Q & A with Snowbowl 15K Race Director Forrest Boughner

It's August and just like smokey skies, Forrest Boughner is everywhere: standing on podiums and mountain tops all over the Treasure State, providing content and organizing events for Montana Trail Crew, rallying local speedsters for group runs and workouts, coaching Run Wild Missoula trail running classes, and directing races and outfitting the community at Runners Edge. It's his gig as a Runners Edge race director that made us want to catch up with him for another Q & A (click here for a 2016 Trail Chat with Forrest) before their next race, the Snowbowl 15K. This challenging mountain run at Missoula venerable ski hill also comes midway through MTC's Treasure State Trail Series-- a series that Forrest also happens to organize.

MTC: Can you tell me a little bit about the event, what's its history, and what makes it unique?

Forrest: This is the third year for the Snowbowl 15k. We are glad that the Montana Snowbowl keeps asking Runner's Edge back to help put-on the event. Three years ago Mike Foote wanted to get a race going up at Snowbowl after the success of the short-lived race that Rhea from Momentum Athletic Training hosted. Snowbowl was on board and the 15k was born. It's great to have a venue with established parking, space to relax indoors, and a restaurant/bar that is still up in the mountains. It creates a relaxed atmosphere for runners and encourages participants to get out of their cars and mingle. This is one of the few races in the area that features a single, sustained climb and single long descent. It poses an interesting strategic question for racers: do you treat it as one continuous effort and take it easy on the climb and crush the descent, or hope that by hammering the climb you have enough left when you switch muscle groups to hang on for the downhill?

MTC: I've heard the Snowbowl 15K as being described as a good conditioning run for The Rut. In other words, it must be tough. Can you tell us a little bit about the course and some of the challenges that runners will encounter?

Forrest: I would describe it as more of a check-in for last minute Rut training. I always like throwing in a race about a month out from my 'A' race to mix up the training and get the competitive juices flowing. The Snowbowl 15k is great as a rust-buster for the Rut since it still requires a significant amount of climbing and descending (about 2,100'), but without the consequences in terms of recovery time. It also gives just enough time to cram in a few hill workouts if a runner realizes more training is needed!

MTC: As anybody who’s run up at Snowbowl knows, the abundance of huckleberries is really the element that can throw a wrench in any plans to run a fast time there. In the middle of the descent those little buggers are strategically placed trail-side to tempt even the most focused athlete. What is your advice for those of us with little will power who still would like to run fast? Alternatively, any tips on where runners can stock up on hucks mid-race?

Forrest: Half the fun of trail racing is getting distracted by what's visible from the trail! Whether that's mountain views, lakes, or huckleberries, part of trail running is connecting with nature. What better way to connect than picking a few choice berries on the way down? Although I would advise waiting until after the race to do a majority of picking in the interest of time and runner safety, I have seen a few runners carry ziploc bags while racing. I am a fan of the 'huckleberry aid station' approach of simply nabbing berries on the fly. If you have a road background it's just like grabbing a cup of water at high speed. If you are looking to stock up the best spot is between two and three miles into the descent. You can't miss it!

MTC: Speaking of sustenance, Snowbowl’s Last Run Inn is famous for its pizza and bloody marys, Will they be available after the race and what can runners expect for post-race goodies?

Forrest: Post-race the Snowbowl will be providing a BBQ lunch for runners and Big Sky Brewery has generously donated beer for this event. Sapphire Physical Therapy and Costcare will also be on hand with post-race massages and a medical team to fix up any scrapes. For a stronger drink, or some of that pizza, the bar is open Thursday-Sunday including race day. If you want to make a day of it up on the mountain the zip-line will also be up and running, as well as the chair lift for post-race sight-seeing.

MTC: The Snowbowl 15K comes right in the middle of the Treasure State Trail Series, which you also happen to direct. Can you share a little bit about how you came up with the idea of a statewide trail running series? What are some of the series highlights so far?

Forrest: I think the first talk off a Treasure State Trail Series originated on a group run when we were lamenting about the lack of interest in sub-ultra races in favor of ultras. While I think any trail running is good running, we thought a statewide trail series would be a good way to keep some prestige on shorter races, and provide incentive for Montanans to explore the state. There are great trails all around the state of Montana and too often we get caught up in running what's familiar and easy. A statewide series provides an excuse for runners to branch out and run something new and exciting. For me the highlight of the TSTS so far is hearing more and more people getting excited about running. Each race I attend more people have heard of the series and are looking at the schedule for the next one. It's promising for the future of the series, and for small trail races in Montana.

MTC: The TSTS coming to Missoula means that many of the top runners in the state will be toeing the line. Can you give a preview of some of the top male and female talent you expect to show up on Saturday?

Forrest: This race is going to be hot! Nicole Murray is registered on the women's side and she's always a contender. But Leah Handelman is also signed up and just got bumped off the top spot in the TSTS series standings so will be trying to take home those valuable points. Jenna Lyons, Amy Friedman (2nd at Don't Fence Me In), Marlie Johnson (Sentinel Hill Climb winner), and Sara Boughner (currently leading the TSTS standings) will all be pushing the pace as well. On the men's side there are a handful of guys who will be chasing the course record. Jason Delaney will be looking to three-peat as champion, but will be hard pressed to hang on to the title this year. Nico Composto (Bitterroot Runoff champ), Henry Reich (Eleven Miles to Paradise Champ), Andy Drobeck (uphill runner extraordinaire), Jimmy Grant (2nd at Don't Fence Me In), Mark Handelman, Jesse Carnes, and Grady Anderson will all be vying for that top spot.

MTC: You’re in a pretty unique position right now. You direct the Snowbowl 15K, you direct the TSTS, and you also happen to be the current leader in the TSTS standings. Do you feel extra pressure to throw-down a strong performance on your home turf? What’s your strategy?

Forrest: The priority for me on race day is making sure runners have a wonderful experience up at Snowbowl and are taken care of. That being said, I am going to do everything I can to hang onto the series lead! Descending is typically my strength so I hope to make up some ground on the back half of the course, however, I do have a strong affinity for huckleberries. You may catch me with purple fingers before the race is done.

MTC: I’ve heard some rumblings that it might be possible for someone to crack the elusive 1 hour barrier at the Snowbowl 15K. You’ve obviously been running well lately, what would have to come together to produce such a fast time?

Forrest: The course record right now on the men's side is 1:05:50 so it will take something special to crack that 60 minute barrier. With the group of guys racing though I think it's possible to get close and on the right day have someone dip under. I think it would take a group of guys pushing hard together and taking a big risk on the climb. The problem with the Snowbowl descent, however, is that there are some sections that still require running, not just letting your legs go, so to get under an hour you still have to have some energy descending. Guys like Jason Delaney and Henry Reich who can climb very well, but have great leg turnover have a chance to break that time. For some extra incentive we are offering $100 to the first person under an hour! On the women's side we are pushing for a fast time as well. Cynthia Arnold holds the course record in 1:13:02 and we are offering $100 to the first woman under 1:10. It will be fun to see if with money on the line we get some men and women chasing times!

MTC: Any other words of wisdom for Snowbowl racers?

Forrest: Despite the competitive field this year, the Snowbowl 15k is ultimately a fun race. The majority of participants are there to challenge themselves on a great course as part of a great community. I would say don't forget what trail running is all about. As much as we like to race sometimes, ultimately we love spending time in the trees. Stop and pick some huckleberries. Give the volunteers a high five. Have some fun!

MTC: Thanks Forrest and thanks to the TSTS presenting sponsor:


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