We have two new faces at Runner’s Edge and we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce them to you. Meet Sarah and Alex! Stop by and say hi if you get a chance.
Names: Alex Tait and Sarah Knutson
AT- Jackson, WY
SK-Union, IL
How long have you been in Missoula?
AT- 6 years
SK-6 years
What is your favorite thing about Missoula?
AT- My favorite thing about Missoula is the community and the wondrous beer options.
SK-My favorite things about Missoula are the people and the access to trails.
What keeps you busy when you’re not working?
AT- Skiing and trail running. As well as moonlighting as a hitman for hire.
SK- I’m usually off running with my puppy or skiing at Discovery.
Do you prefer roads or trails?
AT- I prefer running on trails because no one can hear my screams of pain as I ask myself why I am doing this.
SK- I prefer running on trails because it’s more challenging and better for my soul than the roads. Running trails brings tears, joy, grit, and true connection to oneself.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
AT- Slipped and fell in the mud and was totally covered in it. Saw a family hiking once I got near the trailhead and one of the little kids looked right at me and started crying.
SK- I once lost my footing and balance over a steep cliffside. While I was tumbling and sliding down I lost one of my shoes and still have a scar to prove it. Yes I can be pretty clumsy.
Katy White moved to Missoula a few years ago and has quickly established herself as a fixture in the Missoula running community. She can be seen running anything from the Missoula Marathon, to the Rut, to the upcoming Turkey Day 8k. Recently she lead the Missoula women to a big win at Montana Cup in Great Falls.

How long have you been running? 

I’ve pretty much been running my whole life. Even as a little kid I would go with my neighbors to their middle school cross country meets and run all over the course even though I was in no way involved with the team. I started running competitively about ten years ago in high school when I sadly/luckily was the only person not to make the volleyball team and was forced to find a new fall sport. So I did cross country and track for the remainder of high school and continued on in college by being an active member of my schools club team. After graduating undergrad, the first thing I did each time I moved to a new place was to get plugged into the running scene as quickly as possible.

We’ve seen you run fast on roads, trails, and now cross country, what’s your preference?

I think I’m happiest with a little mix of everything. I love road running because you can go quicker and it’s fun to get the legs moving and into a rhythm. However, given where we live, I would be seriously missing out if I only stuck to the roads. I still haven’t quite mastered long climbs or steep, technical descents, but I love the variety and beauty that trails bring into my running. I also think mixing up the terrain is great for staying healthy and ensuring that all sorts of muscles are getting used regularly.

Now that you’ve found your stride in Missoula, what’s your favorite part of the running community?

I am really in love with the support and enthusiasm the entire community has for active, healthy lifestyles. Where I’m from in Indiana, my runs are done on busy streets with no sidewalks and to the soundtrack of drivers honking and yelling at me- not the most encouraging environment for fitness. In Missoula, regardless of the time of year or time of day, it is nearly guaranteed that I will cross paths with a handful of others out there and they are likely doing something even more extreme than I am. I think this breeds an incredibly motivating and encouraging environment regardless of your goals or physical endeavors.

You lead Missoula at Montana Cup. How did that race play out for you? Were you happy with it? 

I was thrilled with the outcome! I had heard that Missoula has a pretty dominant Montana Cup history, but the last two years that I have done the race we left empty handed on the men’s and women’s side. My only goal going into it was to do my best to help the women’s team come out with a win. During the race I was able to look back and could see that we were packed up really well in the front, which gave me a lot of confidence and encouraged me to push the last couple of K’s. I have been doing a lot of running in the South Hills, which I think was good training because I was able to get in a lot of hills that are still very runnable, just like the race course!

What do you have in mind for 2019? 

