Transitioning to Trails

SparkleSister Melanie Miller—whose inspiring story we recently shared—went from a self-proclaimed non-runner to tackling trails and their unique challenges.

“The atmosphere of road running is ‘get it done and get it done quick.’ Trail running, for me, is the antithesis of road running,” she said. Beyond being easier on her joints and less monotonous, Melanie loves trail running because she is always surrounded by natural beauty and she takes her time to enjoy the day.

However, trail running presents different challenges such as elevation, fuel requirements, and pacing. Though she was anxious before her first long trail race—she ended up finishing in 6:58, far ahead of her 8-hour goal—Melanie said she felt amazing despite the 3,600 feet of elevation. Just as she evolved from hating running and labeling herself a non-runner, Melanie transitioned from hating hills, which are common in trail running. “I began seeking out hills to run; the higher the better!”

“The volunteers at every race are amazing, but on the trails, there is a unique camaraderie. I love chatting for a few minutes while filling up my pack and getting some food. Trail runners are some of the most interesting people I’ve met in the running world because of their travel, adventures, and meeting ever broader challenges,” said Melanie.

The biggest trail difference? Pacing. “I am a stickler for pacing; my splits tend to be within seconds of each other and it’s something I’ve worked really hard at over the last couple of years. On trails, all of that goes out the window!” She said it was hard to see crazy splits on her first trail run, but now she understands effort based pacing; listening to her body more has even helped her road races.

The hardest challenge according to Melanie is not specific to trail training but is sure to resonate with most runners: time management. She works full time, has two kids, and a husband with his own passions and interests.

“Sometimes, this means bringing all my running gear to work and using my lunch hour plus my 15 min breaks to get in a workout. It means going out after dinner for a run when I really want to be sitting on the couch. Or getting up at 4:30-5am to get out the door for an 8 miler before work. It means giving up my Saturday mornings for 2, 3 or even 6 hours as trail running/ultra-distance training requires more time away from home due to the slower paces,” she explained.

Another crucial element that has made her running achievements possible? SparkleSkirts of course!

SparkleSkirts for the Win!

As a runDisney fan Melanie was familiar with the American-made skirts, but (brace yourself), “thought they were a little silly.” Yes, once upon a time she thought her now beloved athletic skirts that she refuses to run without, were silly. “Lesson learned; I won’t knock anything until I try it!”

After borrowing her running buddy Cherie’s PeacockNoir for the Santa Rosa IronGirl Half Marathon—and committing the ultimate sin of wearing something “new” on race day—Melanie was in love.

“I couldn’t believe that not only did the shorts stay put, the skirt was incredibly comfortable and the pockets! All those pockets!” As soon as she got home, she ordered WildOne. By the following year, she had close to 20 SparkleSkirts. For the 2014 Portland Marathon Melanie wore a custom SparkleSkirt, designed by Cherie to commemorate their first marathon together.

As most of you know, beyond the physical product there is something magical: the SparkleSkirts Sisterhood.

“The connections I’ve made with other SparkleSkirt wearers has kept me out there running as well. There have been times when I’ve gotten depressed, wondered why I’m running, etc. and there is always a friend I’ve met through the mutual love of the skirts to remind me why I do this thing calling running.” Melanie said she’s made friends online from all over the country thanks to the SparkleSkirt community and has no doubt that sharing a hotel room or staying at their home would be an option.

She also noted SparkleSkirts help her run longer and longer distances because she doesn’t stress about where to put all her gear.

“To be able to run 26.2 miles and have everything I need on board without a tight belt around my waist is fabulous,” said Melanie. She even carries her post-race recovery powder to mix with water, allowing her to get in that protein/carb drink as soon as possible after the finish line.

Melanie also appreciates how cool SparkleSkirts keep her given she overheats easily. Capris were too hot. Shorts chafed. “Best thing ever in an ultramarathon? Wearing a skirt with lots of pockets and shorts that didn’t budge. Over 8 hours in the heat, 30 miles and not a single chafed inch of skin plus plenty of places to pack out my trash, those pockets really came in handy!”

We are so thankful to Melanie for sharing her inspiring story and giving us an inside peek at trail running. Got more trail training questions or want Melanie to know her story inspired you? Leave a comment below!