Wednesday, December 18, 2013

ATRA Announces Partnership Renewal with Ortholite

The American Trail Running Association (ATRA) is pleased to announce that OrthoLite renewed their partnership on December 18, 2013, and will continue to be known as the official insole of ATRA.

OrthoLite has been a major supporter of ATRA for nearly a decade, the most of which has been as an official partner.

“OrthoLite is thrilled to continue this longstanding partnership with ATRA in 2014,” said Pam Gelsomini, OrthoLite president. “This partnership allows OrthoLite to continue its mission of providing the ultimate in comfort and durability on all types of terrain, and we admire ATRA’s commitment to the trail running community.”

Adam W. Chase, president of the American Trail Running Association said of the partnership renewal, “It is only appropriate that a support company like OrthoLite would provide such welcome support of the American Trail Running Association. Thanks to OrthoLite’s generous and sustained contribution to our organization, we can look to 2014 as a year of growth and continued advocacy for our sport of trail running.”

One of the enhancements planned for the partnership in 2014, includes an increased social media presence on the various portals in which ATRA participates to include Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

ATRA’s online marketing director Richard Bolt will be working closely with OrthoLite to facilitate updates on the various social media channels.  Bolt says of the partnership, “We're so glad to have OrthoLite on board as an ATRA corporate partner again in 2014. For trail runners, the benefits of an OrthoLite insole are particularly helpful - moisture management, breathability and cushioning. Running on rugged, muddy and dusty off-road terrain is tough on your feet and OrthoLite is there to support us!”

ATRA is a non-profit 501 (c ) 3 corporation based in Colorado. Founded in 1996, ATRA’s mission is to represent and promote trail and mountain running. It is a membership-driven association with corporate, race, club, and individual memberships available.

Its many programs include a comprehensive online calendar, a quarterly newsletter – Trail Times, and monthly e-blasts with current information about the sport, and a labeling program for race directors instituted in March 2012. ATRA is a sponsoring organization of the second annual Trail Running Conference, the Estes Trail Ascent, slated to be held October 9-11, 2014, in Estes Park, CO.

ATRA is a member of USA Track & Field, Road Runners Club of America, International Skyrunning Federation, International Mountain Bicycling Association, and a founding member of Running USA.
To learn more about ATRA, visit For more information, or to order OrthoLite insoles, visit

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Trail Runner Recipe: by Michael James

The following recipe originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of ATRA Trail Times email newsletter:

3 c. organicgirl Super Greens
¼ c. finely shredded coconut
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ c. soaked quinoa
½ c. roasted and salted sunflower seeds
½ c. dated (pitted)
¼ c. lemon zest

Mix all ingredients until finely chopped. Take 1 tbsp. of ingredients and roll it into a ball in the palm of your hand. Set in the refrigerator for one hour. Sprinkle with sugar to taste. Makes 9 – 12 energy bites.

Each bite contains 48 calories and the following:
4 2 g of fat
4 1 g of saturated fat
41 g of polyunsaturated fat
4 0 g of cholesterol
4 54 mg of sodium
4 69 mg of potassium
4 6 g carbohydrates
4 1 gram of protein
4 3% iron
1% calcium
4 10% Vitamin A
4 6% Vitamin C
4 39% Vitamin K
4 2% folate
4 1% magnesium
4 2 % manganese

Michael James recently turned 40, and is sharing healthy eating and a love for trail running — especially ultra running — with ATRA.

Flagstaff Endurance Runs

The following article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of ATRA Trail Times email newsletter:

by Herb Kieklak

The Endurance Runs in Flagstaff, AZ, are spectacular – true treasures in the world of trail running. Held in mid-September, the events — 50 kilometer and 50 miles — combine high altitude, gorgeous scenery, and very challenging terrain.

The runs are organized by Aravaipa Running which is operated by the brother team of Nick and Jamil Coury, both successful runners on the ultra circuit. The pair is easy to talk with about training ideas and honest about directing you to the race that is best suited for you. I enjoy locally-grown events of this type, rather than corporate, large-scale events, because even a  non-local runner like me can feel at home and enjoy running with friends old and new. I have run several of their events and can attest to amazing volunteer support, incredible swag, super helpful race directors and challenging courses.

The Flagstaff Endurance Runs took several years to get approved due to many environmental factors, but the organizers persisted, and eventually were able to map out a course which was agreeable to those issuing permits.

Before registering for the event, it is a good idea to pay heed to their warning: The combination of elevation gain/loss and Flagstaff’s high altitude makes the courses very difficult and NOT recommended for beginning trail runners.