I just got confirmation that I got into the Chicago Marathon next fall, so I’m going to put a lot of effort getting ready for that and will hopefully come out with a big marathon PR! Throughout the next year I will be working on building up my mileage and incorporating a lot more speed and strength work into my running to help get ready for a solid Chicago buildup. I’m also definitely going to do a handful of other road and trail races like Snow Joke and the Bitterroot Runoff, maybe even one of the Rut races, because they are way too fun to miss out on!
Ashley Cossairt spends her time in the basement at Runner’s Edge orchestrating many of the Run Wild Missoula events and social activities we love. But when she isn’t working to improve running in Missoula, she’s getting out and running for herself. This year she has dropped incredible amounts of time in all distances and has transformed as a runner. That hard work has paid off and she was recently named the Run Wild Missoula Runner of the Year.
Name: Ashley Cossairt
How many years have you been running?
Growing up, running was the furthest thing from what I wanted to be doing. Running sprints at softball practice was unbearable, but part of the torture required to be a good athlete… I started running in the spring of 2015 as a way to get back in shape and survive grad school. I wanted to find somewhere else to focus some of my mental energy when I needed a break from reading and writing papers about Criminological Theory.
What’s been your favorite running memory so far?
I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington D.C. this past spring. That was quite an experience! I never imagined I would participate in a race with 16,000 other people. Everything about that day was great – the Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom, the weather was cool but sunny (my favorite conditions), and I was able to run with a really good friend and teammate.
Something clicked this year for you and you’ve been making drastic improvements. What happened?
So many small things. I could write a few thousand words about how the last 12 months have fallen into place. I was starting to feel like I should be running more, because my job is centered around running and walking (not a job requirement). With a lot encouragement, I signed up for one of Courtney’s treadmill classes to get through the winter, and that sparked something. I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon last December, somewhat on a whim. Being a novice runner with zero experience on how to properly train for a marathon, I knew I needed direction. I reached out to Trisha Drobeck for coaching recommendations, and determined she was precisely what I was looking for. I quickly learned that having a plan of exactly what I was supposed to run each day was easy for me to follow. Accountability has also been a huge factor throughout this process. I amextremely fortunate to have some very motivating and dependable friends, and an incredibly supportive husband.
You just had another massive PR at the Bozeman 1/2. What was that race like? 
If you had told me at the beginning of 2018 I would be able to take 30 minutes off my half marathon time from 2017, I would have fallen over with laugher and disbelief. The race was tough, but absolutely worth the temporary pain and discomfort. I had a few goals going into the race that would either build my confidence for my upcoming marathon, or completely crush me. I try not to put too much emphasis on time, because it’s just one piece of your overall performance – albeit a big piece on race day. I learned a lot during the Bozeman Half that I will bring with me to Minnesotanext weekend, and to future races.  (At the last aid station, securely grab the water cup from the volunteer. When they won’t let go, do not assume the next volunteer also has water…)
You’ve been gearing up for Twin Cities Marathon (on October 7th) for the last year. How are you feeling a week out? 
Honestly, I am SO excited. Going into this wild ride of marathon training, I kept telling myself I just needed to trust my coach and trust the training. I never once questioned why I was doing something. I may not have enjoyed some of the workouts and wondered about the purpose of others, but there isn’t a single thing I would change about this training cycle. I am confident my performance on race day will show just how hard I have been working for the last 10 months.
Good luck at Twin Cities Ashley!

Jeff Rome has had an incredible year of running. He followed up a 2017 top 10 Hardrock finish with a 2018 second place result. Then he showed up at the Rut, won the VK, and then smashed the trifecta record with two more top 10 finishes.

Name: Jeff Rome

Age: 29
Number of years running: 7
You’ve had an incredible year of running this year. 2nd at Hardrock. Rut VK win. Rut Trifecta Record. Plus a bunch I’m probably missing. Did anything change this year with your training or mental approach?
No, you’re not missing anything!  Except for the Hardrock Depletion Mile, but that’s pretty informal (a mile run on a track after finishing Hardrock the day before).  I feel like I owe more to my mental approach than to my training this year.  Before each event this year, I was lucky enough that I had the time to relax.  I read books about running to keep myself excited, was around good company, and did some yoga, drank a lot of tea, and soaked in water a good bit (cold and hot).  I also napped a lot, and ate a lot of ice cream.  I ran, too, but I feel like I was able to hold back my energy and really nail the taper each time.  I’ve had similar approaches to taper weeks before, but this year I tapered a little more aggressively (which means I ate more and napped more).  There are so many variables, though, that it’s hard to know what helped most.  My training went well, but it was largely the same as last year except for slightly bigger blocks and more hours put in.  I also lived above 6,500′ for most of the summer, and spent some weeks above 9,000′.  Maybe I was imbued with the magic of the San Juan mountains and kept that magic after I left, who knows.  I just started doing the whole Strava thing a month ago, and prior to that I really didn’t keep a log of any sort except for what’s in my head.
What was it like going from Hardrock, a 100 mile race where pacing is everything, to the Rut VK where it’s less than an hour? 
Well, there’s no time for chatter in the VK!  At Hardrock, you go out and make buddies or chat with friends you already know.  You tell trail jokes, really bad ones.  And the vibe is about spending a magical day or two in the mountains and enjoying as much of it as possible.  The VK is much more of a sufferfest, and much more tactical.  You drool and spit up phlegm and don’t care if anyone notices.  In the weeks between races, my training changed to shorter, faster runs with a few test runs of pushing myself hard on the uphills.  Were the runs closer together, like what Mike Foote did with the Sentinel Hill Climb last year the week after Hardrock, I don’t think I could have pulled off a win.  There’s still pacing in both, though.  I definitely saved some energy for the “running” on the flat sections going up Bonecrusher, and I think those two flat sections and the technical section is where I got my first hint of a gap on the field.
We all want to know. Where do you draw inspiration from for your dance moves, and costume selection? 
Alcohol.  No, actually I’ve had that Elvis/Evel-Kneivel outfit for about 7 years now and it just always lives in my car, because I use it at every available opportunity (which also means I’ve never washed it).  I originally had the idea of three layered outfits to celebrate three races in three days, but it gets hot on the dance floor and the other two outfits didn’t last long.  I’m really not too sure what my dance moves look like, it’s always a little hard for me to imagine.  But I try to just dance without a care of what others think, and it seems to work out okay in most crowds.  I couldn’t dance the way I do in a country bar, though.  I think my favorite dancer is David Byrne, and I’d like to think I’m able to draw some of my creativity from the same well he draws his from.
What’s next for you?
I really couldn’t say.  Graduating from PT school, I guess.  As far as racing or running plans, I’m pretty bad at planning in general.  I’m not even sure what day the Hardrock lottery opens, but I know it’s sometime in November.  There aren’t too many races that appeal to me, so if I don’t get into Hardrock I might just come up with something to do on my own for a summer goal.  UTMB seems appealing, but it has this whole points system to get into, and I don’t think I’d pursue it unless whatever races I do just happen to get me enough points, which doesn’t seem likely.  I really just want to be in the mountains moving quickly as much as possible and mountain races are a way to make that seem like a somewhat logical decision.  The only concrete plan I have right now is setting up an aid station this weekend at the top of Katahdin for hikers finishing the AT, but I’m not too sure if Baxter State Park would be okay with that.  I suppose the aid station shouldn’t have alcohol, which really isn’t something that would ever be considered in Montana.

