Bernie was gracious enough to let me interview him for all you trail bloggers out there. I caught up with him after his recent 2nd place finish at the Golden Gate Canyon Trail Run (12 miler)…one of already 31 races this year (137 races since January, 2003):
SD: Sounds like you’re having a busy season so far! How do you maintain such a full race schedule for both snowshoeing and trail running?
BB: First off, I'd like to thank my sponsors, Beaver Creek Resort, 180s, La Sportiva/GoLite and Atlas for their continued support. They all strive to be the best with their products and services and it helps me to do the same. Without their help, I couldn't do what I do.
We're lucky here in Colorado, there's typically at least one race every weekend of the year, except Christmas. Neighboring states have plenty of races too. It's my passion to race, but I treat it like it's a job, a job I love. Some days are harder than others, but I haven't gotten bored yet. I think if you really love to do something, you just make it work.
SD: How do you think about recovery with such a packed schedule? Do you take time off in between sports at all, or fit in cross-training?
BB: I typically recover the day before and after a race. I recover by riding my bike. So, yes, I crosstrain every week but still get a long run in every Tuesday or Wednesday.
SD: I saw that you also participated in the Red Bull Divide & Conquer (4-person relay of mountain biking, paragliding, kayaking, and trail running) this year. What was that like? Did you enjoy the format?
BB: Awesome race. It felt like a REAL trail race for once, not some gravel road imitation that some people have been calling "trails". I never met any of my teammates 'til the day before the race. But we all hit it off pretty well and were happy to get 3rd. Our paraglider, Noel Wade, struggled a bit getting up the hill to launch, but our kayaker, Ben Stookesberry, had a solid run. Our biker, Charles Jenkins, had an awesome ride going, but got a flat and lost a few minutes. It was a real nail-biter to the finish.
SD: You had the best overall trail running split of the day too with 1:39:39 (7.5 mile, 6000 vertical feet up rocky Kendall Mountain), natch.
BB: I really liked the course. It was action packed with numberous stream crossing, rope climbs, hairy descents, snow and ice fields, loose scree...I was in my element. There were some great runners in the race. Ultra legends Dave Mackey and Karl Meltzer, CU All-American Jon Severy, Everest summiteer, Jesse Rickert. I felt quite lucky to come out on top. It was a hoot.
SD: Have you always been a runner? When did you start? When did you first start running trails?
BB: I can remember running a lot when I was a little kid. We lived in a rural area, so I'd always have to run or walk or ride to get to go do things with friends. I found shortcuts through the woods, and waalah!, a trail runner was born.
SD: Do you do ultras too, or prefer the marathon and below distances?
BB: I haven't done an ultra yet, but I will. I prefer the marathon (and less) distances because it's easier to recover, and do more races.
SD: What is it about the outdoors that inspires you?
BB: Getting to know the unknown. I love exploring new places on the run, seeing where the wildlife lives, getting to those magical, untrampled places where beauty overwhelms you.
SD: I understand that you are an artist as well. What medium do you work with? How does your outdoor exuberance inspire your art, and vice-versa?
BB: I've worked in a multitude of medias. My art is as eclectic as my running style. Everything from graphics, to oils, to watercolors, to bronze, to wood, to photography, to poetry, to column writing, and more... I think I told you I love to explore, and it encompasses all I do.
SD: That’s cool. Hey, do you mind if I ask you a few training questions?
BB: Go for it.
SD: You’ve done a lot of “mountain running”, which I understand is short distances up very steep trails. What tips would you give on training for such extreme hills?
BB: To me, "mountain running" is only half-finished when you get to the top. I really don't like running uphill that much, but I love to run down. I'll torture myself getting up some hills just so I get to have the pleasure of running down some wild descent. Mountain running is about running in the mountains and everything that goes with that. It can be as long or as short as you want, on trails or off, up or down...anything goes.
SD: You live at altitude in Silt, CO, correct? Does living at altitude help in preparing for high altitude racing?
BB: I live at 6,100 ft. el. It's not a bad altitude to live at, but I tend to suffer in races over 10,000 ft. el. It's not high enough to prepare you to race at that level. I did the Leadville Trail Marathon this past weekend where we raced between 10,300 and 13,185 ft.el. from start to finish. It was brutal.
SD: What do you prefer to eat/drink when training and racing?
BB: Green Tea and Orange Burst GU are about all I carry on a run.
SD: What are some of your favorite races and trails, both in and outside of Colorado?
BB: My favorite trails are the trails I've never run...but, the Moab, Utah area has some fantastic places to run, as does the entire state of Alaska. Colorado is incredible. It's too hard to pick just one...they're everywhere. My favorite races in Colorado are the Imogene Pass Run, Pike’s Peak races, and the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Series.
SD: Best trail running experience?
BB: I think the best moment I've had running was racing across a glacier on the Swiss/Italian border in dense fog, then popping out of the fog at the summit of the pass and seeing the Matterhorn in all it's glory as hoards of photographers all shouted, "Americano! Americano!" as I came into their view. It was my first international race.
SD: This has been great! Thanks so much for taking the time. Where can we see you running next?
BB: I did a triple this past weekend, the Leadville Trail Marathon, the Teva Vail Hill Climb and the Boogie's Diner Buddy 5 Mile in Aspen, so I'm still a bit tired and deciding what to do next. But probably the Summer Roundup 12K in Colorado Springs, then the Barr Trail Mountain Race, the Teva Vail Half Marathon, and the Beaver Creek Vertical Ascent, a six hour challenge to see who can do the most uphill in that time. That should cover July.