The Runner Diaries — Morgan Sjogren

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Inspired by Refinery29’s Money Diaries and The Cut’s Sex Diaries, welcome to The Runner Diaries, a behind-the-scenes look into a week of training with runners of varying ages and abilities. We’re asking runners of every level, genre and distance (road vs. trail, endurance vs. speedsters, hobby joggers vs. elites) to share their workouts, training runs and nutritional choices during a seven-day period to get a glimpse into the inner struggles and tribulations of what it means to be a runner.

This week, we have 30-year-old Morgan “Mo” Sjogren of Northern Arizona, a digital nomad, competitive trail runner and full-time running bum who is currently training for the U.S. Mountain Running Championships this June.

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THE RUNDOWN:

Name: Morgan “Mo” Gonzalez
Location: Currently on the road living the Jeep-sy life (literally!), or on a ranch in Northern Arizona
Age: 30
Training For: Trail and Mountain Races + Random Adventures!
Goal race? U.S. Mountain Running Championships in June, some low key trail races this spring and a Peruvian Running Adventure in May!
Following a training plan? No, just a basic knowledge of how a standard training week should be structured/previous experience/learning as I go.
How long you’ve been ‘a runner: I asked my Mom to run a cross-country race with me when I was nine.
Goal weekly mileage: I don’t worry about this much, but right now 45-60 miles per week + some hiking.

Runner’s Statement:

Last fall I started trail running and fell in love. I went on some big running adventures (like running across the Sierras and back, and running the Tour Du Mt. Blanc). I started racing on the trails and placed 6th and 10th at the U.S. Trail Half and Marathon Championships. After focusing on the track for my entire career I’m excited to get dirty this year and explore all that trail and mountain racing has to offer. Not to mention, any awesome running adventures or travel opportunities that present themselves. I’m currently bouncing around the southwest dirtbag-style, and checking out tons of new trails!

I work remotely and take full advantage of this in my running bum/Jeepsy lifestyle. It allows me to explore so many new places on two feet, meet and connect with beautiful and diverse people and ultimately gives me a lot of inspiration for the work I do (I think much clearer outside than at a desk). This week, I took a road trip to Bear’s Ears National Monument for a story I am writing for REI Trail Run Project and enjoyed some amazing training runs along the way.

Thursday | Day One

6a.m. —Wake up and hit the road for a running adventure in the Bear’s Ears region of Utah.

9a.m. — Snack all day

I get the motor running, and head out on the highway. I jam to tunes, drink coffee, eat tons of snacks (protein pretzels, fig newtons and bison jerky — I like to eat real food before and during my runs, and try to keep eating small bites of food consistently before I get too hungry or low blood sugar). I stop a million times to figure out the best way to get to Bear’s Ears National Monument, and where to camp. A quick stop in Monument Valley blows me away.

4p.m. — I finally arrive at my destination and hop out of the Jeep for a quick sunset run (roughly 30 minutes, no clue how far) beneath epic views of Bear’s Ears and the stunning Natural Bridges National Monument. I have the whole place to myself!

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6p.m.Dinner

 I make dinner at my camp spot: a just-add-water Pad Thai Bowl, a cup of Macaroni and Cheese, more Fig Newtons and a can of Rosé (dreams do come true). It gets dark fast and I jump in the back of the jeep (where I have a tiny running bum-sized bed) and write my heart out and read Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.

11p.m. I’ve already been asleep a few hours and wake up to snow coming down and see ice outside. I pull my two sleeping bags over my face and embrace the long, cold (8 degree!) night.

Total Daily Mileage: ~30 minutes, 4 miles

Friday | Day Two

6:45a.m. — I wake up to frost on my windows as the sun begins to slowly creep in. I hop out of the Jeep in full ski clothes and run towards the east to greet the sun (a Navajo tribal running ritual that my story is based around). The run is short, maybe a mile at most.

7a.m.Breakfast

I make some cowboy coffee (pouring hot water directly over a tiny coffee filter into my tin cup), ginger oatmeal and eat large spoonfuls of Peanut Butter out of the jar for breakfast. As I eat, I think about where the heck I’m going to run in this place with no trail markers and no map.

