The 2017 PikesPeakSports.us Triple Crown Runners, aka "The Mighty Marmots"

PikesPeakSports.us and the Triple Crown of Running are proud to introduce the 2017 PikesPeakSports.us Triple Crown Runners racing team ... aka "The Mighty Marmots!"

The team includes runners of various abilities who have dedicated themselves to completing the Triple Crown series: the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run, the Summer Roundup Trail Run, and either the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon. Click for more info about the Triple Crown. Along the way, they'll share their experiences on
PikesPeakSports.us. Look for their updates every couple of weeks.

Check out the team photos.

We'd like to thank our team sponsors Mountain Equipment Recyclers and the Colorado Running Company. Big thanks to Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc. president Ron Ilgen for helping to keep the team tradition alive. This is the seventh edition of the popular team, which now has a lifetime roster of 42 members and a cult-like following. Team member bios are below. And you can read all of the blogs from former teams here > 2011,201220132014 and 2015.

Don Sanborn 57, SWIIM System, Ltd.,  Chief Software Architect

How long have you been a runner and how did you get started? Forty years.  I started while I was a senior at Manitou Springs High School.  My friend, Steve Louden and I began running early in the mornings on the trails behind our homes in Cascade. I think we were running about a mile and I threw up almost every morning.  It was great!

Tell us about your best running experience. This is a hard one. Runs can be great because you’re braving adverse weather conditions and feel like the only crazy person in the world!  They can be great when you encounter wildlife or fresh vistas on an, as yet, unexperienced trail, when you have a fun social run with friends or achieve a hard fought personal best. Running off trail on a high plateau in the shadow of Cotopaxi in Ecuador is certainly memorable.  Running up on an elk in Cheyenne Mountain State Park is something I’ll never forget.  Getting caught up in a flock of mating turkeys (10 males and 20 females) in Cheyenne Mountain State Park recently is something I’d rather not talk about.  Training for the Ascent, circa 2001, with a bunch of women, provided some interesting discussions I wish I could forget.

What attracted you to the Triple Crown of Running series? Absolutely nothing.  As with most of my racing experiences, I get roped into them by some well-meaning friend (at least I choose to assume it’s all well-meaning). Steve Louden got me started doing the Ascent to celebrate turning 40.  He was perfectly happy to do two races, while my personality leaves me stuck doing the race for years.  Now that Tim Bergsten has roped my into doing the Triple Crown, I’ll probably be stuck with it for years to come. I need a more sedate group of friends!

Why do you run? Partially to stay in shape for other activities like skiing and mountain climbing, for the joy of being outside and enjoying nature, but mostly because it offers a wonderfully controlled environment in which I can talk to (at) my wife, as she has difficulty breathing and talking at the same time.

Where is your favorite place to run in the Colorado Springs area, and why? I was afraid you were going to ask this.  I’m reticent to share this privileged information, as the quiet trails I gravitate to might be ruined if I advertise them.  You may guess from my earlier comments that I like Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  My wife and I put down the first tracks in the snow on the south side of the park the day it opened while fellow AdAmAn member Wally Wininger ran on the North side of the park that morning. Since they don’t allow dogs in the park, there’s a lot of wildlife.  I already mentioned seeing an elk.  We’ve also seen bobcats, bears, rattlesnakes, and many, many turkeys, deer and prairie dogs.  It’s also less crowded than many other locations in the area.  Whatever you do, don’t run there… with all that wildlife, I’m sure you’ll find it way too dangerous!

When you aren't running or working, what do you like to do? Ski, mountain climb, travel with my wife and volunteer with a number of local organizations.  I’m currently President of the AdAmAn Club, Vice President of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Historical Association, on the Board of Directors of Barr Camp, a member of the Advocates for the Pikes Peak Summit House and a member of the Penrose Heritage Museum, PPHCEM Committee (Pikes Peak Experience).

