The Witching Hour: 2019 World Trail Championship

IMG_6524.JPG

Original Blog Post

After her amazing victory at the 2019 US 50k Trail National Championships held at the FOURmidable 50k in Feb, rabbitPRO Dani Moreno secured her spot on Team USA for the 2019 World Trail Championship. Dani shares more about her experience at World's on the blog...

- - -

While regular race reports focus on the race itself, I decided to shed some light on what happens beforehand. I think it's easy to feel alone in your thoughts and doubts, and this blog post aims to demonstrate that a lot of people are quite often thinking the same things. Welcome to what my coach dubs as "The Witching Hour," with this one taking place the days leading up to the 2019 World Trail Championship.

 

The Witching Hour: 2019 World Trail Championship

 

I arrived in Lisbon Sunday before the race. I did this because I was going to be working remotely, and this allowed me to get settled before the work week started. (#worklifebalance)  While this part went according to plan, it wasn't long before I ran into my first fork in the pre-race road: the unprecedented heat waves causing me to question what race day conditions would be. Immediately this became the focus as I began thinking of how long it had been since I ran a hard workout in the heat. And it's safe to say my mental heckler started growing.

 

With the thought of humidity leading the charge, there were a few other things that began to fog my confidence, one of them being my PMS. I have found that not many women talk about this topic since it can sometimes be misunderstood and seen as an excuse. But at least for me, it's just what it is, and we can't help it! In my opinion, it's best to educate yourself and acknowledge what your cycles are like, especially when you have a competition coming up that is going to require a lot of you. For myself, when I have races that fall into this period (no pun intended haha), I know I need to be attentive to weather conditions. Similar to many women, I tend to overheat, making it difficult to sleep, and umm...run in the heat! Over the years this phase has lined up with some warm races, and while it can be tough, it isn't impossible, it just requires careful attention.

 

Typical to many "Witching Hours" self-talk is helpful along with the ability to come up with band-aid type solutions. So, in this case, hot weather and PMS..mmm not too bad as statistically I was sure at least 30% of the field would be dealing with it. The band-aid solution quickly became to drink more water and consume more electrolytes than I typically do. While the heat did die down in the days leading up to the race, I believe this excess hydration helped me and played to my favor considering race day did end up being quite warm.

 

Alright so heat, PMS, where else did my mind drift during the week leading up to the race? Well, I had a tough time letting go of the fact that I felt like I lacked emotional and mental strength. (#woof) It had been a long training block filled with international travel for work, buying a Condo with my significant other (which alone felt like a dumpster truck of mental labor), and long weekends filled with heavy mileage. So when I got to Portugal feeling like I was just hit by a "this is adulting bus" I was a bit bummed. Blame it on the excess estrogen, but I had no idea how I was going to conjure enough grit to pull off a solid race. My past few races I had trended towards feeling overly excited and filled with energy when I tapered, but those first few days in Lisbon had me feeling unexcitable.

 

What about the self-talk? It was tough, but eventually, I found enjoyment in the alone time. With space to think freely, I told myself that I had five days to rejuvenate my energy stores, most of which would feel restored once my teammates joined me. Not giving into the swing of emotion I was able to take control of the situation and decided to take that time to think about where I was heading, where I was, and where I had been. I think it's essential to have those moments, and it seemed appropriate considering I was getting ready to race against a very competitive field. This was a pivotal moment in "The Witching Hour" because while the tiredness made me feel uneasy, the time alone helped me to rediscover my "why," as in "why am I doing this race?" The answer was to represent my country and do the best I could for my team. Thus, it should come as no surprise that things began to change when my team showed up. (queue national anthem)

 

Most of Team USA showed up on Wednesday before the race. While there were some last minute roster changes on both the men's and women's side, we made light of it, and this is where I think "The Witching Hour" began to take a turn for the better.  Thinking back to those first introductions, it was clear that the chemistry amongst the team was unique. Everyone was down to earth, friendly, humble, and addictingly optimistic. Heck 2 of the guys didn't even have their bags and could care less! For them, they had packed their jerseys and shoes into their carry-ons, and in their perspective, that's all they needed.

 

From the airport, we all traveled to the Miranda Do Corvo, the city where the race would be taking place. And, from that moment on this particular "Witching Hour" began to fade from existence. While we did run into the realization that the course was not any of us had expected my mental heckler stayed silent considering at that point, we had no time for hesitations. The good faith and optimism of my team helped me feel at home and recognize that this is what these competitions were about: camaraderie.

