The simple trick to running fast downhill – Time to Fly Blog

The simple trick to running fast downhill – Time to Fly Blog


You can find the original blog post here!

Jumping out of helicopters and hot air balloons. That’s what’s next on HOKA Trail Athlete Dani Moreno’s bucket list. An accomplished trail runner and adventurer, Dani’s portfolio is chock-full of adrenaline sports, not limited to spearfishing, lobster diving, motorcycle riding, surfing, rock climbing, sea kayaking and paddleboarding.

“From a young age, I’ve always done a lot. You’re gonna laugh when I say this, but my mom said it was because I didn’t want to interact with people. I was really shy. I would get myself into so many things so I didn’t have to actually talk to people. And now you can’t get me to shut up,” Dani says.

A California native, Dani finds herself in the outdoors year-round. She’s a graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she ran track and cross country. Growing up, running came easily. But it was always more than just wanting to be the fastest.

“For me, running isn’t just to try and win races. It’s the way I prefer to see the world — by foot. It lets me test myself mentally and get to know other people and parts of the world,” Dani says.

Her running motivations are humble, but her accomplishments are not. The first of many accolades, Dani’s season already boasts a first place finish at the XTERRA World Trail Championships and another first place finish at the Ezakimak Challenge (a 5K race with around 2,000 feet of elevation gain).

And her most recent achievement? An FKT, or fastest-known time, on a segment of Tunnel Trail in her home of Santa Barbara, CA. This specific section of trail is well-known for its technical terrain and steep grade. But for Dani, it holds another meaning.

“When I first found this section, it was by accident. I got lost and was trying to find my way back down. I was going downhill and was like, ‘What is this? There’s no way someone can run this.’ The whole thing just seemed unfathomable. So I just walked down,” she says. “I tried to run a few parts, but said to myself, ‘This is stupid. I could fall.’ After that, I realized I needed to be able to run it. And I told myself the day that I could run that section is the day that I would’ve really started getting trail running.”

Dani owned her FKT on the 2.54-mile loop with 1,114 feet of vertical gain. To put these numbers in perspective, the Empire State building stands at 1,250 feet tall, excluding the tip. She clocked in at 26:23 for the full loop and clocked under 10 minutes for the downhill section of the run.  

“To support the launch of the new TORRENT trail shoe, we wanted to set an FKT somewhere really gnarly and crazy in Santa Barbara. I immediately thought of this section. I was stoked about it, so I went out to hike it the next day. Immediately I was like, ‘What did I do to myself? How can I run this?’ I was just cracking up,” she says. “But then I thought it would really force me to take this particular stretch to the next level. I’m really happy that we chose it. It definitely pushed me to understand a new potential for myself in terms of running fast downhill.”

As superhuman as she may seem, sometimes she’s just like the rest of us. And yes, sometimes she even falls. “Yes, I definitely fall sometimes. When you’re mountain running, you can’t get upset at the trail for tripping you — especially when it’s your own mistake,” she says. “But, I love falls. Without them, I’d never push myself to get better. Plus, who doesn’t love a good scar, cut or bruise for storytelling? Us mountain runners are warriors.”

Dani’s worst fall happened during the 2017 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Italy. A few months before the race, she’d severely sprained her ankle — while rock climbing, no less.

“Literally on the first downhill, I rolled my bad ankle and I just freaked out. I was so mad. Girls were passing me and my ankle started blowing up. I gave myself a couple seconds and I then I pulled myself together,” she says. “I realized that sometimes you need to pep talk yourself really quickly. There wasn’t time for anything else. That was the big realization — that every time you get pushed down you need to get up immediately.”

One thing that’s given her an edge on the trails is something she’s had from day one — the ability to let go and trust her instincts.

“When you run a downhill, sometimes the best way to do it is to lose control. Not in your running form, but by swinging your arms. I don’t know if that’s just me, but that’s my body instinctively saying this is how we’re gonna balance.” Dani says. “Your body doesn’t want to fall as much as your mind. It’s instinct. Give credit to your body and mind because they’re gonna take care of you. And if you fall and hurt yourself, don’t blame me.”

