Chaski Race Recap with Dani Moreno: US 1/2 Marathon Trail National Champion!


We also live interviewed Dani and here is the recording. Hope you enjoy!

In another edition of Chaski Race Recaps, we caught up with Chaski coach Dani Moreno who raced to a first-place finish at the Half Marathon Trail Championships in Wisconsin this past weekend. Even with a fall on one of the last hills, Dani stayed mentally present and was able to pull off the win. We're looking forward to seeing what Dani can do in the future!

How has your training been for the last few months? Were you targeting this race specifically? What have your mileage and workouts been like?

Initially, I focused my training on the Kodiak Spartan Trail Half, but I focused the last few weeks on the USA Champs after that got canceled. My mileage has been around 70 miles a week. Each week I focused on a track workout, longer intervals, and the long run. All other days were solely dedicated to recovery between sessions.

A lot of people are probably curious about the logistics of traveling and racing during a pandemic. Can you tell us what it was like and what was different from a "normal" race?

I flew from the West Coast, so I had two flights, plus a long drive from Minneapolis to Hayward, Wisconsin. It was similar to traveling pre-COVID; I just wore a mask the entire time. They provided all passengers with plenty of wipes during the flight ( I flew United), and they required a face mask the whole time. I felt safe. 

How did the race itself play out? It sounds like you and Janelle Lincks were battling in the first half of the race and you had a couple minute advantage by 10 miles. Was there one "move" where you broke away? Or was it a gradual separation?

We traded spots the entire race from the gun. It was fun because one of us would throw down a surge, and the other wouldn't let them budge. She is a fierce racer, which made the entire experience very enjoyable. There wasn't a big move; we were both sending it down hard on one of the last steep hills, and I slipped out and fell face first (probably because I was wearing track flats on a 20% wet grass downhill, haha). She turned a corner within that time, and I jumped up and started chasing her down, considering we still had a little bit to go.

When I turned that same corner, I started hauling, thinking that I was trying to catch her. I kept pushing the gas with everything I had left and ended up breaking the tape first. Unfortunately, she had taken a wrong turn somewhere. It was unfortunate because that's just part of trail racing, but also, our battle was pretty damn epic, and I was very excited to have a full-out sprint to the finish considering everything we had thrown at each other. On the other hand, it was a great reminder always to know the racecourse, and never give up. I could have easily stopped trying after I fell, but I got back up and continued to give it all I had; even with her wrong turn, she could have caught me if I had thrown in the towel.

You've mostly specialized in technical mountain races and it sounds like this race was less of that and more mud and grass. Did you feel out of your element? Did you find the terrain easier or harder than a rocky mountain race?

Haha, yes, it was very much out of my element. But that's what made it more exciting. I see this race more as a long cross country race, especially with the thick grass, mud, and rolling hills. And, with that, it's honestly a great first trail race for anyone interested in the sport but isn't ready for the super technical stuff. You need speed to run it well because while it's hilly, speed helps on all the downhills. Now that I'm done, I am very excited to get back to more technical stuff.

Do any particular moments stick out as high points and low points during the race?

By mile 6, I could already feel the course affecting me differently than a mountain race, but I kept pushing. Looking back, that was a pretty decisive moment for me, where I could have checked out if I wasn't mentally prepared. I was proud of myself after that decision specifically because the main reason I wanted to race was to push myself in a way I can't in training. 

You've had success across distances and terrain from shorter trail races to 50km (where you won your first national title earlier this year). Where do you find the most joy in training and racing? And what do you think we'll see you focusing on in the future?

Thanks! That's hard, more so because it's all very appealing to me. For now, my goal is to become a well-rounded mountain runner who can be competitive in most races ranging from 12-50k. I loved the 50k distance, and I have some races of a similar distance on my tentative schedule for next year.