With the Paul Mitchell XTERRA Trail Run National Championship taking place this Sunday at Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah we caught up with one of the contenders Travis Morrison, a 24-year-old from Chicago, Illinois working towards his PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Utah, who finished 2nd to Patrick Smyth at last year’s Paul Mitchell XTERRA Trail Running National Championship race. A lot has changed for Morrison since that day, but his joy of running in the mountains is the same. Here he explains…
XTERRA: Travis, can you bring us up-to-date on your running exploits since last year’s race?
Travis Morrison: Running is going okay. After XTERRA last fall I was working towards an Olympic Trials qualifier, but I got so sick of chasing accolades/times/places/prize money that I took seven months off from training. It's easy to burn out in this sport post-college without a team because your attention turns towards selfish accolades and accomplishments. I took the time to figure out again why I was running and I if I wanted to continue. Turning to the mountains and looking for adventure made me happy, therefore I began doing monster adventure runs (Uinta Highline, Bryce Traverse, etc...) With this switch back to just having fun with running I'm beginning to love the sport again. The past couple months I have been running a decent amount, and now am toying with the idea of getting back into serious shape for next year.
XT: And school, how is that?
TM: My PhD is going great. I started work last spring in an Environmental Fluid Dynamics lab working with Dr. Eric Pardyjak and Marc Calaf. The research/TA/class schedule keeps me busy, but I wouldn't trade it for anything at the moment.
XT: How hard is it managing school and running, are you staying healthy?
TM: Healthy? Getting a PhD fortunately doesn't let you train enough to get hurt ;)
XT: What made you want to do this race again?
TM: I just love racing in the mountains. Times don't matter and trail races usually attract the kind of people that are just looking for a good time.
XT: Any thoughts on what it would take to beat Patrick Smyth and win this thing?
TM: To beat Smyth? I'm not really sure what it would take to beat him, but as you can probably predict with my previous answers, I'm not really interested in caring all that much either. Running is sport that is about self-mastery, and self-discovery. If you focus on what other people are doing or are caught up about beating someone you're running for the wrong reasons. 99% of runners are not going to make a living off of their talents, so might as well have fun in the process and let the outcome take care of itself.
XT: Any advice for racers coming from sea-level on dealing with altitude here in Utah?
TM: I'm from Chicago myself and went back and forth between altitude and flatland all through college. My approach to the matter is simple … it is what it is. The science is there, and fact is, there's less oxygen in the air at higher altitudes, so you're going to run slower. But it is out of your control. Give the best effort that you can, just like you would at sea level. Focusing on the uncontrollables just adds prerace stress and can hurt your performance.
XT: Any spots or climbs on the course that require special attention?
TM: If I remember correctly, there's a couple gnarly little climbs. The second one in particular I remember being tough. With that said, the whole course is runnable, super smooth and flowy, which makes it super-fast and fun.
XT: Why do you like about trail running?
TM: Trail running is great because times do not matter. No course has equal climbs, technical sections, down hills, turns, or whatever you can think that makes this course unique. Therefore, it’s a lot easier to have no expectations, have fun and see what happens. Also, grinding it out with great views is always better than trying to pound out steady 5-minute miles on the Jordan river trail.
XT: Do you miss those Chicago winters?
TM: Definitely not. The warm dry winters here in the valley are great for training. It’s also great if you love to ski. Never forget the highest VO2 maxes ever recorded come from those strong nordic skiers!
Thanks for the opportunity and let me know if Xterra would be able to help accommodate me!