Sunday, June 29, 2014

Loon Mountain Race & Cranmore Hill Climb interview with co-RD, Paul Kirsch #NoSafeWord

Last year we sat down with the 2013 Cranmore Hill Climb and 2014 Loon Mountain Trail Race co-RD, Paul Kirsch. We also followed up with him about this year's Loon Mountain Race, which serves as both the women's and the men's US Mountain Running Championships, he insisted we do it while running up the Upper Walking Boss. Loon Mountain Race takes place July 6th in Lincoln, NH. BE THERE!

2013 US Mtn Running Championships podium
First of all, thanks for fixing it to make sure that our Team Colorado made the US Mountain Running Team back in 2013. Well, what I mean by that is creating the most difficult course you could imagine, not actually setting boobie traps or secret aid stations. You have put this race on in many different forms in the past, how did you come up with this course?

I always look for the World Champs course profile and then try and mimic the profile.  Some years that takes 4 or 5 potential course passes.  This year, the first course myself and Paul Bazanchuk (or Pavel X2, as we like to call ourselves) measured fit the profile pretty perfectly.  

What did you think of having a guy with a golden mullet in the race (we won't use any names here--just a photo)?
The pre-mullet look, where he had flowing golden locks my wife referred to as "The Mountain Running Bobby Brady". I am guessing he turned it into a mullet because he knew I had a Tiki like Greg Brady had in Hawaii and he wanted to avoid the curse. I know, I didn't really answer your question.

People always ask, some complain, about why the National Mountain Running Champs is always in the northeast. Why are you hogging it, why can't we hold it in Colorado?

It's not really all of New England hogging it, it's just New Hampshire. It's closely tied to the First in the Nation Primary. It's written into the New Hampshire constitution that "Our Primary will be one week before every other state and we will always host the mountain championships". Thanks to our forefathers for connecting the two important parts of our democracy. A lot of people know about the state slogan, "Live Free or Die". A lot of people don't know that the runner up slogan was "My Life is Going Uphill". That gets lost in the history books.

Besides that, one of the goals of the championship is to have a course that closely resembles the World Championship course. Team USA's results have proven why that is important. We want the best people for the World course representing Team USA. That being said, we would love to have the mountain champs in other places.  There is some potential to Bend putting in a bid for 2015. I hope that happens. I want this wonderful sport to get plenty of exposure across the country. If you know of race directors interested, tell them to contact me. I think sometimes people get intimidated at the thought of hosting a National Championship. I would love to help work with some other Race Directors to help support them hosting it as well. You will never find more appreciative runners than mountain runners.

I recall one irate person saying that a race at Cranmore is not a "real" mountain race because it does not have a lot of elevation gain and loss, no tree line, no high altitude. What do you have to say to that, other than a two word response?

Mountain Running can hurt you! Brandon Birdsong
shows off his battle wounds at Cranmore. photo: The Prez
Mountain running to me is a pretty big tent. That makes even more sense since a mountain is typically a tall pointy triangle shape, just like a tent is. There are a lot of different types of mountain races, some are much longer distances, some are much shorter. Skyrunning races tend to be much longer (they also have a Vertical K) whereas the ones that the US Mountain Champs are meant to mirror are ones that meet the guidelines of the World Mountain Running Association, usually around 12K total in distance, with some specific vertical ascent/descent. But to me, running up and down steep mountains, no matter whether it's rock or grass or road, it's all mountain running. I think sometimes people associate final elevation with level of difficulty. You can have a pretty killer mountain race that starts at sea level.  

It used to be 10 years ago that all trail, mountain and ultra running events were looked at as "not real running" like road races were. We've moved past that now with golden mulleted runners who can qualify for the Olympic trials and also excel in the mountains and trails so that mountain running is now "real running". So now, I guess we all get to debate which is the most "real mountain running". That's progress. For me, I just love all of the different mountain running events, short, long, rocky, whatever. I don't see the need to define one or the other as the real thing. They both are, in their own way.

Planning an event like this has got to be time intensive. I heard you can't speak for a couple of days after the race because you have gone hoarse. You also have a full time job…and two kids...two dogs...and a wife. How is that possible?

I believe you always make time for things that are important for you. Luckily I have a very understanding and supportive family who know how much I love organizing races. The dogs actually are not supportive at all and still require just as much exercise during race planning season. They do help me mark the course, I use flags and they use, um, well you know.

