Joe Gray has emerged as the face of American trail running. The reigning XTERRA Trail Run World Champ and World Mountain Running Champion recently graced the cover of Trail Runner Magazine, a worthy honor for his efforts in leading Team USA to their first-ever Gold medal in Bulgaria at the World Mountain Running Championships last year.
This summer, Gray will travel to Europe to compete before shifting his focus to prepare for XTERRA Worlds on Oahu, December 3rd. While running in Hawaii is high on his list, Gray also enjoys running trails in Norway, Switzerland, and his home state of Colorado.
We recently caught up with Joe and asked him to share a few of the secrets to his success.
The best way to make hills easier is to familiarize yourself with the terrain similar to the course you plan to challenge yourself on.
If you don't have big hills, getting outdoors is still better than a treadmill as you can develop the stability muscles necessary for trail running. "Nature's Gym" will always provide you with what you need for trail races!
On Staying Relaxed:
Again, familiarizing yourself with the terrain you plan to challenge is key. If you are not used to extremely technical terrain, then you probably should avoid it for a race. Your level of comfort will be increased with intermittent exposure to the types of terrain you seek to race on.
Always check out the course ahead of time so that you know what you are getting yourself into. Nothing worse than toeing the line and finding out there is a long section of ridge line running when you are afraid of heights. So be smart and be prepared!
Many times we are faced with courses with differing levels of terrain, sometimes muddy, sometimes, rocky, and sometimes cinder-like ATV roads.
It's important to make sure you test your shoe on the terrain on which you plan to race. Doing a workout or two with the shoe you plan to use will help you find out if its the perfect shoe for you.
Jumping into a brand new pair for a trail race can be a nightmare as you may get a surprise blister. Or perhaps you find that you needed a shoe with a rock plate for rocky terrain courses.
For me, I look for a shoe that is comfortable around the toe box. A shoe that allows the toes to splay is very important as this will allow the toes to provide added power output on the uphills as you dig into the terrain. It also allows for better toe grip on muddy courses, like Hawaii.