From personal experience, I can attest to the validity of their claims. Last year, I attempted the course and experienced my first-ever DNF, as the high altitude nailed me late in the race – of course training in Florida is not very beneficial when it comes to high altitude racing. This year, I was determined to make amends for that blemish on my ultrarunning record.

I adjusted my training program and added a day of acclimation per advice of race director Nick Coury. Last year, I had arrived the afternoon before the race on suggestion of many runners to “get in and get out” before the altitude change hits you. It may have worked if I was running an East Coast trail race. However, this race is so totally different than any East Coast race, that there is no quick “get in and get out.”
The Flagstaff Run starts at 7,000 feet of elevation which makes it high altitude from the first step, unless of course you live at that elevation. The course has several bodacious climbs, (again speaking as an East Coast runner), and what I call “white knuckle descents.” Obviously, living in the great Southwest would be a huge advantage for running these highly technical, ankle-twisting trails. Somehow, I can’t imagine running fast down the side of a mountain, while on narrow, rocky single-track trail when a single misstep means a nasty fall. And to make it worse, there is the AWESOME view while coming downhill which beckons runners to stop and take in the vista. 

You break out of the ridge above the trees to a wide open mountainside and have spectacular views of Flagstaff, granite walls , huge Ponderosa pines and quaking Aspens in the midst of fall color change. You are torn between taking in the impressive scenery, or watching the trail to make sure you don’t bust your  #*&. This year we had the extra” treat” of a rare desert rain storm and Holy Moley...what a storm. It thundered and shook  like the Second Coming. So now I am running, albeit plodding on the uphills, and having thoughts of flash floods, and the addition of mud and water to already treacherous downhill trails. Luckily,the rain came in spurts and at 9,000 feet turned to hail instead of rain.

At the third peak of 9,000 feet, some 20 miles into the race, my legs felt like lead and I started getting dry heaves and was “a little worried” that I would DNF again. But luckily, the route soon dropped to 8,000 feet and I soon started to feel better and news that the next aid station was only 5 miles away instead of 9 ,like the last couple, was a big mental boost.

Along the way, I was joined by another runner that I had been playing leapfrog with throughout the race. This was great as we all know how much more fun it is to have a pace/run buddy.  At the next station, there was the added benefit of meeting some ex-Floridians, who turned out to own Sedona Running Company. They could commiserate about training in mountainless Florida as a preparation to run in altitude-laden Arizona.  After that break, I was refreshed mentally and physically (Gatorade and M&Ms) and ready to “blast” the last three miles to the finish.

I was amazed I was able to put in a strong finish when I got “down” to 7,000 feet and how much different if felt than up at the top.  This year, I was proud to collect my finisher mug and very grateful to Nick Coury for his advice on preparation.

Runner Up: Going Alternative at Mt. Greylock

The following article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of ATRA Trail Times email newsletter:

by Laura Clark

As the oldest continuously active uphill mountain road race in the United States, Mount Washington has attained superstar status, ranking it right up there with the Boston Marathon and Western States.  But, there is a downside to this fame. Since everyone wants to hitch their personal wagon to this starred event, scoring a lottery entry is every bit as competitive as running the actual race.

We Western Mass Athletic Club members, however, maintain a tenacious toehold onto a well-kept secret: Mt. Greylock, in Adams, Massachsetts, clocking in at 38 years, is America’s second oldest uphill.  At 3,491 feet high it does not quite match Mt. Washington’s 6,289, but to counter that, it offers 8 miles of real estate as opposed to Mt. Washington’s 7.67. There is no lottery to win, no hefty check to write, just a token $10 pay-at-the-threshold fee.  The atmosphere is down-home, park your car at the imaginary start line casual, leaving you free to concentrate on your race instead of complicated logistics.

This year we awoke not to Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn but to thunderstorm downpours.  If I hadn’t promised fellow Saratoga Stryder Jack Chapman that I would pick him up at the Saratoga Hess Station rallying point, I would have been tempted to opt for an early hibernation.  Instead, I promised myself a strategic bedcover retreat if he didn’t show in fifteen minutes.  Turns out Jack had been thinking the same thing, so we reluctantly committed.  Luckily, Lady Greylock had enclosed her domain within a magic circle of tranquility, permitting us dry passage.

