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Q&A with a Cool Coloradan: Nancy Hobbs

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Why do you think trail running is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports?

In one word: Opportunities. There are more resources available to those interested in trail running — how-to books, where-to books, editorial on social media and in magazines, features about runners in cool places with cool imagery, camps dedicated to learning about trail running and improving technique, a growing number of trail races and the allure of international races and camps.

Besides the obvious quantity of trails and races, why is Colorado such a good venue for it?

Another one-word answer: Variety. As mentioned, there are numerous spots to enjoy trail running in Colorado, from state parks to regional parks to city parks. Add open space options, USDA Forest Service properties and the list of trails grows and grows. The varied terrain is attractive to those getting into the sport. There are venues with slight elevation and smooth surfaces to gnarly, steep, tree-rooted and rocky features. There are lower elevation runs as well as the high-altitude possibilities. It is also a year-round activity. In the banana belt areas of [southern] Colorado, trails may be dry most or all of the winter. In others, snowshoes or ice spikes or traction systems enable the user to experience the trails in snow.

What are a couple of your favorite trails in Colorado?

Because I travel quite a bit, it's always great to be home in Colorado Springs and get on my favorite trails. For close-in trails: Palmer Park. A bit further (requiring me to drive): Red Rock Canyon Open Space, North Cheyenne Cañon Park, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Stratton Open Space, Fox Run Regional Park and Garden of the Gods Park. I love running in Vail, Aspen and Eagle.

What’s your top piece of advice for someone just getting started? And any specific advice for women in particular?

Another one-word answer: Focus. Add to that patience. Often times people think trail running means "running" all the time and if not "running" they aren't doing the sport right. Trail running is most enjoyed when there are rest points to enjoy the views and take stock of the silence or the experience, as it were. For beginners, I always give at least three tips: 1) Stay focused on the trail underfoot and stop to enjoy the views; 2) Start on gentler terrain and progress to more technical terrain as comfort level increases; 3) Get tips from someone in the sport either by running with them or listening to an expert providing advice. I add a fourth tip for those in Colorado: Be prepared for the weather — what it is at the start of the run and what it might be throughout the run. Weather changes on a dime in Colorado. There are those situations that make women a bit nervous: remote areas and encounters with animals or humans. Always, always let someone know where you are going and about what time you anticipate returning, especially in unfamiliar areas (carrying a map is a good idea, or a cell phone photo of the map of the area).

What’s your top safety tip for Colorado’s trail runners and visitors?

Run with another person in unfamiliar areas and/or carry a map. Be mindful and alert and know what to do when encountering wildlife — especially rattlesnakes, coyotes, mountain lions or a mother bear and cubs.

Are there resources out there for trail runners that folks may not know about?

The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running by Adam W. Chase and Nancy Hobbs (me!) and www.trailrunner.com. Also, Adam and I will have a new where-to book soon from Falcon Guides. It is in final stages of publication and includes trails in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Palmer Lake, Castle Rock and Monument.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you out there on Colorado’s trails?

Getting midway through a run and thinking the incoming thunder/lightning storm was too far away ... when it wasn't. Hiding in a rocky outcropping to avoid electrocution by lightning (that has happened more than once — not the electrocution, rather the hiding in the rocks); seeing a mountain lion just 10 minutes up the Barr Trail in 1993.

Do you have a favorite race in Colorado? If so, what makes it special?

I have lots of favorites. Barr Trail Mountain Race because I am a cofounder of the event. It provides a challenge in the uphill due to the steepness of parts of the trail, a midway stop at Barr Camp and the challenge of a crazy-fast downhill. I like racing in Cheyenne Mountain State Park because of the variety of the trails. The Blue Moon Trail Series is super fun in Ute Valley Park and is run in the evenings in June, July and August. I also like racing the Chamberlain Trail or trails in North Cheyenne Cañon. One of the best trail series is the La Sportiva Vail Mountain Trail Running Series in Vail — June through September with a variety of distances and venues on the mountain and super well organized. In the past, I have enjoyed the Imogene Pass Run (I'm usually gone that weekend so miss it most years), and the Golden Leaf Half Marathon in Aspen was also super fun. Of course, running on Pikes Peak either the Barr Trail Mountain Race or just to train.

What’s your favorite aprés-run activity?

Napping.

At Colorado.com/Colorado Tourism Office, we’ve recently begun taking a serious look at promoting sustainable tourism/voluntourism to ensure the state’s beauty remains for generations to come and that tourism benefits our residents. Is there an element of that conversation that resonates with trail runners in particular?

This is an area that needs some (lots of) work and education. This is a topic that is very much on our minds and on our radar at ATRA as well as during the US Trail Running Conference. Providing a better network for trail runners to actively engage in their communities on trail work days is a short-term goal with long-term impact.

Any Colorado trails you’d say “no way” to?

Extremely exposed trails are not something I would enjoy.

We understand you’re a dog lover. Is there a trail you love to run with pups in tow?

Yes. The off-leash area in Palmer Park here in Colorado Springs. My English setter loves, loves, loves to run. Having just had a horrible dog encounter (more like a horrible dog owner encounter — dog bit me and knocked me to the ground), I would urge people to be mindful when nearing a dog, whether on or off leash. The common "My dog doesn't bite" or "My dog Cujo is so friendly" are often inaccurate and misleading. Keep your dog on a leash (Rad Dog has an amazing leash which is retractable into the collar) when you run. There are also some great harnesses and hands-free leashes. I use one of these with Crimson. It's not just worrying about the dog getting away, it's also about potential wildlife encounters and other user encounters, as well as picking up after your pooch.

Anything else you'd like to share with our audience?

Do some research on the areas you want to visit in advance to realize the best value for the time spent in Colorado. Whenever I travel to a new spot, I always have some key spots in mind to visit and do some research so that I'm prepared. For trail running, things like elevation profile, route description, terrain and amenities (is there a toilet at the trailhead, parking, signage) are key.

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