Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The State of The Pikes Peak Ascent: The Prez's Speech

I am slow.

I can’t help it, it’s just the way I am.

                Wacker (169) eyeing Gute (3)...wins stink-eye contest!                                 photo: PikesPeakSports.us

But let us disregard my punctuality on race write-ups and talk about running uphill with some of the top mountain runners in the world, shall we?

The 2014 Pikes Peak Ascent doubled at the WMRA World Long Course Challenge and 20 countries were represented, making it an Olympic-atmosphere feel full of colorful kits and comical communication barriers. My race preparation consisted of spending the week in Detroit--don’t ask, I’m trying to forget about that part of my training. Upon my return to Manitou Springs, my legs felt like pixy sticks from running along the river with a nice southern view of Canada (yes, southern!) and my head felt like it had been punched by the very large fist statue of Joe Louis himself.

That's a big fist, Joe!

I arrived back in time for the pre-race press conference, which was chocked full of foreign athletes, which race MC, Bart Yasso, taunted in the nicest of ways and attempted to get all the English he could out of them. It’s the American way: making people feel uncomfortable in the most comfortable way possible.

Wacker, not just a name...nor a pretty face
photo:PikesPeakSports.us
Now, I didn’t have the weight on my shoulders that I potentially could have had. I thought I had a good shot at being part of Team USA after have some really good results in qualifying races but was eventually not selected. I’m often the bridesmaid and not the bride, but at least I am in the wedding party! Plus, I had Team Inov-8 and Team Colorado to represent, not to mention Team Manitou Brewing Company, which had the best post-race prizes for me no matter how I finished. It was very encouraging to have some of the Team USA members make me feel like I was part of the team with supportive comments, kind words and a good ol’ ‘merican slap on the ass. Andy Wacker gives the best ass wacks, hence the name. And that Shannon Payne, yeah, her slaps hurt pretty bad! Again, hence the name.

The grandioseness of the weekend did not set in until I began to see all the uniforms: South Africa, Wales (just one), Eritrea (it looked like a 2:10 marathon uniform, and it was worn by four-time WMRA Long Course runner up and 2012 & 2013 WMRA Grand Prix Champ, Azerya Teklay), Ukraine, Italia (that’s how they spell it on their jersey), Norway, Slovenia, Mexico, Australia, Germany, Japan (another solo), Romania (the Romantic Romanian Runner Ionut Zinca) and many more. Even Kansas! I finally met fellow Inov-8 teammate and obstacle racer-extraordinaire, Cody Moat—it’s difficult to miss a bright red jersey with a foot as an 8 on it. I searched for another Inov-8 team member, friend and all-around good guy, Scott Dunlap, but he was somewhere gathering his strength for the Ascent/Marathon Double and knew that he had to partake in our now-traditional celebratory beer on the Peak after the race. Team Colorado was well represented with Stevie "Sunshine" Kremer, Brandy "Mile-A-Minute" Erholtz, Donna "Gar-Gute" Garcia, Amy "Chef l'équipe" Perez, Simon "Gute" Gutierrez, Sage "The Rage" Canaday, Neil "Big McD" McDonagh, and myself, Le Prez, as they say in France.


A few Team Coloradans under the lined and one circle-spangled banners. 
Quick! Look right!
The start line looked intimidating with all the cleanly shaven legs (except for Team USA’s Zach Miller, you need to join the club, Zach!) and intense looks. My ego wouldn’t fit on the front line, so it was pushed back to the second row of the start line. It was, by far, the most competitive race the Pikes Peak Ascent has ever assembled, but I knew that the race was not won in the first mile so I had to run smart and know if I did I would deserve that beer at the top.

Zach: refusing to join the club. Wacker: doing his best chicken leg impression.         photo: Eddie Metro

The starting cannon detonated and either gave you an additional shot of adrenaline or stopped your heart momentarily. I did not fall down so I guess I received the former. There goes fellow Team Coloradan and 3 X Ascent Champion, Simon “Gute” Gutierrez, to the front in his patented lead-out sprint. Oh, what’s this!? The guy with the freshly shorn legs and pretty hair, Andy Wacker, goes by Gute at an even faster cadence. It is times like these that I wish auctioneers would commentate on races in the lead vehicle. Now that would be entertainment!

Watch that elbow!                                       photo: OutThereColorado.com
The lead pack is three times the size it usually is during the Ascent and I felt like I was in a swarm of bees that had just had their hive kicked, buzzing and eager, almost angry. Apparently, I was eager, too, because a 6-flat first mile on the road climb to the Barr Trailhead can lead to the death sentence in this race. Oh well, can’t take that back now!

