Luke Larsen knows a thing or two about trail running, having participated in the Wasatch 100-miler that includes 5,000 feet of elevation gain in a single leg-busting, nine-mile stretch, and the Speedgoat 50k held in Snowbird, Utah, a marathon-plus run that sends runners up an 11,000 foot elevation gain.
For good measure, Larsen has also completed the Grand Canyon's rim-to-rim-to-rim run, a "doable" distance of 40 to 50 miles, depending on the route, not to mention the 10,000 feet or so of elevation gain each way.
So, when he tells runners what to expect when competing in this weekend's Haulin' Aspen races at Wanoga Sno Park, they should listen.
"It is a mental switch, and runners are rarely as fast on trails as on the road," Larsen explained. "Runners need to shift their mindset as there are more vertical climbs and steep descents—a 1:30 half marathoner will not hit that time on the trail."
To appeal to a wide array of runners, Larsen, in his second year as race director for the event, said the trail run offers distances of 6.5, 13.1, and 26.2 miles.
Despite the challenges—or because of them—Larsen admits to preferring trails over roads.
"With road running you can cruise along, but roads are much more congested with cars and such," he said. "But, when running trails, you must be aware of every step, root, and rock."
Bend resident (and the Source Office Manager) Kayja Buhmann will run her first Haulin Aspen this year. She says she woke up four months ago and simply deciding to become a runner.
"I broke both my legs playing roller derby and my ankle is rebuilt from titanium," said Buhmann, who is running the half-marathon distance. "The impact of running on asphalt is too painful for me, so trail running is an amazing option."
Buhmann likes the technical aspects of trails, saying they give her the same adrenaline rush she felt with roller derby.
Liam Klatt, another local running the half-marathon, comes to the race from a very different perspective than Buhmann.
Klatt discovered triathlons a few years ago and ran his first 13.1 mile trail race at this year's Dirty Half as a training tool for a Half Ironman race, which includes a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike ride in addition to a half-marathon.
Unlike Buhmannn, Klatt, a member of the Deschutes Multisport Club, prefers road races, saying they are easier and safer, especially when passing other runners.
"I find the footing to be more challenging on trails," he said. "Trails are typically narrower, not very smooth, and have more tree roots and loose rocks on them."
For Larsen, directing a trail race, when compared to the road, is both easier and more difficult.
"Logistically it is difficult to get accurate mileage on a trail," he said. "We work tirelessly to get the course to within one percent of accuracy."
Larsen also noted that marking the course so runners do not go off trail is time consuming, having to be done either on foot or by bike.
On the plus side, Larsen doesn't need to worry about traffic control, flaggers or multiple road permits.
Larsen describes the course as "not for the faint of heart" yielding a gain of 2,000 feet for the marathon.
"It's a tough course, but the scenery is amazing," he noted. "I'm super excited about this race."
7 am. Saturday, Aug. 8.
Wanoga Sno Park