“When do you work and sleep?” I finally asked Kevin. We recently shared an easy hike up his favorite backyard training hill (the 700 road at Northstar.)
As we climbed, Kevin stopped to check on various plants, hoping to find berries in-season and thinking about wildflower seeds to harvest. He explained that he and his wife enjoyed planting native seeds at home, but that it’s tricky with the squirrels.
We continued swapping stories of our past weeks’ adventures. His described so many recent excursions in the high sierras that I couldn’t keep them straight. Hence the question about work and sleep. It turns out that I hit that nail on the head.
“All I do is work, sleep, and go outside,” he told me. (I happen to know that he also coaches and bakes bread, but his statement seems pretty darn true otherwise!)
After our summit and return from Mt. Pluto (on our 2021 Peak Project list,) I took a peek at some of Kevin’s ultralight backpacking gear. What really struck me is that it is all well-used (in addition to being meticulously organized.) Now reading his interview below, this is no surprise.
Kevin has volunteered as Medical Director for Castle Peak 100k – if you’re around on race day, I hope you get a chance to say hi. You’ll find a wealth of trail running and mountain experience in a guy who delights in sharing his passion with others.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born in Seattle and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where I grew up. My dad and I backpacked in the Sierra nearly every summer weekend and every holiday weekend. Thus the Sierra became a second home for me. I lived in Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, and Washington DC before moving back to the Bay Area right against Mt. Diablo State Park. We moved to Truckee to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in the mountains.
When did you begin running and/or long-distance running, if that applies? Why?
I came to Ultrarunning from long distance backpacking. My first backpack trip was when I was 5, I summited Shasta and Whitney in day trips with my father when I was 9 and 11. By the time I was 10 we were regularly covering 15-18 miles per day with packs. My first official ultra distance came on the last day of my solo JMT trip when I covered 36 miles from just north of Donohue Pass to Yosemite Valley in a day – I was 14 at the time. While in residency I kept running longer and longer long runs until I was running 26-28 miles. I did my first ultra – David Horton’s 55 mile “Mountain Masochist” in October of 1995 and was in my first Western States (of 10) in June, 1996.
Do you race? Does racing motivate you? If not racing, what motivates you?
I used to race a lot. There was one year I raced 18 ultras. I have completed 124 ultras (winning 32 of them) and 25 marathons (best of 2:37 twice). Even when racing well and sponsored on the Montrail/Patagonia national team I found that I enjoyed training just for training’s sake and the camaraderie of friends more than race results. Currently I’m more motivated to train so I can get out and see things outdoors than for racing.
Do you have any dream races (either hoping to qualify for or get selected for)?
No specific races at this point but I have a small piece of the John Muir Trail that I have not completed on skis yet. I’m hoping for a winter that lets that happen. I’ve hiked the trail straight through 5 times (including the FKT in 2004) and in pieces 2-3 other times and skied all but Muir Pass to Mammoth. That and Steve Roper’s Sierra High Route take you through the most beautiful terrain the Sierra has to offer.
What was the best running advice you’ve received?
Eat early, eat often.
Do you have a favorite on-trail food or nutrition strategy and favorite post-run meal or beverage?
I’ve used a variety of strategies for racing ultras. Some I’ve done nothing but gels and sports drinks, others I didn’t take an “official” sports product at all. I’ll eat whatever appeals to me – and while racing that’s usually “real” food that’s easy to digest.
Do you have a favorite recipe to share?
I’ve been baking since shortly after we moved to Ann Arbor in 1991. There’s a multigrain bread called Straun that I’ve perfected over the years that has oats, brown rice, quinoa, roasted sunflower seeds, polenta and honey. I bake 3 loaves at a time and it’s my go to breakfast. Happy to share the specific recipe if anyone is interested.
What was your favorite running experience this past year?
I really enjoyed doing the Tahoe-Truckee Peaks project. [https://truckeetahoepeaks.com] As a new resident of Truckee is was great to get out and explore a variety of places – many of which I’ve gone back to again. I’m having fun visiting a new list of peaks this year.
What was your most challenging/ character-building experience this past year?
When I moved to Truckee I left behind a great group of kids and their families that I had coached as founder and head coach of the Mt. Diablo Heat. We moved (coincidentally) right before the pandemic locked things down and it was hard to make friends. About a month after the lock down my mother passed from complications of a stroke. My dad was in the hospital for 3 months shortly after mom died with complications of sepsis. I was pretty lonely. Fortunately through the running and nordic skiing communities I’ve started to find my “clan” again.
With most races being cancelled this year, do you have your own adventure or virtual race plans?
Far West Nordic put on a series of 16 virtual XC ski races last winter, the “Kudo’s Cup” – and they have a virtual “Summer Series” of running and roller skiing this summer. I’ve also really enjoyed the Truckee-Tahoe Peaks challenge. It’s also fun to work my way up the list of Strava KOMs periodically.
What do you do for a living? Is it hard to fit in time for training?
I am a neurologist and cover 21 emergency departments for stroke and other neurologic emergencies. I also help direct the program, train our team and improve our quality. My days are busy and I work most weekends – but that works out well to have Tahoe to myself with weekdays off. Being fit is very important to me and I find the time to exercise. It’s the last thing to get skipped in my schedule.
What led you to join DPMR?
I joined DPMR about two years before we moved to Truckee. I wanted to learn about the running scene, trail options and events.
What has been your favorite DPMR experience so far?
I liked meeting everyone at the Old Highway 40 cafe two falls ago – and meeting by the Truckee River to celebrate completing the peaks project last summer. I think being medical director for the Castle Peak 100K may be my new favorite.
Favorite local trail?
One answer is not enough! I love uphill hard tempo runs – so the 700 road up the backside of Northstar ranks high on my list of training options. Donner to Squaw visiting 5-6 peaks can’t be beaten for beauty and variety. And Mt. Lola for a really remote feel and great views.
Do you have a mental training technique, mantra, or similar that you rely on to combat the mentally trying times of a longer run?
I think it was my 8th Western States when my pacer Jim Musick started encouraging me by repeating, “I’m fit, I’m fast, I’m focused” during a lull in my energy while heading towards Rucky Chucky. After 30 minutes of him repeating that mantra I replied, “Jim, I’m fat, I’m fickle, I’m f@#**d!” We both started laughing and I found another gear for a few more miles. I still use his version in races – and laugh and relax at mine.
Do you listen to audio while you run and if so, what have you been enjoying lately?
I rarely listen to music or podcasts while running. If I’m doing a hard workout I need to focus and if I’m not I like listening to the birds and wind in the trees. When I spin bike I usually listen to music.
Recovery technique(s) that you swear by?
As I’ve gotten older I find that stretching and foam rolling – as well as days off from running (when I bike, swim, lift or (roller) ski) help me stay ready for my next run.
What other outdoor or indoor interests do you have?
If I’m moving and outside I’m happy. I love Truckee because there is a non-running nordic ski season, lakes to swim in and trails to hike and fastpack. It’s great to head into the forest for a hike after work from my driveway. I like knowing the trees, flowers and animals where I am and understanding how they live and are connected.
Any interesting facts about yourself you would like to share?
I love showing fit runners the ropes of lightweight fastpacking and cross country navigation. I know nearly every nook and cranny of the Sierra Nevada – on trail and off — like the back of my hand.