What happens when a seasoned skier and mountain biker who’s new to the trail running world exchanges questions with an expert trail runner? Read on to find out. Here, co-workers Joe Johnson, 28, of Salt Lake City, and Ashley Arnold, 26, of Carbondale, Colorado, ask each other important (and a few somewhat tangential) questions about trail running and, ah, the meaning of it all:

Ashley to Joe

Why did you start trail running? Why not just run on the road? Honestly, I started trail running because I couldn’t afford anything else. I had moved to Utah during the winter, had spent all my money on ski gear (thus not being able to afford a bike), and was looking for a way to explore Salt Lake’s trail network. Oh, and running on the road is boring.

You’re new to the sport. Any advice you’d give an even newer beginner? Something, perhaps, you learned the hard way? Invest in a solid pair of trail running shoes. Road shoes are made for exactly what their name says—running on the road. You’ll notice the difference in traction, performance and comfort.  I’m currently running in the Salomon Speedcross 3.

It's important to wear shoes made specifically for the sport when trail running.

How much would someone have to pay you to run 10 trail miles in your ski boots AND ski goggles? I’m going to put the price at $500, which probably doesn’t seem like much to most people. Why so low? Well, given that I spend six months a year in my ski boots and goggles, 10 trail miles doesn’t sound horrible. And, $500 equates to a whole lot of post-run beers to drown the pain.

Do you use a GPS device like the Ambit? If yes, why do you like it? If no, why don’t you? I do. I’m running with the Suunto Ambit right now. I’m a beginner, but even a beginner can appreciate the ability to track, learn from and improve on their runs based on the information this watch provides. Besides, you can download the “Beer App,” an app that calculates how many beers you’ve burned during your run. Priceless.

What’s a runner’s high? In my opinion, a runner’s high is that point where you couldn’t feel any lower, tired or more defeated by the trail … followed up by you diggin’ deep and finishing strong.

If you could have any four songs on rotation during a run, what would they be? Lowrider by WAR, Deliverance by Bubba Sparkx, Levrolution by El Ardemo and Hot Like Sauce by Pretty Lights. Obviously, these picks change every day based upon my mood.

You’re really into skiing and mountain biking. How does trail running complement those sports? Correct. I spend six months out of the year splitting my time between backcountry and resort skiing, waiting for the trails to clear. When they do, trail running and biking take over. The beauty of trail running is that while working different muscle groups, it’s actually very similar to biking and skiing in that it requires focus, line choice, endurance, decision-making and speed. So, when ski season comes back around, trail running has me ready to go.

Beautiful trails at Aspen in Colorado.

What’s the first thing you do after a trail run? Stretch. Followed closely by mowing down on whatever food is within reach.

Favorite post-run food? Beverage? Burrito. Hands down. I don’t know what it is about these tortilla wrapped delicacies, but I crave them after a long run. If there’s even a question about my post-run beverage of choice, you haven’t read my previous answers. If that wasn’t clear enough, it’s beer … preferably cold.

Do you prefer to run solo or with friends? I’m a solo runner for two reasons: 1. I’m uber competitive and would most likely turn a leisurely run into a race. 2. I haven’t found anyone I really, truly enjoy running with yet.

Have you encountered any mountain lions yet? Have you thought about what you’ll do when/if you do? This is important. This is VERY important. You never know what you’re going to run into on the trail. If I came nose-to-nose with a mountain lion I’d pull his whiskers. I read somewhere on the Internet (which is always correct) that pulling their whiskers will make them roll over, purr and act like a normal house cat. Now you know. You’re welcome. (Editor’s Note: The information in this answer is in no way true or correct. Liftopia will not be held responsible for what happens when you pull a mountain lion’s whiskers).



Watch out for moose on the trail when trail running.

This mid-run interruption is brought to you by Moose: Intimidating trail runners since trail running became cool.