I ran near Jack, Laurel Shortell and Benn Griffin while another Stryder, Vince Kirby sprinted light years ahead.  Laurel and I reverted to our usual snowshoe race pattern: once my older legs cranked into gear, I passed her, only to see her inevitably close the gap as we neared the summit.  This time, however, I rallied, holding her off by a mere 18 seconds. Although we rarely slip into a side-by-side pattern, we are always aware of each other, pushing together to achieve our best effort.  In this manner, we overtook Jack, who later commented, “I should have trained for this race.”  Jack had spent the summer constructing a magnificently polished woodie camper, big enough to encase his 6’plus frame but lightweight enough to maneuver into any off-trail parking spot.  His current goal is not so much a minute/mile pace as it is to experience trail races adjacent to scenic campsites.

While Lady Greylock’s ascent is more forgiving than some, featuring a few level and even slightly downhill sections, there is no doubt that we finished on top of the world.  Herman Melville’s pinnacle Lighthouse, providing inspiration for Moby Dick, remained barely discernible, shrouded in ghostly white whale mist.  Today there would be no sunbathing, no hang-gliders to watch, no reason to climb the tower for the view.  But that is what makes the journey so special – you just never know what the Lady has in store.

Rest and Restoration for Better Performance

The following article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of ATRA Trail Times email newsletter:

By Stephen R. Santangelo

There are many training modalities based on sports science which are available for endurance athletes. Your age and level of fitness determines where on the scale from novice to elite you fall. Too often, running enthusiasts want to emulate the elite athletes by replicating what the elites do, thinking it will improve their own performance. In the long run, this is not true and often will lead to a loss of enthusiasm and poor performance.  Why does this happen? There’s a simple answer, the lack of rest and restoration.

You have to understand elite and professional athletes train and compete as their profession. They are surrounded by an extensive support network such as monetary sponsors, massage therapists, chiropractors, physical therapists, trainers, coaches, nutritionists, etc. Few of us enjoy these luxuries and therefore we must take rest and restoration seriously and incorporate it into our training regimens weekly.

Often the novice runner with three years or less of solid training can benefit from complete rest days which include no physical activity. It can be two to three days per week.

The intermediate runner with more than three years of training and competitions can easily take off one day per week with a day of active rest. Active rest is where one participates in an activity with a low level of intensity and has nothing in common with trail running, such as volleyball or badminton.

For the seasoned trail runner, both active rest and restoration days are advised. On a weekly basis this will be determined by current training intensity and level of competition as well as frequency of competition. 

Restoration training is based upon hormone production and the Central Nervous System (CNS). First, consider hormone production. During a continuous activity — ie: trail running —within 40-45 minutes testosterone begins to fall off. At 60 minutes testosterone completely shuts down. This causes cortisol, which often has a negative impact on our anatomy. When cortisol production is high the adrenal glands enter a state of fatigue. Next, the pituitary gland’s production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), is lowered along with hypothalamus hormone production. This in turn directly affects the thyroid’s production of T-3 and T-4. You can clearly see how the domino effect occurs and how all hormone production is interlinked. What does all this mean? Without a detailed scientific explanation, it’s like hitting the wall in a marathon at the 20-mile mark.

When your hormonal time clock is out of whack your CNS goes into survival mode. The CNS is divided into 3 functional parts, the PSN (parasympathetic nervous system), SNS (sympathetic nervous system) and the ENS (enteric nervous system). The ENS has little effect on training and plays a minor role in recovery. Our focus is on the PNS and SNS. Think of these two entities as the accelerator (SNS) and the brake (PSN). In order to have complete restoration these two functions must be balanced.

Signs of imbalances are dark circles around the eyes, lack of interest in training, lack of enthusiasm, restless sleep, elevated resting heart rate, constant fatigue, sugar cravings, weight gain or weight loss, and waking up in the morning not feeling rested. 

The first step is to determine your resting heart rate when you are in optimal condition. Monitor your RHR on a weekly basis. When your RHR is more than 10 beats per minute above normal you have entered the fatigue zone. Your body is not recovering. When this happens, monitor your training based upon duration and heart rate. Take one day off completely from physical activity. The following day’s workout must be a “jog,” not a run and it must be kept under 40 minutes; 35 minutes is good for men, 30 minutes for women. During this jog your heart rate needs to be kept between 120-130 beats per minute. This safe zone is essential for the nervous system to balance; not too much gas and not too much riding the brake.

During this time a chiropractor and/or a massage therapist will help to speed recovery. It’s not uncommon that an athlete will take up to two weeks for complete restoration. You will have to maintain this “jog” cycle until your resting heart rate is back to normal for at least three days. You will monitor your sleep as well, so, pay attention that you’re getting a solid night’s rest and waking up energized. Should you not feel rested and your energy level doesn’t kick in until 2-3 hours after waking, take another day off before you “jog” again. You will also monitor your food intake to be sure it’s back to normal without any cravings. These will be your indicators your hormonal time clock has been restored.

