Participants in the Kahtoola Uphill are used to competing against and hanging out with some major names in the endurance-athlete community.
For the past 11 years, Kristi Knecht, Rob Krar, Sara Wagner, Mike Popejoy and many others have stormed Agassiz and then soared down the mountain, providing star power for an event that has a great cause (Friends of Camp Colton) and a unique winter niche.
Expect more of the same at this year’s event on Feb. 10, but with a twist.
With few exceptions, the elite Uphill competitors are locals who just happen to compete nationally and internationally. Next month, six Kahtoola athletes will visit from out of town for a retreat. They will join Kahtoola-affiliated locals Krar, Wagner, Popejoy, Emily Torrence, Amanda Manville and Brian Tinder to learn more about the company and Flagstaff.
Kahtoola founder and owner Danny Giovale has long been an advocate for outdoor-related environmental and political issues, and he has held events to encourage athletes to be advocates. These top-flight performers are in a position to influence opinions on their travels, especially when they represent a company that is clear about its values.
“We’re bringing these athletes and ambassadors here so they get a glimpse into Kahtoola and our incredible community,” said Hilary Childs, Kahtoola marketing director and Uphill race director. “Because we’re passionate about human-powered outdoor adventure, inviting them to the Kahtoola Uphill is a great way for us to share with them this special place and the things that make us who we are.”
Four athletes who will visit are planning to compete in the Uphill. Joseph Gray is seven-time USA Mountain Runner of the Year, and won both the World Mountain Running and the World Snowshoe Running titles in 2016.
Maggie Guterl made the 2015 USA Track & Field 24-Hour national team and ran 146 miles at the IAU World Championships in Turin, Italy.
Brandy Erholtz has represented the United States 13 times in mountain running and is a three-time national snowshoeing champion.
Stephanie Howe took the 2014 Western States title in her first 100-miler and is the 2017 USATF 100K national champ.
Two other Kahtoola athletes, Mike Foote and Luke Nelson, will be in town for part of the retreat, but have to leave before the Uphill for prior race commitments. In all, Kahtoola has 15 athletes who are affiliated with the company.
We have grown accustomed to local athletes who have outsized accomplishments in the greater endurance world. The first-place finishes, the fastest-known-times and course records of these out-of-towners are no less staggering. The above is a short list of their results. Check out the Kahtoola ambassadors page at kahtoola.com for a more complete account.
To sit down next to these people at Hart Prairie Lodge in the middle of winter is a golden opportunity that runners and skiers in most towns don’t get. As you take part in an event that supports a meaningful cause, be sure to take advantage of that opportunity too.
And to be perfectly clear about the race organizers’ intentions, as the race website (http://kahtoolaagassizuphill.com) says, “Snow or no snow, this year’s Kahtoola Uphill is happening.”