Meet our August member profile subject Dan Brounstein. He is another of our ranks who lives down the hill but spends a good deal of time on the trails in the North Lake Tahoe area. Read on to learn more about Dan the family man, entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “recovering road runner”.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born in Chicago and raised all over California (NorCal, San Diego, Orange County, LA, Thousand Oaks). My father was a startup guy so we typically lived in a place for three years and then moved on. I have been living in California since I was 5 years old. I went to school in San Diego and have lived in the Bay Area since 1997. My wife (then girlfriend) made me move to San Francisco in 2004. I had lived in the suburbs previously but, as she was from New York, she wouldn’t move to there. We haven’t moved since except for a three year stint in Amsterdam for my work.
When did you begin running and/or long-distance running? Why?
I was a tennis player most of my life and played competitively at UC San Diego. While playing tennis in college, I always ran but never logged huge miles. I really hated running more than a few miles. I started to run seriously about 10 years ago because one of the doctors I worked with would always make me run six to seven hilly miles when I visited him in West Virginia. Those six to seven miles every so often then turned into training for my first marathon (Chicago) in 2008. The race is just wall-to-wall people and has so much energy. I was hooked.
I still remember my first marathon as I had no idea what it would be like. It was actually crazy as I was staying downtown with my uncle about a mile from the start the night before the race. The plan was for him to drive to me to the start line. One thing about my uncle is that he is always late. He was so late in this case that we took his new Ferrari and cruised up Michigan Avenue at high speed and I ended up getting dropped off about two miles from the start with only about 15 minutes to join my wave. I ended running to my wave and put in 28+ miles that day. I guess it was my first ultra! I totally paid for it in the last three miles but still ended up with a sub 3:20 time. I don’t think I ran another marathon for three years. It was too painful. But as we all know, the memories fade and you think you loved it. 20 marathons and seven ultras later and I’m still addicted. Now it is about longer and longer distances.
Does racing motivate you? If not racing, what motivates you?
I am recovering road runner. I really enjoy the challenge of getting faster and improving my times. 2018 was an awesome year as I finally broke three hours in the marathon at CIM. This was an 11 minute PR. (No performance enhancing drugs, I swear!) I have to thank Coach Peter Fain for all the hard miles he made me put in. I am not a very serious runner as it is really just a way to get my stress out from work. I took a personality assessment test last year for work and my evaluation actually said that I need to run a lot of miles or I will fall apart. Luckily I do!
When I am not running, I am working on bringing new medical devices to the masses. I have been a serial entrepreneur and have worked for medical device startups most of my career. Currently, I am working on a technology that will relieve chronic pain for millions of sufferers. It is a small implantable system that delivers electrical stimulation to the spinal cord and blocks pain signals. The best days are when you see patients who hobble into the clinic with a walker and walk out with little or no pain. So having the balance of running the US operations for a startup medical device company and running lots of miles is what keeps me sane and motivated.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also say that my one year old girl, Shiloh, and my four year old boy, Jacob, motivate me. This year I got to run a half mile during an ultra marathon with my boy at mile 26. That was just awesome.
Do you have any dream races (either hoping to qualify for or get selected for)?
If you asked me that question a year ago, I would have said the New York City Marathon. But after pacing French runner Jo Therry during Western States last year and experiencing the feeling of the race, I definitely would say that States is on the bucket list. It is the Boston of Ultras. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone! (Editor’s note; Dan and fellow DPMR member Steve Rowberry paced Jo Terry to a M15 finish in 18:15:04.) First I need to run more than 50 miles, which I have done only once. I am hoping that I can get lucky by running Castle Peak this year and getting into States next year. Who knows?! This year, I did qualify for New York so I got that goin’ for me! I am pretty pumped to run it.
Do you have a favorite on-trail food or nutrition strategy? Favorite post-run meal or beverage?
I am not the best person to ask about on-trail nutrition as I only have run one 50-mile race and a handful of 50Ks. But I have learned a bit from my running. I am a big fan of Tailwind and Huma gels (nice and runny and really easy on the stomach for me). In longer races, I try to take in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and watermelon with salt. That seems to work for me. My post run meal always includes a nice Hazy IPA. Right now it is all about Revision and Moonraker. You can’t go wrong with a beer from either of those breweries.
Do you have a favorite recipe to share?
We are pretty boring when it comes to cooking. I think if you know me pretty well, you have tried my guacamole. It is truly amazing I have to say. I cannot share the recipe but can say it is all about choosing the good avocados and some great sea salt!
What was your favorite running experience this past year?
It was definitely the California International Marathon. I would have to give credit to both Steve Rowbury and Coach Fain for my performance. I had been trying to break three hours in a marathon for the last 10 years. I am now 44 and really thought that I had peaked. The last 5 marathons that I ran were pretty similar in terms of finishing around 3:10 however I hadn’t been able to break that barrier. Steve and I put in four really great runs that I credit for my performance on race day. The runs were 20+ miles and sometimes almost 26 miles where we ran 10-12 miles nice and easy and then pounded out another 10 miles at marathon or just below marathon pace. With weekly mileage of 70-80 miles, that really strengthened my legs for the marathon. Those runs and speedwork really made the miles easy. On race day, Rowbury and I made our way to the front and put in first 7-8 miles at sub 6:40, which was about 10 seconds below target pace. Steve took off and ran a crazy 2:55 so I am glad I let him go. I would have to say that it was the best I have ever felt at the end of the race. I ended up with sub 2:59. It was an awesome day for me and just really unexpected. Sometimes not thinking about it and just letting it go is the key.