10a.m. — Lots of adventure snacks!

I pick a dirt road (the only obvious path) that climbs 6 miles up to the pass between the actual Bear’s Ears. My starting point is 7,000 feet of elevation, and my guess is that this climbs about 1500 feet. After about 2 miles I hit snow, and then it turns into white out blizzard conditions. I turn around and finish the rest of my 8-mile run on the road. I’m bummed I didn’t get to the top, but it’s better to be safe in these types of conditions — especially when alone on the trails. I make sure to bring along my Ultimate Direction Fastpack filled with some light layers, water, snacks (NuttZo 2Go Packets, GoMacro Bars and Jelly Belly’s) plus my first aid kit (multi-purpose tape, ibuprofin, Benadryl, gauze, neosporin, whistle, compass, headlamp, etc).

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12:30p.m. — Lunch

I leave bear’s Ears and head to Moab. I stop along the way for a massive chicken burrito. Nom.

4p.m. — I arrive in Moab, ditch the car and head out into one of the canyons. I take off on a 30-minute sunset run amongst massive red rock walls, finding many petroglyphs along the way. I love it here!

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5:45p.m. Dinner

I go to Moab Brewing and chow down on a massive patty melt, fries and a tallboy of their Ref Rye IPA. I like to enjoy a beer after my runs or with my dinner to celebrate another great day (it’s always a great day if you choose to let it be), but I make sure I pre-game and follow this up with tons of hydration (water with Skratch Labs electrolytes) to ensure I’m well hydrated and recovered for my next run.

7p.m. — I head back to camp, where I setup my tent by the Colorado River and stare up at the stars. I read more Ed Abbey and listen to the sounds of Owl’s hooting. It’s chilly, but feels much warmer compared to Bear’s Ears. I brush my teeth over the campfire and pull out some Action Wipes to take a dirtbag shower inside my tent. Living like this isn’t exactly glamorous. I also seek out local YMCAs and public pools and will pay a few bucks to shower when I start to get too funky even by my standards.

9p.m. — I fall asleep with my book on my face, and frozen drool on my pillow.

Total Daily Mileage: 12 total — AM-1 hour/8 miles, PM– 30 minutes, 4 miles

Saturday | Day Three

6:50a.m. — I wake up to a mountain lion roar echoing in the canyon. I crawl out of my tent and run towards the rising sun along the Colorado River (again, because of the story I’m writing). It doesn’t feel as cold as yesterday and I can’t wipe the frozen smile off my face.

7:30a.m. Breakfast

I eat a giant cinnamon roll and a couple cups of coffee at Eklecticafé. I write a little bit by their fire place, and then look up beta for my next stop.

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9:30a.m. — On the road again! I drive to Indian Creek, blasting Johnny Cash along the way. I stop for cows crossing, and I let my hair whip around in the wind with the windows down.

10:30a.m. I stop at Newspaper rock and change my clothes on the side of the road (public bathrooms are gross). I keep driving and see more petroglyphs hidden off the side of the road. I stop and look at them while I finish the other half of my cinnamon roll (it was legit the size of my head!). I think about what stories they were telling….and then I keep driving because I need to find a trail or at least a dirt road to run on.

11a.m. — I stop at a campground which has a general area map. I head in the direction of the North 6th Shooter Tower and hope for the best. Some climbers driving the road confirm my route and I basically keep up behind them (9mph really isn’t that fast).

We link up at the approach and they ask me if I want to climb the tower with them. I really want to, but I don’t have enough time because I need to get to Flagstaff to pick up my two dogs from their amazing dog sitter, Leah. I do about half of the approach with them, and then down climb back down to the trail. I feel good on the flat section so I pick up the pace a bit (6:50 per mile). It feels comfortable but still quick enough to get my heart rate up to a fitness building level. I run 10 miles total.

Noon — I change my clothes on the side of the road once more and book it to the nearest burrito place an hour away.

1p.m. Lunch

I devour my burrito, lick the plate and jump back in the Jeep. I power through the drive back to Flagstaff, only stopping once to use a restroom.

