recovery helps flush soreness or compounding fatigue out of the legs.

2. Foam rolling / dynamic stretching / mobility drills - activation exercises in a gentle manner focusing on proper form helps with circulation and flushing the legs. 

3. Elevate legs - After a difficult training session or at the end of the work day, this allows the blood to recirculate back through the upper body systems so there isn't an accumulation of inflammatory factors in the lower extremities. 

4. Compression gear - From compression leggings, socks and sleeves, there is data showing this gear helps improve circulation. It has been in the past prescribed for pregnant women, individuals will poor circulatory problems in their legs, and also frequent air travelers. Another great addition to recovery is what you wear on your feet when you are not training. The ballerina shoes, thin flip flops, and very high heels above 3" are very taxing on the proper posture of the body and joints. Consider using shoes and/or sandals that help support your joints, even when you are not training. I enjoy Velous, which provide what the feet need at each part of your foot strike from a supportive heel contact, great arch support, and through the toe-off. Try them out 20% off with discount code, NADIA20.  

5. Refuel wholesomely - What you eat post workout gives your body the building blocks to rebuild for your next workout. Choose wholesome snacks and balanced meals. We may want to indulge in the burger, pizza, or fries -- but remember these items are broken down then used as building blocks to build your tissues, organ systems, and process cellular mechanisms. We wouldn't put cheap gas in a ferrari. Also, supplementation is helpful to fill in any gaps. I use the convenient, pre-packaged Vital4U supplements. Opt to be built from healthy fuel choices. Be the ferrari.

6. Hydrate frequently - The viscosity of our blood is influenced by how much we drink and what we drink. The more water and electrolytes we consume, the lower the viscosity of our blood allowing it to flow freely in our circulatory system. Think of it as a free flowing freeway clear of any accidents. We don't want accidents within our circulatory system due to congestion from high viscosity. Drink water frequently.

7. Stress management / meditation - Chronic stress causes a physiological response in our bodies and the longer we don't manage it daily, the more it can cause damage within our organ systems thereby slowing down our healing and recovery process. The stress hormone, cortisol, has a purpose in our bodies; however, continuous elevated cortisol levels makes us immuno-compromised. Incorporate activities that help you unwind. You deserve at least 30 minutes daily to yourself everyday to exhale. The more you give yourself, the more you are able to serve others.

8. Ice baths - Data shows that after intense training sessions or competitions, ice baths help reduce the inflammatory response by constricting blood vessels so inflammatory factors don't leak into the body. Additionally, cold water immersion has shown through physiological studies to boost immune system, boost metabolism, balance hormones. Opt for 10-15 minutes in an ice bath at 50-59F soon after high intensity training. I use my Ice Barrel at home, which can hold water for up to 4 weeks when treated. Save $100 off your cold tank with discount code: NADIA. 

9. Heat Therapy / Epson salt baths - Practicing breathing exercises in the sauna or inside warm salt baths help the mind train our neurological systems to regulate our heart rates. We teach our bodies to relax under a stressful state in the sauna and the salinity in a epsom salt bath has been shown to have restorative effects.

10. Sleep - The amount and quality of sleep impacts our energy levels, regeneration rates, and immunity among other factors. Sleep is the golden ticket to increased health in a variety of ways. Invest in a quality mattress, pillows, and skip the late night TV watching to be able to go to bed earlier. Investment in your sleep has the greatest return in your body.


All of the above strategies are relatively low cost and can be done easily at home. There is more that we can still do for our bodies! I sincerely believe in investing in our health and wellness because the return is substantially more in lower health care costs, lower rates of injury, and overall a higher quality of life. Here are some more strategies you can incorporate into your wellness routine. 

11. Cyrotherapy - This is the new craze that has public figures and influencers radiating about it's amazing benefits. There is limited data on it's true physiological impact; however, there is a large amount of anecdotal reports of it helping individuals feel better and recover faster. It could be worth a try. 

12. Sensory Deprivation Tank - There is substantial data showing how creating a space to be one with our thoughts has a deep impact. You float in a warm, high salinity bath within your own private room that has meditation music that fades out if you wish. For me, I feel as if I'm floating in outer space where I get to unplug, slow down, and think about my thoughts. I highly recommend it. (example Space Bar Wellness in Pasadena)

13. Acupuncture - Thousands of year of eastern medicine have practiced and documented the benefits of acupuncture for its healing, preventive, and treatment benefits. I've incorporated it for over a decade into my regular wellness routine. Once a month at least for maintenance; once or twice a week when I am injured or nursing an ailment. 

