3 time SBVK finisher Molly Troup talks Channelkeeper and trail running during Covid 19

Molly’s first run up SBVK was flush with water flowing down the Mission Creek watershed which Tunnel Trail travels along. As someone who work revolves around Santa Barbara’s watersheds, this was a treat that may have slowed her a bit. As a trail runner, she found SBVK to be a great test to keep her going with her goal race, Santa Barbara 9 Trails, postponed. Having done the course 3 times, she earned herself a pair of Deckers X Lab shoes.

SBVK Blog caught up with her and she graciously replied even with only one good hand (the other took the brunt of a trail running fall).

Q. Keeping our watersheds clean obviously doesn’t end with Covid 19. How Santa Barbara Channelkeeper adapting? 

Much like for everyone else, Covid 19 has provided some new challenges for my organization. Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper is a local small environmental nonprofit organization. Our mission is to protect and restore the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds through science-based advocacy, field work, education, and enforcement. Much of our work involves engaging with the community though our volunteer and education programs.

For example, between 5-12 volunteers join us monthly to collect important water quality data in the Goleta Valley watershed or along the Ventura River. We also partner with local schools and provide hands-on lesson plans and experiments in the classroom and facilitate out of the classroom field trips on topics including watersheds, marine science, and pollution prevention. Currently, all of our volunteer and education programs are on hold while we’re observing the proper social distancing guidelines, although we are developing content to engage with these audiences through digital programming.

Channelkeeper celebrates 20 years of advocating for our water (photo Brian Hall)

While our in-person activities are on hold, our advocacy and enforcement work continues on issues including addressing agricultural pollution on the Central Coast, the City of SB’s future water supply portfolio, maintaining minimum water level flows in the Ventura River to sustain fish, wildlife, and people, and analyzing our water quality data. We are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year, and although our big fundraiser and celebratory gala was postponed until September 12th due to Covid-19, we are continuing to celebrate 20 years of clean water victories throughout this year. Check out our newly designed website, sign up for our newsletters, and follow us on our social media platforms to stay up to date and get involved!

Q. You were planning to do Santa Barbara 9 trails. How have you adjusted your running since the race was postponed?

I finally decided to pull the trigger this year and commit to training for the whole thing! To me, completing SB9T feels like a rite of passage for a local trail runner in this community. While I’ve spent many, many weekend hours on our front country trails and ran SB9T as a relay with my partner last year, running SB9T in March was to be my longest running event combined with the most amount of climbing in a single event. I was excited to tackle this new challenge!

With the event being postponed a week out, after doing all the hard work, I have to say I’ve struggled with maintaining the same focus to be ready for this event in June. Instead of spending lots of time running on the course, I’ve been maintaining a decent base but exploring quieter trails in our county such as Bill Wallace, Baron Ranch, and some back country trails. SBVK became the motivation for a bigger front country trail run on early Friday mornings, when Tunnel Trail would be quietest. I was gearing up for some bigger runs in theses next few weeks, but in an unfortunate turn of events, I broke my wrist in a fall running down Rattlesnake Connector (after hitting White Mountain Peak!) and will be taking it easy for the next few weeks instead. It seems like my SB9T challenge will have to wait for a future date!

Q. You did SBVK 3 times. What did you learn over those runs?

My first time running the SBVK course was following several awesome late season rain events, which meant Mission Falls was running! Seeing this waterfall is a rare and infrequent treat because you need the right amount of rain over the right amount of time. Additionally, the weather pattern that brought the rain, brought cold enough temperatures to drop snow on the San Rafaels in the backcountry! All this to say, I was very distracted by the incredible scenery and conditions on that first challenge attempt and I stopped a lot to photo document the morning.