 

"Witching Hours" can be tricky as each one is different. I have grown to appreciate the time leading up to each race and think it's important to recognize beforehand there is a scale of emotion I can encounter. Having done this running thing for a while now, I embrace the mental challenges it presents and how it requires me to have a resilient self-talk toolbox. A toolbox that also helps me in other areas of my life as well. While it can be daunting at times, it's essential to have a constant belief that it's nothing I can't handle, especially with the help of some friends. ;)

 

The Result: I placed 27th with the best part of my race occurring after 16k. I passed 28 women in total and got re-passed by one of them in the last 5k.  Team USA had a great showing, and it was only the second time in the history of the event that the entire US team finished the race.

Dani Moreno's run to success

xterra+profile+5+-+by+Jesse+Peters+.jpg

You can find the original article here!

Alex DominguezMarch 27, 2019

DOWNEY — Daniella “Dani” Moreno’s legs have propelled her farther than she ever thought they would.

Moreno, 26, got her running career started at Griffiths Middle School during the weekly and monthly half-mile and mile runs that took place in PE class.

“I was pretty obsessed with always getting better at those,” said Moreno. “I also played soccer. That’s kind of where my fascination with running started.”

She continued to pursue running at Warren High under Coach Jay Waldron.

“I would say that was when my running career really began,” said Moreno.

Moreno says that she likes the individual and the group aspect of competitive running. Especially as a singular competitor, preparation was key.

“It was really fun to run as a team, but it was easier to see your improvements as an individual,” said Moreno. “It was not just the physical aspect, but the mental aspect of it too; especially in cross country each course is slightly different, and so you had to be well prepared for all of them.”

“I think your mental approach to the sport as a whole was a bigger benefit to you as a whole as far as finding success.”

After graduating in 2010, Moreno competed for the University of California Santa Barbara, again competing in cross country and track.

She found success despite a slow start.

“I was injured coming in just as a freshman,” said Moreno. “I ended up being the top runner my last three years there. I got a couple of all-time marks as well.”

“I would say it was a fairly successful career. I feel that I fell a little short because I never quite got a school record and I never was an All-American…overall it was a great experience and, if anything, I learned how much potential I possibly had, so I think that was the biggest thing to come from it.”

Now living in Santa Barbara and after having graduated, Moreno took a break from running and took up a job in outdoor guiding.

Her new occupation ended up opening a door to a whole new running experience: trail running.

“When I was outdoor guiding, I would be in these really cool places and I wanted to explore outside of the job, or where we hiked for the job,” said Moreno. “Either early morning or late in the day after we were done working with the kids or the groups we were working with, I would go for short little runs and that is where the passion started to pick up again.”

Photo courtesy Dani Moreno

Shortly thereafter, her competitive nature started to kick in once again.

“I was doing these runs and I was curious if there were competitions that included this,” said Moreno. “I didn’t really know what to think of it or if it even was a thing, me running on these trails, but every once-in-a-while I’d see other people running and they seemed a lot more prepared than I was.”

“Eventually I found out that there were trail races, so I signed up for one in my area; super low key.”

Moreno won that race, and within a month was entered into a bigger race with prize money attached.

“Being the broke outdoor guide that I was at the time, I was like, ‘Okay, if I can try and get top five I could grab some money, or at least see how fast I need to be in order to start winning money,’” said Moreno.

She won that race too, and took home $1,500.

“I beat a few women that had been on USA teams before for mountain running,” said Moreno. “That’s where it really started.”

After that race, it wasn’t long before Moreno was picked up by her first sponsor, Hoka One One. Rabbit Pro followed.

Her sponsors now include The Lab, Avasol, Sunners High Herbals, Laird Superfood, Whalebird Komuchal, and Unived.

Now a sponsored pro, the door has opened even wider to the path of running success for Moreno.

“It’s honestly the best thing to ever happen to me,” said Moreno. “It’s cool to have kind of found my niche with the trails…My life feels very packed and jammed in all the time, but I don’t mind it…not all athletes get full scholarships for school, so it’s just nice to make a little bit of extra money, pay for the school that allowed me to run in the first place, and let my legs take me to new countries and stuff like that.

“It’s very cool, I’m very grateful.”

Dani Moreno | Patience and Speed on California’s Central Coast

You can find the original article here!

