I met Keli the way so many runners tend to bond—over beer. I was returning home from my annual Pikes Peak Marathon trip in Colorado and had time to kill at the airport before catching my flight back to Portland so I headed to the bar. I noticed a couple sitting next to me and my first thought was “they look like runners, I wonder if they ran Pikes Peak?” As it turns out they didn’t run Pikes, but did just complete TransRockies, a challenging six-day stage race in Colorado.
One beer turned to two and well, you guessed it, our short time together was spent swapping running stories and making race recommendations. Before we parted ways to catch our respective flights, we connected on Facebook to stay in touch—and I’m so glad we did.
I really enjoyed Keli’s interview. As it turns out, he’s a pretty cool guy and his interview is a great addition to the Going the Distance blog series. His story epitomizes what’s great about running and reminds us that it’s okay to opt for a beer sometimes instead of a run (or in my case, a nap – enter your vice here X). It’s clear that Keli has a passion for running and recognizes that it isn’t always easy out there, but the important thing is to keep moving forward.
Where do you live and train?
I’ve lived in San Francisco since 2008, but recently moved to Mill Valley to be closer to my playground—Marin Headlands and Mt. Tam (Mt. Tamalpais).
How long have you been running?
I started road running in 2010. I couldn’t stand how inactive I’d become. I would spend over 10 hours a day in the office (I’m a software engineer) and then come home and work on personal projects, eat unhealthy, drink too much—and do too little exercise. I realized that I was far from the person I once was—very active and happy. On January 2, 2010, I went for my first run and came back after 12 minutes, sweating and red as a lobster, panting like I just sprinted a few 800s. The next day I went out for another run.
How did you get interested in running?
I was always a very active kid. I’d run everywhere to save time—I didn’t want to miss anything. My mom would send me to the grocery store for milk and I wanted to do the trip in less than 15 minutes so I’d be back in time for the neighborhood soccer game. Running was always more of a way to save time when getting from point A to point B rather than a workout or anything else.
Very different though, was my first experience with trails. It was in 2012—I was getting bored with running on asphalt, around neighborhoods, and watching out for cars, and such. Sure, I was running mostly in Golden Gate Park, but still felt like my running was missing something. My co-worker, a triathlete, told me about a 5-mile trail race in the Headlands so I signed up for it, and well, the rest is history. Falling in love with running on trails was instant. It was pretty much everything I like—nature, quiet, peace, beautiful people—all in one.
What about running do you love?
The freedom and peace I feel when I’m in the mountains. I find it’s the tough moments on trails—those times when I must dig deep—that I learn more about myself. I also love the beautiful minds I meet on trails and in the mountains.
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to running? How do you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for me is getting out the door for a run when I really don’t feel like it, but know I need to get the miles in. I come home from work tired; it’s dark and the fog is so thick that it feels like light rain. It’s super hard to force myself out the door and just do it. How do I overcome it? I open up a cold IPA, have a couple gulps, sit down and that’s it. I don’t overcome it—I often lose and I’m OK with that.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever run?
I’ve thought about this question for a while and honestly I don’t prefer one place to the other. All of the trails I’ve run have been unique and cool in their own way. I loved my 2014 trip to the Colorado’s Rockies. I also enjoyed the steep and very technical trails in the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. My heart is always in heaven when I run Western States trails one month before the big show. When I train at home, I tell myself how extremely fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place on Earth, Marin Headlands. These trails will never get old and the views will always bring peace to my soul. So, I guess, the coolest places are the mountains I’ve never run on yet.
If you are not running, what takes up your time?
In January, I started rock climbing and pretty much fell in love with it right away. I try to hit the climbing gym at least three times a week, do some yoga, and take my road bike for a spin every now and then. To be honest, I want to do it all fulltime—I’d exercise 24/7 if I could get paid for it. Oh, and I drink IPA, red wine, and eat good food in between. I have a couple camping, running, and climbing trips this year that I’m very excited about.
Best running moment and why?
This might sound a little odd, but my best running moments that teach me something—usually those moments when I’ve suffered or been challenged on the trail. I remember the first time I bonked on a long training run. I told myself never ever experience this feeling again; of course I bonked again. I also learned from my first and only The North Face 50-mile Endurance Challenge in 2013. I wasn’t consuming enough calories, and I was injured and in terrible pain. My mind went to some dark places and I wanted to drop—it would have been so easy. My pacer kept me going and brought me to the finish. I realized we’re stronger than we think, but it often requires leaving our comfort zones.
What’s on your 2015 race calendar?
It’s still a bit early, but here’s a few of the races I’m looking forward to:
- Quicksilver 100K (5/9)
- Western States Training Camp – last 70M of the race (5/23-25)
- Tamalpa Headlands 50K (8/29)
- Dick Collins Firetrails 50M (10/10)
Favorite post-run snack or beverage?
A Racer 5 IPA from Bear Republic Brewing Co, followed by a good burger.
What race is top on your bucket list and why?
Quicksilver 100K—it’s a new distance and a completely new challenge for me, which is why it’s my top race, at least for the first half of 2015.
What’s your take on post-run ice baths? Necessary evil?
When running TransRockies last year in Colorado, we soaked our legs in ice-cold creeks after every race. It hurt, yet felt so good at the same time. When I returned home from the trip, I incorporated ice baths after my long training runs and feel my recovery time has shortened ever since.
I hope to enjoy a nice hoppy beer with Keli when we’re both volunteers and cheering on our fellow runners in a few weeks at Miwok 100K.
If you would like to be featured in Going the Distance or know someone who should, please drop me a note.