Catching Up With Tayte Pollmann

Catching up with trail runner Tayte Pollmann.

By on September 7, 2020 | 5 comments

Tayte Pollmann’s on the move. Since graduating from the University of Portland in Oregon, Pollmann moved to Leadville, Colorado, then Buena Vista, Colorado, and is on the brink of packing up for Nederland, Colorado. It’s a big state after all.

Pollmann’s best known for his bronze-medal finish at the 2017 World Mountain Running Long Distance Championships, but that seems like a lifetime ago. Pollmann called recent years a “three-year injury hiatus, one injury after another.” There were stress fractures, and a ruptured Achilles that required surgery in December of 2018. It was a vicious cycle for someone so young–he’s just 23 years old now–and came after great success and after forfeiting his collegiate eligibility.

Tayte Pollmann at the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado. Photo: Peter Maksimow

Portland has a traditionally strong cross-country team–they placed 10th at the 2019 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships–and Pollmann redshirted his freshman year largely on the team’s depth. That means that he did not compete that first year, as a way to delay his four years of eligibility, but it also is a tool to help a young runner adapt to the training load at the college level. Pollmann went off the figurative collegiate rails though. “That whole first year was about mountain running. College racing wasn’t the primary goal,” he explained, and he landed on the U.S. World Mountain Running Junior Team that competed that year in Wales. “It got me hooked, and it just became harder to focus on cross country and track,” he recalled. “My coach tried to make a schedule that worked for me, train for my strengths. I’m not a track guy, I don’t have that speed, but on long runs in Forest Park, or any hill day, I’d do well.”

After a win at the Broken Arrow Skyrace 52k in June of 2017, Pollmann swapped that Portland jersey for a Nike Trail one, and went pro, as much a you can be a pro in trail running. The timing was right after that big win, and just two months later he solidified his growing position with the earlier-mentioned WMRA bronze. And then injuries got in the way, but he doesn’t tell the story with any anger or disdain for the process.

He graduated from Portland with a degree in English and journalism, and settled in 10,151 feet above sea level Leadville in February of 2020. That was a hardy move for the elevation and timing, but he explains it as no big deal. “I left the house on skis every day, it was a big part of my training.” Leadville’s tough, but he made it through the winter before going due south. He hasn’t been in Buena Vista for long, just since May, but impressively long enough to pronounce it like a local, BEW-na Vista. “There are so many 14ers here. Have you read Running with the Buffaloes? That’s how I really found out about it, they had their training camp in Buena Vista,” Pollmann asks innocently. “It’s a good place, I mostly train solo, but people will come run Mount Princeton with me.”

On Mount Massive in Colorado’s Sawatch Range. All photos courtesy of Tayte Pollmann unless otherwise noted.

The Sawatch Range is outside of Buena Vista, but so too is the Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy and Pollmann works there, making some of the finest cheese in the Rockies. “I eat it every day,” he says matter of factly. “The feta is really versatile, but First Snow is like brie and our most popular. Everyone likes First Snow.” I push Pollmann on the parallels between cheese making and ultrarunning and he laughs at his loose stretch. “I guess the repetition, patience. Repetition is what it takes to chop cheese wheels all day long. But I do connect with the farm. A mountain goat would be my spirit animal.”

Buena Vista’s not a ski town, but it’s pretty hot, a real tourist town in the summer, and I swear a spot that I won’t name there has the best burger in the state. Pollmann agrees, “Oh yeah, their elk burger, and bread. If they know you, you get free bread.” That’s part of living in a small town, and Pollmann eats it up. “You feel like part of the community, it’s a really cool feeling. Have you tried the Jack Daniel’s flavor?” he spins, excitedly referencing the local ice-cream shop.

Tayte at the Jumpin’ Good Goat Dairy Country Store in Buena Vista, Colorado.

He runs there, works there, and started dirt biking while living in Buena Vista too. “I’ve got a Yamaha 125 (cc), I’m not very tall, 5’6”, so it’s the perfect size. After the Kendall Mountain Run (he placed second, in July), I saw Imogene Pass and these cool mountain passes,” he said of the appeal. “I start a lot of my runs and dirt-bike rides at Four Mile Recreation Area and I can see the whole system now.” Fellow mountain runner Ali McLaughlin turned him onto the vehicle, and got him to skydive too, and they ripped through some dirt-bike trails in Woodland Park a week before both raced the August 23 Pikes Peak Marathon. “It was awesome, some real mogully-like routes, all the time bounced up and down,” he recalled. The taper activity must’ve worked. McLaughlin was third and Pollmann fourth at Pikes, and I gasp that Pollmann’s fourth-place time was 17 minutes better than what you could run for fourth-place 11 years earlier. “It was really competitive this year, even without the Europeans,” Pollmann explained.

The summer of fun is wrapping up though and Pollmann’s sad to be leaving “Bewnie,” but obstacle-course-racing standout Johnny Luna Lima convinced him to move into an athlete house in Nederland, on famed Magnolia Road. “Colorado’s feeling like home, but there’s so much here to keep exploring,” Pollmann rationalized. “I’m flexible, nomadic. I’ll take a chance, see something new, it’s working.”

Magnolia Road plays a big part in Running with the Buffaloes too, but I don’t make the connection until later. I’m sure it didn’t escape Pollmann though. He can’t chase back NCAA success like in the book, but Magnolia Road and the surrounding peaks and trails offer a lot of chances for adventures too.

Call for Comments

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Tayte dirt biking around Colorado.

Justin Mock

is looking for new trails. He's a little bit ex-pat, little bit digital nomad, and adventuring in places between Central Europe and the U.S.