Q&A with Ultra Runner Tim Tollefson

Oct 20, 2020

Not only is Mammoth Lakes local, Tim Tollefson a physical therapist at the Mammoth SPORT Center and Performance Lab, he’s also a professional runner for Hoka One One, GU Energy and DryMax.

Tim is the 2014 USATF 50K Trail National Champion, the 2016 3rd Place UTMB (Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc) winner, and a two-time Olympic Trials marathon qualifier. We sat down with him recently to find out he survives winter training in snowy Mammoth Lakes.

You are an ultra runner, which means you typically run on dirt trails, correct?

Tim Tollefson: More often than not, yes. However, just as it’s a misconception that marathoners only run on pavement, the same goes for trail runners. Each terrain can serve a specific purpose. I would estimate that 25 to 50 percent of my mileage is on pavement depending on the season.

How do you continue your training in the winter in a place like Mammoth Lakes, which this year has already seen more than 20 feet of snow?

TT: Ha, carefully! For moderate effort daily runs my wife and I normally loop around town on roads that are somewhat clear, looking for good footing on the ice and snow. The different phases of Snowcreek as well as Sierra Valley Sites typically provide great protection. For harder efforts, we will go down to Green Church or Round Valley. And when the skies really open and pour down on us, I’ll use a treadmill mainly to avoid being killed by a loader or tourists.

Where are there accessible trails in the winter? Are they difficult to get to?

TT: Locally some of the best trails are the public side of Tamarack Ski Area and Shady Rest Park. The packed down snow can make for great trail running. For actual dirt trails you must travel to Round Valley or the Tungsten Hills, about 30-40 minutes south, which provide an amazing network of trails!

Do you have any fancy footwear to keep you from slipping on any trails that may be wet or snowy?

TT: Typically I just rely on my trusty Hoka One One trail shoes, the Challenger ATR. On really icy days I’ll screw in sheet metal screws to the bottom of my shoes or strap on YakTrax.

What do you wear to train in the winter? How many additional layers of clothing?

TT: Thankfully for us here in Mammoth Lakes, the California sun rarely sends us into single digit weather!  But regardless, staying comfortable is all about the layers. You want to be able to shed a layer easily if you happen to get too warm. For me, it’s typically one pair of long tights, a long sleeve thermal, and jacket shell with gloves and a beanie. I prefer to begin a run slightly on the colder side, knowing that as time progresses I’ll warm up to a comfortable temperature.

Do you have to stretch or recover any differently after a winter workout? If so, how?

TT: The main concern with winter training is joint mobility and muscle elasticity. Since temperatures are colder, it takes longer for the body to safely move through a full range of motion. This means a longer “warm-up” period is necessary. You never want to force a restricted joint or muscle as this could lead to potential injury. Some examples may include resistance band exercises, form drills, and light dynamic stretches.

What are you training for right now?

TT: I recently returned from racing the Hong Kong 100k and am actually changing gears a bit before my next big trail race at Transvulcania in May. After five years of living in town, I finally decided to embrace our winters and recently began the process of learning to ski. Naturally, this became a desire to go uphill and chase winter peaks and it turns out I’ll be joining a few friends later this month at the Sugar Bowl Quad Crusher, my first ever Skimo race!

What is your favorite winter workout routine?

TT: One of my favorite runs during the winter is around Doe Ridge or along Green Church (Benton Crossing Rd). The 360-degree views of the valley from the White Mountain range to the snow-covered peaks of Morison and Laurel is impossible to beat!

What motivates you to get outside and train when the wind is howling and the snow is coming down?

TT: Winter training can be pretty rough. Those cold, dark, and snowy mornings can make the thought of staying in your cozy bed a few extra hours pretty difficult to resist! Having a long term goal helps keep me driven on the particularly tough mornings. I know that every day I skip a run I cheat myself from gaining ground on my goals. It doesn’t make the training any easier, but, it keeps me honest!

What is your favorite post-workout beverage to warm up with?

TT: Hot coffee and a doughnut!  

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