As you age and you have years of running behind you, complete rest, active rest and restoration will become the mainstay of training. This is essential for longevity in the sport and maintaining a healthy and vigorous lifestyle.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Inaugural US Skyrunning Series Announced

From Ian Sharman - Director, US Skyrunning Series:

Inaugural US Skyrunning Series 2014 Less Cloud. More Sky.
San Francisco, CA (December 10th, 2013) – Fourteen quality races, three disciplines, the same winning formula. The inaugural 2014 US Skyrunning Series is the natural expansion of the international Skyrunning events that have captured the imagination of runners globally. There will be National Skyrunning Series in numerous countries in 2014, which will be announced in January 2014.

What the Series Will Look Like
Five Sky, five Ultra and four Vertical races are distributed across the country, offering expanded opportunities to run in some of the most beautiful locations in the US.

312 miles of racing include over 100,000 feet of vertical climb with inclines that will truly push the best mountain runners to their limits and offer unique experiences for every competitor. Distance + Vertical = Skyrunning.

Legendary, iconic and prestigious events make up the calendar, with many of the Vertical races doubling up at Sky and Ultra events. Many of the races have been created or adjusted specifically for the US Skyrunning Series, broadening the scope of competitive and spectacular Skyrunning races globally.

As Ian Sharman, the Director of the US Skyrunning Series states: "Ever since I first saw Skyrunning at Transvulcania, it captured my imagination with the audacity and beauty of the courses and sheer difficulty of the races. The events are some of the toughest around but leave runners wanting more, from the leaders to the back of the pack. So I'm really pumped and honored to bring the original Skyrunning concept to the US on a wider scale with some of the most exciting races around."

Videos of two of the races can be found at the following links to give a clearer picture of the styles of races included in the Series:

2014 Race Schedule
1. COLORADO: Kendall Mt Run - 12 miles - Silverton - July 19
La Maratona Verticale - 27 miles - Breckenridge - August 3
Angels Staircase - 22 miles - Carlton - August 10
 - 26 miles - Venue TBC - late September
Flagstaff Endurance Runs - 23 miles - Flagstaff - October 5

Cruel Jewel - 56 miles - Blue Ridge - May 16
2. UTAH: 
Speedgoat - 31 miles - Snowbird – July 19
Angels Staircase - 37 miles - Carlton - August 9
The Rut - 31 miles - Big Sky - September 13
Flagstaff Endurance Runs - 35 miles - Flagstaff - October 5

 - Mt Washington - Date TBC
2. COLORADO: La Maratona Verticale VK - Breckenridge - August 2 
Lone Peak VK - Big Sky - September 12
Flagstaff Endurance Runs VK - Flagstaff - October 5

Ranking Points
The three best results in each Series are scored in the overall ranking for each runner. Ranking points in the final races of all three Series will be increased by 20%. Ranking points breakdown: 100-88-78-72-68-66-64-62-60-58-56-54-52-50 down to 2 points to 40th position for men and 15th position for women.
Total prizes:  TBA in January 2014. Also prize money in every individual race.

*Entry is direct with organizers.
Slots are available for 2013 SWS and ISF Ranked athletes. Details to follow.

About Skyrunning
SKY - races more than 22 km and less than 50 km long with at least 1,300m positive vertical climb (SkyRace® and SkyMarathon®)
ULTRA - races over 50 km long that exceed the SkyMarathon® parameters (Ultra SkyMarathon®) 
VERTICAL - races with 1,000m positive vertical climb not exceeding 5 km distance (Vertical Kilometer®)
Skyrunner®, SkyRace®, SkyMarathon®, Vertical Kilometer® are registered trademarks

The US Skyrunning Series can be found at the following online locations:
Twitter – @usskyrunning

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Polish Economic Forum interviews Nancy Hobbs

In advance of this September's World Mountain Running Championships in Poland, ATRA Executive Director Nancy Hobbs answered questions from the Polish Economic Forum.

Nancy Hobbs, Marco De Gasperi and Paul Kirsch

How many people run in the mountains In the USA? Is it a popular sport?

In the United States, mountain running and trail running are often used interchangeably and in most cases, refer to the same type of running in terms of terrain, elevation changes, and running surface. Since mountain runs are often contested on trails – either single track or double track – the trail running term fits quite well. Keep in mind that some mountain runs are staged on paved, or semi-paved surfaces, but must still have significant (uphill) elevation gains to be considered mountain runs – this is one element of mountain running that distinguishes the sport from trail running.

