Tonight I will be reunited with the old guard of Montrail. This will be our 10 year reunion. It has been 10 years since Columbia Sportswear purchased Montrail and the band broke up. Montrail is where my turn as an outlier started. Soon after my first trail runs with the staff at Seattle Running Company led by the Scotts (McCoubrey & Jurek), I was brought on staff at the gritty Montrail office. I shared a cubicle with Jenny when I was in town, and made trailheads and ultra race start lines my remote office demo’ing the only “trail” shoes on the market and representing the only brand that supported ultra running. It was niche, and our scrappy, fun-loving group of outdoor enthusiasts filled it well.
At this point, trail running was ultra running. In our Seattle bubble, if you ran trails you ran ultras. The shorter distance races were not yet an option. GPS watches, coaches, reference books and training plans were few and far between. You learned by doing and you learned from the people you did it with. Hopefully someone would share the mistakes they made (chafing, dehydration, blisters, bonking, puking, etc) so the rest of the group could laugh, and then not repeat.
Most were drawn into the sport by the places they got to travel under the power of their own two legs. Timing mile splits and creating specific workouts were not yet on our radar. Training was simply time in the mountains. How many more trail miles could we get in? What amazing routes could we string together? What cool peak could we reach… Before work?
I think this same mentality is still a big part of what draws people into the sport. It is helpful to touch base when we get overwhelmed by training logs, heart rate charts, elevation profiles, stats, and KOM or QOM reports. When counting out calories and buying new gear is a chore, it is time to take off the watch and head out with little more to worry about than covering ground and taking in vistas. This is our way of reconnecting to the passion that first intrigued those that came before us. It is the core that everything else builds from.
These early day memories of the sport are fun to reminisce and good to check in with to remind us of our roots and show the growth and change in the sport in a relatively short amount of time. A few comparisons that came to mind in writing down these thoughts… Please feel free to add more in the comments.
- Montrail was the only brand for trail shoes.
- Ultimate Direction was the only brand for hydration.
- Women specific??? What?? We just wore smaller versions of the mens products.
- “Sponsorship” was a couple of pairs of shoes and a jersey.
- Ultrarunning magazine was the main sport specific resource (and remains!).
- Trails and information about how to safely be in the mountains have become much more accessible through technology.
- Maps can live on the phone and the “blue dot” helps locate.
- Coaches specifying for ultra running and for trail running.
- Trail running does not have to mean ultra running.
- Expanding ways to experience trail running. Shorter race distances. (Rainshadow Racing is doing a great job of this!) FKTs. Group coaching to share with others. Multi-day, super light pack, overnight trips.
I look forward to reconnecting with the old guard of Montrail tonight. To reconnect with that period of time that was so key in my growing up in the sport of ultra running. The office buzz wasn’t filled with stories of binge watching television show, or mall shopping. Water cooler talk was of great adventures. Paddling trips. Backpacking in the North Cascades. Ice Climbing across the border. Trail running in the Issaquah Alps. All packed into the weekend and even after work to ensure the office stoke stayed high. These people helped me establish my connection to the outdoors and shaped my early days of ultra running, and I believe as a collective, impacted the development of the sport, in the early days.