My next two attempts were several weeks later when all the flowing water had dried up and snow had melted. The trail was still beautiful, but the scenery much more “regular” so I was able to focus on the challenge and was motivated to try to achieve a time that would keep me in the top 10 ladies on Strava. I’m not a professional runner, nor do I have a running coach, but I was happy to see that with each attempt, I was able to shave a little time off from my previous attempt at the VK and I also PR’d on the technical Tunnel Trail segment. So, I would say focus, motivation, and familiarity with the trail are all important elements to be successful in a virtual challenge! I also have to give a shout out to my partner and pup who joined me and motivated me on each attempt, although neither tracks their activities on Strava!   

Santa Barbara VK Update

It has been thrilling to watch SBVK gain a following and to have so many people participate, especially the the runners that experienced Tunnel Trail for the first time! Thank you to the 46 people that completed the challenge and for those that followed along!

I anxiously hurried to get SBVK going because I thought there would be a limited time before we would be racing again. I wish that were true. There is no telling when races will be back.

I knew this event couldn’t replace the thrill of lining up for the races that we had planned, but I hoped it could give us something to test ourselves with for the time being. I was also nervous that the trails would be closed or that running would be in violation of rules or norms. Thankfully, other than a construction delay at Tunnel Trailhead, running on the Santa Barbara trails has gone on. Safety is still a big concern, but the trails are open and most people are being extra courteous and conscientious.

Summer travel plans are evaporating. Many of our fellow trail runners had plans to race all over the world this summer. This week Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in the European Alps, the biggest event in the trail racing world and one that multiple SBVK participants were planning to do, should announce the status for their events this year. I would love to be wrong, but it seems inevitable that most of us will see anticipated trips like UTMB canceled and we will be staying home.

Fog rolling in viewed from La Cumbre Peak

With travel mostly halted, our exploration needs to stay local. Hosting SBVK has focused my exploration on La Cumbre Peak and the route up to it. I’m not just getting out and enjoying the beauty but I’m researching more about our our home and the mountains in our backyard. La Cumbre Peak and the mountains that tower over Santa Barbara have diverse ecology, unique geography, and rich history.

I am planning a new challenge similar to SBVK. There are no races on the horizon and I’d love to share some of the exploring I’ve done. I have a route in mind and will announce it soon. The course will celebrate Santa Barbrara’s trails and history. I will post some updates on Instagram this week to tease the new course while work on transitioning this website to the next phase.

I will keep creating content focused on the trails and I intend to organize a real race up La Cumbre Peak when it is appropriate. Please signup for the newsletter below for updates and news.

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SBVK runner Sam Scherz should be in Colorado studying

As a student at Unversity of Colorado studying evolutionary biology, the evolving case of Covid-19 that we are all now paying attention to is the type of thing he has chosen to study. Also, as a type 1 diabetic, Sam is not your typical invincible college student. The Dos Pueblos alumni is home with his family and has found his way up the SBVK course twice now while he completes his schoolwork remotely.

Sam was chosen at random to be the winner of Deckers X Lab shoes of his choice and answered a few questions for SBVK.

Q. You’re a college student at University of Colorado completing classes remotely to finish out the semester. When did your college close campus? Did you immediately decide to come home and how was the journey? What are you hearing from your college and your professors about what your future at CU looks like and how are you planning for it?

On March 13th, CU’s campus officially closed. On the 14th, I cooked up 5 pounds of pasta and pizza, piled all of my belongings into a small U-Haul (the only vehicle I could rent because I’m 20) and started my journey from Boulder back to my home in Santa Barbara. I drove two days straight, stopping only to sleep and trail-run on some pretty spectacular trails in Colorado, Utah and Nevada. I tuned into my first remote Zoom class in the parking lot of a Starbucks in Barstow, California.  Much like ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, Barstow is where the real strange, dreamlike journey that we’ve all been living for the past month began for me. 

In my area of study we do a lot of biological and viral computer modeling, so my classmates and I kind of understood COVID’s transmission capabilities some weeks before school closed. This knowledge paired with being an immuno-sensitive type 1 diabetic made me ready to bug-out at the drop of a hat. Most of my professors are evolutionary biologists, and even they are unable to answer questions about how COVID is going to behave in the coming months. If the experts aren’t sure, then I find myself unable to trust decisions made by the school regarding the fall semester. I plan to keep social distancing, running, volunteering at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network and not lose any sleep over it. 