7:30p.m.Dinner

I eat an awesome dinner made by my friend Leah in Flagstaff: chicken, kale salad, butternut squash, broccoli and quinoa.

10p.m. — I finally shower after a 4 days without one and fall asleep on Leah’s floor as a now clean dirtbag runner.

Total Daily Mileage: 10 miles

Sunday | Day Four

7a.m. — Breakfast

I wake up, eat oatmeal, drink coffee and relax. I drink coffee because I love it. It’s simply my motivation to get out of bed. A ritual of sorts. It also gives me energy for the run (I drink it before races, even at night).

9a.m. — I run 8 miles with Leah on the Urban Trails in Flagstaff, AZ. No snow on the trail at 7,000 feet!

Noon Lunch

I eat leftovers for lunch.

3p.m. — Pick up groceries at Whole Foods.

3:30p.m. — I feel too tired to move, so I take a nap in the Jeep.

4p.m. — Dinner

Now, I’m too hungry to move. I grab dinner (Greek Tapas).

6p.m. — I go for a night hike, walking the dogs through the Coconino National Forest.

11p.m. — Bedtime! I fall asleep, fast.

Total Daily Mileage: 8 miles

Monday | Day Five

6a.m. — Wake up. COFFEE!

7a.m — It’s pouring, so I decide not to run and just rest and work. Pretty mellow day inside (mostly) back at the ranch. I sometimes question myself when I decide to take a day off like this, but I know that recovery is where you make the biggest gains in your fitness and training. Also, the reality is that somedays I just need more time to get work done like anyone else. Life happens!

10a.m. — Breakfast/Lunch

I heat myself up a ready-made veggie pizza (loaded with Kale and Mushrooms) and just eat pieces of it all day while I work.

5p.m. — Where did the day go? I am flying through my to-do list and deadlines. Taking the rest day was a great call! I heat up some leftovers.

8p.m. — I read before falling asleep. Normally, I fall asleep anywhere between 8pm and 10pm. Recently I have been up late writing till midnight to fit in projects that I’m passionate about. Tonight I was pretty beat and hit the hay as early as possible.

Total Daily Mileage: 0 miles

Tuesday | Day Six

7:30a.m. — I wake up feeling super rested from almost 10 hours of sleep. The rain stops a little.

8a.m.Breakfast

I start working, and eat pizza for breakfast.

10a.m. — I hit the trails behind my house for a quick 45 minute run. Normally I follow a more structured schedule, but this week I have been going with the flow of work, weather and how my body feels. I know what range of mileage (45-50) and paces (6:30-8:30 minute per mile) that I need to run during this base-building phase so I fit each day within that loose framework.

11a.m.Lunch

More work. More pizza.

1p.m. — I take the dogs for a Hike in Sedona. So pretty.

3p.m.Dinner

I meet my Grandma (who is in the area for vacation) for dinner. I order a burger and fries. I’m amazed at how early she eats dinner, but I’m down for the cause!

5p.m. — I drive home and get to work on the story I’m writing about Bear’s Ears for REI Trail Run Project.

9p.m. — I talk to my friend Monica who I’m planning a South American running adventure with. We are hoping to spend three weeks there in May to run and explore in the Andes — and of course, write about our adventures. The mileage will vary day to day and the altitude will likely go as high as 15,000+ feet!

10p.m. — I have trouble falling asleep because of how excited I am about the trip.

Total Daily Mileage: ~45 minutes, 6 miles

Wednesday | Day Seven

6:45a.m. — I wake up, have coffee, take the dogs outside, and watch the sunrise. Surprisingly I’m not tired after the late night.

7:30a.m. — Breakfast

I jump on the phone for some work, eat pizza, and drink more coffee. 

Noon: Hit the trails for a fartlek workout: It consists of a 3-mile warm up (mostly uphill on a rutty trail), 5 times 3 minutes “on” (about 5:45-5:50 min/mile pace) and 3 minutes “off” (8-minute/mile pace), and a 3-mile cool down.

I’m just starting to do workouts again after a break (to allow my body and mind to recover) following the Trail Marathon National Championships last November, so this is a fun moderate effort just to get the wheels turning and my body and mind ready for harder efforts. The workout felt smooth and effortless, but with just enough burn to know I really got in some good work. I run 9 miles total.