What was your most challenging/character-building experience this past year?
In the last year, I haven’t done much ultrarunning as I had my second kid, Shiloh, and it is hard to get away as a result but just before she was born I ran my first 50 miler at the TRT Endurance Runs. I had run the 55K the previous year; it was one of my first ultras and I did well there. But the 50-mile distance was a whole new experience. It’s hard to write about this when you hear all the amazing stories of friends, acquaintances and elites running 100 miles or more and overcoming adversity. My challenge was how to find a way out of the dark place that everyone talks about. I didn’t know what it was going to be like. It really hit me on the Diamond Peak climb (mile 30), which many of you know is 20 tough miles from the finish. My pacer Jon Murchinson had just picked me up and I was really suffering from having screwed up on my nutrition during my first pass through the Tunnel Creek AS. I had a great plan and then I saw JP Prince leaving the aid station and chased after him to chat. I forgot to fill a water bottle and didn’t take my nutrition. I got to Bull Wheel and filled a bottle with warm electrolyte which I ended up having to drink as I ran out of water. I felt great until I got to the bottom of Diamond Peak and then it was the hard climb up. Jon, Kane Cullimore and the DPMR crew were there and I was pumped but that energy left me as soon as we got going in the 90 degree sun up the sandy mountain.
I ended up walking a lot of the way from Bull Wheel to Tunnel Creek after the climb and then had a really hard time keeping my feet moving out of Tunnel Creek. I felt horrible, had no energy, couldn’t eat gels and was feeling pretty done. My stomach was cramping and I had to stop often. Jon was great and motivational. He let me rest a bit and then we just pushed hard and we made it Hobart where I finally was able to use the bathroom, which was amazing! I got one of those magic smoothies in me and within 20 minutes I was back to climbing strong to the peak and I ran in the last seven miles hard. It was an awesome feeling. I had my energy back and I could have gone on, maybe not another 50 miles though. It was the first time I thought “I might be able to run 100 miles.” So I am now signed up for Castle Peak and hope that I run a 100 miler soon.
What are your upcoming racing/adventure plans?
I have pretty nice race schedule for the next five months that includes taking on Castle Peak, which will be the longest run of my life. I am definitely super scared about how I am going to feel. The only other comparable race experience and not even close was the TRT 50 miler. And that hurt so bad. Later in the year will run New York and hope that I can turn the hard hill training over the summer into a solid time and hopefully PR at the marathon.
What do you do for a living? Is it hard to fit in time for training?
I am the US president of an Australian medical device company, Saluda Medical. It is pretty all-consuming as we are working on bringing a new non-opioid device to market to treat patients with chronic pain. I also have two young toddlers and a wife, who is awesome and understands my need for running (otherwise she gets “Grumpy Dan”). I am on the road one to two weeks per month and usually get up and run wherever I am. I just hate Minneapolis in the winter as it is crazy to have to get out in 20 degree weather and run. I don’t know how people who live there do it. I fit in my training wherever I am and make it a priority by just getting up early or running at lunch.
What led you to join the DPMR?
We bought a place in Tahoe Donner in 2014 and I found DPMR on Facebook. I was interested in learning a bit more about trail running. I never knew people actually ran on the trails that I would hike up. I had no clue about ultrarunning before I met the DPMR crew. They got me hooked through the Monday trail runs that Helen Pelster and folks would do. It was the coolest thing and I was addicted to trail running immediately.
What has been your favorite DPMR experience so far?
The DPMR crew is just an awesome group of folks. I really don’t have a great story but just love running into folks around town when I am up here. The big memory I have was one of the first long runs I did with them when I first joined. I had just come off my first Boston and thought I was in good shape. I think Fain, Broomhall, Helen, and a bunch of other folks were out there. We were doing Johnson Canyon to Castle Pass (oh and you could add on three miles by going up to Castle Peak) which was about 15 miles. No problem. We took off up Johnson Canyon and folks were hiking. I just ran up the hill and then suddenly everyone passed me and then they were gone. I had no idea what I was doing and ended up running by myself for most of the run. I was sucking wind. I ended up turning around early and heading back to the car where I saw a bear fly out of the woods and across the trail. So that was a nutty experience. “Crazy ultrarunners and life threatening encounters? These guys are awesome.”
Favorite local trail?
My go to is Drunken Deer to Animal and then up the emigrant trail. It’s a great run from my house.
What other outdoor or indoor interests do you have?
I love tennis but have put that on hold for a bit. I played competitively until about five years ago but just don’t have time for running and tennis.
Any interesting facts about yourself you would like to share?
I lived in Amsterdam and Rotterdam for three years while launching a new medical device in the Benelux and Nordic markets. I really got into running while I was there and ran the Midnight Sun Marathon in Tromso, Norway. The race is held in June and starts at 8:30 pm. You end up in finishing in the middle of the night and see many folks dressed up in their nightclub attire on the street but as it is so far north the sun is still out! Living in Europe and experiencing its various cultures was awesome.