Dani Moreno (HOKA/rabbit) lined up for her first trail ultramarathon last week and ran away with the USATF 50k Trail Championship title. Nice work for her first ultra! Want to hear more about her training and whether we’ll see her at more ultras?

Dani Moreno after FOURmidable 50k Championship

Make no mistake, Dani Moreno’s no newbie to the trails or to competition. She had a successful collegiate career (UCSB) in the 10k and has been racing sub-ultra distances on the trails for a few years, finding success in X-Terra races and events that require a lot of climbing. However, Dani and her coach have been patient in moving up in distances too quickly. Smart move on her part, but frustrating for those of us who want to see her crush some ultras!

So how does this former collegiate 10k runner use her legspeed on the trails? How does she train for altitude when she lives on the beach? How does she bomb the downhills so effectively? (Answer: Just run down them fast!) And what’s her strategy when she lines up against other top women? While many people associate coastal Santa Barbara as a lazy beach town, Dani’s running with a group of speedsters in some of the toughest mountain trails in the country.

rabbit’s Dani Moreno Defends XTERRA World Championship in Hawaii

rabbit’s Dani Moreno Defends XTERRA World Championship in Hawaii

Photo Credit: Jesse Peters/XTERRA

Photo Credit: Jesse Peters/XTERRA

You can find original article by clicking here!

Putting an exclamation point on an amazing season, rabbitPRO Dani Moreno defended her title in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch in Hawaii, holding off former champion Polina Carlson to secure the win by over 90 seconds. For Moreno, the added visibility of being the returning champion provided both pressure and excitement. “For me, this was probably the most nervous yet the most excited I was for a race. It was the first time I had to defend a title since I began trail running, so it was fun to embrace it.”

For Moreno, it was the fifth win of the season and a fitting follow up to her performance at the US Skyrunning Championships in November, where her victory in the 27k race distance secured her grip on the Sky Running USA Championship as well as the season-long points competition. Other notable results for Moreno this season included wins at the Broken Arrow Skyrace 26k in June and at the brief but brutal Winter Ezakimak in Mammoth Lakes, both of which showcased her remarkable ability to perform at altitude despite being an ocean-loving sea level dweller.

Earning the victory in Hawaii took everything that Moreno had, with a stacked field that included elite marathoner Taylor Ward and two-time race winner Carlson putting her to the test. “These women not only know how to race but they know how to race when the stakes are high. Even on the start line, you could tell people were there to win and I loved it,” recalled Moreno. “When I pulled away around mile 4 I knew I had to keep pushing because anyone could catch me at a moment if I let my guard down. It was a lot hotter than last year and around mile 9 I felt some cramps coming on and I had to really breathe to make sure I could keep pushing.”

Moreno will now take a well earned and “much needed mental and physical break” before making her return to training. Needless to say, trail running fans everywhere will be looking forward to seeing what the champion has in store for 2019—rumor has it that her season may include her first attempt at an ultramarathon.

Dani Moreno Is Out to Defend Her XTERRA Trail Run World Title

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 9.29.04 AM.png

You can find the original article here!

It’s hard to imagine a more adventurous athlete than Dani Moreno. She’s an avid spear fisher, lobster diver, motorcyclist, ocean kayaker, snowboarder, and skydiver. She also works over 50 hours a week as a program manager at a construction software company.

Oh, and did we mention she is one of the fastest female trail runners in the world?

“It’s lobster season right now so that’s very much at the forefront,” said the 2017 XTERRA Trail Run World Champ. “Many days I wonder if I should go diving first or run first. A lot of people will choose running, but I’ll choose diving. I just say, ‘Well, I have some breathing exercises before my long run today.’ It’s all good.”

Moreno’s easy-going personality and huge smile might disguise the fact that she is a huge threat out on the dirt. But the same passion that guides her under the ocean and into the sky also propels her to cover ground at a blistering pace that most can’t keep up with. 

Despite winning most of the trail runs she entered last year, she decided to venture off the comfortable path and try Skyrunning this year. Primarily a European sport, Skyrunning typically happens at over 2000 feet in elevation over extremely technical terrain at a steep vertical grade.

In her first year as a Skyrunner, Moreno won the Winter Ezakimak in Mammoth in April, the Broken Arrow Skyrace 26K in Squaw Valley in June, and the Audi Power of Four 25K in July. At the Broken Arrow Skyrace, she also set a new course record. 