Q. How did you get into running and what were your plans for your own running? How have you adapted those plans to our stay at home orders and social distancing?

While running began for me in the sixth grade as a way to lose weight and fail at impressing girls, it’s held different meanings throughout the years. In high school I ran on the cross country and track teams, where running became an authentic source of camaraderie and adventure in the face of an academic bureaucracy (or at least that’s how I saw it). My diabetes diagnosis in 2017 led me to discover that daily exercise is the best treatment for keeping my blood-glucose levels within target range. 

Nowadays running and endurance activities have grown more personal, like a friend in itself. Most of the time, I don’t use a watch or keep track of mileage, but listen to what my body feels it can achieve that week. My plan for this spring and early summer was to build up my aerobic capacity for some steeper races this fall, and I think this quarantine has helped me step back and identify the patterns of over-training that I’d been solidifying in Colorado while stressed and away from home. I could probably use some coaching, but for now I’m happy with my progress. 

Q. You’ve done the SBVK twice now, how would you recommend doing the course?

I really liked what Jeffrey said about focusing on your strengths for performing well on this course, as well as taking advantage of the first mile if you’re a strong road runner. However, I think that no matter how much you pump the brakes around mile two (the suicide mile as Dani puts it), your heart rate is going to be up there due to the new muscles being recruited for dealing with large rocks. As an amateur with good muscular fitness, but relatively poor aerobic fitness, I found that doing small hundred meter efforts followed by fifty meter power hikes worked best for me in clearing these technical sections before being able to recover at the halfway point sign, and the flat area before Camino Cielo Rd. My best advice is to just try it before times stop being recorded on May 8th, and be grateful for the free sufferfest! 

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SB High School Track and Field copes with a lost season

The key to becoming a great runner comes from years of progression. For many competitive runners, high school track is a pivotal part of that progression (it certainly was for me). More important than the physical progression is the social bonding that high school athletes get out of their sports. While high schoolers are rightfully devastated about missed proms and graduations, high school track athletes would give anything to climb in a bus and spend hours by the track drinking Gatorade, trying not to get sunburnt, and chasing personal bests.

Olivia Perdices, coach of the SBHS Track and Field and Cross Country programs, answered a few questions about how the running Dons are coping with the lost season and how coaches are trying to support them.

You can support Santa Barbara High School Track and Field through the Run Solo Project.

Q. What guidance have you been given for the SB high track season? What capacity are you able to communicate and work with the team and the athletes?

Friday March 13 was our last day of regular classes. Since then there’s been no physical contact with the team. We left with the expectation that we would return to business as usual in three weeks, after the school district’s scheduled spring break. At that point we had run a couple of early season meets and had our sights set on league competition starting with some big invitationals and post season on the horizon.

We were trying to have kids train alone, but as close to a regular in season competition phase as possible. This was primarily through scripts we emailed to the group, a lot of Q and A through texts and DMs and video analysis of athletes in the more technical events. 

By the end of March the decision was made to close schools for the duration of the year, in essence putting an end to any hopes of a spring season. We’re still emailing, texting, DMing, regularly with kids and parents, but with a little less urgency as we’ve shifted to an offseason phase and for most kids building into fall cross country or whatever other sports they may play.

The social bonds are irreplaceable, but this team is resilient!

Q. How have the athletes adapted to the season cancelations and not being able to come together as a team?

For most high school kids the social aspect of school and sports is huge. In that sense, it’s a big loss for them. The shared successes and failures on the field are big, but the time between sets, on the bus, and casual, goofy moments that you just don’t get training alone are most missed.

It’s the same for the coaches. We’re all very invested with these kids beyond athletics and into who they are as individuals. This investment is a lot tougher to convey in emails to kids and parents. Not being able to close things out in competition just leaves everyone unsatisfied.