Shana Biese, 36, Army Reserve Career Counselor

How long have you been a runner and how did you get started? I started running in 2001. I had decided to join the Army Reserves because I needed college money, and my recruiter told me that if I joined the reserves I would be able to build schools and hospitals for small children in third world countries.  I had to be able to run 2 miles in a certain amount of time to pass the PT test.   I have been running off and on for 16 years.

Tell us about your best running experience.

Um, well, I have had several. It is difficult to pinpoint just one experience because there are so many great experiences!!My first runner's high was in Basic Training. We had to run the 5 miles as sort of a right of passage at the end of basic training. I was very excited to see if I could actually run 5 miles because that distance seemed so far. Oh my goodness! I still remember feeling like I was flying and that I was the happiest person ever created! I think I had a smile on my face the entire day after that run, and I probably had to do extra pushups for being so smiley. Before that, the only time I ever felt that amazing was when I was singing on stage in high school and college. I knew after that run that I was going to continue running. A "cardio junkee" was truly born that day.
My first half marathon ever was in Amsterdam, and that was amazing! I was also able to run a 5K in Egypt and that was just so cool! I have been fortunate to be able run in 7 different countries and each experience was pretty amazing!
Returning to running a half marathon 8 months after my kiddo was born was quite an experience too! I had a very difficult delivery and my recovery was nowhere near as easy as I had hoped it would be.  That race hurt, and all I could think of was my kiddo and how if I ran faster I would get to see his little face again. That changed my running perspective a little bit. I may have cried a little at the end of that race.
I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon and that was likely the most fun run I have ever done. I'm a total nerd and I love themes and costumes, and being in the happiest place on earth whilst running is quite an amazing experience!!! 
I ran the Super Half here in Co Springs in February of this year. It was my first half marathon in over 4 years. The Super Half this year really re-energized and re-charged me. A couple of lovely friends met me during the last 5K of the race and they ran in with me to the finish. I came across the finish line and another dear friend of mine was there with a giant hug for me, telling me he was proud of me. I can't even begin to describe that feeling. It was much bigger and so much deeper than the "runner's high." I felt like I had finally come back to the sport that I love so much. It was a good thing that I had on sunglasses that day, because I had tears again.
I could go on and on. I really love running. In short, I can say that if the run includes me getting my runner's high, and ends in me with tears, it is usually an amazing run experience!!

What attracted you to the Triple Crown of Running series? I decided last year that I was going to make a "grand return" to running after a 3ish year hiatus of just doing my 2 mile army PT tests. I wanted to do the most BA thing I could think of so I decided to commit to the Ascent. One day, the Mighty Marmots page came across my Facebook newsfeed and I suddenly became obsessed. I found the Mighty Marmots on the Pike Peak Sports page, and I saw so many people who were on the Mighty Marmots team and immediately I was impressed and intimidated by these awesome folks. I learned  about the Triple Crown on the Pikes Peak Sports page as well. I decided that if I was going to do something that would scare me and challenge me, that I had to do the Triple Crown. The registration this year was also on my birthday so I decided to take that as a sign that it was meant to be.

Why do you run? Running is the one thing that I can do that no one can take from me. I run to stay sane, to solve problems, to have serious talks with myself. I run to take myself to see beautiful, breathtaking sights. I run to ensure that I can keep myself physically healthy for years to come. I run so that my son sees his mommy pursuing fitness, both physically and mentally. I run because it makes me giggle. I run because it dries my tears. I run to pray, and to feel close to the God that I choose to believe in. I run to run away from things and to run to things.  I run to over come obstacles. I run to feel better about myself when the rest of my world seems like it is crashing down. I run to celebrate myself when I overcome those obstacles. I run because I just love it.... I can't explain it as accurately as I feel about it.   I run because it renders me speechless.

Where is your favorite place to run in the Colorado Springs area, and why?

