Training Notes: Ultra-distance Trail Runner Avery Collins

, December 28, 2021

Ultra runner Avery Collins bases himself in Silverton, Colorado – a former mining town sitting at 2,840m above sea level. With Athletic Brewing as one of his sponsors and a handful of Fastest Known Times, Avery traverses the full breadth of endurance life. In this interview we hear about his seasonal approach to training, determined sauna regime, versatile alpinism and the precise breakdown of his running in relation to social.

Where do you usually train?

I usually train in the San Juan Mountain Range. I live in Silverton, CO where there is an endless amount of possibilities on a daily basis for training whether it be running in the summer or split boarding in the winter.

How important is location for your training – access to terrain or facilities?

Location like real estate is everything for my training. My partner Sabrina and I refuse to live anywhere where we can’t run from out doorstep to the trail in a timely manner. We actually live just 200 yards from the closest trail head and that trail will take us up a 4,200 ft climb to the top of Anvil Mt. in just four miles!

What does a typical week look like when you’re in Silverton?

Summer: I typically run four days a week and in addition to about 3 – 4 sauna sessions a week. Once summer really starts here in Silverton and the snow is all clear (typically late-June) is when I start ramping up into 100-mile weeks on a regular basis. Naturally as someone who likes to run mountains most of my weeks consist of 30 – 40k ft of vertical gain. Most years I will manage one million feet of vertical gain in my training between a combination of running, split boarding and mountain biking.

Winter: I usually reduce my run training load in the winter to 2 – 3 runs per week. These runs are usually a little on the flatter side and much faster as I try to regain some speed through the winter. A lot of my runs will take place on our treadmill so that I can avoid snow and ice out on the roads. Silverton is an interesting place for running in the winter due to conditions. There are really only two roads that can be ran and if we get lucky and don’t have any snow for a few days the cat track up Kendal Mt can be ran but keep in mind this is all on snow so it can only be ran so fast. The rest of the week I am digging snow pits and hopefully snowboarding in the mountains. I say “hopefully” because here in the San Juan’s we have an incredibly temperamental snowpack that drastically changes its mood from year to year. Some years allowing for lots of big fun lines to ridden and other years forcing you to stay at home to the point where even driving to the store over the pass can be quite anxiety inducing.

What kind of training do you do when you’re short of time?

I actually do a lot of functional body weight strength training at home in the living room. I call it the “boring stuff” but it’s the difference between being good and great. I also do a fair amount of yoga about 3 – 4 days a week for 45 – 60 minutes and I suppose that could be considered a type of training as well. In terms of the functional strength training a lot of it is based around CORE/GLUTE strength as I have found in the past that a majority of my injuries all start there.

Do you mainly train alone or with other people or groups?

I train about 90% of my year alone, 8% with Sabrina my fiance and the other 2% with friends. We live in a really small town and most of my “running friends” live anywhere from 2 – 6 hours away. Thats okay though, training alone is very special and time I look forward to especially living here in Silverton. It’s rare that I run into anyone else on my runs whether it be off trail up on a ridge somewhere or out on the trails. Luckily Silverton, while home to a couple of trail running races is still an easy place to go get lost and away from the OHV crowds that like to come visit.

How does your winter training differ from your summer training?

Summer training for the most part consists of a lot of really long vertically challenging runs where as I use the winter as a time to recovery and also regain speed again. I suppose sometimes in the summer I grow a little complacent to speed work and thats something I consciously work on every summer. It’s the mountains in the summer, it’s hard for me not to want to go big everyday! As far as the winter goes, running is till on my mind but I’d be lying if I didnt say there is a slight shift in focus towards splitboarding. I like to use splitboarding as a tool for training the aerobic system through the winter and using running to train the anaerobic system.

How has your training evolved in the course of your career?

It’s always evolving for better or worse. Training is always going to be a matter of trail and error. There are 1,000 variables in training that can be changed from race to race. I had a coach that used to tell us “practice makes permanent not perfect, no one is or will be perfect.” I think about that saying all the time, I’ll always chase the perfect training block and always keep tweaking. As far as specifics go, I’d rather not share too much information for my competitors!

How important is nutrition for you?

In-race nutrition is something I try my best to dial in pre-race so that when race day comes I have a strategy to stay away from bonking or hitting any major walls. I’ve found that nearly every race I do though at some point my body craves something that I didn’t plan for, I think that’s just the nature of running really far. I wouldn’t consider this problematic by any means as whatever I am craving, i.e. bread at CCC, is usually available at the nearest aid station and it becomes more a matter of how quickly can I get in and out of an aid station while still making sure I am taking care of myself.

What are your nutrition secrets, recipes or snacks that everyone should think about using?

I won’t share all of my secrets but here’s a couple, liquid calories, do yourself a favor. In Ultra Running we are not always hungry but we are always thirsty, you are doing your body a great service by consuming liquid calories, they’re easy to put down and easy for your body to process not to mention that you will start fueling your body unconsciously every time you’re thirsty. Salt pills, this is a little more controversial topic, however, for me they’ve saved me one to many times for me to say they dont work. I am a heavy sweater and a salty sweater and find that salt pills can make all the difference in a hot or humid race, which is all races coming from Silverton, ha.

What other parts of your work are important for your career, but aren’t specifically to do with training? What is important “behind-the-scenes” work?

I think it’s important to work your metabolic system in a variety of ways and for me that’s treating myself a couple of times through the winter, times like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s not unusual for me to put on an easy 10 – 12 lbs through the winter. I always have called it “training weight” I have no problem losing ALL of it by mid-Spring and by summer it gives me a particular feeling of lightness. I coach a handful of athletes and I like to tell them that training and body weight should have peaks and valleys – we can’t always be in the best shape of our life. That’s my opinion at least.

If you weren’t a professional athlete, what would you be doing?

I would more than likely still be living on the beach, chasing the next wave. Although, I don’t think my life is a whole lot different now, wading in the water, waiting for the next wave.

Follow Avery on Instagram via @runninghigh. Header image: Raphael Weber