Excelling at so many different activities isn’t easy, but for Dani, balance is always the common denominator. She focuses on being well-rounded — a synonym for what she calls “circle-ness.”

“I’ve always been obsessed with circles and I see people as circles. As a circle, essentially your whole life is well-rounded. And if you’re well-rounded in what you do, then you’re well-rounded in how you treat people and portray yourself,” she says. “I think it makes you a more empathetic person. You get to have different experiences and that not only gives you different types of hard times, but also different types of rewards.”

Dani’s balanced bucket list is still growing. In addition to getting her skydiving license, she’d like to climb Denali or Everest, get another motorcycle and get better at surfing. But, she’s taking things slow in that realm for now. “You gotta keep it mild before the spicy hot,” she says.

You don't look like a Runner

Photo by: Jess Dalene

Photo by: Jess Dalene


On my way to one of my biggest races last year, I had a memorable conversation with a stranger. After exchanging a few words we soon shared why each of us was traveling, and of course, I shared that I was traveling for a race. I told him I was hoping to podium in which case he immediately was taken aback and said,”that’s interesting because you don’t look like a runner.”


Unfortunately, I knew what he was referring to but didn’t really want to talk about it. More so because I had gone down the vicious road, like many runners, to try and achieve that runner look. But consequently, these words hit me deeper than just my look, because at that moment a fellow human didn’t perceive me as a “true runner.”

I must admit I began to get a little fiery.  Should I tell him everything that made me a runner despite not “looking like one”? The early mornings, the late night doubles, lifestyle choices, the years of sacrifices amongst family and friends, maybe even the races I won and lost? But, even with all these thoughts flashing through my head my gut held me back and told me this wasn’t the way to respond to this question. With one deep breath, the answer became clear, “Well, that’s okay, but you look like a runner to me.”

The conversation that followed was one I will never forget. We talked about the sport and the history of it, the different legends it's produced and what they have looked like. We talked about different types of running and the people it brings together. Overall its safe to safe we both left the conversation with a new found respect for each other and the world of running.
This conversation is and was significant to me for some many reasons. It reminded me that in a time where we are trying to break stereotypes about certain groups of people, starting and having conversations is one of the most powerful things we can do at an individual level. Its easy to feel helpless and ask “what can I do by myself?” but more times than not educating each other compassionately and being open to listening is what we must do to break these stereotypes and what will continue to push our movements forward. 


You can find the original blog post here! 

So there I was standing at the starting line of my first U.S. Mountain Championship, except something was different from all other championships starting lines I had stood on before. Looking to my left and right, I must admit there was not one female I could pin as being the top contender. From women who looked old enough to be my mother to a 12-year-old getting a pep talk from her dad to women in elite racing kits, it honestly was one of the most confusing starting lines I had ever been on. Nevertheless, the gun went off and so did we, and let me say that what happened over the next hour is the precise reason why every woman should run at least run one trail race in their life. But first, let’s take a step back.

Coming from a Division 1 Track and Field background, I must admit I had a jaded perspective about the women I thought would be my toughest competition. And if we are all being honest, I am sure you know what I am talking about. This “slender” figure was often seen as one of the most important things you needed to have in order to succeed in collegiate running. While there was the understanding that you indeed need to be fit in order to run faster, achieving the ideal shape was often skewed and taken a step in the wrong direction by those who wanted to achieve their goals faster. More often than not, girls would become so consumed with wanting to be the best that shortcuts would be taken in order to achieve this “elite figure.”

