Trail Runner David Laney on Trails and Trials

Jul 14, 2021

Nike Trail Team’s David Laney is fresh off an 8th place finish at the 2015 Western States Endurance Run. After a quick recovery he has refocused on the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a grueling 100-mile trail race across the Alps starting and finishing in Chamonix, France. To prepare for the high altitude mountainous terrain, Laney came to Mammoth Lakes to explore the trails in the Eastern Sierra. 

Congratulations on Western States. How do you go from running a grueling 100-mile race and quickly turn around to train for another?

I think running two or three 100 milers in a summer is pretty challenging, so I am just doing two. The week after Western States I rested a lot, iced a lot, and spent an hour a day on the foam roller. I didn’t do much. I only ran three or four miles every day because you gotta keep it really easy. The recovery went really well this year, so I was able to get back to training in about 10 days. Now training is going really well. I felt like in a month I was pretty much back.

If recovery went really well, do you attribute that to the fitness you were in leading into the race?

A big part of it, I was maybe a little bit under trained, or not undertrained, but correctly trained. Last year I was very over trained; going into Western States I was already really tired, so the recovery took a long time. For three months I felt really, really bad. This year I had more miles under me, so I was more prepared to recover quickly.

You moved out of your house to camp and travel. What was your motivation to live on the road while training?

I lived in Ashland, Oregon for the past 6 years and I was ready for a change. It was a nice town, but I was ready for something new. So now I am just trying decide where to go. It’s fun, you get to a place and you want to do all this stuff, but you have to try and stick to the schedule a little bit.

Where have you been and how do you fit in altitude training while traveling?

I moved out of my place on the Fourth of July and I went to the Steens in Southeast Oregon to work at a running camp for two weeks. The camp was at 7,000 feet, but most of the trails are above that, up to 9,600 feet, so I was at altitude for two weeks there. Then I went to Joseph, Oregon. There is a range called the Wallowas, and my camp was at 6,000 feet. Most of the runs went up to 7,000 or 8,000 feet. Then I was camping outside of Bend at 5,000 feet, and then I came to Mammoth. It’s been almost a whole month at altitude. Then I’ll go to northern Washington for a couple races, then to Chamonix.

Sounds like you have been all over the Northwest. What brings you south to Mammoth Lakes?

Mammoth local Tim Tollefson is on the Nike Trail Team, and I’ve been in contact with him. He said anyone [professional athlete] who wants to come and train there’s a place to stay at the Crib. It’s good timing before UTMB. I am getting in a really good hard week of training here. This is such good terrain to train on because it’ll be very similar country to the Alps.

Where have you been running and exploring in Mammoth Lakes?

I ran Duck Pass to Purple Lake from the Coldwater Trailhead and that was nice. One day I had to do a road workout, so I did it on Green Church Road, Benton Crossing. That was awesome, there were no cars and it was really, really fast, so that went well. That’s the great thing about Mammoth. I’ve already had a lot of great road runs as well as awesome trails. I went to Agnew Meadows and ran to Icicle Lake and Thousand Island Lake on the JMT (John Muir Trail) and wrapped around and came back on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail.) And Tim and I ran up Mammoth Mountain on the Dragon’s Tail Trail at night. Tim loves it; he can’t get enough of that trail.

You also qualified for the 2016 US Olympic Trials Marathon. How will you transition from the trails to the road to get ready for the trials?

After I get back from Mont Blanc, I’ll do a real short road segment, so maybe some 5Ks and 10Ks, some cross country, maybe a half marathon in the fall. In the winter, I will be focused on the Olympic trials.

Do the trails and the road races complement each other? How do you manage racing both?

I’ve gone back and forth from the roads and the trails a few times. It’s kind of a challenge to get back to the road, but it’ll be fun. Trails definitely make you stronger; it benefits the long runs a lot. Getting back to that point of being able to do mile repeats, or short tempo runs is challenging. The first three or four weeks of trying to do that stuff is tough. All summer I’m racing at 8-minute pace—there are times when you are running 20-minute pace, so getting back to that fast cadence takes a little bit of time, but it’s not too bad. I do some workouts like that during the mountain trail segments.

Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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