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Justin on a snowy run up Mt. Sentinel

Justin Yates is yet another of the seriously talented trail runners residing in Missoula.  Justin has multiple podium finishes at ultra races throughout the last few years.  This past season, Justin had great results with a 5th place finish at Speedgoat 50k, perhaps the most difficult and competitive 50k in the country.  Along with Mike Foote, he also set a Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the Zion Traverse.  More important than the performances, Justin is a calm and cool guy who appreciates exploring the beauty and rugged mountains Montana has to offer.

Thanks for your willingness to answer a few questions and share some insight for our readers. First of all, what is your running background and how did you get into trail running?
For me, running started on two wheels.  Growing up in glaciated SW Ohio I was introduced to trail pursuits through mountain biking.  I caught the bug and  rode quiet a bit during high school and early college.  As my fitness and skill set improved my technical confidence also inflated, until...boom.  It was on a solo ride, bombing a narrow, steep trail, when I lost a little control and had a fairly substantial fall, totally wrecking my bike.  Being a frugal college student I opted not to make any repairs.  Lacking a functional ride I began running the trails to get my fix.  And that's it.  From that time on running supplanted riding and I haven't looked back.

What are the main challenges you've overcome to get your running to the place it's at today?
Early challenges were centered around feeling out reasonable paces and balancing a competitive nature with a simple desire to just be out on the trails.  I still deal with that balance. When I moved to Missoula in 2006 the challenge was learning the terrain.  The past four years or so my running has evolved to focus on the vertical.  I don't think you can become a good mountain runner in one season or even two, three, or four.  Patience with accumulating experience has been important as I continue to learn what my body is capable of.
Mike Foote and Justin Yates finishing our Zion Traverse FKT.  Photo Paige Ford

What is a running career highlight to this point?
Tough question!  If I have to pick one I'd say completing the one and only running of the Swan Crest 100 in 2010.  I came off an injury plagued spring with almost no running, but wanted very badly to be a part of the event.  With just a couple weeks of running I lined up, with trepidation, and no expectations.  In the end I finished it out in 27 hours, placing third.  That race really proved to me how capable the mind is in ultra running success, at whatever level that is for the individual.

How do you manage to fit running into your busy schedule?
Or sometimes it's how do you fit life into your running schedule.  That balancing act is familiar to everyone I think!  I try not to get to stressed about any one run and just take what the day gives me.  Sometimes that's getting up early, other times it's combining an evening run and hike with my girlfriend, Paige.  If you want it bad enough almost everyday provides an opportunity, you just have to be ready.
Swan Range running.  Photo Mike Foote.
What are the basic components of your training? Who do you train with? Where do you like to run?

I don't look at most of what I do as training.  The basic foundation for me is filling a desire to move in the mountains.  Occasionally that desire is goal oriented and more often than not takes the most direct line up and down the mountain.

The Missoula valley is an amazingly diverse area to be a runner.  I mean that in terms of terrain and especially community.  I generally get out alone but I really enjoy sharing a run with anyone interested.  I'd say, Northside speedster Seth Swanson, is my most common running partner.  My favorite place to run in town is without a doubt Mt. Sentinel.

What's your all-time favorite trail race and Montana trail race?
The Bridger Range near Bozeman host two of the best trail races in the state and country for that matter. The Old Gabe 50k and The Bridger Ridge Run.  While I haven't "raced" the latter, Old Gabe holds a special place for me as my first Montana ultra.  Grinding up and flying down the steep climbs and descents through snow, flowers,  and rocky ridge was a real paradigm shift in my running. 
You finished 5th at this years Speedgoat 50k amongst the best ultra runners in the world.  How do you feel about that performance, and has it inspired you to compete with the best on a more routine basis?

Speedgoat was a great experience and opportunity to toss it up with some of the best in the sport on a course that suited my strengths.  On the whole I'm happy with the result, but like so many things I find myself less pleased as I get further from it.  I enjoyed pushing myself in the midst of that talent but don't  think I have any urgency to race more often.  To further that, I think the "best" in the sport of ultra running is really becoming a deep category. I don't have to look very far outside of the Missoula trail community to share that talent and passion.

Having run all over Montana, what's your favorite trail to run?
I can't give that information away!  Just kidding.  If we are sticking on trails I'd say the Warren Circumnavigation, a 40 mile loop around Warren Peak in the Pintlers. Anything in the Swans and Glacier is tough to beat too.

Are there any other Montana runners who have inspired you over the years?
Scott Creel for sure.  When he lines up at a race you can be sure he's leaving it all out there.  A perfect 10 for 10 at the Bridger Ridge run, his last at 49!  That's inspiring.

What are your goals for the coming year? 
I'm not very good at looking too far forward.  Having said that I'd be fibbing if I didn't say I have a couple personal goals lined up that involve long distances and big mountain traversing.

Paige and Justin hiking in the Wasatch.


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