14. Sports medicine chiropractor - There are different forms of physical therapy and a chiropractor who is trained to understand the science of an athlete's needs is important. For maintenance, I aim for once per month; during high training periods, I usually opt for once per week. Trusted sports medicine chiropractor I have seen are Dr. Andrew Lopez in Central CA and Dr. Nik Noriega in Whittier.   

15. Sports massage therapist - Body work is extremely beneficial for regular maintenance, injury prevention, or treatment of muscular imbalances. During my peak training seasons, sports massages are crucial weekly. Referrals of great therapists work best. My manual therapist has been in the industry of health and wellness for over a decade and has elevated my ability to train to the next degree. You can find Paulina Valenzuela at Space Bar Wellness to book your next bodywork session to help repair your body and give it what it needs. 

16. Compression boots - Similar to compression gear with a much more in depth approach. They immensely help increase circulation before or after training thereby supporting your training program and recovery process. I own a couple pairs by Therabody, which are an amazing tool to have at home to utilize when you're WFH or relaxing. I aim to use them 3-4 times per week 2-3 hours at a time because I work some weeks from home.

17. Percussive tools - Self massage tools are very helpful in adding to your arsenal of recovery tools such as the Theragun by Therabody. I use it daily pre runs for mobility activation and post runs for recovery.

Please feel free to share if you feel anyone could benefit from the info above and also contact me if you're looking for an endurance coach to help you with a training strategy to build during the off season or keep you accountable with science based training. Take care of your body. We only get one. Thank you for reading! 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Top 10 Trail Races

Trails are where the soul can escape, dance, smile, and connect to our deepest thoughts. We can share them together or can find solace in exploring in solitude. The trails are where I find often my happiest memories, craziest ideas, and greatest clarity. 

Below I share my favorite 10 trail races for any level trail runner looking for something in the marathon, half, 5K, or relay distance options. If you like something longer, my favorite 10 ultras are here. Extend your trail adventure and explore the surrounding areas as each have hundreds of miles of magnificence. 

10. Yosemite Half
Location: Bass Lake, CA
Date: May
Weather: 40-70F
Results: 1:50:55 (2018)

If you love the outdoors and want a great list to explore of national parks, Vacation Race series offers an amazing to do list of national parks around the nation. The course is a mixture of fire road and paved road through the Sierra National Forest just outside of Yosemite National Park. Runners can camp at Bass Lake to be conveniently next to the start and then extend your trips for days to camp and explore the national park. As my first visit, my friends and I scored a half dome permit and were able to summit safely, even though it was terrifying in hail. Would I do half dome again? Too soon to say since that slippery climb has had some recent reported deaths. Hike safely friends. 

Location: East Glacier Village, MT
Date: June
Weather: 40-70F
Results: 1:45:56 (2017)

Camp at Red Eagle Campground for the expo and race start/finish, then run through rolling hills (1200' gain) on a stunning beautiful point to point course with miles of mountain ranges. Most of the Vacation Races give options to camp, local lodging, or nearby hotels for diverse options. Afterwards, explore the 1500 square miles of more wilderness inside Glacier National Park. With glacier carved peaks, there is 700 miles to explore and let your soul just be. Wildlife ranges from mountain goats and grizzlies. 

Location: Gallatin National Forest, WY
Date: June
Weather: 30-60F
Results: 2:05:42 *injured (2018)

Enjoy the rolling hills of the Gallatin green forest neighboring Yellowstone National Park. Combine it with the 5K for a challenge medal and extend your stay to camp/hike the 3500 square miles of wilderness. After the race, enjoy canyons, alpine rivers, lush forest, host springs, alpine rivers, and the infamous Old Faithful. Camping and visiting here for the first time was the best.

7. Infinite Trails World Championship
Location: Bad gastein, Austria
Date: June
Weather: 30-100F, rain or humidity
Details: 3-person relay teams (25K/60K/45K)

Nestled within the Austrian Alps, this multi day event will bring together 300 teams from around the world to surmount the peaks amongst great beauty your heart can embrace. Beginning on Thursday evening, all runners run the prologue to seed your teams on race day Saturday. Your three person team will be 1st) 6000' gain in 25K, 2nd) 12,000' gain in 60K, and 3rd) 4500' gain in 45K. Each their own unique challenge and your motivation to bring your A game for your team. I was honored to coach 20 runners to their first international mountain race and dominate out there impressing many AR communities from around the world. 