Name: Olga Helmy

How many years have you been running?  I ran intermittently and then only half-heartedly for years, mostly during the off-season from biotech fieldwork, but after I had my second child four years ago, I signed up for a road running class in Vancouver, BC, where we were living at the time. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but it taught me a few tricks and improved my fitness enough that by the time we moved back to Missoula in 2016, I was in shape enough to start running trails. We lived at the base of Mount Jumbo and for the first few weeks, I just hiked up as fast as I could go, and then bombed down, several times a week. Eventually the hiking evolved into something resembling running and by then I had just fallen in love with the movement and sustained effort. It’s pretty addicting.

Do you prefer road or trail running, why? Definitely trail running. I like the challenge of footwork and balance that comes with moving over uneven terrain. And I love bombing down mountains. It feels like flying.

What has been your favorite running event? Because I just started running in earnest in the summer of 2016 I haven’t run in very many events. My husband and I climbed Mt Kinabalu in Borneo as part of the Climbathon in 2010. I made good time to the top and it’s pretty hard to beat that view, but I didn’t really do much running. In 2016, a friend tried get me to sign up for the Elk Ramble, but I thought it seemed too far to run hard. Honestly, I didn’t think I could do it. It’s funny to think that the following year I ran the Rut 28k and it didn’t feel like that big of a deal. Not having 28k, 7,500 feet of elevation gain feel like a big deal was such a mind warp. I had to come to terms with a new definition of self, I had more discipline and determination than I ever knew. Being over 40 isn’t all bad.

What is your favorite thing about running? Definitely the descent!

You recently improved on your 2017 Bitterroot Runoff time by 7 minutes! What’s your secret? Well, a few weeks ago I started the Run Wild Missoula Avanced trail running class and picked up a few skills. It’s good to have some coaching from folks who know what they are doing. Also, the race was on my birthday and I wanted to beat my time from the previous year, so I had some internal competition!

What do you have on your running calendar for the rest of the year? Eventwise, the Pengally Double Dip and the Rut 50k are looming on the horizon. But mostly they are just targets to aim for. For me, the real bliss comes in just in getting out there every week.

If you show up to any race in the Missoula area, chances are you’ll see Kailee Carnes at the start line. Trail or road, she’s always looks happy to be there. This winter she’s also rallied a group to hit the trails, despite the snow, and they have been consistently running every Sunday for the last few months. Next time you bump in to her on the trails, stop and say hi.
Name:   Kailee Carnes
Number of Years Running:   14 years
Favorite Run:  It’s hard to pick a favorite. I love all the trails around Missoula but my favorite runs are all day adventures with high alpine lakes and running along mountain ridges. All of Glacier National Park and the State Line trail near Heart Lake top the list.
What are you training for?   The Rut 50k and RATBOB
You just went on a big trail running tour of the Southwest. Where did you go and what was your favorite place to run?  We managed to fit in runs in Zion, Grand Canyon, Sedona, Tucson, Joshua Tree and Red Rock Canyon.  It’s a tough choice but my favorite would be the Grand Canyon. We ran down the Bright Angel trail to the bottom of the canyon and across the Colorado River twice and back up the South Kaibab trail. It was an amazing experience I’ll never forget.
What is your favorite thing about running?  The amazing places running can take you. Plus, that runner’s high is real good.
What’s your food of choice during a run?  I eat a lot of bars. I like to mix it up with type/flavor to keep it exciting. Peach gummy rings and Huma gels are good too.