There were so many kids just finding their place on the team and in the sport who hopefully will come back ready and hungry. The ones who were truly invested and on the verge of some big performance jumps are left guessing where the really would have measured up, which can be maddening. The ones my heart reall breaks for are the seniors. For most of them it’s their last chance to put on a uniform and represent something bigger than themselves in such a fashion. To have that taken away is a big hit. Add to that the other rites of passage they miss like prom and graduation and I’m at a loss as to what to say or do.

To their credit, most kids are adapting and handling things better than you’d expect. This group has been through a lot together with the fires, floods, mudslides and now this. They’re amazingly resilient and good at finding the positives to any situation.

You deal with a wide spectrum of athletes from freshman discovering the sport to seniors in their last season. What advice are you giving for their training right now and how are you guiding the ones with future seasons to be ready to compete when things do come back to normal?

More recently we’ve transitioned to a mindset of a long build to what we’re hoping is a full season of fall sports. For most kids that means getting ready for cross country, for some it means switching over to another sport, and the group who it’s probably hardest for are the ones who only compete in track and field.

For everyone it’s a lot longer off season than we’re used to and we’re trying to see the extra time as a positive. We’re encouraging kids to spend more time targeting things like strength, mobility and recovery that tend to get shortchanged during school and competition. For the track and field kids we are taking a step back and looking at weaknesses and technical changes. It’s a challenge without facilities and hands on coaching, but they’re finding a way.

We’ll be in a brand new stadium in the fall which is something that we’re definitely eying. With cross country we’re putting miles in the bank, but the focus right now is on enjoying the process and coming into the fall ready and hungry. More than anything, it’s for all of them to stay healthy, explore everything running has to offer and have fun with it.

These kids are preparing for a season of Cross Country in whatever form it takes.

Q. How can people support SB High XC and Track?

Santa Barbara has a great running community on so many levels and through so many avenues and it’s great for the Dons to be a part of that.

Right now we’re teamed up with several other schools and clubs on the Run Solo Project. It’s a four week series of virtual 5Ks that start next week. Anyone can sign up and choose Santa Barbara HS when they register for a portion of their entry fee to be donated to the Cross Country team. Sign up Here!

You can follow Santa Barbara High School Track and Field and Cross Country on instagram @sbdonsxctf, and support the team through the Run Solo Project!

Jeffrey Stern Adapts to Social Distance Training

Jeffrey Stern has a very hard time turning down a challenge. He fills his calendar with races of all distances and surfaces. If it’s a storied race, he’s done it or wants to do it. He soaks up his experiences, the grit of running and the warmth of fellow runners, and shares them through coaching, writing, and working in the endurance community. He’s already missed a few races he had signed up for and has adapted by finding new challenges for himself, including the fastest time yet for SBVK. You can learn more about Jeff on his website uponward.com or go straight to pictures of beloved dogs. (Photo here: @kmonosan)

Hello Jeffrey, I appreciate your enthusiasm for SBVK and for checking in with the blog!

You usually race a wide variety of races. I imagine race cancellations have hit you. Based on Strava, you’re continuing to train hard and challenge yourself. What adaptations have you made and what are your plans going forward?

I truly love pinning a number on. I thrive on the competition and personal challenges of racing a wide range of distances and on many surfaces so, like all athletes, I’ve have had to adapt a bit.

From a training perspective I’ve dialed back the specificity of workouts and am mostly aiming for longer endurance efforts and tempo runs, with a little spice added in for fun and to keep some speed in the legs. In general, I’m aiming for quality over quantity right now. I’ve even gotten back into cycling a little and keeping up a solid strength and core routine each week. In the long term, I think I’ll look back on this time period as an opportunity to work on some weaknesses and keep a general baseline of fitness without over extending myself too much. It’s been exciting to do a few virtual races like SBVK as well as some random solo tests, like running a 50k PR on the track last month.

Photo @penperezstudio

How are you guiding the athletes that you coach through all the disruption?