Lucky for me I was surrounded by teammates who wanted me to be healthy and strong, and I was soon brought to my senses. However, not all girls realize that they are doing more harm than good, and in many cases the changes can be career ending or cause permanent damage. After rebounding, I began to love myself more and began to look at the sport differently. I often found it invigorating when girls who did not match the ideal body type took the reins of races, as I always loved fearless racers who ran more with their heart than their mind. However, I must admit it was seldom these girls succeeded in their effort. In the end, it was disheartening going through college thinking you had to look a certain way to make it to the top. I personally refused to believe that this was true, and when gaining a few pounds my senior year led to injuries, I felt like I was losing this never-ending battle that you had to be a certain weight to compete with the elite group (I now know this isn't true, but at the time that's what I thought). And so, after my last collegiate track season, I hung up my track shoes and stepped away from running. That was until the trails started calling my name. 

So, flashing back to the starting line, there I am standing, trying to figure out who's who. I mean, I had read about former champions, track and road stars alike, and former U.S. team members who were all supposed to be in this race, but I literally could not figure it out. Before I knew it I was cresting the last hill, literally crawling on all fours, determined to break into the top 10. I got my butt kicked, to say the least, and honestly, it was the hardest and one of the best races that ever happened to me.

We had our awards ceremony after coming down the mountain, something I was excited for not only because I thought I had given it my all to earn my top 10 finish, but also so I could see all of the women who beat me considering I had only seen them for the first part of the race. It was in this moment that I realized how impactful running a trail race is for us as women. Each one who was called up looked completely different from her predecessor. The women were of all different shapes, sizes, and ages; It honestly was a life changing experience. But what's even cooler is that, over the course of my trail running career, every female podium I have witnessed has shared a similar diversity.

What I love about trail racing is that it nurtures an environment for women where it doesn't matter what body type you have, how old you are, how much running experience you have, or what your college personal records are. It is about who is the strongest, most fearless, and the most willing to push past their physical and mental limitations on that day. This is not to say you won’t find this in road races, because you definitely will. However, I do believe that trail races, especially those of ultra distances, carry with them a certain sort of awe that everyone can relate to, not just the professional and elite runners.

I mean, just look at the results from the Western States this year. Two women over the age of 50 were in the top 10. In what other sport does this happen in an elite competition? It's mind boggling and so inspiring!

Another huge plus you will notice at any trail race is that it is a sport where women are capable of competing head to head with our male counterparts. Being an elite trail runner myself, I can honestly say it is one of my most favorite features. I have kicked down men, and have been kicked down by them, I have placed in the top 10, and have even won a few races overall. It truly is one of the most even playing fields for all humans to participate in. And from a female perspective, an even playing field is appreciated.

The REAL reason why more women should try a trail race is because it is one of the most inspiring environments you will ever put yourself in. Trail running is not about how you look, it is about how strong you feel. Going into any trail race, you lose all those tendencies to look at yourself in the mirror and think, where can I lose weight to gain a few seconds? On the flip side you will find yourself getting stoked on filling your hydration pack, planning out mountain runs to do leading up to the race, and maybe even getting hyped up on getting friends and family together to crew for you. From moms with three kids to 12-year-olds to elite women winning entire races, you will seldom see so many acts of women’s strength in one arena, and I guarantee you will walk away feeling empowered and inspired to take on the world.

So get out there and sign yourself up for a trail race!

Dani Moreno is a professional trail runner sponsored by Hoka One One as well as a female run apparel brand named rabbit. She is a member of the USA Long Distance Trail team that will be competing in Italy this summer. You can follow her on Instagram at @dan_yell_a.

Runner Interview: Dani Moreno – Team USA

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You can find the original post here!

When and why did you start running?

I started running in middle school. We would do this half mile test each week on the grass, and I was always trying to beat all the boys in my grade. Eventually, it got to the point where I was trying to beat everyone in the whole school! One of my PE teachers really encouraged my parents to put me in a track club in my 8th-grade year, and the rest is history.

Describe your ideal race?

My ideal race would probably have to be a 21k on a trail with rolling hills and technical downhills. The elevation between 3000 and 6000ft. Water crossings, waterfalls, and wet dirt would be a must, as well as light fog and a slight mist. Most importantly though, it would have to end with you finishing in a crowd of puppies who all licked your face as you finished, along with free kombucha and breakfast burritos. ( this race is fictional, but hopefully not for long!) 😀


What’s your favorite trail race to date, and why?