Red Rock Open Space is gorgeous! I adore red rocks and water, and the trails are just fun there!
I also love to run at Garden of the Gods at sunrise! The beauty of the sun coming up to say good morning to the world is comparable to none.
I also love to run in Cheyenne Canon. Spring Creek to Columbine is one of my favorite routes. I also really enjoy going up Buckhorn and turning left. Ha! that is my elaborate description of it.  I love how different the trails are in Colorado Springs! Chances are if I run a trail here, it will become my favorite until I run a new trail and that becomes my favorite.
When you aren't running or working, what do you like to do? Oh dear! I am always fearful of how to answer this question. I like a little bit of everything so here goes......
I am part of this amazing organization called WMBA of COS. Its a mountain biking group for women in Colorado Springs. They actually let me be on the board of directors and I got the honor to be the Board Chair this year! If I am not running on trails I am riding on my mountain bike with these incredible ladies.
I love to read. Sci-Fi, fantasy and history are my favorite genres.
I love Star Wars and I am moved to tears at times because of how amazing it is. I can recite every line from the original movies, which is clearly a talent. My love of Science fiction runs deep. I am also a Trekkie. Love Capt Jean Luc Picard!!
I love to wear costumes, any time of the year, like a random Tuesday just because I didn't want to wear regular clothes.  
I have to be in the mountains so you will often find me disappearing for the weekend. I love to camp so much that as I am typing this answer I am feeling the urge to go and sleep under the stars. 
I love spending time with my family. We tend to spend most of our time in the mountains and traveling to fun places for bike races and/or running races. Its so cool to travel to small places off-the-beaten-path and explore! We love to hike and find waterfalls.
I used to be an aspiring Opera singer, so you may find me at Johnny's Navajo Hogan belting out some tunes on Wednesday for karaoke. I won't sing the Opera there though. I'm a soprano and I don't want to break the windows ;o)
I have a degree in Exercise Science because health and wellness is such a passion of mine. I am currently pursuing a Health and Wellness Coaching Certification so I am doing lots of homework and reading for that. I also teach a mean Indoor Cycling class. When I finish this active duty tour in a year, I'm planning to go back to health and wellness, so I do what I can to keep all of my certifications current. I love exercise, and I love helping people to reach their fitness and wellness goals.
I love to learn new things.
More than anything I love to spend time with my 6 year old. He is magnificent.  You will often find me on a trail with a light saber in hand fighting off Sith Lords with my kiddo. Or we will be donning our best Harry Potter gear and casting spells on each other at a local park. Its the best thing ever!!
Other than the stuff I listed, I will add tacos and beer. Because tacos and beer are amazing and wonderful. 
After reading all of my answers to these questions, I realize that I really like to over use the words, "Amazing," and, "Wonderful."
Last, but not least, COFFEE. All things coffee. I don't need it, because I am hyper enough already, but COFFEE makes my life fully complete.

Christina Miner, 39, Palmer High School Athletic Director

How long have you been a runner and how did you get started? I have been a runner all of my life. It started by chasing and being chased on the playground. I started running middle school track because it sounded fun. I ran two years in middle school, plus four years of cross country, swimming, and track and field in high school. Ran in college. CU Boulder for one year. After a bad car accident, I transferred to UCCS and ran there for two years before medical issues caused me to drop out of school. I took some time off of running. Then I started working at Boulder Running Company with Cody and Lori Hill. Ran a bit while I worked there. Then I started coaching and ran regularly with my athletes for the next 15 years.

Tell us about your best running experience. My best running experience is also one of my more frustrating experiences. I was training with the HART team and I was having a lot of racing success and I was the most fit I had been since college. It was 2013 and I was running the American Discovery Trail Marathon. My goal was to run sub 3 hours. So my pace for the first 6 miles was 6:40. At mile 6, I rolled my foot in some very loose dirt that was used to fill in the trail after a big rain storm and felt a pop in my foot. My foot hurt, but not too badly so I slowed to 7-minutes per mile and continued. About mile 10-11, the sharp pain started. Long story short, I finished the marathon. It turned out I had a complete fracture in my 2nd metatarsal. I was happy with my race, I placed 6th with a time of 3:28.18, which was my fastest marathon at that point. Although my time and place were good, what makes this the best running experience is due to the support of the amazing running community. There were countless people along the course and in the race that offered support and cheered me on. I always knew Colorado Springs was a great running community, but there are times you take those things for granted. This was an opportunity for me to see what this community has to offer. I am so thankful for all the runners, volunteers, race directors, media, etc that support running and healthy living in our area. I am so proud to be part of that community!