The same principles apply for most of the athletes I’m coaching too—less is more is my approach. Extra rest days, fun workouts that are less focused on specific times/splits and more based on effort, and keeping things dynamic and engaging with variety are all super important right now. In general, I think keeping the same structure is good to maintain momentum because events will eventually return, whether it be at the tail end of the year or in 2021. I know everyone I’m helping will be well rested, have a great endurance base, and be more motivated than ever before to chase their goals and push their limits to new heights with a deeper appreciation for the opportunity to race with the community we all love so much.

You are the first runner under an hour up SBVK. How would you suggest people approach the course?

Something unique about the SBVK course compared to other more traditional vertical kilometers is that you need to be a pretty well rounded runner to find success. The course starts with a moderately pitched road mile and half that you can take a couple approaches on: either you save some energy for the steep start of Tunnel Trail or you blast it and put in some time on your competitors. It completely depends on where you think your strengths lie.

Going into my attempt on April 12th, I felt Will’s time was wicked fast with the sloppy conditions we had from all the rain Santa Barbara has accumulated this spring, and I thought my road speed was an asset I had to take advantage of. My trail running and technical climbing abilities have been lacking some, so I tried to stay calm and collected until around mile three, when Tunnel flattens out a bit and you can really move. If you go out too hard, you’ll be too fatigued to push and will lose precious time in the middle section. You have approximately another 3/4 of a mile of steep, rocky terrain and then the final 1/4 mile of Tunnel is another time to put in a solid push as it starts to flatten before reaching Camino Cielo. Once you’re on the road you really just need to give it all you have left. If you feel good at this point with just over one mile remaining you can run it pretty swiftly. But if you burned too many matches on the steep sections of the trail portion (miles two and four), that final effort to get to La Cumbre Peak will not only make you suffer, but can add an extra few minutes to your time.

When in doubt the best advice I can give is to pace yourself. There’s a reason why Tunnel is considered one of the hardest trails in the front country, it can demoralize even the strongest athletes without the proper game plan; I’ve experienced this first hand many times.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Even though we can’t run together right now, it’s awesome to have virtual events to participate in. I’m super grateful that the Los Padres National Forest hasn’t closed our trails yet, so let’s all please help keep it this way by packing out everything you bring in and not over-extending yourself leading to any dangerous situations. Bring enough food, water, and the right gear to keep it enjoyable and safe, while maintaining your distance from other trail users. Thank you Scott for putting this all together!

You can follow Jeffrey on Instagram @uponward and visit his website www.uponward.com. His sponsors are SalomonSuuntoInjinjiSpring EnergyLittle Tree LabsStrength Happens, and Squirrels Nut Butter

Dani Moreno Shares Some Thoughts

Santa Barbara’s pro runner Dani Moreno lives her life in constant motion. Not only does she run fast, and far, but her favored non-running activities are not the type that one does at home. When the mood hits, she’s apt to go spearfishing, skydiving, snowboarding, or whatever else will increase her heart rate. These activities fit into a hectic travel schedule for both working and racing around the world. She’s having to make some adjustments due to Covid-19, but she is still full of smiles! 🙂

Dani answered some of my questions a few days before running a blistering 1:09:43 up the Santa Barbara VK course.

Q. How are you coping with social distancing, working from home, and everything else going on generally?

Like many people, I am still figuring it out. Committing to talking to my family, friends, coach, and teammates has helped me tremendously, especially since it’s easy for my introverted self to get the best of me. Overall though, I am feeling more confident in my approach to staying connected and very appreciative of the tribe that loves and supports me.

Q. Like many in the running community, you’ve had goal races canceled. Have you adjusted your training and how are you staying motivated?

I have gone through multiple phases. I felt extra motivated at first, and then I hit a big lull, but now I can feel myself evening out. For these next few months, I am going to focus on consistency and staying healthy. I am also setting small “fitness” goals with my coach every 4-6 weeks. Being someone who loves racing, these will be fun days for me to test myself a little bit. The intention is not to make me as tired as a race would, but give me something to focus on in the short term. Personally, long term goals are a bit difficult to set right now, so these are perfect for the time being. 🙂

Q. You’ve put more miles than most into Santa Barbara trails, including Tunnel Trail. How do you suggest runners approach the Santa Barbara VK course?

