Stage Race Sunday!
Who’s coming to play in the desert this year?

A veteran of Death Valley, Laurie Miller comes to us via Winthrop, Washington – where snow substitutes for sand in her race prep.

Marital Status: Married   
Number of Children: 2 of my own and 1 step daughter/ 6 grandchildren
Occupation: full time wife and grandma; part time Forest Service Employee
Years running: Not that many
Years running ultras: 1 year
Ultras I have done: Bigfoot 40

Favorite race and why: Death Valley. For years I had wanted to run a marathon but life had different ideas. After some major life changes I grabbed ahold of that dream again and started training. My husband missed me while I was training so he started running with me! We ran the race together in the back of the pack with several other couples. It was the best!!! My son also meet us there and ran too!! What could make a woman happier…. running a race through beautiful country and having your spouse and son with you!!!!

Best results in races: hahaha Always in the back 1/3.

Tell us something about yourself, running related or other: When I asked my kids and grandkids how I should answer this question they all had the same response…” crazy”. I never see myself that way…. I see myself as someone who likes to do stuff. I read about this race when it first started and immediately wanted to do it even though I was not a consistent runner. I love the desert and I love a good challenge!! Years have gone by and I am now in my 60’s…. so I decided I better get signed up! I am not fast(soooo far from it) but I am persistent and determined!! So here I come!!!! So excited !!

What’s your favorite way to train for Desert RATS: Sand training in the snow 🙂 Consistent running and running with a pack always.

What are your goals for Desert RATS: To embrace the desert. To push myself further than I ever have before. To enjoy the experience with other racers! And to make some new friends!


Stage Race Sunday!
Who’s coming to play in the desert this year?

Phil “Macho Man” Pinti, hailing from Columbia, MD, is back for his second crack at the Kokopelli!

Marital Status: Widower
Number of Children: 2
Occupation: 1.) Dad, 2.) Analyst
Years running: 15
Years running ultras: 3

Ultras I have done: Labor Pain 12 Hour Endurance Race (50 mile x2; 2017, 2018) (Pretzel City Sports), Mid-Maryland 50K (x3 2017, 2018, 2019) (Bullseye Running), Stone Mill 50 Miler, Schuylkill River 50k, Desert RATS Kokopelli 150 (2018), Devil Dog 100K (Devil Dog Ultras).

Favorite race and why: The Desert RATS race: This stage race was everything I hoped it would be, and more. The race is a class act from the bottom up and being immersed with such stellar athletes for a week out in the desert is life changing. . . “It’s only once we venture to our absolute limits do we realize our true potential.”

Best results in races: Dam Yeti 50K (Yeti Trail Runners) in Damascus, VA. June 2nd 2018; 5th place male; 9th place overall.

Tell us something about yourself, running related or other: I like to live by Bart Yasso’s quip, “Never Limit Where Running Can Take You.” Many of the challenges and difficulties we face in life (and running) are self imposed. . . release the chains of self doubt and embrace your Life.

What’s your favorite way to train for Desert RATS: Running hill repeats near my children’s school, and by running “off of the grid,” sans Garmin, watch, and cell phone and just enjoy the act of being out in nature, untethered to technology… helps when running in the desert for hours on end.

What are your goals for Desert RATS: Having completed the Desert RATS race last year I’m looking forward to every moment of the adventure in 2019. I’m excited to meet the new class of Desert RATS family and my (training) motivation is fostered in the collective physical feats of endurance, ‘ultra’ knowledge and experience, and unmasked personalities of this year’s RATS family. Looking forward to make you acquaintance! And to be reacquainted with the Desert RATS Staff and volunteers, y’all are the best crew a runner could ask for… I’ve missed you all.

Friday, 18 January 2019 09:24

Annual Planning


Annual Planning

By Brian Passenti – Altitude Endurance Coaching

Desert RATS Champion, Leadman, Family man, Coach, Endurance Sports Enthusiast & Pizza Connoisseur

So, this is our year. This is the year we achieve those goals. This is the year where we make our mark.

Many of us have created some sort of plan- maybe a New Years Resolution, some sort of racing and training goals for the coming year.

These athletic goals focus around races and events we have scheduled and signed up for. Maybe you won a coveted spot in one of the Ultra Lotteries, or you are attempting your first 50k, or 5k.

They all need a plan. Most likely you have made a resolution before, and on occasion you started at training day one and train your butt off till training day 260 (this year Aug 17th) and nailed your event! Let’s be real here… that rarely happens. Ask me how I know…?

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

From training day one to that race on your calendar there is so much wiggle room, so many opportunities to fall prey to defeat.”I will start tomorrow”, or “on Monday..” All that negative self doubt that maybe “I cant….”