What attracted you to the Triple Crown of Running series? I grew up in the area and I have only completed the Triple Crown one time. In high school and college, my coaches would not let us run the Ascent or Marathon because they were after the official seasons had already started. Now I am able to do the full series and I am able to train so that I can finish and still be able to walk when I am done. I will be attempting the marathon this go around and it is my opportunity to do something I never thought I could do.

Why do you run? My answer now is sooo much different than it would have been 15 years ago. I run for peace, health, and the community/friendship it creates.

Where is your favorite place to run in the Colorado Springs area, and why? Santa Fe Trail, Colorado College and anywhere from there. I meet a group of friends there every week. They hold me accountable, are my biggest cheerleaders, and I truly love that time with them. We catch up on what is going on in our lives and discuss our goals (career, personal and training)

When you aren't running or working, what do you like to do? Spend time with my family and friends. I enjoy cooking and sewing.

Robert Comstock, 42, Cherwell Software, Senior QA Engineer

How long have you been a runner and how did you get started?  I started running in late Dec. 2015, a week before the Rescue Run on January 1, 2016 to be exact.  My wife, Shae Comstock, has known Vannesa Shawver for some time and while we were out for drinks with Vannesa and Andy Shawver, they convinced us to join the brewers cup.  We really did not know what we were getting into at the time, but we made the decision to join. You can read more about the story here http://www.pikespeaksports.us/profiles/blogs/206lbs-and-a-run-club
Tell us about your best running experience. My best running experience in my short running career was the Super Half Marathon in 2017.  Setting out to complete a half marathon was a big goal considering at the time that I set it, the longest I had run at one given time was seven miles. I did not doubt that I could do it, but making that leap into the unknown was a little scary.I ran the race with the mindset that I was going to run 9:30-minute miles and if I felt pretty good half way through I would shoot for 9-minute miles. My trusty Strava was reading out my mile times 9:159:099:229:14 and I was suprised how good I was feeling. I was not fatigued and still had plenty of energy. Half way through I was averaging 8:50 miles and maintained that to the end. That race gave me the confidence that I could complete longer distances as long as I put my mind to it.
What attracted you to the Triple Crown of Running series?  In November of 2016 I decided that I was going to run the Pikes Peak Ascent.  When I started researching the race I also found the Garden of the Gods 10-mile race. I read about the Garden of the Gods 10-mile and thought I could do that race as well and that eventually led me to the Triple Crown of Running page. I just needed to run one more race to complete the series so it was an easy decision to register for all three.  
 
Why do you run?  I run because it keeps me healthy and I enjoy it. I like the social aspect of it.  I have met so many people since joining the Brewer's Cup and have made new friends.  I now go out running on a regular basis with these friends and running with friends is much better than running by myself.  When I am out running I find myself out in la-la land just enjoying the scenery, taking everything in and think to myself that how lucky I am that I get to do this.
 
Where is your favorite place to run in the Colorado Springs area, and why?  My favorite place to run in the Colorado Springs area are the the trails near Manitou Springs.  As a regular attendee of the Incline Club I am constantly running/hiking/walking Barr Trail, Intemann Trail/Section 16 Loop, Rampart Range Road, Ute Indian Trail and Garden of the Gods.
When you aren't running or working, what do you like to do?  Wait there is more to life then working and running?  During the summer months our family is booked solid from May to September with camping, vacations (and yes some vacations involve running), riding our ATVs and just enjoying what Colorado has to offer.  Winter months we wind down, but with three kids we are always busy with some activity.