I have a few favorites but out of the ones I have done thus far the Lake Padden Trail Halfin Washington has been my favorite. It was wet, and raining when I ran it but it was a ball of fun. It was very runnable and the downhills were my favorite types of downhills, a little rocky, and lots of tree roots, so it requires you to dance a bit to navigate it well. What was most fun was a HUGE fallen tree which required you to hurdle, jump, or hop, it really added a fun element to the race!

My ideal race would probably have to be a 21k on a trail with rolling hills and technical downhills. The elevation between 3000 and 6000ft. Water crossings, waterfalls, and wet dirt would be a must, as well as light fog and a slight mist.

Congratulations on recently making it into the Team USA Trail Team, such a great achievement! What sort of process did you have to go through to make it in?

Thank you! I basically just had to have a great racing resume, which meant I had to race well consistently! It took a lot of work over the last year and I felt honored to be selected to the team still being very new to the sport.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:  Runner Interview: Johanna Erhart (@joh_aenni)

What has been your biggest running / adventure challenge to date?

My biggest running challenge to date was preparing for the World Long Distance Championship. I would definitely consider that my best distances to race are between 15-25k and so preparing for a 32k with close to 10k in climbing alone was a daunting task. But nevertheless, I committed and took on the training. The 3-4 hour long runs were definitely the hardest, but now looking back I have gained so much confidence not only from the race but the training and I am more confident in what I can do as I continue to progress in the sport.


Thank you! I basically just had to have a great racing resume, which meant I had to race well consistently! It took a lot of work over the last year and I felt honored to be selected to the team still being very new to the sport.

We noticed you live in Santa Barbara, did you know thatís one of our favourite places on earth? What do you love most about living there and what are your favourite local trails?

I love Santa Barbara because you can pretty much do anything your heart desires when it comes to the outdoor space. We have the ocean AND mountains and everything in between. Our trails truly are amazing and great training for climbing as you gain a lot elevation in a short amount of time. For me, my favorite trail changes all the time but currently it is Cold Springs Trail. It always has a couple of waterfalls and is very covered compared to other Santa Barbara trails. It also has fire road and singletrack which makes for a fun mix during runs!

[Now that we have moved to California, maybe we can join you on some of your favorite SB trails, you may need to go a bit slower for us though haha.]

Tell us about your greatest running fail (we’ve all had – or will have – them at some point!)

HAHA. My biggest running fail was when I raced the La Sportiva Cup Final last year in Park City Utah. I still had never ran with fuel or water by that point and didn’t understand the importance of it or that it was even necessary. The race as a 14mile race where we climbed from 8,000ft to 10,000ft and then came back down to 8000ft. I felt good during the climb but when I started running fast on the downhill I started experiencing the worst cramps in my life! I had never had cramps during a race so I really had no idea what was even going on. I started walking, I pulled over to the side to try and breathe, but everything I did wouldn’t work. I felt so clueless how to make them go away. Lol. I eventually got to an aid station and drank water and felt better but it definitely was a huge learning experience!LOL, unfortunately, the same thing had to happen to me in two other races following before I actually learned the lesson.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:  Runner Interview: Morgan Gonzalez (@running_bum_)

[On a less elite scale I encountered the same experiences with cramp. Salt Stick salt tablets were my saviour]

What is your approach to training? Do you follow a particular training plan?

I am much more relaxed and attentive to my body in my training than I was in college., which I think has helped me a lot. Before I would be obsessed with running certain pace for every run and workout, even when it was evident my body was overly tired. Above all of that, I also have a coach who is amazing and provides me with my mileage and workouts.

My biggest running challenge to date was preparing for the World Long Distance Championship.

What advice would you give to a new trail runner?

Honestly just have fun. It is such an amazing sport and just finishing a race is a great accomplishment. Also, if you can, buy trail running shoes because they actually make a huge difference!!