Haha, Tunnel is a hidden Gem. Soon as you hit the trailhead, you have close to 1200ft of climbing in the a single mile. And then, when you think it’s going to get more relaxed, you have another bit of climbing after the waterfall. I would recommend focusing on efficiency for the “Suicide Mile” portion and trying to pick it up after you pass the flat connector. If you trash your legs by climbing too fast at first, you are going to regret it the last 3/4 of the course. When it comes down to it, the VK will take most people a similar amount of time as it takes to run a half-marathon. So ask yourself, would you sprint the first 30min of a half-marathon? Pace yourself. 🙂

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am so stoked that people who aren’t primarily trail runners are trying this, or have their eye on it! I know some people who would call themselves cyclists and climbers who have already run it or plan to. It’s awesome to see folks get motivated, especially during this time. Thanks for putting this on! 🙂

You can follow Dani on instagram @dan_yell_a. You can check out her website dani-moreno.com. Her sponsors are rabbit, HOKA ONE ONE, The Lab, Runner’s High Herbals, Laird Superfoods, and Whalebird Kombucha.

SBVK Meets Christine Raimer

Christine is no stranger to going the distance. She’s the president of the Santa Barbara Triathlon Club. When her runs aren’t in conjunction with biking and swimming, she hits the trails. When she isn’t running, you’ll still find her in the mountains hiking and backpacking.

Christine completed the SBVK on Sunday and even enjoyed some pizza at the top that she hauled up. She is our first giveaway winner and will receive a pair of On Running Cloudventure Peak Running shoes.

You’re an Ironman triathlete, through hiker, and trail runner. Did you have any races or adventures derailed by Covid-19? How are you adapting your plans?

Like so many athletes, I’ve had several races cancelled or rescheduled – I had a really busy spring planned, so four races were impacted between March and June. With all of the changes and everything being up in the air, I’m giving myself more flexibility to do the training that brings me joy and being less strict with my training schedule, while still building volume. I’m keeping it interesting completing challenges such as Santa Barbara VK or a virtual race – Ironman and USA Duathlon are offering several free options that keep things interesting.

My plan for the year had been to focus on running in the first part of the year, then shift to a triathlon focus leading up to Santa Barbara Triathlon. My husband and I then typically backpack in the fall, and we have a trip booked to trek the Haute Route from France to Switzerland, so right now we are playing the waiting game to see what happens and if we’ll be able to go. 
So now everything is all jumbled and pending, and I feel a bit adrift without a clear focus or goal to work towards. I really enjoy training for something, so until we know otherwise, I’ll start focused training in May for Santa Barbara Triathlon and Born to Run Ultra.

How is the SB Triathlon Club adapting to Covid-19 and how can people be involved?

Social Distancing is a huge challenge for a club focused on community! We’ve had to postpone so many of our annual events, and I really hope we’ll still be able to do them later in the year.

For now, we are trying to provide members with options and inspiration to stay active. Since we can’t hold our weekly track workouts, we send out a weekly interval/tempo run that people can do on their own and club leadership always has their ears open for challenges and virtual events that we can share with the club. 

We’re also encouraging members to socialize while social distancing via our Facebook Group, following and tagging #wearesbtri on Instagram and cheering for each other on Strava.

What were your thoughts on the SBVK and what advice do you have for people that attempt it?

The Santa Barbara VK was a great inspiration to get out on some trails I had never been on – and I can’t wait to go back and actually see Mission Falls since it was so foggy when we were up there. I’ll definitely be doing it again in the coming weeks… once my quads aren’t so sore!

My advice for those attempting it… don’t underestimate how taxing it’ll be going up – eat your calories and be sure to hydrate, especially if it’s a clear day, it’ll get hot. And then just enjoy it! It’s a good mix of road and trail terrain, so if you get sick of the boulder-y sections, just know there is some beautiful runnable trail up ahead. 

