Dominic Grossman and His Mustache
[Prologue: All of this could be true. Or nothing of it. Don't quote us.]
I remember where Dominic Grossman and I met. He and his friends and me and my friends were all standing at a trailhead in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains a week or so before the 2012 Hardrock 100. He had a gentle smile, big hair, a huge beard, and designer jeans. I thought to myself, nice guy, big beard, where are his running shorts?
But then he forgot me. Around the Hardrock festivities, I’d say, “Hi, Dominic.” and “Good job, Dominic.” He didn’t respond. And when I congratulated him at the Hardrock awards ceremony – He finished a solid 15th in 30:46 – he stared at me with vacant eyes. I forgave him that as he’d just wandered a hundred miles. When I asked him about all this months later, Dominic explained, “I have bad eyesight and am easily distract-able. Also, high altitude is like drugs.”
I thought all was lost with the 25-year-old New Balance Outdoor Ambassador and mechanical engineer from Costa Mesa, California until a couple days after Hardrock when Dominic friended me on Facebook. In the coming months, I hit ‘like’ on his photos of camping, running, and hiking in the stunner scenery of California’s Sierra Nevada and he hit ‘like’ on some of mine. The kid and I are of the same ilk, I told myself. This could be the second beginning of a beautiful friendship.
We next met in person at the 2012 UROC 100K in Virginia, in September. To be precise, it was maybe 10 miles into the race and he was flying down a paved road in the Blue Ridge Mountains while I drove it in my rental car. I rolled down my window, waved goofily like I would to any long-lost friend, and said in my best valley-girl voice (He’s from Southern California, what can I say?), “Hi Dominic, is there a race happening or something?”
I was trying to be funny and he was trying to run six-minute miles. He shot me dagger eyes and retorted in his own valley-girl voice (He’s got a great valley-girl voice.), “Uh yes. And I’m kind of competing right now.” Not only did he again not know who I was, but now he also wanted to kill me. I was at the race as a journalist for iRunFar so I saw Dominic a million other times that day. Afraid of him, I published updates on his progress from hiding spots in the bushes. He finished in 13th place in 10:01:19 while I was still cowering.
By now I’d evolved a Dominic Grossman terror. I thought, what will happen the next time we see each other? Would I find a tempest of non-recognition or the calm waters of brewing friendship? I found something completely different.
It was early on a Saturday morning in November at the Trail Running Camp on the Nueces in Texas. Dominic was there as a coach and I as a journalist. I walked into the camp cafeteria, into a space filled with 150 hungry runners amidst a morning feeding frenzy. And there, bright and flashy like a lighthouse beacon, was his mustache. This huge, hairy, black thing wing dinging around Dominic’s face as he spoke with the people at his table. I tried but couldn’t look away.
Later at camp, I ran with the group Dominic was coaching. That is to say that I ran with the group Dominic’s mustache was coaching. The mustache and Dominic flew around, sailed off rocks, sprinted up hills, and jumped with this bent-leg posture that looked hauntingly familiar. It took me the rest of the day to figure out who he, the hair on his lip, and all the funny leaping resembled. When I did, I scratched a note onto my notepad like I’d discovered something journalistic-ly groundbreaking, “THE SUPER MARIO BROTHERS DO PARCOUR.”
Yep, I thought, Dominic and the ‘stache are like Mario–maybe Luigi–flying through castles and floating over mushroom rocks. I knew then that I needed to summon my courage to face my Dom demons for the sake of… uh… a farcical article. I needed to interview the mustache.
Mustaches are awkward to speak with. Do you talk to them in the first person? Through their owners? Are you supposed to look only at the lip hair? Is it most sensitive to pay your regards to the mustache’s owner? I still don’t know. The following is what happened when I talked with Dominic’s mustache:
Dominic’s Mustache: This is Dominic’s Mustache.
iRunFar: And this is Meghan from iRunFar. We’re in a car, driving through Texas. Two other people are here, folks who’ve also been to trail running camp, Katie DeSplinter [Dominic's girlfriend and an ultrarunner] and [ultrarunner] Matt Hart. When I rolled into camp and saw you, my first thought was that you just came off an Adam Sandler movie set.
Matt Hart: I thought you were going to say a porn set.
iRF: I was, but then I thought about clouding the minds of those kids who read iRunFar. As a mustache, you are big, robust, and hairy. I mean, I called you a lighthouse beacon. Most mustaches on 25-year-olds are patchy and take all winter to grow. What’s your secret?