Well, I believe you CAN and I have a couple ideas on how you can better prepare yourself and plan ahead. I try and think of my year of training as an ultramarathon. I try and plan for it similarly to an ultra in a couple of ways:

1. How to eat an elephant (ask my friend Reid!).
It’s tough for me to think of a 100 mile ultramarathon in its entirety, even though I have completed a few. Just standing at the starting line and thinking that I have 100 miles ahead of me is overwhelming.

I really have to micromanage the miles into shorter chunks, 10-12 mile sections, or aid station to aid station. My annual training plan needs the same attention. I need to break it down to smaller blocks that allow me to focus on a specific section as well as check in with my goals for progress and alignment. I break it down to monthly blocks and create a working plan for that one month. I try and test myself with 2-3 challenges for any particular month.

The first one I map out is directly related to my goal(s). It may be a distance for training or a particular amount of hours of training in the month. In peak season I have done speed challenges as well as vertical gain challenges. Whatever your goal, this first challenge is a good part of the direct work needed to get you there.

The second monthly challenge is indirect- its a challenge that will test you. I like this one. I have tried 15 minutes of daily meditation every day in the month, a push up challenge for the month, drinking only water, a 30 day yoga practice, starting and finishing a book.. It’s a challenge, and, if completed, will make the mental mind tougher. The obvious other healthy benefits are an added bonus.

I have already forgot what I did a month ago today, and so it’s easy to let even these monthly challenges slip by- I try and write down a quick note on how my day was vs my monthly map. At the end of my week I will put together a recap using the daily notes and check for alignment. All of this breaks the season down into bite size pieces. This is the ground level perspective.

2. Don’t go out too fast.
This is said at the start of every ultramarathon..and do I take heed? Not very often… I (sorta) redeem myself by practicing this within my annual goals at least. It is so easy to go lickety-split into these annual goals. They are fresh and you have a full head of steam!

Remember, it’s a long season. Training day 259 is quite a few monthly blocks away. Motivation is great but if you are diving into your training hard right now- can you sustain it? Can you make it to the finish, mentally and physically healthy? This one gives you the birds eye view, from slightly above.

These monthly blocks can be created ahead of time to spread the training amongst them as to ensure proper proportion as well as building on each other. Next months training map will build on this current one, and so on. The idea is not to do July’s work in January. Maybe I can take my own advice in my next ultra…?

3. Have a plan B, and a plan C.
This is the window seat, the 10,000 ft view, peering into the big picture. Even in the most perfect of training seasons, events on race day can fall apart. There are so many variables in running 100 miles over 24 or more hours. So much can change, some within yourself and some external issues can arise and change your race.

In ultrarunning as well as in your annual plan…and for that matter, in life- You have to be flexible. You have to roll with the punches and adapt to changes that life throws at you. This isn’t your hall pass to walk away from your goals when your tired and lose motivation, when it gets tough, but more an understanding that things will not go according to plan. You may not get Tuesdays workout in- you better have a good reason, but it may not happen.

Don’t sweat it- move on and do what you can. Be willing to realign your goals if needed. Be willing to change the plan when it’s not working for you anymore. It’s ok.

There are so many ways to get to that starting line. My hope is that you get one thing from my suggestions that helps you plan your season, and finds you at the top of your game at that starting line. Enjoy the Journey!

Saturday, 15 December 2018 09:23

Lockhart Basin Mountain Bike Trip Report

By Reid Delman

Michele at Chicken Corner

Lockhart Basin is an incredible mtb ride across the Colorado River from the famous White Rim Trail.

Location: Canyonlands National Park to Moab UT
Distance: 60+ miles
Permit: Not required
Level: Intermediate
Scenery: Stunning!

Gemini Adventures Race Director, Reid, rode this epic mtb ride in one day in 2017. Here’s his report:

The ride starts with a 2.5 hour drive from Moab to Canyonlands National Park and we had a shuttle pick us up at 3:30am. If there is a better way to wake up than in the very early morning hours in Moab to packed bags of adventure gear, I don’t know it. Using the Gaia app helped us navigate the trail for the first 40+ miles. Officially, Lockhart Basin trail ends at Hurrah Pass around 20 miles from Moab. The scenery was so extremely beautiful.

We rode the trail in late October and the weather was threatening all day and at times spat on us enough that we needed to put on jackets. It was never miserable though and is a great time of year for a long endurance ride. Temps are cooler and the sand is more packed.

We went about 6 extra miles each way  to visit Chicken Corner, a place we had never been before. As the road narrowed and eventually became a trail we kept looking for a butte that was in the shape of a chicken to indicate Chicken Corner. While skirting around the last butte carrying our bikes on a small ledge with a 1000 foot drop to our right, my wife Michele asked for help with her bike because she was too “chicken’ to make the move. And that’s when we realized we had reached our destination and how it was named!