More information about Santa Barbara Triathlon Club can be found at sbtriclub.com/. Christine and her rescue dog Tessa’s adventures can be followed on Instagram @tine.n.tessa.
The On Cloudventure Peak shoes that Christine won can be found here Men/Women

Kris Brown catches up with SBVK

Kris Brown, a self-proclaimed unprofessional runner, is usually the fastest guy you will see on Santa Barbara trails and has nabbed sponsorships with rabbit and HOKA ONE ONE. Two months ago, Kris was on arguably the biggest race podium of his life, a 3rd place at Terewera 102k in New Zealand, and just celebrated his restaurant Cubaneo’s 1 year anniversary. Shelter in place orders are hardly ideal for a competitive runner in their prime, let alone a restauranteur, but Kris does things his own way.

Thank you Kris for taking the time to answer a few questions!

Q. How are you personally effected by and coping with social distancing generally?

Obviously the social distancing protocol is not a great situation for anybody, but I think that I’m comparatively well-prepared for it. The daily rhythms of my life have been pretty inconsistent over the past several years as I’ve changed jobs and roles a bunch of times, so I’m used to switching back and forth between periods of intense work and periods with little to no activity. I actually got kind of excited for it — typically I spend a lot of time with people, both socially and professionally, and I find myself longing for time alone more than the opposite, so when it became clear that the shelter-in-place policy was going to become a reality, I immediately started compiling a list of things I’d been wanting to do but hadn’t been able to fit into my schedule.
Of course, I would love to be hanging out with friends many nights, but I’m also really stoked that I finally get to watch The Wire, and I’ve also taught myself a few songs on piano! It’s really a wild time to be alive — we’re in a pandemic that in many cases is causing a lot of pain in people’s lives, from those who come down with the virus to the overstressed healthcare workers, plus the many millions of people who are in financial peril as a result of this. But for many of us, myself included, this great dramatic event has just resulted in a kind of eerie silence that only breaks when you watch the news. 

Q. Covid-19 has upended most racing schedules, how have you been affected and how are you adapting your training plans?

I missed out on one major race (so far) to the virus. I had intended to run Georgia Death Race at the end of March, but that race was cancelled. Looking at the bright side once again, though, I was a little nervous about running that race because of a minor injury that would have potentially been aggravated by an extreme effort. Now, I get to take the proper time to fix the issue (I haven’t run in three weeks!) before starting a long build into the rest of my racing schedule, which is primarily focused on CCC (one of the UTMB races) in late August.
I think it’s pretty common for ultra runners to feel pressure to race a little too often, and I want more time between races. These things take a long time to prepare for and recover from, and in my case a proper build for an important race should realistically take half a year, so right now I’m thankful for the opportunity to do that long build without feeling like I’m missing out on the action.

Kris Brown running really far
Kris running the 2019 Western States 100m Endurance Run! Andy Cochrane

Q. You own the Tunnel Trail Strava segment by a large margin. What recommendations do you have for runners doing the SBVK Challenge?

Tunnel Trail is a unique and difficult trail, and I think there are some tricks to running it well. Specifically, there’s this odd way in that it actually gets easier the harder you push. Obviously that’s a little counterintuitive, but what I mean is that, like many technical climbs, there is a lot to gain from keeping up your momentum. If I go really slow and controlled up it, I find that the inevitable little ankle rolls and traction slips bring me nearly to a total halt, whereas when I’m pushing, I’m already onto my next step before I lose much speed. It’s almost a controlled fall forward.
So keeping in mind that it pays off to run with good energy on the technical section. I would recommend a conservative start on the road to make sure that you can leave it all on the trail. There’s even a nice little flat stretch at the top to get your breath back before hitting the last uphill road section! And about that last bit on the road … try not to think about it until you get there!

Q. Your restaurant Cubaneo has been forced to celebrate a year in business during shelter in place orders. Can you let people know the different ways they can get your awesome food?