Mountain running has gained popularity and increased awareness in the U.S., especially during the past decade. And in 2003, the U.S. held its first USA Mountain Running Championships in Vail, CO. Since then, the event has been contested three times. In 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 & 2012  Mount Washington hosted, and in 2007, 2009, 2011 & 2013 Mt. Cranmore served as the host. With new mountain and trail races organized every year, existing races offering shorter distance runs as part of their race repertoire, and parks and recreation departments expanding trail systems, there are more opportunities than ever for people who want to experience trail and mountain running. Add to the mix running groups – both informal and club-oriented – who schedule workouts to attract trail and mountain runners with daily or weekly runs off-road.

Individuals participate in trail running on a daily basis or as weekend warriors depending on lifestyle commitments and the proximity to a trailhead. The sport that primarily attracts people from athletic backgrounds who have a desire to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily routines to experience peacefulness and freedom afforded by the outdoors. Road runners opt for the trails when they seek softer, more forgiving surfaces in an effort to lessen the effects of impact, or overuse injuries. Hikers often switch to running on the trails because they want to go farther at a faster pace. Conversely, mountain bikers who want to go slower and enjoy the scenery, often give trail running a try. Winter cross country skiers and snowshoers often convert to trail and mountain running in their “off season.”

Where is the heart of mountain running in USA? (where are the best tracks?)

I think the "hot beds" are in California, Colorado, New England and also North Carolina. The terrain varies from the different areas of the country whereas in the east, there are roots, tree leaves on trails covering roots, single track, rocky sections. In Colorado some of the trails are smoother at lower elevations (than in the east), not to say they are "easier." California trails can be a bit "drier" depending on the location.

What are the biggest mountain running events in USA? How Many people take part in the events? What are the prizes?

This is another very broad question. There are some races that have larger participation numbers, others have a greater allure or following based on the iconic nature of the event, or the time the race has been held -- like Pikes Peak Ascent/Marathon and the Dipsea. Many of our trail and mountain races are limited in size based on permits required from various entities, or the limitation of the race course -- narrow areas, etc. Some of the events have prize money, others have medals, trophies, something endemic to the area (pottery, crafted medals or awards, etc.).

How organized is mountain running in United States? Who / how many brands support mountain running in the US?

Well organized although there are many different groups, or sponsored events. There are series events from North Face, Montrail, LaSportiva, Salomon and more. USA Track & Field hosts championships at trail distances from 10k to 100 miles and also stages a USA Mountain Running Championships. There are great supporters in the industry from running footwear brands, apparel, etc.

What are the best American mountain runners? Are they coming to Krynica for the World Championships  I’m sure they already have competed with European runners – what are their advantages over Europeans? What are the biggest successes of american mountain runners? Are we going to have an American champion in Krynica?

We have very talented trail and mountain runners in the USA. Of course we have had USA champions at the World Level to include Max King and Kasie Enman in 2011 in Albania. Max is again on the team and of course is hungry for a win! We hope we have a U.S. Champion of course, but it depends of course on the day -- who is competing, who has the best day, who favors the course and terrain in Krynica. Our athletes will be poised for their best effort and we hope that outcome results in medals for our individual and team athletes.

What are your expectations for the polish World Mountain Running Championships?

Challenging course, great competition, cultural immersion for the athletes and supporters of the U.S. team.

When are you coming to Poland? How long will be the trip and will it affect U.S runners performance in Krynica?

I will arrive August 27 to run in the World Masters Mountain Running Champs in the Czech Republic and then travel a bit before arriving in Krynica on Thursday, September 5. We are always at a disadvantage at the event based on long travel from USA. It takes up to 24 hours depending on the area of the country from which the athlete originates (those in California have the longest journey of course). Many of our athletes are seasoned with travel, however, some of the newcomers to the team (especially some of the juniors), are not as familiar with the impact of travel on performance. We provide some support for our athletes in terms of education about jet lag, travel, etc., and we are as ready as we can be for the competition.

What would you say to polish fans wishing to support US runners in Krynica?

Visit us at as we will be tweeting and doing live video chats in advance of the competition.  Learn about our team members and cheer us on!

 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + 

Nancy Hobbs has been running trails and directing running events since the mid-80s and her articles and photographs about the sport have been published in magazines including Runner's World, Running Times, Trail Runner, and Ultrarunner.  She is the founder and executive director of the American Trail Running Association, a council member of the World Mountain Running Association, manager of the US Mountain Running Team (started the women’s team in 1995), and chairperson of the USATF Mountain Ultra Trail Council. Hobbs lives in Colorado Springs, CO, but travels extensively nationally and worldwide to support and promote trail and mountain running.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

4th IAU Trail World Championships this weekend in Wales.

