Introduction by Renee Elsdon Jacobs
Along with my fellow DPMR Board Member Meggie Inouye, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara earlier this month for the DMPR webinar series, to discuss “Fueling for Your Next Adventure.” She is an accomplished nutritionist that used to craft food and drink for Clif Bar but now runs her own nutrition advising company called Summit Nutrition Strategy. She now helps athletes solve fueling problems on an individual level. Because she does a number of workshops in the area, her reputation preceded her! I learned that her reputation is well deserved, but also that she has enjoyed a number of great adventures, like “crewing for Scott Jurek on the AT as he entered Vermont in what was the most rain Vermont had received in hundreds of years,” “losing Alex Honold on the run during our Ragnar Relay in the middle of the night – all of us dressed as Vikings!” and most importantly, finding herself becoming faster and able to go even farther after enduring the special kind of training that only comes from the trials and tribulations of motherhood (a sentiment I share…). Learning so much about her only left me wanting to talk more and learn more about my fellow DPMR member!
Note, in case you missed the webinar, you can view it here: https://donnerpartymountainrunners.com/2021/03/video-webinar-fueling-for-your-next-adventure/
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I am originally from Great Falls, Montana. I moved to San Francisco for a post-grad internship twenty three years ago and now live in Truckee, California but once a Montanan, always a Montanan.
When did you begin running and/or long-distance running, if that applies?
I began running “long distance” when I was ten years old. Long distance is relative, especially at ten. I signed up for after school track in the 5th grade. I tried high jump, long jump, and hurdles. I was not a natural so my gym teacher suggested I sign up to run the mile. She said “nobody else has signed up. You will automatically win a blue ribbon.” That was my first race and where the love began.
Do you race? Does racing motivate you? If not racing, what motivates you?
I race, yes. It is really more of a race with myself. I like to challenge myself and work towards incremental improvements through training and fine tuning food, hydration, logistics, and strategy. There is joy in having a project. I especially like racing in the mountains. I set up my own challenges but love the support and camaraderie of organized races from road marathons to the trails!
Do you have any dream races (either hoping to qualify for or get selected for)?
I am kind of a creature of habit and practicality and run the same races again and again to see if I can improve. Always on my list are Broken Arrow, Bridger Ridge Run, and The Rut. I would love to run some of the European mountain races some day but right now, with a family and my own business while also managing time to run, I keep things state-side. While not a race, I have R2R2R in my sights and Zion traverses for some fun adventures!
What was the best running advice you’ve received?
Start slow and pace yourself. It has served me well.
Do you have a favorite on-trail food or nutrition strategy and favorite post-run meal or beverage?
On trail food is all about function for me. If I can drink most of my calories and not have to mess around with much food, I do that. Favorite post-run meal in theory is a yummy grilled burger, fries, double-hop IPA. In reality, my appetite post run isn’t always that great and I end up with protein recovery drink. I do love a great sunflower seed butter, banana, honey on whole wheat sandwich before a run and will also pack one with me!
Do you have a favorite recipe to share?
I can’t say I have a favorite but I did just make something wonderfully creative with spaghetti squash that I will definitely be making again!
What was your favorite running experience this past year?
Simply running peaks and trails with friends. I had always wanted to run Lola and Tallac. I was also just reminiscing about a day I ran out to meet two friends coming from the other direction on a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail. It was a Thursday morning so I saw practically no one. It was one of those days where I felt rested, energized, and free flowing on the trail. It was lovely.
What was your most challenging/ character-building experience this past year?
That would have to be our Desolation Wilderness back-packing trip with my two boys (10 and 13 years old). It was our first multi-day trip. It sounds crazy that out of the entire year of a pandemic that this was it but I think as a family, we carried a lot of “baggage” going into this trip that had built up over the months of being restricted from life-as-usual. We needed this trip and we knew it would be a challenge but, if I had known how challenging it would be to move at a pace of one mile per hour while also resolving disagreements, and negotiating in the first two days, I might not have ever gone. It was really hard to see light and solo runners cruise by us on the trail while we struggled and then, it was amazing for us all to feel the rewards that come with type two fun! Everyone wants to do it again.
With most races being cancelled this year, do you have your own adventure or virtual race plans?
Not a single one, because on Dec. 26 I tore my ACL/MCL & meniscus. I had surgery Jan 28th and I am now focused on coming back stronger than I went into this. So I guess you could say my comeback and eventual progression to a run progression program will be all the adventure I need. I am definitely covering some new ground.
What do you do for a living? Is it hard to fit in time for training?
I am a registered dietitian nutritionist. I lead all things nutrition at Clif Bar & Company for 18 years. Inspired by how the pro athletes of CLIF dared to go out on their own to make their living and prioritize their sports, I began my own consulting business and moved my family closer to the activities we loved. I am now a nutrition strategy consultant for the food industry and mountain athletes. I prioritize training and time outside as part of my business. I do my best thinking, writing and problem solving out on my runs and it is now a major part of how I operate everyday. Of course, as a mom and an entrepreneur, I still have to make a conscious choice to prioritize training.
What led you to join DPMR?
I was invited to join the Memorial day event one year and joined immediately!
What has been your favorite DPMR experience so far?
There haven’t been too many since I have joined due to COVID, but so far I love meeting and connecting with the FB group
Favorite local trail?
PCT from Donner Summit. I crave that trail for some reason.
Recovery technique(s) that you swear by?
Refuel with carb + protein as soon as you can after your run!
Do you have a favorite piece of running gear?
My hydration vest! I wear it almost everywhere and even on short runs. My fave is the Ultimate Direction Vesta!
What other outdoor or indoor interests do you have?
Jumping in alpine lakes, mountain biking, figure skating, writing and exploring with my kids
Any interesting facts about yourself you would like to share?
I have been writing on my blog at www.taradelltells.com since 2006. I started as a blog about my son being born a micro preemie and morphed into writing about nutrition and adventures.