The next section, the Ws, is one of the toughest sections of the race, in my opinion, with its long and steep switchbacks that appear as Ws on an aerial map. It seemed I wasn’t moving fast enough because the entire Italian contingent went by me in a matter of about 10 seconds, each one saying “sorry” to me as they passed. They were so nice in their competitiveness. I think the English translation would have been, “get out of my way you American with a fairly decent mustache!” Next a Mexican went by me, then others that I didn’t recognize because all I witnessed was their asses. That’s what happens with steep grades, you get right on someone’s shoulder but really you are face to ass with them.

Brandy talks as fast as she runs!         photo: PikesPeakSports.us
I had a short chat with the Scottish-Coloradan, Ryan Smith (first UK finisher--Scotland is still part of the UK, you know!--living in Colorado has done him well.). He was thoroughly impressed with how loud I was belching 2 miles into the race. We did a great job of entertaining ourselves amid the misery of the climb…and it had just begun. As the saying goes, misery loves company…and it does!

After the Ws did a good job of stringing out the field, I found my self running with Thomas Cornthwaite of England. I only understood half of what he said with his thick accent, but I appreciated every word as it took my mind off the hard uphill grind. We fed off each other like a proper English breakfast and pushed the pace when it began to slow. Every time I went by him it was, “You look crackers!” or “Bloody Good, mate!” My encouragement was usually a slap on the ass and some American words that he hopefully couldn’t understand…just so we could be on the same page. It was working! We were gradually catching and passing runners who had underestimated what wrath the mountain could impose.

Zach Miller likes to chomp bananas!
photo: PikesPeakSports.us
We caught and passed an Italian, an American, some more runners, then Gute just before Barr Camp. His race strategy was to go out hard the first half and bank some time for the second half. This is where I told myself the race was to begin, even though I had already had almost 70 minutes of hard racing and jockeying for position, I had to convince myself this is where it started. We acquired Gute in our train to the Peak and continued to catch the carnage on the trail like Pac Man chomps up fruit.

The next couple of miles was like purgatory, it had to be done to breach treeline and face the most difficult section of the course, A-Frame to the summit (3 miles) aka the surface of the moon, where you are either struggling or have already turned into a zombie. We spotted more runners up ahead! As Thomas and I approached, he stated who the runner was (Emanuele Manzi of Italy) and excitedly exclaimed “Maaaanzi, gooud runnah!” (That’s the best New Castle accent I can hope to impart in written word). I knew the field was world class and everyone we came in contact with now held an impressive resume, so I seemed to be acquiring 1UPs with every person I passed. One more person and I would have the ability to throw fireballs! Well, I already had so much red on I looked like I was on fire: racecar red Inov-8 jersey and hat, razzel red Swiftwick Aspire 4 socks and the new rad red, ectoplasm green and black TrailRoc 245 (next season’s color, keep an eye out, you can’t miss them…they're bright!).



Gute and Gar-Gute, a couple of youngster!   photo: Gar-Gute
I came up on Ionut Zinca, the Romantic from Romania, who placed 3rd at last year’s WMRA Long Course Challenge, and we exchanged a few words before he accelerated off ahead at such a difficult point in the race to do so. This explains why he was 3rd last year! I felt good, I had trained for this and I was racing to plan. How many more pieces of fruit could this Pac Man get? I looked down the switchbacks and saw friend and recent training partner Marco Sturm of Germany running well and making up ground. Gute was still right there, don’t ever count him out even though he is almost 50. Where did Thomas go, he was just right with me!? Marco’s high altitude prowess was due to his month of training and living on Pikes Peak before the race. After seeing him up on the Peak every time I was up there we got together for runs, found him Team Colorado housing in Manitou Springs and he even defected to the Colorado! (Not really, but he is still staying in Manitou Springs as of early September.)