From the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU):

The 4th edition of the IAU Trail World Championships take place on July 6th in Llanrwst, North Wales, Great Britain. Both male and female trail world champions Erik Clavery (FRA) and Maud Gobert (FRA) will be in attendance in North Wales to defend their titles. The International Association of Ultrarunners are organising the 4th Trail World Championships in Llanrwst, North Wales Great Britain. 

The championships are taking place on July 6th 2013 (9am UK time).  The beautiful town of Llanrwst is located in North Wales alongside the River Conwy. Very close to the race site, and towering over the Snowdonia Mountains, is the Gwydyr Forest where the race will take place. Men’s champion from the 3rd Trail World Championships, Erik Clavery (FRA) will be leading the men’s field. He has had considerable success in the last two years running trail events in Europe and around the globe. Silver medallist from 2011 Jason Loutitt (CAN) has pulled out of the event due to an injury. Patrick Bringer (FRA) will try to replicate his podium finish from Ireland. In addition, Torbjørn Ludvigsen (NOR) and Silvano Fedel (ITA) will be looking for a podium finish after just finishing out of the medal spots last time around. 

In the women’s event, Maud Gobert (FRA) will be looking to repeat as champion again. She had a very consistent run in Connemara and will incorporate the technical components in Llanrwst to her advantage. Ceclia Mora (ITA) and Lucy Colquhoun (GBR), the other two podium finishers, will not be running in North Wales. Aurelia Truel (FRA), Cinzia Bertasa (ITA) and the current Commonwealth Trail bronze medalist Kirstin Bull (AUS) will be toeing the line with their eyes set on that covetable podium spot. 

The competitors on Saturday will navigate their way through the trails taking them amidst several scenic sections. The five laps on the 15km looped course will allow the athletes to test themselves on a technical and exciting course. France had a strong showing in the team competition in Conneamara and they will be looking into defending their titles. Italy, Norway, Spain and the United States of America will be vying for those podium spots in the men’s team and Norway, Germany and Italy will have their eyes set on the women’s team podium as well. Host nations Great Britain will also be sending a very strong team to the championships. 

The IAU plan to carry Live Updates on the website:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New Pikes Peak High-Altitude Mile set for August 13th

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. - With a rust-colored cap of granite boulders, a hard-blue sky overhead, and precious little air to breathe, the summit of Pikes Peak is like an alien environment.

Tim Bergsten & Nancy Hobbs (photo by Tim Bergsten)

An elite field of runners will make this discovery at the inaugural Pikes Peak High-Altitude Mile on Tuesday, Aug. 13. It certainly won't feel like Kansas. It won't even feel like planet earth.

Ground control to Roger Bannister.

At the peak’s 14,115 foot summit, the air contains 43 percent less oxygen than at sea level. And while mountain runners in the famous Pikes Peak Marathon and Pikes Peak Ascent are familiar with the challenge, their sleek and fast middle-distance brethren of the flatlands have avoided such places … until now.

"We think the Pikes Peak High-Altitude Mile will be the highest competitive mile race ever contested in the United States and possibly the world," said Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc. President Ron Ilgen. "And we intend to fill this race with the best runners we can find."

Event organizers will invite track and cross-country athletes, middle-distance roadies and mountain runners. Ideally, the men’s and women’s fields will include 15 to 20 each. Runners who would like to participate are encouraged to apply by contacting Nancy Hobbs at, or (719) 573-4133. The final participants will be announced on Aug. 1.

The winners of last week’s Bristol Mile in Colorado Springs, Dey Dey (3:54), and Katie Rainsberger (4:38), will receive automatic entry (though they haven’t committed.) Ilgen said he will also invite the winners of next week’s Pearl Street Mile in Boulder.

And there will be plenty of incentive to run fast. The Pikes Peak High-Altitude Mile champions will earn $1,000. Second place pays $500; third, $250; and the fourth-place runners will win $100. The winners will also receive one-of-a-kind jackets commemorating their accomplishment.

Who will be the fastest at 14,000 feet?

“The curiosity aspect makes this very interesting," Ilgen said. "Pikes Peak is well known for running, and this race adds another facet to that. We know what the mountain runners can do here. But in a mile race, we can include a different kind of runner in the mix. It's going to be exciting. We're going to scratch a starting line on top of the mountain and line up and see who is the fastest."
The racing will begin with the women’s heat at 9 a.m., followed by the men at about 9:30 a.m.