Glenn Randall and Joe Gray pushing the downhill
photo: Joe Viger
Mountain running truly has changed my life. It's why I started running. It's how I go to my happy place every day. I do hope that I am playing some small part in helping support these athletes in their own quests.That helps keep me going on the short sleep nights. I also love the adrenaline rush of directing an event. I'm a much better race director than I am a racer so, you go with your strengths.

MUT has come a long way, even in the past 3 years, with the likes of Stevie Kremer, Glenn Randall, Morgan Arritola, Max King, Joe Gray…I could go on. Where to you see the sport going in the future?

I think it will continue to go uphill- except every other year when it will go up and downhill.

We are going to see more people from "traditional running" and also from nordic sports give it a try. The success of the US Team and our athletes is opening up eyes. Look at the field at Cranmore this year- we had the usual suspects but we also had an Olympic Road Marathoner (Magda Boulet) and a recent college graduate who made the team in his first mountain race (Zach Ornelas). I think we are going to see a lot more of that.  

Do you know who "Ridin Heffers" and "A-licks Nix-holes" are? Apparently, they made the US Mountain Running Team.

Didn't A-licks just come in second at the Pikes Peak Descent? The other reason I got into mountain running is I got tired of being the least mature person in a room. With questions like this, I now know I am among my own kind.
Yeah, it's that difficult! A-licks wishes he knew the safeword.
photo: Joe Viger

Will you host the National Championships again in the future?

Yes, I hope so. Actually starting the process to organize a committee to try and bring the World Champs to Cranmore in 2017. It's going to take some major sponsorship money to do it but I am optimistic. How cool would that be? We need to bring the WMRC to the lower 48.

And finally, what is your favorite beer? Inquiring minds want to know.

I have two answers to that. The first is, my favorite beer is the free beer. It's always the best one. My second answer is much like the comment about what is real mountain running. I have lots of favorite beers depending on the situation so not a specific favorite. If I need cheap, light and fast (much like you) it's PBR. Otherwise, I tend to like either very hoppy IPAs, which covers a lot of New England or a good chocolate stout. If I really had to pick one, it would be Anchor Steam. I know that isn't from New England, a hoppy IPA or a chocolate stout so I guess I've failed at this answer. 

On a completely unrelated note, you may not remember but when I was hurt in 2005/2006, you gave me a pair of Pikes Peak Ascent socks that you won- kind of to inspire me to get healed up and running again. I still have those socks. That either means they meant something to me or I am a hoarder. 

On to 2014 and the Loon Mountain Race. It seems you are back again directing a US Champs, along with Chris Dunn of Acidotic Racing, but at a different race. So tell us about Loon. Has it been a qualifier before?

Yes, it was the qualifier for one men’s team spot back in 2006 and then was the qualifier for the women’s team in 2012. This year’s uphill race actually has a decent amount of downhill and Loon has some spots so it was the perfect course for it. I was psyched to be able to host again. Some people host big New Year’s Parties, I seem to host mountain team qualifiers.

I started the race back in 2006, planning it with Dave Dunham and Richard Bolt. But Chris and acidotic RACING took it over in 2011 and I stayed on to help out.

What makes Loon unique?

Technically, there is no other race called “The Loon Mountain Race” so I guess that is what makes it unique.

But in terms of the race, I have heard it described as the most like a European-style mountain race of any race in the US. It gets increasingly harder the further you go up the mountain. It is also the only race whose slogan (“no safeword”) provides some fairly offensive search results when you search it on Google or Bing, although technically no one not named Gates uses Bing, even William Frederick.

Where did “no safeword” come from?
I am now starting to get uncomfortable that you keep pressing me on this topic. Does Team Colorado have an HR Department? I feel I should report you. 

Did you change the course this year? Was there a safe word for that course?

Yes. Sort of. The women’s course will be the same as 2012 when it was last a qualifier. It will have little bit more at the very end. The men’s course has another 2 mile trail section that goes through the Nordic trails. It’s a cool addition, in my opinion. It has some mud, some single track, a few rocks and roots too. The World’s Course in Italy this year has some up and down variety on it, so this should be a good test for that course as well.

Did Lincoln grow up in Lincoln, New Hampshire?

He did not. One town over from Lincoln, is Woodstock, New Hampshire. That was named after Snoopy’s friend Woodstock.  Most people don’t know that.  This kind of ties the whole interview together as it is also the home of the Woodstock Inn and Brewery, which makes some amazing beer.

What is the Collegiate Running Association and what is their mountain championship?

