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Telluride Mountain Run Newsletter #2: Ricky to the Rescue!

Telluride Mountain Run Newsletter #2

By on March 6, 2013 | 44 comments

Telluride Mountain RunA lot has happened in the world of the Telluride Mountain Run.

Organizing a race is a learning experience. The lessons are many: how to work with people, how to approach businesses, how to negotiate with land agencies and how to design a course and event that will make the most sense for the most people. We have by no means figured everything out yet, but we are much farther along the path than when the last newsletter was published, and we want to fill everyone in on the events that have transpired behind the scenes since then.

I’ll start from the beginning. The Telluride Mountain Run is a brand new ultramarathon in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The start and finish are in Telluride and the course runs in a big loop through the surrounding mountains. The trails are difficult and sometimes nonexistent, the mountains are big and the elevation is very high, meaning T-rad will be exceptionally challenging to all who enter. The course has changed several times in the planning process, mostly due to the whims of the land-management agencies, although once due to a newly discovered route. The course was originally forty-five miles, then was extended to fifty-five miles. The long course would include the nearby town of Silverton – home of the Hardrock 100 – and would feature more than 20,000 feet of elevation gain. In short, it would be the best course of all time.

But that course didn’t fly with the National Forest Service. They have a strict policy that all races must run on forest service-numbered trails, which effectively eliminates at least half of the trails marked on any modern map. To utilize non-numbered trails the forest service institutes an Environmental Assessment, which is pretty self-explanatory. Basically they study the impacts a race would have on a given course and then decide if they are too great to hold the race or not. Unfortunately, an Environmental Assessment can be extremely expensive and time-consuming, and the forest service indicated that we would not be able to run that course this year. We would only be able to run, they said, if we stayed entirely within the Uncompahgre National Forest and reduced our runner numbers to seventy-five persons.

While only having seventy-five runners would be disappointing, that’s not the deal-breaker. The real problem is staying within the single national forest. Our ideal course crosses through two different national forests and Bureau of Land Management land. Restricting the course to just one national forest severely impacts the quality of the course, and we were unwilling to hold the race without the high-quality course of which we had dreamed. We were on the verge of cancelling the race entirely. Then, when all hope seemed to be lost, Ricky Denesik came on board.

Ricky is a longtime Telluride resident and veteran of many Hardrock finishes. For years he had the idea of holding a 50k race around Telluride, but never had the time to make that a reality until this year. He approached the forest service about his plan and got some encouragement, and then talked to us. His idea made sense: rather than holding two similar events in Telluride, why not just hold one great event? As a double-fold bonus, Ricky’s course stays entirely within the Uncompahgre National Forest. To be completely honest about the situation, this course is not the best that the San Juans has to offer. But it is a pretty damn good one, and will allow us to hold a high-quality event this year that will prove our abilities, and furthermore to establish a rapport with the forest service that will hopefully lead to our holding the race on the ideal course in 2014. Thus, the course we have right now is about thirty-eight miles long, with the huge views and terrifying vertical that is characteristic of Telluride.

When we first talked, Ricky told us, “I kind of went about the process backwards from you guys. I wanted to talk to the forest service and get all the permits squared away before making the race public. That way I wouldn’t look stupid if I couldn’t put the race on.” He made a good point. We took a big risk in promoting the race before we had the permits in hand. But we believed, and still believe, that such a risk was worthwhile. We want to hold the race this year, and we want it to be an extremely high-quality race. In our eyes, one of the biggest components of a high-quality race are the people, because without the people and all their personalities, talents and quirks, we don’t have a race. We knew that if we waited until we had the permits to promote our race, we wouldn’t be able to announce anything until so late in the year that most people would already have planned their race schedules. So we tried to let people know what we were doing and to build hype, without being dishonest about our position with the forest service. The road has been long and frustrating, and I know that many of you are questioning if this race is worth waiting for. But, although we even now don’t yet have permits in hand, the Telluride Mountain Run will be unlike any event you have ever been part of. We’re going to make our race the best in the world, and the only way to understand how is to be part of the event yourself. We ask you to wait just a little longer. The wait will be worthwhile.

To sum everything up, the course is now an extended 50k, the number of runners could be anywhere from 75 to 150, and we are now happily working alongside Ricky Denesik. The forest service has done a lot for us already, and we are working closely with them now to get things in order to hold the race this year. We have sponsors lined up, a start and finish area and a huge, devoted following for which we couldn’t be more grateful. We want to bring you the Telluride Mountain Run, because in doing so we will bring real mountain running to America. You won’t be disappointed. Stay tuned to the website for updates. A lot is happening these days, and we will be sure to keep the public informed.

Thanks for all of your support. T-rad is going to be so cool.

Dakota Jones

explores the wild places of the world on foot and tells us about it every few weeks. He runs for Salomon and Clif Bar.