I’ve ridden the famous White Rim trail and I found this trail to be just as beautiful and every bit as exciting. It’s just across the Colorado River and not quite as long. Since it’s not in the park there’s also plenty of camping and no need for a permit. We got to Hurrah Pass as the sun was setting and rode the last few miles in the dark and cold. It’s around 62 miles but it took us 72 with the extra miles. Stunning buttes, canyons, extremely remote, highly recommend!

Saturday, 15 December 2018 09:22

Adventure Run Series from Trail Sisters

By Erica Rackley with permission from

Part One: Planning

What grand adventure idea inspires you? Maybe you’ve seen a photo of an iconic trail and resolved to run there. Maybe a mountain range you’ve glimpsed on a road trip calls to you. Maybe you can’t get someone’s fastest known time on your favorite trail out of your head. My adventure ideas simmer in my head constantly. There are projects and routes that return to conscious thought when I’m waiting at a stoplight, falling asleep or clicking through spreadsheets at work. Our Trail Sisters community is full of women with grand adventure ideas, exemplified by the Trail Run Adventure Grant awardees. These women have explored trails in Iceland, attempted a committing alpine traverse in the Wasatch, set an FKT on the Long Trail, and trekked 1000 miles to raise money for Alzheimer’s research (to name just a few examples). I hope all of us have an adventure idea brewing in our heads, and that we let ourselves dream without limits.

Usually, dreaming up new adventures is fun. Hopefully, experiencing the adventure is fun too. But in between an idea’s conception and execution looms an intimidating gap. Getting from idea to actually tying our running shoes and hitting the trail takes some hard work and careful planning. In June, I wrote a brief how-to article about self-supported adventure runs. After writing that article (and going on a few running adventures of my own this fall), I’ve expanded that article into an in-depth, four-part series. My goal is to help women close the gap between dream and reality when it comes to running adventures.

First, we’ll talk planning. Soon, you’ll also see articles on equipment & supplies, safety, and mindset. Many of you Trail Sisters already are adventurers—both aspiring and experienced—and we want to learn from you, too. Please comment with questions and your tips for making your self-supported adventure runs happen. Let’s get more of us on the trails achieving our goals, wherever and whatever they are.

Now onto planning. Have an adventure idea? Time to do some homework! By planning well, you can train more appropriately, pack sufficiently, and be prepared when something doesn’t go according to plan.  

Once you’ve decided on a route, get your hands on detailed maps. To best prepare for your adventure, a detailed topographic map can’t be beat. These maps convey critical information that is learnable with a few map-reading skills. Between a handful of map makers, up-to-date maps are available for the vast majority of trails in the US, and there is usually one company that’s best in a particular region. A local outdoor store can point you to the best option, even by phone. You can also order a custom topographic map of anywhere in US here. These maps can certainly intimidate if you’ve never learned to read them. Read on for some basic map-reading skills. If you’re a map expert, skip ahead for more about planning your adventure.


A map is most useful for navigating in the field when it’s oriented accurately to real-world compass directions. To orient your map, you’ll need a compass. An inexpensive basic compass is best for general navigation. There are many compass skills one could learn, but for basic “staying found” purposes, know how to lay out your map so north on the map corresponds to north in real life. With your map unfolded on a flat surface, turn your compass’s dial so the on the dial lines up with the big arrow on the baseplate (A). Then, put your compass on the map with the edge of the baseplate aligned with the north/south oriented edge of the map (B). Finally, rotate the compass and map together (as one unit) until the compass’s floating red needle is inside the red arrow outlined in the compass dial (C). Now your map is oriented, meaning that the arrow pointing north on the map also points to north in real life. An oriented map means that if you know where you are on the map, a feature to the right of your location on the map will also be to your right in real life. 

Colors: Your topographic map has a few different colors on it. Green corresponds to consistently forested terrain. White indicates an absence of trees; white areas could include rocky terrain or permanent snowfields. Blue indicates water: streams, rivers, lakes, oceans. Roads and trails could be one of several different colors, depending on the map maker (and often differently colored roads and trails indicate different types of roads and trails); consult your map’s key to differentiate. 


Contour lines: Topographic maps are valuable because they show information in three dimensions. The thin lines (called contour lines) covering a topographic map connect points of equal elevation. Typically, every fifth or tenth contour line is an index line, a contour line that is bolder and marks larger intervals of elevation. The contour interval of a map is the vertical distance between two contour lines; the map’s key or scale lists its contour interval. In the image below, the map’s contour interval is 40 feet, and every fifth line is an index contour, so the bold index lines are 200 vertical feet apart. 


a) How steep is a given area on the map? Close together contour lines indicate steep terrain (there is less horizontal distance between changes in elevation). Conversely, terrain is less steep when contour lines are farther apart. Contour lines that converge too closely to differentiate indicate a cliff.

b) A contour line that makes a completely closed circle indicates a summit or depression. To distinguish between the two, observe whether the elevation of the contour lines surrounding the closed circle increases or decreases. 