TiVO, suffering on Upper Walking Boss
The CRA was started by some forward thinking people in the world of college running. Steve Taylor, the coach at the University of Richmond, helped spearhead it. Their goal is really to give college students exposure to all of their post-collegiate running options, including trail and mountain running. Chris Dunn and I are honored that they picked Loon for the inaugural mountain champs.

Steve and Richmond have sent us a lot of junior athletes for the mountain team over the years. It’s become a great partnership.

You may recognize the University of Richmond name as that is where singer/songwriter Bruce Hornsby didn’t graduate from. Coach Taylor is also friends with Howard Nippert, who starred in the original Smokey and the Bandit movies as Cledus.

Explain Upper Walking Boss…or do you just have the run…walk…CRAWL up it?

Gute: "Is that Upper Walking Boss!?" Eric: "Yeah, that's why
they call me Quadzilla."
Upper Walking Boss is the result of us needing more elevation in the 2006 qualifier. So we got to the top of Loon Peak and needed some more vertical so we shuffled them over to UWB to ascend the Boss. It really is the steepest thing I have ever been on. My calves and Achilles hurt just walking up it. Ironically, my own fastest running time on it is only a few minutes faster than when I hike up it to flag the course. There is something wonderfully mind blowing of blazing down Haulback to then suddenly making a hard right turn onto UWB.  People who are just ahead of you may in fact be a full minute ahead of you. I fully expect some dreams will be made and some broken on those last few spots on the mountain team this year- all taking place in the 1km of UWB.

Thanks, Paul! We all look forward to suffering on your behalf.

Some media from the Cranmore Hill Climb 2013:

Race video by Rich Bolt (no relation to Usain Bolt)


Colorado Runner Magazine

Endurance Sportswire

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Team Colorado Welcomes Kerrie Bruxvoort

Name: Kerrie Bruxvoort

Age: 37

Hometown: Omaha, NE

Current residence: Broomfield, CO

Sponsors: Salomon, Honey Stinger, DryMax Socks, Bliz Eyewear

Personal Bests (or Worsts): One of my favorite experiences was at Run Rabbit Run 50 in Steamboat this past year. It was one of those races that felt easy and was truly enjoyable from start to finish. That doesn’t happen very often! Also, my first ultra ever was the Mesquite Canyon 50K in Arizona in 2012. I felt amazing that day and managed a solid course record and third overall.
A tough race for me this past year was the UROC 100k. I was having a wonderful day until about mile 40 when I got behind on calories and could no longer eat anything. It was a 100% suffer fest for about 25 miles. I was staggering around in the dark dizzy and nauseated and talking to myself. It was rough!!

Goals for 2014 and beyond: I know I have lots of room for improvement when it comes to speed, so I’d like to work on that. I’ve been running a lot of longer, more technical races, so my strength and endurance have increased, but my speed has taken a hit for sure. I hope to improve my times over 2013 at Dirty 30, Speedgoat and TNF 50 San Francisco. H.U.R.T 100 in Hawaii and Hardrock 100 are both on my list. My main goal is to continue to enjoy and appreciate every experience and to hopefully inspire my two daughters to be strong and follow their dreams!

Favorite trails: Mt. Sanitas, Boulder Area Trails, Aspen Four Pass Loop, Mosquito Pass, Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat, - anything steep, dirty and rocky!

Favorite workout: Mt. Sanitas repeats. Mt. Sanitas is easily accessible and I know I can get a lot of great technical running done in a short amount of time.  It’s a staple in my training regimen!

Favorite races: The gnarlier the better. Anything with insane amounts of rocks, roots, altitude and climbs. I love Zane Grey 50 in Arizona, Speedgoat 50K in Utah and the Dirty 30 here in Golden, CO. I’d really love to run some mountain races in Europe to experience that whole different race scene.

Website/Blog: Not yet! I will be starting a blog very soon!  Until then you can follow me here and

Favorite beer: I like most beers, but right now in my fridge I have: White Rascal (Avery), and Orabelle by Great Divide.

Why Trail/Mountain/Ultra Running?:  Mountain running brings joy, freedom, balance and simplicity to my life. It’s a great time to be alone with my thoughts and find inspiration from my surroundings. I love running ultra trail races because the task is so primal and simple (one foot in front of the other), yet so very humbling. Living and running in Colorado is truly a privilege. And you can’t find a better group of people anywhere!

