If it is summer and you live in Wyoming, you probably want to be in the mountains. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your running routine. In fact Meredith June Edwards, an accomplished trail runner, racer and ski mountaineer in Jackson, says trail running is a great way to see more of the backcountry in less time.
Edwards, 30, is a former University of Louisville distance runner. Her favorite race was the steeplechase. She moved to Jackson in 2007 where she took up trail running, and a few years later ski mountaineering. She made the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Team in 2013. Today, Edwards is into “ultra-trail running” (think unbelievable distances of 50 miles or more).
This summer Edwards’ race schedule includes the Courmayeur Champex Chamonix, known as the CCC, a grueling race around Mont Blanc through Italy, Switzerland and France. The CCC is a 100K (about 62 miles) race with 20,000 vertical feet of climbing. It’s a race where the top finisher times vary by hours each year, depending on whether runners encounter snowstorms. She hopes to finish in less than 17 hours and would like to be in the top 15 among the women and one of the top American female finishers.
But you don’t have to be an elite racer to take your training to the trails. WyoFile caught up with Edwards between running up the Middle Teton, working as a full-time cottage counselor at C-Bar-V Ranch in Jackson, for a few tips on mountain running.
What do people need to know if they want to start trail running?
I think a lot of people have the misconception that these ultra-runners are always running up hills. I power hike a lot of the uphills. Ease into it. You aren’t going to go as fast because of the terrain. It’s not about the mileage, but the time out. It’s getting that time on the legs and moving through the mountains.
What do you like about trail running?
You get to see a lot of amazing places. It’s more interesting than running on a track. You have to pay attention to the terrain. I love the vert. I also get into preparing my drop bags (supplies she gets at certain points on the course). I get excited thinking about going through the race and getting to them.
What do you put in them?
I bake a lot of my snacks, like coconut chocolate chip cookies, or sweet potato wedges with lots of salt. I also love canned chicken noodle soup cold. It’s just all that salt.
What do you carry on you?
I carry bear spray, especially when I’m by myself. I bring a lot of water. I have a 500 ML flask. Then I also carry a SteriPen (to purify water) just in case. Food is a big thing. I do a lot of gel packs and real food. I won’t eat for the first hour because food is in me, but then I eat every 30 minutes. You’ve got to fiddle with that and figure out how your body runs.
What do you carry your gear in?
I have a backpack system. The key is finding something comfortable to you that doesn’t bounce around.
Any tips for getting up hills?
Take smaller steps. Run on your toes. Feel those hamstrings engage. I’ve actually been going with poles for longer runs and I’m going to use them to race.
What about downhill?
Make sure your form is good. Make sure your body is strong enough to handle it. That comes from lifting. You need to be able to make your quads and hamstrings strong enough to handle all that impact. It’s a lot of impact on your body and your joints.
So weight lifting is part of your training?
I work with a good trainer and lift once or twice a week. You’ve got to have a strong core to be a runner. You need to get the hamstrings strong for the uphill — that’s my powerhouse.
How do you take care of your feet?
Calluses build up. I’ve lost all my toenails at this point. I soak blisters in a salt solution to keep them clean. I lube my feet up before a race to help prevent blisters, but ultimately they are going to happen. I wish I could say you could prevent them, but you can’t.
What makes Jackson a great place to train?
The access and the trail systems. The trails are really well maintained. Then there is the terrain — it’s pretty phenomenal when you have the Grand, Middle and South [Tetons]. I told a friend thinking of coming out ‘You are going to like it so much you might not want to race.’
Where else in Wyoming have you ran?
I’ve run up in Dubois and they have some fun trails up there. I also go down to Alpine and on the Greys River Road — there are some awesome trails there. The Wind [River Mountains] are really great, except there are lots of bugs. In Yellowstone the trails go on forever. You can run and never have to run the same way. I’d just never run there by myself. There’s a lot of wildlife up there.