Encircled by a ribbon of gravel road, the mostly flat and broad summit of Pikes Peak is roughly the size of four football fields. The course will be laid out by Scott Simmons, coach of the American Distance Project training group. The race will be chip timed with splits recorded.

Ilgen developed the idea years ago as he ran laps on the summit in preparation for the Pikes Peak Ascent.

"I always had this thought that we could have a race at the summit," Ilgen said. "It keeps with the tradition of Pikes Peak going back to 1936 when they first ran a race up the mountain. Those runners were pioneers. Now here we are almost 80 years later with the opportunity to explore this new frontier. How hard can we push ourselves in challenging environments?"

The Pikes Peak High-Altitude Mile kicks off the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent week, with the race expo beginning in Manitou Springs on Friday (Aug. 16) followed by the Pikes Peak Ascent on Saturday and the Marathon on Sunday.

The summit will remain open to auto traffic during the Altitude Mile. Members of the media will need credentials, and transportation from Manitou Springs to the summit will be provided for the runners, media and event staff. Television trucks will be allowed at the summit.

For media credentials, e-mail Ilgen at

Story by Tim Bergsten 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Industry experts come together for inaugural trail running conference

The panel discussions for the inaugural trail running conference, the Estes Trail Ascent, wrapped up Friday, June 21, in Estes Park, Colorado. The three-day conference, which started on Thursday, June 20, culminated in a 5.9-mile trail race on Saturday, June 22, featured speakers from footwear and hydration company manufacturers, as well as elite-level competitors, race directors, and physicians.

The nearly 100 participants in the conference included vendors, speakers, and attendees from as close as the Denver metro area to as far away as Tennessee, Texas, and California.

The first two days featured panel discussions and covered topics from shoe and gear developments to trail running advocacy and stewardship. Each of the ten sessions was moderated by a leader in the trail running industry who encouraged discourse among the panelists as well as a question and answer period which engaged the audience.

During the kick-off session on shoe and gear developments, a comment which was sure to please fellow panelists Scott Tucker, Pearl Izumi, Bryan Gothie, New Balance, and Henry Guzman, Boulder Running Company came from Adam Chase who said, “Everyone should have a lot of shoes.” For the trail runner, Chase suggested four different pairs of shoes for the different types of trail running one might do. “It’s like a tool box,” Chase explained, “You have to have the right tool for the right run.”

Over the past 15 years, Chase has seen an increase in the number and variety of shoes he receives from manufacturers for the trail shoe reviews he writes for Running Times magazine. New technology supports updated models, and new developments in footwear whether it results in shaving off ounces, or putting lugs with enhanced gripping power on soles. But, there always seems to be the shoe that is perfect just the way it is. For the fall review Chase says they are adding a new category of award which will be called the, “leave it (you fill in the blank) alone.”

During this first session, there was a question whether a shoe that works for an elite-level athlete ambassador would really be a shoe the average runner would be interested in purchasing. That question sparked a comment from Gothie who said, “Actually, people see the photo of Anton (Krupicka) careening down the hill bare-chested, with his hair flying freely, sporting a full beard and they say, ‘I want that shoe.’” So the answer seemed to be a resounding, “yes,” people are influenced by elite athletes in the sport when making their shoe choices and purchases.

Guzman talked about his clientele at the Boulder Running Company stating, “A lot of people come in just because they want to run. They don’t want to make it complicated. They just want to go and be in the outdoors.” He added that the footwear has to function correctly, and that through gait analysis and learning about what types of terrain and distance the person plans to be doing, his staff can suggest the best shoe.

The second panel was entitled, “Effective training and injury prevention.” Dr. Scott Taylor, a podiatrist with the Estes Park Medical Center, talked about the terrible 'toos.' Taylor said, “I see athletes that have been doing too much, too soon, too fast.”

New Balance brand ambassador Brandy Erholtz said that her only serious injury happened when she enlisted a coach and increased her mileage too quickly, “Even if you decide to get a coach, be sure to let them know what your training has been. (She hadn’t shared this information with her coach.) They need to know what your background is so they know what kind of training program to suggest so they don’t have you do more than your body can handle.”

The discussion led to cross training whereby exercise physiologist Adam St. Pierre proclaimed, “I think of all training as simply training. Whether you are cycling, running, skiing, lifting weights…it’s all part of training.” Having coached athletes in Boulder for the past 15 years, he suggests that athletes figure out how much time per week they have to train and then he helps them sort out what type of training is going to work best for them whether it is quantity, or quality. “If you have 10 hours per week, does that translate to five trips of two-hour runs in the mountains or something different,” said St. Pierre.