But really, who's Kerri?
  • I have two daughters, 7 & 9 and a husband who love to come and support me at my races. I couldn’t do it without them!
  • I also have a great group of friends to run and train with here in the Boulder area. I feel very lucky!
  • I’m a Girls on the Run Coach- Love those crazy kids!
  • I cracked the bone on the side of my right ankle at mile 4 at Western States in 2014. It grew back a bigger bump than before, now I have to cut the side of all my shoes!
  • I love Pina Colada Jelly Bellies
  • I’m afraid of getting devoured by a Mountain Lion
  • I love coffee almost as much as beer
  • I have a love affair with the stair climber at my gym
  • I do cheesy workout videos in my basement
  • I try not to take myself too seriously, especially when racing. It’s all about having fun and enjoying the experience!

Watch your back!  At the Stump Jump 50k in Chattanooga, TN it rained pretty hard all day making the roots and mossy rocks super slippery. At mile 2, I was crossing a wooden bridge and slipped sideways and got my leg caught under the crossed wood. I pulled it out, hobbled a bit and started running again. It was so damn slippery! I fell countless times. The most memorable fall happened as I was climbing a rocky, mossy ridge behind a group of guys and I lost control of my feet and lunged forward. To help break my fall, I reached out for the closest thing to grab, which happened to be the guy's ASS in front of me. With a good-sized hunk of his butt in my hands I continued forward and did a face plant on his ass as well. It was pretty embarrassing and I apologized profusely. He turned and said, "Thanks for the ass massage! Can I have another?".  You gotta love ultra runners. It's such a great crowd!  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Team Colorado Welcomes Amy O'Connell

Name: Amy O'Connell

Age: 36

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Current residence: Denver, Colorado

Sponsors: Runners Roost, Mizuno, Honey Stinger, Accelerate Health

Personal Bests: BESTSRunnin’ of the Green 7k: 27:03, Snowmand Stampede 10 Miler: 1:05; Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon: 1:26; Colfax Marathon: 3:08; Bear Chase 50K: 4:35; Silver Rush 50M: 8:58; Leadville 100: 26:54
WORSTSDNF’ing (we're making new words!) two 100 milers in a 5 week span was not my favorite time 

Notable Achievements: 1st Female, Steamboat Half Marathon 2008; 1st Female, Steamboat Marathon 2010, 2011; 1st Female, Bear Chase 50k, 2011; 2nd Female, Colfax Marathon 2011; 2nd Female, Run Rabbit Run 100, 2013 (Tortoise division!); 3rd Female, Leadville Marathon, 2010; 5th Female Silver Rush 50, 2013

Goals for 2014: Goal #1 – Have this baby!; Goal #2 – Return to my former glory in some form; Goal #3 – Run a sub 1:25 Half Marathon, sub-3 marathon, Sub 25 Leadville 100, gain entry to Hardrock 100 and UTMB, Finish Hardrock 100 and UTMB, Sub 8-hour 50 miler (course TBD). I could go on forever! 

Favorite trails: 4-Pass Loop, Maroon Bells, Aspen; Pawnee Buchanan Pass Loop; Barr Trail (seriously!); Mesa Trail, Boulder; Ptarmigan Peak, Summit County; Much of the; Leadville 100 course; Kepler Track, New Zealand; Routeburn Track, New Zealand

Favorite workout: I LOVE the long 6-8 hour Saturday run where you pay no attention to pace, but just run. The longer the better! This is what I’ve missed the most during pregnancy.

Favorite races: Leadville 100; Silver Rush 50; Bear Chase 50k; Pikes Peak Ascent; Run Rabbit Run 100

Website/Blog: Amy's connecting the world with Fuel Social Media: and blogging here:

Favorite beer: Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin but I’ll take a glass of Stranahan’s over anything, any day.

Why Trail/Mountain/Ultra Running?:  While I still love road running, the people/community, the races, the training, are why I fell in love with this “side” of running. There is less pressure, more fun, more beauty and more life in Mountain/Ultra running.

Anything you want to add: As we are expecting our first baby (a boy!) here in a couple months, I can’t wait to introduce him to this world and can only hope he loves it as much as I do. You will probably see me on top of a few mountains with him on my back – Maybe Kim and I will try to set some records for the most 14’ers with a baby on our backs!