Joe to Ashley

When it comes to trail running you could be considered a “cagey veteran.” How long have you been running and what was it about trail running that got you started?  I have been running since I was a freshman in high school, but at that time I was a track runner—300-meter hurdler actually. I literally refused to run more than a lap around the track at a time. When my sister convinced me to run cross-country the following year, I still hated running “far” and would duck out of practice and go to the local food co-op and hang out with my friends during our scheduled run time.  I didn’t start trail running, though, until a couple of years after college. I basically ran a trail ultra off the couch and was hooked. Being hooked after that experience is somewhat hard to believe because honestly, it was a horrible experience as after the race, standing, walking, laying down—pretty much everything—was excruciating.

You’re now a professional; tell us about your training, your races, and what company you run for? A professional? I don’t know about that, but I run for Salomon/Suunto now. Training is something I’m always trying to dial. Last year was a lot about uphill running for the mountain running team—short and fast. And, this year, I’ve transitioned back into more ultra training. I’m currently training for a stage race—148 miles in six days—so I’m doing a lot of back-to-back long runs. Right now, mostly mileage.  Later in the year I am running White River 50 in Seattle, the Leadville 100, UROC 100K and then some Salomon-sponsored events: The Rock/Creek Stump Jump and Upchuck 50K in Chattanooga and then a Ragnar Relay event in California. Hopefully I’ll also be running the TNF 50-Mile Endurance Challenge in San Francisco in December. 

Break it down for us real simple like. …What are three pieces of gear that you MUST have when you hit the trail? Shoes, sports bra and shorts.  Usually.

When it comes to methods of hydration during a run, there are more options than Carter has liver pills. As a professional, what do you suggest?  Oh, man, I hate carrying hydration. Don’t take my advice. I only take water if I’m running for more than three hours, unless it’s hot and in the middle of the day. And sometimes I don’t even take it then, and I regret it for the next few hours.

Trail running can take you to such great heights!

What’s your “go to” fuel when running? I really dislike eating and running. So, I often find myself drinking orange soda if I need calories. If I absolutely have to take food, I’ll eat ProBar energy chews, or, sunflower butter and jam on tortilla if I’m out for a really long time.

You’ve run all over the world. What’s your favorite place to run, favorite specific trail? I’d like to spend more time in the Andes. I think I’d really like it there. Of course the Alps are amazing, but, honestly, Colorado has some amazing high country terrain. And where I live, I can escape on trails and see no one for hours and hours. That’s an incredible feeling.

Solve the mystery for us: Does the ‘Runner’s High’ exist? Totally. And it’s the best psychotherapy I know.

What should a rookie look for in a running shoe? What shoes do you use? Look for a feeling of all-around “OK.” A good shoe is one you don’t have to think about. It’s comfortable and easy to wear. I wear Salomon’s Sense Mantra and CrossMax 2 mostly.

Where do you stand on stretching? I’m also a modern dancer, so stretching is crucial. I have to constantly work on my hip flexibility so that I can still achieve some level of turn out during dance after so many miles of forward-moving feet.

Music or no music while running? If yes, what’s your jam? I swing both ways with this. Lately, though, I’ve been listening to a lot of music. A few days ago, it was solely Holy Other. Yesterday I listened to First Aid Kit. This morning, I jammed to Cocteau Twins and felt like I was running in some sort of trance. …

On average how many miles per week do you run? For those getting started what’s a good mileage to start at? Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of mileage. I’ve just been enjoying my “meditation” time on the trail. I’ve been running between 70 and 90 miles per week for about a month now. Mileage is really dependent on your body and what you can handle. It’s dangerous to put a limit or assign a number for anyone. The best advice I can give: Get to know your body and understand when you’re pushing yourself in a beneficial way and when you’re hurting yourself. Listen to your body’s warning signs. Sometimes, though, we have to take risks to see what our limits really are.

Have any other questions for Ashley & Joe? Share them in the comments below!

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Sub-Categories Beginners / Interviews / Run / Summer

2 responses to “Trail to Enlightenment: An Introduction to Trail Running”

  1. Cat says:

    Fun read! Curious to see if someone can round up $500, I can’t imagine running even a mile in ski boots, ouch!

  2. […] mountain doesn’t have to end with Winter!  Our new obsession here at is trail running.  We love the fresh air, amazing views, and the awesome cardio training for ski season (only 6 […]

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