NEWS** The 2014 Classic route has changed! We’re working with the BLM to add a singletrack loop to replace a long section of paved and dirt road.

May 11th, 6:45 am and it’s another magnificent spring morning in Fruita, CO. The pre-race check-in for the 3rd annual Desert RATS Classic mountain bike race is winding down and the racers are making their final preparations. It’s sunny, cool and clear with hard packed trails from rain earlier in the week. Camping weather the night before was perfect and everyone is feeling fresh and ready to race. Fruita’s mountain bike trails are as challenging as they are beautiful, winding their way through spectacular high desert vistas. Having the race on such a gorgeous day in May set the stage for previous course records to fall. Now it was up to the racers to make it happen.

The route, a 100k out and back leg-burner, is perfect for testing early season endurance levels. The terrain is varied and includes everything from fast flats to grueling climbs followed by exhilarating descents. The scenery changes as fast as the terrain, following the famous Kokopelli trail through Southwestern Colorado with the La Sal Mountains getting closer as riders near the turnaround. Water is scarce in this section of desert and aid stations are placed along the route to allow riders to carry as little as possible when they ride.

The perfect trail conditions combined with the extreme conditioning of the athletes led to the top three riders smashing the old course record. Pro racer Cameron Chambers of Colorado Springs finished way in front with a time of 3:53:24, the fastest time for this race by 20 minutes! From Salt Lake City UT, pro racer Aaron Phillips came in second with a time of 4:09:09. He was followed at 4:11:06 by the top sport category finisher Brent Beck of Fort Collins CO. Post-race, Brent immediately sought out Aaron to give his thanks for the help he’d given him with the two flat tires he’d suffered toward the end of the course. A show of camaraderie like this reaffirms what’s so special about this race and the overall fellowship of the trail that every mountain biker feels. The first woman at the finish was Lori Smith, a repeat racer who set her own course record and earned a sub 5 hour Gonzo award with a time of 4:59:28. Utahans Heather Batchelor and Danelle Ballengee followed her with times of 5:23:27 and 5:30:54 respectively.

The rest of the field began to feel the steady rise of the temperature as they churned their way to the finish line. The dry desert heat hit hard in the afternoon but the racers pulled off an amazing finish with eleven racers winning the Gonzo award and 38 racers earning the sub 8 hour Enduro award! The burgers and beer awards party at Singletracks bike shop in downtown Fruita was the perfect place to kick back with other racers to trade stories, grab trivia raffle prizes and, for a lucky few, pick up a trophy. Hard to imagine a better way to spend your weekend or a better group of people to spend it with.

The Desert RATS Classic is going to be even better in 2014! We’re working to replace a section of paved and dirt road with a singletrack loop. Check out the new map:

Fish has been getting a lot of publicity lately. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, or sardines contain a form of unsaturated fat known as omega-3 fatty acid. Research has shown that fish is good for heart health because omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, which can damage blood vessels and lead to heart disease. Fish oil not only reduces the inflammation that damages blood vessels, but also reduces inflammation all over the body, including muscles.

Athletes put a great amount of stress on their bodies. This stress can lead to the inflammation of skeletal muscles and other tissues. After an intense workout, the muscles need to recover and repair. It is important to provide the building blocks to repair damaged muscles and top off carbohydrate stores. Many athletes have a shake or meal containing protein and carbohydrates for recovery. Consider planning a meal containing fish as part of your recovery plan. The fish will provide a good source of protein and the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish can act as a natural anti-inflammatory and aid in muscle recovery and repair.

Fish oils may also be immune enhancing. Many athletes who train long hours or at a high intensity have a temporary decline in immune function. Studies have reported that various immune cell functions are temporarily impaired following acute bouts of prolonged and continuous heavy exercise. There are studies that indicate that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for the immune system. This could also be due to the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids.

Many people take fish oil supplements to get the omega-3 fatty acids, but they are missing other vital nutrients that fish can provide. Fish is an excellent source of protein and nutrients such as vitamin B12 and iron. Eating fish is a great way to get protein in the diet for muscle recovery. Substituting fish for a meal containing red meat is a healthy way to get the protein without the saturated fat.

Fish can be easy to prepare and delicious. Are you a fussy fish eater? Included is a recipe for maple-mustard salmon. This is delicious and even the fussiest fish eater will love this dish. Include some sweet potatoes and broccoli or other dark green non-starchy vegetable and you have created the perfect, nutrient-dense post workout meal.