Becoming comfortable using these skills takes repetition and practice. A great way to increase your map fluency is to find a map for a local area you’re very familiar with, and study it while you’re on those trails. On the trail, orient the map and locate some familiar features on it. Notice how the map’s contour lines correspond to the profiles of landmarks you know well.

Remember that when looking at a map, humans tend to see what they want to see. In the field, if you find yourself disoriented and looking up at a prominent peak, our tendency is to assume the peak must be the highest peak on the map, but often a closer look reveals we had it wrong. Take the time to consider other possibilities.

Comfortable Reading a Map? Time to Plan.

Now it’s time to get acquainted with your intended route. As you study the map, make note of some important details.

  • Water sources: a trailside stream or lake means less water to carry. Streams represented by a dotted blue line are intermittent streams and may not flow outside of spring runoff. Streams represented by a solid blue line generally flow year-round, but during a drought even these streams could be unreliable.
  • Climbs and descents: the closer together the contour lines, the steeper the terrain. The more a trail trends perpendicularly to the contour lines, the steeper your climb or descent will be.
  • Trail junctions: how many times does your route intersect another mapped trail? Do you know which way to go if the junction isn’t signed?
  • Emergency exit routes: Should an emergency happen, does your route intersect other trails or roads that offer a shorter path to help?

In addition to studying a map, you can familiarize yourself with your route by consulting other resources. Unless your route remains completely undiscovered, chances are high someone has posted a trip report somewhere on the internet. Read trip reports cautiously, as factors that make a trip good or bad for one blogger may not apply to you. By scouring trip reports, however, you might find a photo of that particularly rocky descent you’re concerned about or learn that the sign is gone at an important trail junction. Public Strava data can provide helpful info regarding elevation profile. Trail database websites like Trail Run Project also provide elevation data and trail descriptions written by fellow runners. YouTube videos provide great visual info on just how steep, rocky, or overgrown certain trail sections are. And of course, the Trail Sisters Forums are a great place to crowdsource beta on your route from other adventure-minded ladies.

Once you’ve gotten to know your route, you can estimate how long your adventure might take. A semi-accurate time estimate is important for preparing well and staying safe—it affects how much food you bring, whether or not you bring a headlamp and when you tell your friend to call for help if you haven’t contacted them. Often, much more than mileage matters when estimating how long your adventure will take. Consider:

  • the effect of carrying a heavier load compared to in a race. The weight of gear and food to travel self-sufficiently can add up and make our comfortable pace a bit slower than usual, especially in the early miles of an adventure when packs are full.
  • steep climbs. Hikers conservatively budget one extra hour of time for every 1000 feet gained. This may be generous for runners traveling light, but at the end of a long day in the mountains, it just may be spot-on.
  • steep, technical descents. A smooth, sustained downhill can be a great opportunity to move efficiently and let your stride open up. But some downhills are so steep (and loose and/or rocky) that for the average runner, they’re hardly runnable. Budget extra time for downhills when the map’s contour lines squish close together.
  • off-trail travel. It can be slow going, especially when following the principles of Leave No Trace. Sticking to the rocks when crossing tundra or post-holing through a snow field in a half-melted alpine meadow protects the places we love but can take extra time.  
  • unplanned detours. When exploring new places, accidental wrong turns are normal. Instead of panicking because the detours put you behind schedule, budget extra time to allow for on-the-spot navigation challenges.
  • allotting time to pause and enjoy. Five minutes to quietly sit atop a peak or along a river are often the best parts of my adventure runs.

Finally, familiarize yourself with the weather and climate where you’ll be running. In the US, the National Weather Service provides climate details for the entire country on their website. Note record high and low temperatures for when you plan to run, and pack accordingly. Check the status of local creeks and rivers. If you’re counting on a refilling water on the trail, be sure local creeks and rivers are running. Also note when runoff occurs; stream crossings that are easy in fall can be dangerous during peak flow. You can call a local gear shop or outfitter to check the status of local creeks.    

If you’ve planned well, you know when to expect a big climb. You know whether you should bring ten ounces of water or four liters. You know what weather to expect and when to look for an easy-to-miss turn. Self-supported adventure runs can be intimidating, but thorough planning chips away at the mountain of unknown elements. Thorough planning allows us to pack appropriately and increases our margin of safety. For the best chance of success, plan excellently. And then, be okay with whatever remains unknown. After all, the unknown makes the adventure.

Read Part 2 – Equipment and Supplies and Part 3 – Safety

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