Tips for women on the trails: Introducing Denise Flory

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 Denise Flory, 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 ([email protected]).

Denise Flory is a wife and mom of one who has spent 21 years in the Air Force and Air Force Reserve. She authored a study about Air Force C-130 aerial firefighting during the wildfires impacting the Colorado Springs region in 2012 and 2013, winning a national level award for her work, and continues to break new ground in her field of aerospace history. When she’s not on the trails, she is writing aerospace history, advocating for wildlife and environmental conservation, promoting counter-poaching, and accompanying disabled and visually impaired athletes as they achieve their trail running goals by acting as a guide for Achilles International, through the local chapter Achilles Pikes Peak. She is an ambassador for ATRA race member, Mad Moose Events, an inov-8 Advocate and encourages all families to leave their living rooms to enjoy the great outdoors.

Denise Flory in uniform with a visiting F-35.

[Peter] What, in your opinion, is the biggest hinderance or challenge for women in trail running at the moment? What do you see the as the way to solve that challenge?

[Denise] Mostly? Acceptance. The public truly believes women will/do face bogus health risks by running, especially on trails. The only way to solve it is to just keep going at our sport. Those who don’t want to change their views never will, yet there are plenty of others who see us as an inspiration toward a healthier lifestyle. The more people we inspire, the less those myths will stick.

[Peter] You have run on the mountain trails, what do you think is the main safety concern?

[Denise] In all honesty, our fellow humans. We all need to be mindful of the wildlife in our surroundings, but people are the ones who tend to actually want to hurt others. It’s such a sad statement, isn’t it? But the fact remains we don’t hear of many attacks from a mountain lion or bear.

Denise negotiating some technical downhill on the Falcon Loop at the United States Air Force Academy.

TRAIL TIP: Watch out for fellow humans, they can be more wild than the wildlife.

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

[Denise] It happened to be a woman who advised me that I don’t have to run up every hill. Sometimes energy is best preserved, and you go faster, if you just power-hike. My distances, times, and enjoyment improved immensely from this! She also shared advice on socks. It sounds funny, but cheap socks cause blisters and hurt!

[Peter] What would be YOUR best advice for others women trail runners out there?

[Denise] A good, truly GOOD running bra is the best investment you can make. I never fully appreciated this until a friend convinced me to spend the money on one. I was convinced the $10-20 ones at Walmart or Target were just the same as the expensive ones made by athletic specific companies. Boy, was I wrong! The money spent on the bra specifically made for running, by a company that focuses on running, made a huge difference! So that would my best advice. Followed by choosing a hydration vest that is made for a woman’s body. Seriously. Those two things can make you, or break you. Sometimes quite literally.

Denise rock hopping with friends in Palmer Park.

[Peter] What would you consider your “secret weapon”?

[Denise] Ice cream and potato chips! Just kidding. While those two things are my kryptonite, they aren’t really a secret weapon. In all honesty, my husband and my son are my real weapon. Though everyone knows they aren’t a secret. There’s just the three of us, and we stick together. When I’m at the height of my training, my son joins me on his mountain bike. When I need a pacer, my husband jumps in. When I need a break from life, both tell me to go run. We do this thing together. It’s true that some don’t have a supportive family. The heart pain and difficulties that situation presents is beyond imagination. The support system found in trail sisters can help! I’m not kidding. No, they aren’t the same as those you share your home with, but they are those who fully understand the desire to spend hours on the trail. They know your pains, fears, happiness, frustrations, suffer your “failures,” and celebrate your triumphs with you. No matter what. There is no possible way to be successful without that type of support system. Also, a healthy dose of sarcasm.

TRAIL TIP: Trail running should be punny!

[Peter] Trail running vs road running?….GO!

[Denise] Road running, for me, tends to be monotonous….or a game of dodging vehicles. My mind simultaneously gets bored while being on constant alert. Trail running, however, keeps my mind engaged. If I am not watching my footing, I am enjoying the scenery. When I hear a noise, I know to stop and look for wildlife. It’s easier to go further on the trails. You find little hidden gems, or forgotten history in the way back areas without roads. My dog can join me on the trails much easier (and more safely) than on the road. The trail and mountain running community seems to be closer knit and more friendly than the road running community. Also, trail running equals junk food on the go! Road race aid stations don’t have cookies, candy, Coke, or potato chips! There is a slight downside in that if you get hurt, help is likely not readily available. In fact, it can take anywhere from hours to days for help to arrive. Roads tend to be better for that. Still, the trail pros far outweighs the cons.

Denise at Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs on a training run for Run Rabbit Run.

[Peter] What has been the scariest thing you have encountered up in the mountains? Weather? Wild animals? Sasquatch!?

[Denise] The scariest thing I’ve ever encountered in the mountains, by far and large, is our crazy lightning. Weather forecasts are helpful, not foolproof. Sometimes a storm pops up out of nowhere, and all you can do is keep moving…unless you are lucky enough to be in an area where an abandoned structure still has a roof. I wholly admit this is the one thing that makes me want to cry, literally cry, in sheer terror. The second scariest thing was the angry moose that treed me. A deer the size of a small horse careening toward you is pretty frightening! The safest way to avoid being trampled? Climb. And fast! How’s that for a Mad Moose? This one experience is actually the reason I stop and look toward whatever sound I am hearing around me. I’d rather be able to get away safely, if necessary, than to be taken by surprise. I’m willing to bet Bigfoot joining me on a run would either scare the daylights out of me, or provide me with just another weirdo friend. He lives on Pikes Peak, you know…

Follow her journey at #inov8team

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