The Right Ingredients

“What do you eat when you’re running these things?” Lee asks quizzically as he pushes the couch-sized cart down the aisle.

“Something sweet, something salty,” I reply while eyeballing the palette of strawberry Twizzlers stacked adjacent to the oversized boxes of pretzels.

Lee Troop is a three-time Olympian from Australia. Back in his prime, he’d run marathons in just over a couple of hours, fueling on a little more than water and willpower. A decade ago, he moved permanently to Boulder, Colorado with his wife and two kids, working as a coach and race organizer. He also started the Boulder Track Club as a running resource for the community.

I’m helping him organize the Sunset Trail Running Festival, a one-day event held in Gold Hill with a variety of race distances, including a 50k.

While 31 miles isn’t much further than a marathon, once you factor in the altitude (between 8,000 and 9,000 feet), and pepper in a few climbs and some dirt, you’ll need a little more than water and grit to get around the course. That’s where I enter the picture, having made a running career out of hill jogging in five-mile increments to all-you-can-eat buffets.

While Lee seeks out my expertise in aid-station fare, we are also tasked with buying provisions for the post-race barbeque. They say you should never go food shopping when you’re hungry, but just 48 hours ago, I completed the Colorado Trail in a little over eight-and-a-half days. Here I am depleted, with a foggy brain, and about as hungry as I’ve ever been, trying to purchase food for 300 runners!

The juxtaposition of being out in the woods for that long followed by standing in a house-sized freezer is overwhelming, to say the least.

I mechanically pile one of our carts high with hamburger and hotdog buns, while staring absently into the distance at the sample station. What have they got over there? I wonder. A little cheese, some dip maybe?

Dip sounds nice, but no chips! I am done with chips. I’ve had way too many to counterbalance the sweets over the past 10 days, and have paid the price for my liking of the salt-and-vinegar flavor. My month is cut up and filled with ulcers from the sharp, tangy mix–a sore inconvenience in this kingdom of chow.

Maya MacHamer, who rounds out our organizational trio, snaps me out of my dream state as she wheels the hearse (meat cart) around to the next aisle. Maya coordinates the efforts of the Fourmile Watershed Coalition, the organization we’re fundraising for through the Sunset Trail Running Festival. She also keeps Lee and myself on track.

Left to our own devices, Lee would walk out with just beer, and I’d probably get kicked out of the store for binging on the sample cart.

More importantly though, Maya’s work with the Watershed Coalition was the main impetus for creating the trail running festival in the first place. After the devastating fires in 2010 and the floods in 2013 in the greater Boulder area, the coalition was created to offer resources to the neighboring communities for wildfire mitigation and watershed restoration.

Our hope with starting the trail running festival is to offer something more than just a race. We want to provide an experience for runners and spectators, to get a feel for what it’s like to live and run in the foothills of the Continental Divide. To do this requires the right ingredients. As ultrarunners, our mix may seem a little weird (a combination of gummy bears and potato chips in the same Ziploc!), but we mean well and I sure hope that our combined efforts will contribute to the long-term health of our mountain communities.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Did you take part in the Sunset Trail Running Festival? If so, can you share some thoughts on it?
  • Do you participate in races or events which raise money and awareness for local land issues?

Left to right is Lee Troop, Joe Grant, Brian Metzler, and Maya MacHamer. All photos: Joe Grant

The first aid station during the 50k race.

Joe Grant

frequently adventures in wild places, both close to home (a frequently changing location) and very far afield. He inspires others by sharing his words and images that beautifully capture the intersection of the wilds, movement, and the individual at Alpine Works.