Friday, May 16, 2014

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Jared "Youngster" Hazen

This past Saturday I attempted to run the tough Quad Rock 50 miler. Going into the race my goal was to win and set a new course record, preferably under 7:30, and walk away with $600 in my pocket. Having never seen the course before I had no clue that chasing that goal would almost certainly spell disaster. Nonetheless come race morning I found myself running with the leaders the first 25 miles already sensing I may have bitten off more than I could chew. The pace was fast from the start as we tackled the course that boasts 11,000 feet of elevation gain. Ryan Burch, Paul Hamilton, Jim Rebenack, and I were crushing our quads on the downhill (led by Ryan), and hammering the uphill (led by Jim). Near the end of the first loop Jim had about an 8 minute gap on me and I had about a 5 minute gap on Ryan and Paul who would both drop at the 25 mile mark. With my pace well under the 9:00 minute miles I needed to run to sneak under 7:30, I was trying to stay calm while I felt the fatigue really setting in after heading out for my second 25 mile loop. Only two miles later I got an update that Jim was only 7 minutes up, and I foolishly started pushing hard to catch him on the big climb that was in front of me. This was where I really started burying myself. In a short 3 miles I managed to get to the top of the climb and catch Jim shortly after. As soon as I caught Jim he really picked up the pace and we began another quad crushing decent. I was going nearly all out trying to keep up and watched Jim catch his toe a few times which led me to believe I still had the advantage. I was definitely tired but I was still moving really fast 30 miles into the race. Just before the aid station at mile 32 Jim caught his toe and went down hard. He said he was fine so I left him and decided this was where I was going to break away. After a quick transition through the aid station I started plugging my way up the next big climb. This is where things started getting pretty difficult; I was working really hard, but the pace on my Garmin was quickly slipping upwards. I looked back and couldn’t see Jim down any of the switchbacks and knew I had at least a few minutes on him.
Near the top of the climb I took another gel (I had been taking one every 30 minutes), and promptly threw it up along with all the other ones in my belly. My stomach hadn’t been feeling great but that really took me by surprise. The last time I threw up while running was in my first ultra, about a year and a half ago, and that was for good reason. I tried to stay positive and slogged my way to the next aid station less than a mile away where I was able to drink some soda and begin a 3.5 mile decent to the mile 40 aid station. Unfortunately, those 3.5 miles were my unravelling, I vomited a few more times and was having some painful abdominal cramping. I was light headed and it was really hard to focus on the trail. I knew I needed sugar, but there was no way I could stomach another gel. It seemed it was all I could do to stay on my feet. About a mile from the aid station, as I was hidden (not very well apparently) behind a tree expelling more bile, this time out the other end of my body, Jim came running past and asked if I was ok. I mumbled a quick yes with my shorts were around my ankles. I was crushed when he passed me and just focused on getting to the next aid station and trying to get my stomach settled down. Finally I shuffled my way into the aid station hunched over and had a seat. Jim had come through a couple minutes earlier, but I was only focused on myself at this point. I sipped some water, but over the next hour my stomach never came around and the thought of 10 more miles in my current state seemed nearly impossible. The aid station workers were great and lifted my spirits, but I decided the best thing to do was pull the plug, and live to run another day.
It was one of the more embarrassing moments of my life, and I felt pretty hollow the rest of the day. People drop out of ultras all the time, but the fact that my race came to an end due to a belly ache seemed pretty pathetic. A couple of days removed from the race I’ve had a lot of time to ponder what happened. I’m not entirely sure why I had stomach issues, but have narrowed it down to two likely things. One, I just flat out ran too hard for my own good and my body decided it was going to put a stop to it one way or another. Or two, I didn’t take in enough electrolytes; I only had one S-Cap and maybe 6 potato chips. Of course it could have been a combination of the two, or something else entirely. I’m no doctor.
But, I did learn some valuable lessons. In ultra-running, it’s always better to be conservative than aggressive, especially early in a difficult race. The past three ultras I have run have all been successes. I won the Oil Creek 100 in October, was third at the Rocky Raccoon 100 in February, and won the Cheyenne Mountain 50k, two weeks ago. All of which I ran my own race, and stayed patient in the early miles. At Quad Rock I thought I was too good for that. I thought I could break the course record no problem, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Also, I learned I really need to take better care of myself during ultras. I’ve always kind of winged it with electrolyte replacement. Just eating potato chips, and maybe taking an S-Cap every once in a while and hope for the best. Until now it’s worked, but now I’m looking for smarter ways to replace electrolytes. In the end my failure at Quad Rock needed to happen. Looking forward to Western States I plan on being patient and conservative in the first half of the race and hopefully picking up carnage late. Much like I did at Rocky Raccoon where 3rd place just fell into my lap due to DNFs and blow ups. Until then I’ll be training hard and finding a solution to my electrolyte replacement problem.