In a few weeks, Moreno is going to put her mountain training to the test when she sets out to defend her title at the 2018 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship on December 2nd at Kualoa Ranch. Last year, two-time XTERRA Trail Run World Champ Polina Carlson dropped out in the first couple of miles because of an injury but will return this year to challenge Moreno. 

Moreno welcomes the competition and doesn’t succumb to pressure. Last year, she was disappointed that Carlson couldn’t race, and she always welcomes the opportunity to challenge herself. Like many college athletes, Moreno suffered burnout after college and took time off. Now, she is back with a totally new perspective.

“The reason I started running again was because I love it and it is so much fun and so freeing,” said Moreno. “Whenever I find myself overthinking, I remind myself that no one is making me do this. I am choosing to run because it makes me so happy. I think my balance comes from knowing at the end of the day, running doesn’t make me who I am. It just adds to me. It’s not like I’m a runner but my name is Dani. I’m Dani and I happen to run.” 

Another of Moreno’s strengths is that she completely slays the downhills. On terrain that might slow another runner down, she is fearless. Yet, she blends that fearlessness with a focus that results in her feet landing in precisely the right place.

 “I honestly think downhill running is just a matter of letting go,” she explained. “For me, it’s always about trusting your instincts and not thinking too much. If you start questioning, ‘If I put my foot here, what can happen?’ then you will start thinking of all the ways you can fall. No matter what, you’re going to fall at some point. But 19 times out of 20, when you are about to fall, your body is going to catch itself whether you run it out or put your foot someplace else. Just know that your body is a lot smarter than you give it credit for. It doesn’t want to fall.” 

2018 was a huge year of growth for Moreno as Skyrunning forced her to work on her uphill running as well as to continue to hone her downhill skills. While she’s always been successful on the trails, she didn’t have the confidence when she climbed that she did on the downhills. 

“Previously, I ran too fast uphill initially, so this year, I did a lot of work to learn what gears I had going up a hill,” said Moreno. “On the flats you can gauge an 80 percent effort, a sustainable pace, and an all-out pace. I wanted that on the uphills too.”

Rather than just train on mountains, Moreno and her coach came up with a plan that included two weeks training on flat terrain followed by a hard week on the trails and hills. 

“During the flat weeks, we worked on speed and threshold with track and tempo workouts,” explained Moreno. “During the trail weeks, we ran on trails of varying levels of steepness. The cadence I got from speed workouts during my flat weeks carried over into the trail weeks and I learned to develop that same cadence on the uphills.”  

Moreno is a true workhorse, putting in 70-80 miles a week while maintaining both a career and her relationships with family and friends. 

“My coach calls our running group the Blue-Collar Runners because we all have full-time jobs,” says Moreno, who is also sponsored by rabbit and Hoka One One. 

And yet, she has another side that is completely wild and free-spirited and keeps her jumping out of planes and flying down mountains, either on her own two feet or a snowboard. Perhaps that is why she is so at home on the trails. XTERRA races require both an extreme level of fitness as well as the ability to roll with whatever Mother Nature throws at you. 

What’s clear is that the blend of discipline and bohemian spirit has resulted in a runner who is extremely comfortable in her own skin. At the end of the day, Moreno’s life is so full that she doesn’t need another title to make her life better. 

“It’s better to just be happy with who you are,” she said. “You can win and still not love yourself because nothing you do will ever be good enough. Yet, you see girls finishing in the middle of the pack and they are so ecstatic and happy that they are the ones who are actually winning that day. So whether you are in the front or the back of that pack, that’s the mentality you need to have.” 

Running is sometimes considered a simple sport. The old joke that you start out strong, pick it up and then sprint to the finish, sometimes is how the race is won. However, Moreno has a keen understanding of the subtle biomechanics and mental fortitude required for trail running. She can back up her go-for-broke attitude with solid training and an extremely intelligent approach to gravity, physics, and biology. She also understands that strength and fitness aren’t enough. To truly succeed in this sport, you must also accept the adversity that shows up during the long, lonely miles, whether it’s a cramp or a competitor. 

“Every little movement of your body causes some shift,” she explains. "Downhill running and spearfishing both require precise measurements. But they also require the ability to let go. When you’re on the trail and in the ocean there’s nothing stopping anything else from being there. It’s not your environment. It’s just the place you are present in.” 

The only question is whether her approach will be enough to beat the other women out there who are equally hungry for that crown of ti leaves at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship on December 2nd. 

Learn more about the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.