Marco Sturm: elite mountain runner, cat sitter.
photo: PikesPeakSports.us
Stevie "Sunshine" Kremer shows that mountain who's boss!   photo: PikesPeakSports.us
Neil, exorcizing the demons!         photo: PikesPeakSports.us
2 miles to go and close ahead I could see Zinca passing a pair of runners. I followed suit and decided I needed to do the same. It was Amed from Mexico and Mei from Italy. I had no idea what place I was in at this point. I could have been anywhere from 7th to 15th from my rough calculation, but the brain doesn’t really function properly at 13,000 ft. My brain did know to run as hard as I could with as little oxygen as was available. And so I ran on…

1 mile to go. I couldn’t tell who the black singlet belonged to until I passed him, Stefan Hubert, Germany’s top runner.The front side of the German uniform is red, that's a sneaky trick! One foot in front of the other, the senses are getting blurred now. Struggling runners. I am struggling, but I am still passing them. How!?!? With a half mile to go, you encounter the crippling rock scramble which is lovingly referred to as the 16 Golden Stairs. As the name indicates, 16 tightly weaved switchbacks over boulders make 15 meters seem like 800. For lack of better terms, a real kick in the balls! Zinca is slowing to a crawl, am I really going to pass him!? I hear someone yell “10th place!” Are they referring to me or someone else? Halfway through the stairs Zinca willingly moves over and allows me to crawl by. BluhBluhBluup--1UP! I needed that extra life!

Within a half mile of the finish, I am energized again by a red, white and blue-clad superhero perched on a precipice, waving an American flag, mullet flowing in the breeze and muscles rippling in the vacant-atmosphere sunlight. Could it be!? Captain ‘merica!? He vaguely resembled my Team Colorado teammate, Brandon Stapanowich. This put a smile on my misery-stricken face for the first time in 2 hours and 20 minutes. I still couldn’t let up since Zinca was hot on my tail. I knew the last two minutes of the race are among the most painful I would experience in life and at any second I expected the Romanian to push past me, offer me a romantic gesture and say, “Sorry!”


Zinca trying to catch me to say sorry
photo: PikesPeakSports.us
Last turn! Don’t catch your toe on that boulder! Don’t fall over! No “Sorry” was whispered from behind and I cross the line to a congratulatory high-five from race director, Ron Ilgen, and all of a sudden the world is audible again. I placed 9th overall in 2:21:11, a 5:28 personal record on the mountain, along with being 6th American and behind only two Italians and one Eritrean. I was interviewed by the local newspaper the previous week, The Colorado Springs Gazette, and was asked what I thought my chances were of winning the race. “Top 20 would be amazing, top 10 would double amazing, winning would make me famous pretty quickly,” was my response. Silly questions solicit silly answers. In previous years, my time would have made me famous pretty quickly, but I was extremely happy with “double amazing.” My “double amazing” time this year would have “made me famous pretty quickly” in a few past years. Just to display how competitive the race was, 23 males broke 2:30 and 16 women broke 3:00, while only 3 men and 4 women broke those respective barriers in 2013. Women’s winner, Allie McLaughlin, ran the 3rd fastest women’s time in race history. 4th place finisher from last year’s Ascent, David McKay, was 22nd this year…and that is even with a faster time! Holy Schiße, as they say in Germany! 

Holding hands with RD Ron Ilgen at the finish, and Nora, the First Lady quick to hold me up so I don't fall over.
photo: PikesPeakSports.us

I was very proud to be part of it.

I would like to congratulate all of the participants--winners as well as those whose goal was just to reach to finish in under the cutoff time. To the US men’s and women’s team for both capturing the individual and team gold medals (Individuals: Team Coloradan Sage Canaday and Colorado Springs native Allie McLaughlin; Women's Team: Allie McLaughlin, Morgan Arritola, Shannon Payne, Stevie Kremer, Nuta Olaru; Men's Team: Sage Canaday, Andy Wacker, Eric Blake, Joe Gray and Zach Miller). Thanks to those on the US Team for making me feel like I was part of the team, even thought I was not. After all, the slogan for Pikes Peak is “America’s Mountain.” Alanis Morissette would say “isn't it ironic…don’t you think?” I would say "it's coincidence" because, after all, it is in America.

There is an "US" in Team USA! Congrats on the gold medal Sage Canaday, Andy Wacker, Eric Blake, Joe Gray and Zach Miller.                                                                 photo: The Prez

The best part of the event, and reason why I love the sport so much, is celebrating with the amazing people after the hard effort is over. In this case, we had the Team World Pool Party at a little watering hole called La Piscina (thanks Brandon, how do you always seem to miss your own party!?), where 50+ people from all over the world turned it into the “Official (Unofficial) Post Race Party.” Because, in the long run, becoming famous is not all that important…but it definitely does help your popularity at the after party!

Team World Pool Party! Amy Perez (not pictured) taking picture.

