Behind the Scenes With Team USA

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Mike McMonagle

By: Mike McMonagle

Our stories following Team USA at this years World Mountain and Trail Running Championships will feature images by Mike McMonagle and words by Corrine Malcolm. Find Mike taking photos near you - or in his backyard in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This is the fall that just keeps delivering for the trail and ultra community. After two years of postponements the inaugural World Mountain and Trail Running Championships(WMTRC) is set to get underway on Friday morning in Chiang Mai, Thailand, welcoming some 900 athletes from 46 nations. After much anticipation the “2021” World Championships will be the first to combine the former Trail World Championships and former World Mountain Running Championships into one week long event. From the 4th to the 6th of November ten World Titles will be on the line in: Vertical Mountain Running, 40-kilometer Trail Running, 80-kilometer Trail Running, Mountain Running, and an U20 Mountain Running race.

With no easy way to get from the US to Thailand, many traveling from stateside left early to try to shake the 30+ hour travel itineraries out of their legs ahead of race day. The upside? Okay, the upside besides going to Thailand? Getting some bonus team time in a few local houses, previewing the course, and roaming around the city before moving into the race hotel. I reached out to several members of the 80-kilometer team to see how the first couple of days on the ground have been going, and everyone was reaping the rewards of quality team time ahead of the main events kicking off.

“It’s been a fun few days getting to know some members of the team – a bunch of us coordinated group airbnbs ahead of moving into the team hotel Wednesday afternoon. It immediately felt like a team vibe, with everyone swapping beta about the course, sharing meals, coordinating runs and exploring, and lots of laughing. I’m looking forward to kicking off the official team activities the rest of the week!” said Kaytlyn Gerbin.

Max King runs along the worlds course

Jeff Colt echoed the sentiment, “I’m reveling in the opportunity to share trails and space with runners who I’ve only admired from afar, but now get to call teammates.”

Adam Peterman hangs out with the team pre worlds

When I posed the same question to Adam Merry you could feel the team energy almost vibrating off of him, “Honestly it’s been such an immersive Thai experience already. It’s been super fun hanging with my teammates at the house – eating huge bowls of soup, walking on the highway to get back from the trailhead, and sweating buckets in the jungle! We have also regularly run into teams from other nations which has been cool! Everyone is super nice and generally stoked!”

Leah and Addie Climb on Course
Jeff Colt hangs out at one of the team houses

And team will be an important factor during the events this upcoming weekend. While there are individual titles on the line, there are team titles up for grabs – landing on the podium during WMTRC would be a phenomenal result for the US, particularly the mens team. “The course is going to be really challenging but we’ve been firing each other up.” said Jeff Colt, “There are still some unknowns about access to water and the back 40km loop, but we know we are all in this together and ready to welcom the suffering. For the men’s 80km, our team is optimistic, we know we have a fighting chance led by Adam Peterman, but it’s up to Adam Merry, Eric Lipuma, and me to work together to move as efficiently as possible.”

Addie Bracy hikes during a course preview

Knowing the championship courses are set to be challenging, and relentless at times I was curious to hear from some of the team who had made it to Thailand early. “First impressions of the course are that it’s gonna be a tough race!” said Addie Bracy, “I haven’t seen more than a few miles of it – but it’s pretty hard to get into a groove. Some of the climbs are unrelentingly steep. They are proper jungle trails with a lot of rocks and roots. I think the really hot and humid weather will be one of the biggest deciding factors on race day.”

Leah YingLing climbs on course
Bamboo lined trails in Thailand

One of the most striking things about races in destinations like Chiang Mai is how these place blend densely populated urban landscapes with wild and remote wilderness often seamlessly – a blur. The trails become the familiar thing for many of us venturing into these places for the first time. A refuge from traffic, crowds… a place that’s chaotic but seemingly functional.

Traffic in Thailand
Outside a shrine in Thailand

I asked Leah YingLing about this sensation – of landing in a place – of trying to get your bearings through the jet lag all while be deposited into the 2nd most populated province in Thailand. “It’s been an experience! On day one, my debit card was “retained” and shredded by an ATM due to some Thai banking laws… but after we got that out of the way it’s been smooth sailing! It took a day or so to figure out the transportation landscape, which was probably the trickiest thing to nail down initially. Finding the local version of Uber was a life saver – the hectic traffic conditions are not exactly pedestrian friendly particularly on the outskirts of the city. But the trails we’ve seen are wild- rugged, tough, wet at times, and pretty relentless!” A blurring of urban and wild might just be one of the themes for the 20222021‘ WMTRC.

Follow along with us daily as we continue to get a sneak peak behind the scenes as Team USA gets ready for and competes in the the inaugural World Mountain and Trail Running Championships. You won’t want to miss it.

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