1p.m. — Lunch

I eat more pizza, plus chips and guacamole.

Yes, this was a very, very large pizza that lasted for many meals for me!

2p.m. — Time for more work. I do go on lots of adventures and pretty runs, but yeah, I also work a lot. I don’t think the traditional office life will ever be for me (I taught yoga before my current gig) and my work style is very random and creative. It also allows me to balance work and mental/creative fulfillment with my very full training load as an elite runner. I usually work the two schedules around each other depending what is more pressing that day (for example, a big workout or a conference call).

That said, I am a stickler to deadlines and am very good at holding myself accountable to get all of my work done without someone watching over me in an office all day. Right now, I’m in my PJs—I may not look like a professional, but my attitude and approach is very focused.

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3p.m.  I hit the post office to get my mail, stopping at a cute thrift store to pick up a killer outfit that costs the same as the pizza I’m living on.

5p.m. — Dinner!

I make a veggie pad thai with peppers, onion, rainbow chard and rainbow carrots.

6p.m. — Clean up the house a bit.

7p.m. — More writing and adventure planning for Peru.

9:30pm: Start thinking I should go to bed!

Total Daily Mileage: 9 miles

Thursday | Day Eight!

7:30a.m. Wake up, drink coffee and work, work, work.

10a.m. — Hit the road to Sedona to run some red rock singletrack (ungroomed trail that is narrow enough that only one runner can run along it at a time). Yeaahhh!

11a.m. — Start my run, about an 8-mile loop with a wee bit of climbing and stellar views.

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1p.m. Lunch

Quick lunch at Whole Foods—beef and veggie stir fry.

All afternoon: Taking care of business!

5p.m. — Afternoon shake out run with the dogs on local trails (so they get some exercise, too), totaling 4 miles.

5:45p.m. — I decided (today) I need to start training like a real athlete again to prepare for the US Mountain Running Championships in June, so I go through my entire routine of stretching, muscle activation exercises and like 30 seconds of core work. I’m already sore. Yeah, I needed to do that.

6p.m. — Snacks

Make myself a cheese platter, and watch the sunset.

6:30p.m. — Dinner

After some huge progress on a story I’m writing, I heat up some leftover pad thai and chicken.

7:30p.m. — I feel super tired and want to go to bed. I shut everything down, finally take a shower to wash off the mud from my legs, and pass out in the sweet slumber of an excellent running week.

Total daily mileage: 12 miles

Total weekly mileage: ~50+

Looking back:

My goal this week was first and foremost to explore the Bear’s Ears National Monument for my story while getting in some solid training runs as I prepare for the U.S. Mountain Running Championships (June 3rd in New Hampshire). But beyond that, there is nothing I love more than to set off to explore a new wilderness space on my own two feet. I closed out the week covered in dirt, happily tired and with a smile on my face.

About Morgan Sjogren

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Morgan runs wild with words in the mountains, deserts or anywhere in the world she can get to with her running shoes and a pen! She is an elite trail runner, Dirtbag Runners ambassador and Vice President of SMACK! Media. You can read more about her trail running stories and adventures on REI Trail Run Project.

To follow along for more adventures find her @running_bum_ on Instagram!

Get The Runner Diaries delivered straight to your inbox every week by clicking here.

Dirtbag Essentials, Mo’s go-to gear that no dirtbag runner should leave home without:

  • currexSole RUNPRO insoles–Because no one has time for injuries or feet that hurt. The most comfy insoles in the world.
  • NuttZo 2Go Packets–I stash these in my dash, backpack and every pocket. Energy dense and delicious fuel must always be handy to prevent bonking!
  • Ultimate Direction Fastback and Ultra Vest–Dehydration is a dream killer. I make sure I pack plenty of fluids, snacks and safety gear (jackets and first aid kits) in these awesome packs. The fastpack 35 is the best thing ever for big overnight running missions. 
  • Aevok Roar Tank–This tank reminds me to be strong and the cut is super unique/perfect for running.

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