Tips for women on the trails: Introducing Kelly McConnell

Trail running tips for women is series of articles sponsored by ATRA corporate member inov-8. In this installment our Outreach and Partnership Specialist, Peter Maksimow, spoke with inov-8 Advocate Program member Kelly McConnell, who calls Colorado home. We will hear from other inov-8 ambassadors, listen to their stories and provide tips for women on the trails in our Trail News section throughout 2017. If you have questions for a future installment in this series please email them to Peter (petermaksimow@trailrunner.com).

Kelly McConnell runs a business, Fit & Mindful, where she works as a Run Coach, Fitness Instructor, Yoga and Sports Massage Therapist in Boulder, CO. She also is co-creator of an outdoor adventure podcast, Dispatch Radio. You will most likely find her running in her favorite inov-8 trail shoes near her home in Chautauqua Park. Kelly started running in the 6th grade for her middle school track team. Later in life she got involved in running marathons after easily qualifying for Boston five years in a row. At the time it was natural for Kelly to get into ultra running since she lived on a mountain in Evergreen, CO. Most of her training was done on the mountain trails. Her running friends convinced her to do her first mountain trail race and to her surprise she won and fell in love with the ultra running community.

[Peter] How do you find trail running compared to road running?

[Kelly] Trail running is much easier on the body because the trails are softer than concrete which has less impact on your joints. I always feel more stiff after road running. I avoid running on the road and if I have to because I’m traveling I will run along the side of the road in the dirt or grass. I also like the peace and quiet of being out on the trails. Life is so hectic and full of noise, it is nice to go out in nature away from crowds or traffic. I’ve had a lot of experience racing out on the road and the first time I got a taste of trail racing I immediately switched over to only racing on the trails. The trail races are less crowded and there is this sense of community during the race. Every once in a while you can be out there running alone and then you catch up to someone or a group to share the experience of the race with.

TRAIL TIP: Life is noisy, find some peace and quiet on a trail.

[Peter] What is your experience on the trails? What are the pros and cons?

[Kelly] I love the ebb and flow of being by myself for a bit then meeting someone new on the trail as I go along. On the trails your always meeting people who tend to motivate you to keep going or your motivating them. There is something about being out in nature where I feel people are connecting to help each other rather than just competing against each other. The only con I can think of trail running is getting lost on the trails. Sometimes the trail systems are confusing. Typically, I will train on the same routes that I know well or I’ll bring friends along to help figure out the trail maps with me. Now there are also great Apps you can download onto your phone so that you have GPS and know exactly where you are.

[Peter] What is your “secret weapon”?

[Kelly] I love this question! My secret weapon is to be in a Zen state of mind. I actually lost this for a while and had to take a break to circle back to it. I started to get too hard on myself about my race results. I think this ruins the fun of running and actually can set you up for a terrible race or long run. It is so important to stay relaxed and have fun. We can not always be at our best and sometimes it’s just not a good day for many reasons. We have to drop expectations and meet ourselves where we are in every moment. To do that I have to be in the present moment, find a rhythm with my breath, check in with my thoughts and body. Your thoughts are everything. If you think negative thoughts, you breed negativity, so always try to stay positive. I’ve studied and practiced meditation and yoga for over 20 years so I’m always using these same principles while running. The most important thing is to be grateful, to feel the energy of the earth and how it moves within you, how it is you. I feed off the beauty around me as I run through the mountains, it keeps me moving. I also feel carried by the people who run next to me, we move each other. I’m always tapping into what’s available in the moment. There is always something helpful available for you when you are present.

TRAIL TIP: Find your Zen and make sure you are following it.

[Peter] What have you gathered as the best advice from other women trail runners?

[Kelly] From others I’d say some great advice is to be consistent with training and have a plan. This, without question, works well. You will lose fitness pretty quickly if you just dabble in things. Running gets easier when you are consistent. The best way to get better is to have a fast day or interval day once a week. Also have a hilly day or hill repeat day to get stronger on climbs. Fit in a long run once a week if your training for something. If you have a race planned train on similar terrain as the race.

TRAIL TIP: Be consistent and always have a training plan.

[Peter] What would be YOUR best advice for others?

[Kelly] My advice would be to look where you are going. So many people I run with trip and fall. I never do and can run pretty fast down hill. I think it’s because I’m focused on the trail and I pick up my feet. Stay focused even when you are chatting with your running mates. Also trail racing can be pretty male dominated. Don’t get intimidated by that. Having men out there is pretty awesome, especially when it’s windy! I’ll place myself behind taller men or get in the middle of the group to shield myself from the elements. In bike racing this would be like drafting or cheating, in many instances, so use it to your advantage in running! Another tip would be to stick with people around your pace. Make that your mission to keep up with them. Not only will this get you faster, you will never get lost if your keeping up with the group ahead of you!

TRAIL TIP: KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR FOOTING!

Follow Kelly’s journey at #inov8team