[Check out our gear reviews for ideas! We have many reviews on popular trail shoes]

What is your favourite bit of running kit?

My favorite bit of running kit hands down are my Mountain Climber shorts by my apparel sponsor rabbit. ( . They are so comfortable, light, and easy to clean itís ridiculous. Soon as they came out with them I ordered 5 more pairs- they are that amazing. You can use DANIRUNSVERT for 20% online at their store.

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The Calm Before the Storm


So there I was, sitting in the Seattle airport, watching a news reporter state that there was a large storm brewing along the west coast. Simultaneously I received my second email stating that if the race was going to be canceled we would be notified by 7am the day of. This race? Well, no other than the USA Trail Half Marathon Championships. Dun, dun, dun!


         My odd way of accepting the rain: ninja rain dance.

         My odd way of accepting the rain: ninja rain dance.

I mean I am not one to run away when conditions get tough, but I can’t say I am used to the rain either. Coming from Santa Barbara, the city who has beach weather 350 days out of the year, rain, let alone seeing more than two or three colors on a tree, is an experience for me. This isn’t to say I haven’t run in the rain before, I definitely have back in my younger years when California was on a normal weather pattern. However, rain, or in this case thunderstorms, are seldom and not something I have had the pleasure of dealing with very often. So considering the logical assumption that dirt+rain+mountains=slippery slopes, I was very aware that the cards would not be in my favor. But, as per usual, my slightly idiotic mindset that I can do anything I believe I can took control of my mental reins and I befriended the weather deciding that the race, if anything, would be super majestic-like similar to the slow-mo montage at the end of a glorious sports movie.


See, the trail half was something I had been looking forward to because, despite my lack of building a true base this year, it is a distance I have come to enjoy. I had run my first trail half in 1:23 earlier in the year (Valley Crest Trail Half) off a month of consistent training and so knowing that I garnered a supple amount of confidence to commit to the idea that I could potentially podium at this race (meaning I could place in the top 5).


The race would take place at Lake Padden in Bellingham Washington. It would begin with a flat first mile before gradually becoming a series of climbs that would last miles 2-5ish. After climbing these rolling hills we would then descend down for about a mile before evening out on the flat part once again thus taking us into that same loop for the second time. The competition was noted as “the deepest trail half field this year” as it featured road and trail studs alike. This was very exciting to me because I mean what is a National Championship without quality talent! You have to race the best to be the best! So let’s summarize all of this. I was going to have to face unfavorable weather conditions, run a tough course, and face some steep competition. Wooo, weeee, I don’t know about you but these are the types of circumstances that keep me loving this sport! I was stoked.


On the flip side, I am not going to lie, the listed field was a bit intimidating, but I knew that if I could focus on my strengths I could potentially have a finish that would bring momentum into my sophomore year of trail running. What were these strengths you may ask? Well, to simplify it there were two. 1) I am sort of a racing addict and 2) I love running technical downhill.



Dun, dun, dun!


The morning of the race I was up relatively early, not normal for me as I typically sleep until the last minute possible. Haha, I can talk about this some other time, I am sort of notorious for sleeping until the very last minute of everything. Anyways, this time I was up early and the reason being, was that if the race was cancelled we were supposed to be notified by that morning, but lucky for us it was not! After an easy breakfast, I headed to the course.


I warmed up, etc. (Let’s fast-forward to the good stuff, the actual race.)


So the gun goes off and the horses take off. Taking into account the talent level of the women that were in the race I had a feeling that we would go out a good steady pace, but man was I wrong, we took off flying.  I got our first mile at about 5:42, which you may think “Dani, that’s not that bad”, but take into account this was the FIRST mile of THIRTEEN, and we had a good chunk of climbing ahead of us. Learning from previous races once you let somebody go on a trail it is very hard to catch them especially when the race features single track. So going with my gut I hung with the lead pack for as long as I could. The lead pack had about 8 women in it, all very strong and funny enough most were even talking to each other. I had one gal, Ladia, who was asking me if I had run the race before and we had almost a full conversation on the matter. I wasn’t dying but I definitely wasn’t able to talk with the same ease as her. (Which side note she’s super badass). Nevertheless, as the race continued at its fast pace ( we were averaging 6-6:20 on the first hilly miles)  things soon began to change as the entire front pack began to spread out.