‘stache: Dominic has German and Italian heritage.
Katie DeSplinter: So most people take all of Movember to grow a mustache, but Dominic woke up on November 1st with a full mustache.
‘stache: Mustaches are authentic. The more hair I have, the more authentic I am.
iRF: I’ve never seen something so hairy. We’re coming into winter now. You live in Southern California. I imagine you as a heat trap in the summer. Is it better being you now that it’s cooler?
‘stache: I catch snot.
Hart: You’re an insulating layer.
iRF: Your owner is speedy. Do you think you impede Dominic’s aerodynamicity? Is that a word?
Hart: It is now.
‘stache: I’m a confidence booster. The last time I existed, Dominic won the Angeles Crest 100. We together exude authority.
iRF: Here at this trail running camp, you went on a run this morning with superstar Mike Morton. I notice he doesn’t have a mustache. How was that dynamic?
‘stache: I would encourage Mike to grow a mustache. I think he’d be better with it. I know many people don’t have supportive family members and significant others when it comes to body hair. Dominic’s dad is an engineer and so is Dominic. Dominic’s dad has a mustache, and Dominic has me. We exist in a pro-facial-hair community. Personally, I think Dominic could only hang with with an American-record holder because of me. Think about Frank Shorter and all the incredible races he had.
iRF: Are there more top endurance runners that Dominic models himself after with you?
‘stache: [Steve] Prefontaine. But Jim O’Brien mostly, the Angeles Crest record holder. I think the AC100 course provides a great place for mustaches to have outstanding performances. There’s still so much mustache potential there.
iRF: Dominic has a lot of body hair. Do you know if he has other body-hair aspirations?
‘stache: He trims all of his body hair for races so that people can see his muscles. I’m sure Hal Koerner does that, too. And Dominic was talking with David Riddle the other day, saying that his only hope for future races is to grow a mustache. He said, ‘Look David, if you want to be a stallion…’
iRF: Sorry, a stallion?
‘stache: Well, maybe David can be a stallion, but Dominic’s a unicorn.
iRF: I’m confused.
DeSplinter: Good grief.
iRF: Katie DeSplinter, let’s talk. You’re also a New Balance Outdoor Ambassador. You’re just fabulous and you have great hair. The New Balance ads are of either Tony Krupicka‘s chest or your hair. How do you feel about the attention Dominic’s mustache is getting?
DeSplinter: My season’s over, so I feel okay. And, kissing it isn’t so bad.
iRF: People call you a panda bear, your nickname. Maybe it’s like finding your kind? Have you found anything interesting in the mustache?
DeSplinter: When Dominic’s been gone in the woods for a while, the mustache comes back with pieces of tree in it. There’s one thing I have to say. He gets more man crushes when he has a mustache.
‘stache: When women notice me, they say, ‘Is that a caterpillar?’
iRF: Matt Hart is here, too. You’re presently growing a winter beard, maybe for ski season?
Hart: I find Dom’s mustache inspiring. Few men can do what he does.
iRF: You seem to appreciate the styling of hair in general. Maybe you put gel into the little flip on the front of your hair?
Hart: To be clear, it’s a cowlick. But I do enhance the cowlick. I think Dominic and I share the desire to have all of our body hair well organized.
‘stache: We’re a tribute to the good people of history with mustaches.
Hart: Teddy Roosevelt.
‘stache: No, not Hitler. But Burt Reynolds.
iRF: I’m grateful you’ve granted this interview. Is there a future for world domination by people with mustaches?
‘stache: I’m a big fan of Kilian [Jornet], but I don’t think he can grow a mustache. I’ll dominate where I can. Thanks for having me.
[Postscript: Dominic shaved off his mustache last week because his mom asked him to look nice for holiday photos. Also, he adds, "At The North Face [Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championship] race, I had trouble (Dominic dropped from the race due to injuries and fatigue.). The mustache was too big, and it affected my nose breathing. Maybe also it was bad luck.”
Dominic’s first race of 2013 is the Old Goat 50 and he’ll run the AC100 in August with a mustache. The present course record of 17:35 was set in 1989 by Jim O’Brien and his huge mustache, and Dominic says, “I need a ‘stache to chase it. The next one I have will be good luck; I can feel it.” Dominic is also planning to give the John Muir Trail FKT a go in 2013, and his other goal is to stop running into so many trees while trail running. That last part is definitely true, we promise.]