Q&A with Ultra Runner Travis Ziehl

Travis Ziehl
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New Balance and RootsRated have teamed up to profile runners making a difference in their communities. We asked each of our runners a series of questions to learn a little more about what running means to them, where they like to run and what are some of their running goals.

The co-president of Teton Trail Runners, Travis Ziehl, 33, says he’s hooked on the sport, both because it gives him energy and because of the friends he’s made.

You’ve decided to run a 50k next summer, but say you’re not a badass?
I run for the joy of it. I get out there and feel good. I don’t really keep track of my times. I’m not super fast. I just like to run.

Who is a badass?
We have a guy who comes to some Teton Trail Runners group runs who does 100-milers. He’s a badass. We’ve got some guys in their 60s who come out too. They’re badasses.

You started running after your wife picked it up. Did you start to be competitive with her?
Monika’s running certainly inspired me. It made me want to get in better shape. So I made that a goal and it worked. I kicked ass on the treadmill that first winter.

What were your first months of running like?
I wouldn’t say it was torture, but I couldn’t just run for the joy of it. I needed music or something to keep me going.

Running up through Paintbrush Canyon
Running up through Paintbrush Canyon Jake Wheeler

Do you still run with music?
Nope. Running is motivation enough now. I hardly run with headphones any more. The wheels in my head are spinning and I’m thinking through all sorts of stuff. On trails, I enjoy the silence too—or the birds chirping or the sound of a stream running past nearby.

What’s been your worst run?
I don’t really have a worst. But my first year running the EPIC relay I was racing in barefoot-type shoes for the first time. I had been wearing them on training runs, so it wasn’t my first time in the shoes, but it was first time racing in them. In the race, there was a portion that was on a maintained dirt road. I landed straight down on a rock with my heel. I got a heel bruise and it made the rest of the run really challenging. I switched back to regular shoes for the next two legs of the race, but they were still painful.

Best run?
The EPIC relay. I’ve done it three times now and will be doing it again next summer. This past summer I was team captain for the first time. The first year I did it, when I got the heel bruise, I was a last minute addition to the team and didn’t know any of the other runners on our team very well. By the end of it though, we were all so attached and bonded. It is such a cool experience. It’s so much more than running. You’re working with other people to cover 205 miles. I like this race so much that last year for the first time I organized a team. I’ll do the same next year.

Do you ever cross train?
In the summer, my work is enough cross training. (Travis is assistant supervisor at Teton County Weed & Pest and often spends hours of each day hiking and backpacking through the mountains around Jackson Hole looking for invasive species). In the winter, I’ll lift about two days a week and run three or four days. Also, I play broomball. I organize a team, the Cold Soles, in the non-competitive league, but in Jackson, even non-competitive broomball is serious. I know so many people who have injured themselves! But, if you don’t get injured—I haven’t—it really keeps your core intact. You’ve got to stay upright on ice while running around it in regular shoes. Have you ever tried that? It’s amazingly difficult! Of course, there is often beer involved….

What do your summer running workouts look like?
I don’t always get to run as much as I want with work and everything. But I love doing interval training on single track trails. You really have to focus, making sure your foot placement is good. I’m sure it is a little dangerous, going that fast on uneven, skinny trails, but it is an adrenaline rush.

Post run recovery?
When I’m running, I’ll sometimes eat jerky and GORP, but usually I do wait until the finish line to eat. Recovery is always potato chips and cold beer, which probably isn’t the healthiest fuel, but I like it.

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