As we went up, down, and all around I was unsure what place I was in but it didn't keep me from pushing. Luckily I passed some cheering groups and heard them call out that I was indeed in 6th place, in which case I was like “heck yes!” But at the same time, “I had some work to do!” The hills were tough and continued to get tougher, but I was determined to get to the end of the first loop so I could begin my descent. (Side note: In order to be a major threat as a trail racer, you need to be killer at climbing, as most championship women are beasts on hills. This is something I've realized will take more experience but as for now, I manage.) Eventually, I got to the last hill which included some very painful switchbacks and it was just then that I thought that maybe my watch wasn’t getting the mileage right with all the trees. But then before I knew it, grace was bestowed upon me as we finally hit the best part... the downhill.


Now this was no ordinary downhill, no this was a muddy, rocky, tree roots everywhere type of downhill.  With no hesitation, I leaned forward and let my feet and mind do all the work. I am not scared to say it,  but I am pretty sure I was flying ;) . Within the first mile, I caught about 4 men and soon enough I eyed and passed the 5th place girl. Then just right before I hit the flat mile again there was a HUGE tree that had fallen over during the storm. Although unexpected, it was probably the best surprise ever. I side jumped the trunk and continued to play catch up as much as possible. The problem, however, is that I had gone so fast on the downhill that when I hit the flat my legs were burnt. I continued to roll just trying to keep consistent but the girl I had just passed was definitely making up ground. I knew she was a strong uphill runner as that was where she had caught me before, but I was determined to keep my lead as long as possible as I knew that the longer I could keep a distance from her the better position I would be in for the last part of the race.  

                                                Rolling after the long downhill. Those group of bees were super fun!

                                                Rolling after the long downhill. Those group of bees were super fun!

We continued to climb until she eventually caught up with me again around miles 8-9. With muddy hills lurking ahead both of us were pushing. She even gapped me a little but I was determined to stay in range. I was just about gassed when we finally hit the switchbacks, which I knew was the last part of the hilly section. I pushed and pushed until finally I crested and just used about everything left in the tank to catch her. She knew I was behind her as she was flying much quicker than before but then I cranked into another gear allowing me to navigate the technical rocky parts and gain momentum in some open downward stretches. I caught 2 guys who I think were just as surprised as I was to be passing them coming into the last part of the race but made me even happier as it gave me a euphoric second wind to keep charging! Finally, around mile 12 I passed her (Camelia and eventual 5th place finisher #sweetheart) and continued hard into the finish. I crossed the finish gleaming that I was able to pull off a 4th place finish! I was stoked.


               Me coming into the last stretch, I could see the finish line and I was hungry!

               Me coming into the last stretch, I could see the finish line and I was hungry!

After the race, I cooled down most of the top 10 girls who were all stoked as well. I think because we all knew what we had just been through, from the weather to the conditions of the course, there was a mutual understanding that we are all pretty rad.


Overall I was pretty happy with the race. Considering the talent of the field I was happy to come away with a 4th place finish. This year has been the epitome of a freshman pro-year as I really felt like a guppy who had no idea which way to swim. But this race has fueled me of the promise the future holds and has helped me to create goals that are even bigger than they were before!


So "The Calm Before the Storm", yes this title is in regards to the weather of this race, but it is also in reference to the powerful storm that is calmly raging inside of me that I can’t wait to release onto the trails next year!


Until next time, ¡Viva la correr!


Thanks to Run in Rabbit, Hoka One One,  and Coach Terry you guys are awesome ! :)

                  4th place at the USA Trail Half-Marathon Championships!

                  4th place at the USA Trail Half-Marathon Championships!