Try this tasty (and easy) fish recipe

Maple-Mustard Salmon (3-4 4-ounce servings)

¼ cup spicy mustard such as Grey Poupon


2 tablespoon maple syrup

1 lb fresh Atlantic salmon filet

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put a layer of aluminum foil on a baking dish and place the salmon filet on top. Mix the spicy mustard and syrup in a bowl then spread the mixture on top of the salmon. Place salmon in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Katie Kissane, MS, RD

My Nutrition Coach, LLC

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

On the Trail
Epic Trail Spotlight – The Kalalau Trail in Kauai HI
Photo Courtesy of
The spectacular Kalalau Trail starts along the north shore of the island of Kauai and continues for 11 miles to end in the waterfalls of Kalalau Valley. It’s known as one of the most beautiful and transforming hikes in America, however, it also regularly ranks as one of the most dangerous. This trail is definitely a fantastic challenge for ultrarunners. The 22 miles of ever changing cliffs traversing five valleys can be done in a day with the perfect mix of training, fueling and luck.
Epic – This trail can be run in one push. Mere mortals can run it in 10 hours, super human athletes can aim for under 8 hours.
Endurance – The entire 22 mile out and back can be done in a day with a truly strenuous effort. However, camping passes can be obtained to complete the trip in two days. The extra day will also allow for more time to to savor the experience of this once in a lifetime trail.
Day Hike – There are many options to shorten the trail and still take in the breathtaking scenery that includes waterfalls, white sand beaches and unbelievable views. There are out and backs to Hanakapi’ai Beach (2miles) or Hanakoa Valley (4miles).
Location: From Lihue Airport in Kauai it will be 37 miles to the trailhead at Ke’e Beach in Na Pali Coast State Park.
Logistics: You will need to be prepared to carry food and water or a water purification system. Camping passes are required past the 6 mile point on the trail and need to be purchased in advance (available online) as there are a limited number available.
Length: Around 22 miles.
Weather: Weather is generally very pleasant but will vary along the trail. The climate is tropical and can range from hot sun to extremely wet conditions.
Elevation: 800 ft.
Terrain: Varied terrain ranging from wet valleys to exposed ridges.
Running season: The weather is warm and mild year round but will be less predictable in the winter months.
Details: Latitude/Longitude – 22.2003° N, 159.6203° W
Shop: After you’ve achieved your trail goal get your victory t-shirt at Kalalau Trail Store in Hanalei.
Wednesday, 31 July 2013 07:56

Red-Rock Cleanse

Running the Desert RATS

Published July 10, 2013 on

Kokopelli’s Trail spans approximately 148 miles from Loma, Colorado, to Moab, Utah.  While primarily thought of as a mountain-bike route, the trail traverses dirt roads, doubletrack, the occasional pavement stretch, and smatterings of rocky singletrack and smooth slick rock. Most of the trail is red-dirt desert with a small section that climbs into the La Sal Mountains—jagged, almost-out-of-place looking peaks that hover, lonely above Moab’s red-rock sea.

The course is mostly exposed and at elevations between 4000 and 8000 feet above sea level. Running a trail like this in the summer is unforgiving, the kind of thing that rings out your body in a harsh cleanse, the kind of ringing-out I’ve been craving since the first snow hit my home in Carbondale, Colorado last year.

And so, I’m running the trail, starting tomorrow afternoon, as part of a six-day stage race called Desert RATS. I ran the race four years ago when I first moved to Colorado in 2009 and had little understanding of ultrarunning training (it was my second ultra). Still, I finished, somehow, and I’ve been dreaming about going back ever since. Life’s obligations stood in the way … until this year.

Desert RATS is, according to the event’s website,  “a multiday footrace adventure.” It’s six days total (five running days with a rest day thrown in the middle). Stages are broken down in the following approximate segments: 20 miles, 38 miles, nine miles, rest, 52 miles (expedition stage) and 26.2 miles.

Each night Gemini Adventures, the event organizers, set up and break down camp (where racers start and finish each stage), transport gear along the trail and prepare hot meals morning and night. Racers share large four- to six-person tents and camp every night along the trail.

Kurt Egli and his wife, Shelley, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, have participated in Desert RATS every year since 2009, the year I last ran. We have since remained close friends. Yesterday while packing, I asked Kurt why he comes back to the same event year after year.

“This race has become such a part of my soul,” he says. “The course, the crew, my fellow competitors, even the lizards are all etched into my life. I am always stripped down to my core at this race.” And that, he says, is what brings him back to focus “on the other side” in his daily life.

