So when Toker learned that TransRockies was going to start a three-day solo race for the first time ever this year, he signed on right away. Not only would he avoid the sometimes contentious team dynamics he’d faced last year, but he’d also have three days of competition and three days to devote to promoting SaltStick.
SaltStick brought Toker to TransRockies in the first place. As owner and creator of the electrolyte replacement company, Toker signed on as one of the initial TransRockies sponsors when the race began in 2006. At the time, few people had heard of TransRockies or the concept of stage racing.
“It was a leap of faith on my part to get involved with TransRockies, but the race seemed really well organized,” said Toker, age 35.
He’s been back to represent SaltStick each year, and also competed in the six-day run for the past two years. Though Toker enjoyed the running, he didn’t bond with last year’s teammate, who he found randomly on a TransRockies message board. Toker ended up socializing more with other runners than his teammate.
“Our personalities didn’t mesh,” Toker said. “We both wanted to be competitive, but I wasn’t willing to risk life and limb to finish 10 seconds faster.”
The experience soured Toker on the team element of TransRockies, so he jumped at the chance to run solo. The three-day option also fit his training schedule, as he’s racing the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland on September 11, and he worried that six days of Rocky Mountain running would tax his body too much right before the event.
TransRockies organizers started the three-day this year for reasons similar to those expressed by Toker. Some runners can’t find a teammate, some simply prefer to run on their own, and some can’t or don’t want to expend the time, energy, and money needed for six full days of racing.
“Six days is a big commitment,” said Kelly Blake, communications director for TransRockies.
The three-day runners will run the first half of the course with the six-day racers. So far, 47 individual runners are signed on for the shorter option, and 118 teams (or 236 athletes) are on board for the entire six-day event.
While many of the three-day athletes will depart after their run finishes, Toker plans to stick around to continue promoting SaltStick. He’ll go for casual runs, take photographs, and give out SaltStick samples. Toker also plans to lead a talk one evening on electrolyte replacement.
A former biochemist and competitive Ironman, Toker launched SaltStick in 2006. He initially aimed the product at other triathletes, but as he discovered trail running, he broadened SaltStick’s reach into that and other endurance sports communities. Toker quit his job at the biotech company Amgen to focus on SaltStick full time.
Heidi Dietrich is a journalist and runner living in Seattle. Her web site is www.heidiseattle.com.