There's Amy! This is equivalent of being photoshopped into the above photo.  
photo: Not Amy this time but, you guessed it, PikesPeakSports.us

The smallest and largest participant at the Pikes Peak Ascent. Allie McLaughlin would have been very popular if she had been at the after party.   photo: PikesPeakSports.us

There's Thomas Cornthwaite! Bloody thumbs up, mate!        photo: OutThereColorado.com

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sage "The Rage" Canaday talks about his Pikes Peak Ascent Victory and WMRA World Long Course Challenge Gold

Team Colorado caught up with the 2014 WMRA World Long Course Challenge and Pikes Peak Ascent Champion, Sage Canaday, and asked him about the race. Here is how it went.



Team Colorado: First of all, congratulations on your victory at the World Long Course Challenge at the Pike Peak Ascent in a time of 2:10:03, not to mention your Uphill Challenge at OR, Speedgoat…so many others that we don't want to have you sit through the long list…and I'm sure you know them all, you were there!

The last time your ran the Pikes Peak Ascent you struggled badly the last few miles. You were described as looking like a one of those collapsing animal toys that springs back up when you release the buttons on either side. Did you feel that way? Maybe we should make a Team Colorado collapsing Sage Canaday doll!? This time you got your piece of Pikes Peak. What was your nutrition plan for the race knowing what happened in 2012?

Sage: My nutrition plan was to fill my Ultimate Direction fanny pack full of gel and consume it in blobs. I was also looking to get in an Avery IPA near the top with about a mile to go, but no crewing was allowed out on the course. If I had that IPA in me I would've cracked 2:10 for sure!

Team Colorado: You mentioned that this was the first time you had to pee in a cup (aka get drug tested). That's a bit of a surprise since you have done a lot of other races with larger prize purses. There is quite a lot of money in some of the larger ultra races, which is starting to attract athletes trying to get their piece of the pie. What is your take on drug testing in mountain, trail, ultra running?

Sage: The more testing the better. For me it was an honor as know I feel like I've finally made it in the sport (since I got tested). I think to really catch people they need to do out of season testing and always make it a surprise, though!

Team Colorado: You did not "Pull a GR" like most Pikes Peak Ascent winners have done in recent years to win, but it sounded like you ran a smart, tactical race. Take us through it, especially when you went from 3rd to 1st in the last mile.

Sage: I don't have a high enough Vo2max to take it out hard like a lot of the guys so I was pretty forced to sit back and wait. I knew from some workouts that my strength this year was probably going to be the last 3 miles so I waited until then to make my move. It really wasn't a strong move as my motto in this section is "just don't walk," but at the time it felt intense. I got an extra boost of energy when I saw first and second place close together and I figured if I didn't give it everything I had to try catch up and win I'd regret it for the rest of my life. With about half a mile to go I put my head down and gave it everything I had...including a slow powerhike up the golden stairs (which was all I could muster).

Just before the pass, 400 meters to go            photo: PikesPeakSports.us

Team Colorado: If you could have any nickname, what would it be? "Rage" was a nickname in college, but you don't seem like an angry person. We also don't want to refer to you as a shrub or a philosopher, if you are not into that.

Sage "The Rage": You haven't seen the anger come out yet! Consider yourself lucky. The Rage gets going only after a six pack or two...

Team Colorado: You have been racing, nay, dominating races this year. What is up next for you?

Sage: I'm going to do the Rut 50km SkyRunning World Series Ultra Final. Killian Jornet is supposed to come so it will be an intense race!

Team Colorado: We know of this Kilian, he was in one of our blog posts once and was pretending to be Miley Cirus. You know, if you take out your time from this year's Pikes Peak Ascent but you keep in the The Prez's time, he has run a faster time than you did back in 2012 (2:21:16). How do you feel about that? Does it make you angry? Are you feeling the "Rage" now?

Sage: I'm happy for The Prez. He put down a solid race!

Team Colorado: We were just testing you to see if you turned green and got all muscly!

Sage: Nope, not yet.

Team Colorado: On a very important topic, what beer did you have after your Pikes Peak Ascent victory?

Sage: Avery's classic IPA.


Team Colorado: Ah, yes, lots of antioxidants in a good IPA. Tell us about your upcoming film, MUT Runner.

Sage "The Rage": MUT (Mountain-Ultra-Trail) Runner is a film project that I'm releasing at the end of next month. It's about a movement I see in the sport in terms of more competition, increased sponsorship opportunities, changes in training philosophy, the role of prize money and falling course records. I've interviewed a lot of top MUT Runners and gotten their take on things as well as included scenic footage from my travels around the world. It's going to be about 25-30 minutes long and will be available on DVD and digital download.

Team Colorado: I know, I know, you've been itching to do it, so go ahead, plug your sponsors!