Kurt is right. And that’s why I’m coming back, too: There is a purification that happens when we simply do nothing but travel forward by foot day after day, when the obligations of our “normal” daily realities melt away and our needs became basic: run, fuel, sleep. It is in this kind of meditative environment that we are able to replenish ourselves on a spiritual level … with the added challenge of ultra distances and desert heat to test our supposed physical limits.

This morning, before loading up my car for the 3.5-hour drive to Moab, I awoke to a race “pump-up” text from my best friend. The quote, by William James, was perfect for what I’m going to face this week running in 100-degree temps under unobstructed, smothering sunlight:

“Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction.”

And so, today, I head to the desert to push through my obstructions.

Mid Week: Bonus Miles

When I came to the desert, despite knowing it would be hot and inhospitable, I had a sort of “this ain’t no thang” kind of attitude. We started day one just after 1 p.m. under blazing sun and near 100-degree temps. It was the first time I’d actually run in my pack that was now filled with what felt like 10 pounds of required gear. That was my first mistake. Then I hardly drank water or consumed electrolytes. And then, I got lost. I almost had a heat stroke and was forced to sit at the final aid station for at least a half hour before the race doctors would let me continue.

I was humbled. The desert, a fellow runner, Candy, reminded me, is a living, breathing thing, too, to be respected. And I’d come to it with the kind of domineering attitude I despise. And the desert pushed back. Stripped me, humbled me, make me feel like I was facing all my demons at once like a brick wall.

Desert RATS isn’t easy. It’s a semi-supported event with minimal aid stations along challenging, sandy, exposed trails and roads in the Colorado-Utah desert. Running out of water, going off course, getting injured and being lost are all real possibilities, especially on some of the remote sections of the trail. But that is also part of the race’s appeal. It’s hard. Really hard. At the pre-race meeting, race director Reid Delman said, “You can all get through this, but you have to want to suffer.”

Says Katie Trapp, 27, of Milwalkie, “I had gastroparesis on the first day because of the heat. I was throwing up a lot.  I was really miserable. All I wanted was for someone to pick me up in a car, but they couldn’t get a car to me. I had two options, the race doctors told me:  I could walk fast, or I could walk slow. And that kind of broke my spirit a little bit. I thought about dropping, but I didn’t. I just kept going. And you eventually get in a rhythm and put your head down and muster though.”

Ryan Guldan, 29, a water systems engineer from Denver, Colorado, the winner of Stage One, approached me on the start line of day two, the 39-mile day, about pacing together. We ended up running the whole way together, focusing on a good pace and consistently drinking water. We have run every stage together since then.

After a nine-mile day, we completed the “Expedition Stage,” which is supposed to be 51. Ryan and I, though, veered off course for 10 miles. Why not run a 100K? Neither of us had ever done one. Seriously, the course is marked by the Kokopelli signs only and there are quite a few spurs, jeep roads and side trails that are easy to turn down  and get off course if you’re flying by and not paying attention (like me!). That, though, is the design of the race: To follow the Kokopelli and our guide books, or passports, as the race calls them — a mandatory book we carry around with directions and a map for every stage. A lot of people took wrong turns, I just have a knack for taking them often.

Despite several horrible, waterless hours in the heat of the day, we stuck together and made it to the finish in, surprisingly, exceptionally good spirits. … I mean, what do you do? The desert had stepped in again to teach another valuable lesson.

“Yesterday was glorious,” Ryan told me this morning after breakfast, our rest day. “It was the definition of really good team work and perseverance, camaraderie. … A lot of the other runners out there were giving us water.”

The detour, it seemed, had not deterred Ryan at all. In fact, it made him love the race more. “The race overall—it’s going to be a yearly vacation,” Ryan has already concluded with still one stage left. “The semi-supported, more adventure style tests your level of confidence. Being on your own in a harsh environment.”

Aftermath: The RATS Family

In a sedentary society designed around convenience, we must seek out physical challenge to push ourselves, to discover. And so, I went to the desert to allow myself to suffer, to cover 148 miles of dry terrain (the Kokopelli Trail plus a little extra) in a harsh climate. I went to the desert to take a break from my daily life’s grind, to spend a week simply being present and in the company of other people that wanted the same things. In the end, I happily finished the event despite getting lost and running a total of 162 miles.