Erholtz talked about rest, diet, and the importance of each. She also suggested athletes chart their training and race efforts so they can look back to see what worked well on the good effort days, and what didn’t work well when there was a bad workout. “If you have a bad race effort and look back and see that you had four hours of sleep and a bad meal the night before your race, you might want to change your pre-race preparation,” said Erholtz.  Dr. Aaron Florence, an orthopedic surgeon at the Estes Park Medical Center, further discussed the importance of rest stating, “When you don’t rest you will eventually pay the piper. You need to figure out if you want to pay the piper with injury, illness, or rest. I would choose rest.”

When the session turned to nutrition and hydration, there were many stories of trial and error shared amongst the panelists and audience.

Bryce Thatcher, know for his FKTs (Fastest Known Times) and founding several hydration companies, including Ultraspire where he presently works, often gets a ‘sweet stomach,’ from too much acid after taking in gel after gel on long efforts. He’s found that he needs to keep calories in on his longer efforts (upwards of seven hours) so he uses Tums to lower the acid levels in his stomach. Thatcher said, “I take one Tums tablet every two hours and uses a combination of fat and salt to help settle my stomach. My favorite is salty cashews. I don’t start the cashews until about four hours into the effort.”  Thatcher likes to be on a schedule with his caloric intake, conversely, ultra runner and Patagonia athlete Krissy Moehl doesn’t like to be on an eating schedule at all, but both agreed that athletes have to find out what works for them.

Chase spoke about aid stations at ultra-distance events and the variety of sweet and salty offerings, “Sometimes it takes looking at the smorgasbord for your body to speak to you. Usually that is your answer as to what your body needs.”Moehl added, “Be aware of your body. Spend time on the trail and be flexible.”

On day two, one of the most compelling discussions centered on trail advocacy. Adam Feerst, race director, and founder of a Denver-based trail running club said, “We take it for granted if there is a trail, we should have access to it. We can’t take for granted that access is always going to be there.”

Katie Blackett, CEO of the Colorado Mountain Club, said there are three to four times more trail users than in the past decade and, “We are loving our land to death. Therefore, we need to create really smart trail systems that could handle 50% more users. We need to build, or improve our current trail systems.”

With this increased usage, trail race directors and runners face a myriad of issues. There are permits to be secured, rising cost of insurance, and more. And, with an increased number of users, there are concerns about the impact on the trails and sometimes this concern leads to trail closure.
Blackett shared several reasons trails might be closed to user groups, “Lack of funds for repair and maintenance, erosion, and protection of wildlife corridors.”

She suggested trail runners learn the facts surrounding trail corridors and land usage and work to gain much-needed clout. “Trail runners should go to local non-profits and community groups. They need to learn about the issues facing their trails and get involved. Figure out what all user groups agree on and focus on that. We (various user groups) may not get all we want, but we can focus together on the big prize.”

Buzz Burrell, founder of the Boulder Outdoor Coalition and long-time trail runner said, “The world is run by those who show up at the meetings. They are the ones that make things happen.”Feerst agreed and said, “We (as trail runners) need to be visible. We need to go out there as good stewards.”

The final session brought the conference full circle discussing not only the future of trail running, but also what was attractive about trail running in the first place.

Melody Fairchild, arguably the best female high school female distance runner in the history of the United States, now nearing age 40, transitioned to trail and mountain running over the past few years. She was on back-to-back gold medal winning teams for the U.S. in 2012, first at the World Mountain Running Championships, then at the World Long Distance Challenge. “I’m a mountain girl. I grew up in the mountains west of Boulder. Trail running stimulates the senses, creates community, and is also easier on the joints. The great thing about trail running is that people can have whatever they want out of the experience. What made me so happy was adding trail running to my career as a runner. It just completes my career.”

Erholtz offered, “With trail running you aren’t worried about PRs. When you race, you are racing the people, the environment, the weather.”  Chase said, “It’s fun for me to see people coming from so many sports to trail running. When people find trail running, it really opens their eyes. It’s a very simple, accepting sport.”

In wrapping up the conference, director Terry Chiplin said, “We have a job as trail runners to educate the general public to who trail runners are and what trail running is and this has been one of the goals of the conference…to start this process. We need to consider how we as trail runners become more organized with existing groups, partnering so that we have a voice and maintain access to the trails we love to run on.”

Looking toward 2014, Chiplin said, “The feedback we’ve had already, plus what has come out of the panel discussions, gives us a lot of valuable information to take away and then come back with an even better program next year.”

For more on this year’s conference, visit this link.

Story and photos by ATRA Executive Director +Nano Hobbs.