Location: Anchorage, AK
Date: June
Weather: 60F/75F
Results: 4:22:12 *injured (2012)

For any outdoor enthusiast, Alaska has everything for your tantalizing soul to explore from glacier cruises, hunting, hiking, to city and wildlife tours. In the summer, the climate is pleasant and 24hrs of civil twilight around the Summer Solstice will be a very unique experience. Those heavy hotel drapes will come in handy for sleep. With rolling hills, the point to point course is a mixture of trail on rocky tank trail and mostly road. Occasional bear sightings have not been uncommon. A wonderful city, well organized event, and great state to visit and return. 

Location: Napa Valley, CA
Date: March
Weather: 40F/55F
Results: 3:40:13, 1st FOA (2008)

Calming streams will be your soundtrack as you run along a lush single track within Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Rolling hills, stream crossing, and some technical sections makes it a rewarding oasis in a local treasure untapped by tourists. Located minutes from the area's great restaurants, wineries, and hotels, the event is capped at 300 selling out every year in it's 30th annual. It was a hidden gem my family and I were able to share together in 2008.  

Location: Los Padres National Forest, CA
Date: November
Elevation: 5000' gain
Results: 6:17:02 (2013)

As part of the allwedoisrun series by RD Luis Escobar, the Red Rock trail races, located just outside of Santa Barbara, are miles of challenge. The single track course for the marathon climbs over 5000' through tree covered steep and long ascents. Course support is minimal; therefore, you're required to carry minimum of 60oz fluid. When the RD says it's your fault you get lost, it is in his races. Great painful fun. 

Location: Manitou Springs, CO
Date: August
Elevation: 7K gain to 14K altitude
Results: 7:10:16 (2011, 2013)
** favorite feature: high altitude

As “America’s Ultimate Challenge,” PPM fulfills its name. Claimed as the most difficult marathon in the US (Inca Trail Marathon for N. & S. America), the race begins at 6,300 elevation climbs for 13 miles to the summit at 14,115 then descend back to the start. At this altitude, the mountain controls the day so be prepared for anything as you crush your quads hands on knees to the summit in thin air. Pro tip: try to find your appropriate placement with the first couple miles before it goes into single track. Add 2-4hrs to your regular road marathon time depending on climbing fitness and altitude sensitivity. If you want double pain, you can opt to do the Ascent the day before, too.  

Location: Birling Gap, Sussex, UK
Date: March
Elevation: 4200' gain
Results: 4:55:57 1st US, 4th FOA (2013)
** favorite feature: severe weather

With the world famous Seven Sisters and far reaching views over the English Channel, the marathon shoulders the coastal towns of Eastbourne and Seaford, which lie on the eastern section of the South Downs National Park. Where white chalk cliffs meets the sea, this course has produced one of the most iconic landscapes of Britain. With four distances to choose from, there is something for everyone to enjoy. In 2013, I ran the marathon with 4200' gain where it faced one it's worst race weather on record with risk of being cancelled up until the day before. Race day, we faced 30F, 30mph winds dropping windchill factor to 15F as we pushed through hail that pierced our rain jackets. An joyous punishing that I would do again-- probably the worst weather I raced in, substantially worse than Boston 2018 (record coldest race day). Mountains have a unique offering.

1. Inca Trail Marathon
Location: Inca Trail, Peru
Date: July
Elevation: 10,700' gain
Results: 10:32:57, 3rd FOA (2012)

A backpacker's thru hike dream usually completed in 3-5 days: the Inca Trail can now also be done in one day as the most challenging and beautiful 26.2 miles I have ever done. Race participants camp at the start line at 8000' altitude and prepare before dawn to trek through 5 ecological zones in varying weather of heat, cold, wind, rain, hail as you climb to the highest point on the course at 13,7000' over Dead Women's pass. With a firm cut off 11 hours due to Peruvian government restrictions, two thirds of the field did not finish in 2012 under the cut off and were forced to camp overnight to finish the next morning. Be prepared to ascend over 3000 steps through history as alpaca graze the land around you until you are greeted with your magical finish line: Machu Picchu. 


If you would like to visit more of my top lists, below are some more of my favorite categories. Feel free to email me if you're looking for a new fitness / training program to keep you motivated and accountable through the changing circumstances. 
Thank you for reading!