Kurt Egli, who has now completed the race every year for the past five years with his wife Shelley (that’s a total of 740 miles), told me after the race, “I have run it slow and I have run it fast. And in every running I heave learned a lesson. Each time, I have gained a better understanding of who I am.”

That first day, I decided I was going to pack up my car and drive home, that I was going to quit running for a year. It was the only night I had cell service and so I sent a message to a friend: It is only the first day and the desert has already stripped and humbled me. I am facing my demons like a brick wall.

He texted back: This is your vision quest. Good thing you run too fast for your demons to catch up.

Valuable insight. I didn’t give up. I was there to discover, and so I kept going.

I had to remember, this race wasn’t designed to be easy.

After the first day, the landscape changed from rocky, technical singletrack to sandy doubletrack and an exposed, dusty dirt road that offered little to no rewarding views. Throughout the race, the terrain was a mixture of dirt roads, sandy doubletracks and rocky, slickrock trails that ended on the final marathon stage, with a 10-plus-mile downhill into Slickrock park in Moab, Utah.

But the challenge alone didn’t make the race. The conversations that were held at camp, the meals shared and the friendships that formed both on and off the trail, made the whole experience all the more incredible.

“While a stage race is still a ‘race,’ it is so much more,” racer Judi Setzer Cowart of Jacksonville, Florida, said a few days after her finish. “In a one-day race everyone does their thing, maybe hangs out for while, and then goes home. In a stage race, by the end of the week, you’ve spent so much time together, on the trail and in camp, that you become family.”

It is for that reason, that Ryan Gulman says he’ll be back. “I was optimistic that doing this adventure would allow me to see and be immersed in an environment that would be unforgettable in my lifetime. It definitely didn’t disappoint. I am grateful to have met and shared this experience with each and every runner and crew member.”

No doubt. I’m already planning my return next year. Not only does the event have a 40-percent return rate, meaning previous-year’s finishers come back time and time again (this is called the “RAT’s Family), I now have some time to make up (by not getting lost).

For more information about the event and to take a look at this year’s racer’s posts and results, click here.

Adventure running season is upon us! With the snow melting in the mountains, the warm summer weather and racing season in full swing it’s easy to get caught up in running and racing too much. Following a well designed training and racing plan is imperative for longevity in the world of Ultra Running. But if you do find yourself lacking in enthusiasm and energy this summer it may be time to take a step back and listen to your body’s signals.  Here are fifteen common warning signs and symptoms of 0vertraining Syndrome:

1. Heart rate is high in relation to exercise effort or pace.

2. Washed-out feeling, tired and drained, lack of energy.

3. Ongoing mild leg soreness, general aches and pains.

4. Pain in muscles and joints.

5. Sudden drop in performance.

6. Insomnia.

7. Frequent headaches.

8. Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats).

9. Decrease in training capacity and intensity.

10. Moodiness and irritability.

11. Depression.

12. Loss of enthusiasm for the sport.

13. Decreased appetite and weight loss.

14. Increased incidence of injuries.

15. A compulsive need to exercise.

If you are experiencing 5 or more of these symptoms daily you need to take a step back and start a recovery plan. Do these ten things to get back on track. This may take 1-2 months of diligent recovery before you’re feeling like your old self.

1. A trip to the Doctor for a full blood panel and physical. Be sure to check Iron, Vit D, Calcium and thyroid levels – all play a major role in training and performance.

2. Go to bed early. Do not set your alarm. Allow your body to wake up naturally and get as much sleep as possible.

4. Keep all your runs to 1hr or less. Keep effort easy, with Heart Rate Zone 1-2, easy conversational pace.

5. Do not time trial or race any runs. Racing will fire you up and deplete you mentally. As athletes we all need a non-competitive season in our yearly calendar to rejuvenate mentally and replenish physically.

6. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Yes even Advil and Tylenol. Dependency on NSAIDS can have detrimental lasting effects to your health.

7. Eat nutritionally dense meals. Avoid refined and packaged foods and add super foods to diet.

8. Don’t skip meals. Have 3+ well balanced meals a day that include a mixture of Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate. Eliminating a macro food group out of your diet is risky and will often lead to micro nutrient deficiency.

9. Drink your weight in Kg in water daily. ie Body wt of 55kg= 55oz of water daily. Then add 12-16oz for every hour of exercise.

10. Schedule a regular monthly massage! Getting regular bodywork can help reset your stress levels back to normal, and increase your blood and nutrient flow to major organs and muscles.

Cindy Stonesmith CMT ACSM/HFS
Owner and Endurance Running Coach

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