Yes, Cubaneo is shut down for now in terms of in-house dining, but we’re still open for to-go orders! We’re not doing the usual third party delivery services like Grubhub, Doordash, etc. (and just FYI, those services rip restaurants off pretty badly, so if there’s ever an option to call directly, do it), but we are offering both pickup and delivery, which we’re managing ourselves. You can see what we’re serving and order through our website at www.cubaneosb.com. The menu will be changing pretty often, so keep your eyes on it. 
It’s been a tough situation as a restaurant owner. While we’re lucky to be able to open in a limited capacity, we, like most restaurants, are just scraping by at best, even having laid off our entire staff. It seems like we’re going to be able to put together rent for a few months and come out the other side of this, but it’s going to be a tough stretch of time, and we’re really looking forward to opening our doors again.

Who knows, maybe the state will continue to let us deliver cocktails once the shelter-in-place is lifted!

You can support Kris’s restaurant by ordering now from Cubaneo and visiting as soon as shelter in place orders lift. Cubaneo’s sister restaurant, Barbareño, also has a menu for takeout and groceries (I just ordered some flour, which I haven’t been able to find anywhere else!). You can follow Kris on Instagram @krisbobbrown. His sponsors are rabbit and HOKA ONE ONE.

Tips For Running Up Hill

  1. Start Slowly! Pacing yourself is key to any run, but when that run is uphill it is doubly important. Once you’ve gone beyond your abilities, it is very hard to recover while still going up hill. As your body adjusts to a rhythm of climbing and get into the middle of the uphill, then you may be able to push yourself a little more.
    If you do over extend yourself, don’t be afraid to walk or even stand still for a period. Slowing your heart rate and then restarting at an appropriate pace can help you get up the hill faster than indefinitely slowing from fatigue.
  2. Shorten your stride! Taking short quick steps is much more efficient than trying to take longer steps when the terrain gets steep. Short steps require less force to take off and while you absorb less force on landing allowing you to stay on your toes. By staying on your toes you keep the ground contact time shorter for each step causing the pace to be faster while using less energy.
  3. If your feel like you could walk faster than you’re running, you’re probably right! When the terrain gets steep or technical, walking is often best. Walking takes less energy, helps you maintain stability, and can be more fluid than running when the terrain is not conducive to running. Walking through the steep sections doesn’t need to be easy though. Quick, powerful steps, often with hands on the knees are necessary to maintain a quick pace until the course flattens out and you begin running again.

What is a VK?

A VK, or vertical kilometer, is an event that emphasizes running or hiking up one kilometer in altitude, rather than covering a long distance. Born in the Alps, original VKs often climb 1000 meters (3281 ft) of altitude with less than 5km of distance traveled. The shortest, steepest VKs are almost like going up a cliff. The terrain required to have 1km of climbing in 5km of distance is relatively rare, remote, and start at higher altitudes. Many are held at ski areas in the summer when the snow has melted.

The Santa Barbara VK is closer to 10km in distance. While it isn’t as steep as Alpine VKs, it is still a challenging climb with very few flat or downhill sections and some sections are quite steep. Like most VKs, the Santa Barbara VK isn’t exactly 1000m of vert (it’s 10-20m more) since finishing at the top of La Cumbre Peak is better than a few meters down while starting at an intersection is better than in front of someone’s driveway. Also, it was measured using a free altimeter app on an iPhone.

Runners throughout the ages have been drawn to mountain peaks. They offer perspective not found down below, allowing to gaze out vast distances. This can help people find their way either in the moment as you find familiar landmarks or in life as to see the world anew. They remind us of the beauty of this planet. In 1000 meters of climbing there will be different plants, animals, and geological features at different stages of the climb. These layers provide beauty and variety that reward the runner throughout the journey. A journey that will remind us that we live on a planet worth preserving.

A VK is a challenge, but it is a challenge that most fit people can accomplish. It doesn’t require the training or the commitment of longer road races but it offers many of the same rewards. The sense of accomplishment at the top never gets old no matter how fast the runner is.