Sage "The Rage": Naw, but everyone should follow me on Twitter and Instagram: @SageCanaday. That way you can see all the shameless product plugs from my sponsors!


Team USA Gold                                          photo: The Prez


Monday, August 4, 2014

Team Colorado Welcomes Jared "the Youngster" Hazen

Name: Jared "the Youngster" Hazen

Age: 19

Hometown: Titusville, PA

Current residence: Colorado Springs, CO

Sponsors: Altra Zero Drop

Personal Bests (or Worsts): Bests would probably be 3rd at Rocky Raccoon and 14th at Western States. I felt like I ran a close to perfect race at Rocky Raccoon and went about hour faster than expected. At Western I moved up all day and was able to run a fast last 20 miles and felt the best I ever have at that distance. Worst would have to be my first ultra, the Baker 50 miler. My nutrition plan going in was lemonade and bananas. It got up to 85 degrees and was super humid. I led the first 30 miles, then ran with my buddy who caught up for 5 miles before I started puking everywhere and cramping. I got lost for a couple miles, but managed to finish 2nd in 8:05. I then proceeded to puke a few more times before somebody called and an ambulance (not cool). Luckily I didn’t have to go to a hospital, but I was sick for about 2 weeks after the race. And the time I dropped at the Quad Rock 50. It seems I haven’t had much luck with the 50s.

Notable Achievements: Sub 14 hours in a 100 miler. And I’ve never had any real injuries, it’s a miracle!

Goals for 2014/2015/beyond: I just want to get better, explore a lot, and be able to run until I die.

Favorite trails: Cascade Canyon trail in Grand Teton National Park, Trail 666 in Colorado Springs

Favorite workout: Long runs. The ones where you get lost, run out of food and water, and wonder if you’ll ever be done running…those are the best ;)

Favorite races: Oil Creek 100 It was my first hundred and my hometown race.

Favorite Beer: I’ll get back to you in a couple of years. (He's 19 people, we are not in Europe!)

Why Trail/Mountain/Ultra Running? Because it’s a blast! My “training” is running on sweet single track in the mountains every day for long periods of time. That totally beats trying to sprint around a track really fast. And I’ve found that running 100 miles is one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. I don’t know why but I like training for months at a time and then one day trying to bring everything together and nail a hundred mile race, it’s pretty satisfying.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Team Colorado Welcomes Hillary "Hillygoat" Allen

Name: Hillary "Hillygoat" Allen

Age: 25

Hometown: Fort Collins, CO

Current residence: Lakewood, CO

Sponsors: Swiftwick, Hammer Nutrition

Personal Bests: Running my first 50 miler this year (2014)! Getting to train and do what I love is the accomplishment for me.

Notable Achievements: 2014 Salida Marathon, 1st woman, 3:45; 2014 Cheyenne mountain 50k, 1st woman, 4:27:29, CR; 2014 Bighorn 50 mile, 1st woman, 8:56:39, CR; 2014 Speedgoat 50k, 4th woman, 7:03.

Goals for 2014/2015 and beyond: Place top 5 in the Run the Rut 50k. Top 5 in the Moab trail marathon. Next year I plan to run another 50-mile race (perhaps quad rock, or san juan solstice). I want to plan a running trip to the pacific northwest, run rim 2 rim 2 rim and go to new Zealand or Iceland to run!

Favorite trails: Mount Morrison, beaver brooke trail, bear creek trail (into Ouray)

Favorite workout: 3-5 min uphill repeats

Favorite races: Salida marathon, Speedgoat 50k

Website/Blog: hillygoat.wordpress.com

Favorite beer: Rampant IPA, New Belgium Brewery

Why Trail/Mountain/Ultra Running? : Although this is only my second year of trail running, it feels like a part of my soul. The mountains have always been a source of inspiration. I spent most of my childhood camping in the mountains near Fort Collins, CO where I grew up. It wasn’t until after college that I started to trail run, I had the endurance (I played tennis in college) and I discovered quickly that uphill was my favorite. Pretty soon I was logging long hours on the trails, the short distances never seemed to be enough, I always wanted to explore more trails. I decided to see how I was at the ultra/mountain running. Turns out I’m hooked and my favorite part about it, is that every day I can enjoy the mountains and trails, but there’s always more to explore!

I’m a total goofball. I’m very expressive and have a hard time smiling for cameras, instead I make silly faces. I love to be outdoors and in the mountains, it’s where I feel most connected to myself and the world. I giggle a lot too, so watch out, cuz it’s contagious.






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)

USMRT

Colorado Runner Magazine

Endurance Sportswire