Carrie Renaud, 37, 8th grade math teacher, Eagleview Middle School
How long have you been a runner and how did you get started? I ran track in HS, but didn't really start thinking of myself as a runner until 2006. Had run the BolderBoulder a couple of times, but that year I felt really good doing it and decided to sign up for another race. Then I just kept signing up for races. 
Tell us about your best running experience. Recently - the Behind The Rocks 30k. I am just getting back into running after surgery and chemo to treat ovarian cancer. Friends were doing the race and convinced me I could as well. It was the longest trail run I had ever done and it was amazing! I ran with great friends (including Katie Benzel!) and felt great the entire time. It was not easy, but I trained enough and surprised myself with what I was able to do. 
What attracted you to the Triple Crown of Running series?I have not done the ascent since 2010. I figured it would be a great race to return to for my "comeback" year. I have never done all three races so I figured I better go big and do them all! 
Why do you run? It is my happy place. I love being outside and on the trails. The longer the better. And, all my friends do it so if I want to hang out with them, I better do it too.
Where is your favorite place to run in the Colorado Springs area, and why Section 16 is my favorite run. It has a nice, hard, steep, uphill followed by a flowing, not too technical, downhill. Now that I am running farther than that on most days, I love adding on parts of the Intemann trail or High Drive. 
When you aren't running or working, what do you like to do? Along with running I like to bike and swim. I also love to dance. I spend a lot of time reading and enjoy watching baseball and soccer. I am also hoping that I learn to love gardening as that is my summer project!

Katie Benzel, 33,  HDR, Inc.; Publications Lead (aka editor and designer)
 
How long have you been a runner and how did you get started? I started running regularly in 2009, when friends persuaded me I could do a half-marathon. I haven't really stopped since then, with the exception of a brief interlude to give birth to our son, Johan, in September.
Tell us about your best running experience. I've had a lot, but Behind the Rocks 30k in Moab, Utah, on March 25 stands out in recent memory. First of all, Mad Moose Events put on really fun events on beautiful courses across Colorado and Utah. Second of all, I got to run with the amazing Carrie Renaud. I'll let you read her Marmot bio to find out her story, but we were both getting back into shape this spring and I pushed her toward a big goal: her longest trail race ever. We ran the whole thing together. It was one of the best runs I've had during my recovery, and the finish was pretty emotional. I am lucky to have such good friends in the running community.

What attracted you to the Triple Crown of Running series? I decided the Triple Crown would be a fitting goal for my comeback year, and why not throw my hat back into the ring as a repeat Marmot in the process? Postpartum running has been harder than I expected it to be, even though I ran until almost 39 weeks during pregnancy, but working toward these goals keeps me focused and challenged and showing up, even on the hard days. I was due for another Pikes Peak Marathon, too, so why not go big?

Why do you run? Last time I answered this question, I had only been running about three years. This part of my past answer definitely holds true: "Running is life itself on a smaller scale -- successes and failures, ups and downs, trials and errors, stubbed toes, fluids -- and spending time on the trails makes me feel more alive." But now that I have more miles and years under my belt, I know that running is like a good friend - there for you no matter what else is going on, pushing you to be your best, helping you work through the kinks. In the whirlwind of becoming a parent, getting back to running has helped me feel more like myself again. Also... I really like pizza. And beer. And fries. And anything else I can eat while holding an infant in one arm, which usually comes wrapped in a tortilla and doesn't usually score well on the "healthy" scale.

Where is your favorite place to run in the Colorado Springs area, and why? The whole mess of connectable trails on the west side: Red Rock Canyon, Cheyenne Cañon, and anything on the shoulders of Pikes Peak. There are so many combinations of trails, all of which will whip you into shape. I'm excited for the Missing Link to become official for even more possibilities! It's also wonderfully fun to go get lost in the rabbit warren of trails around Mount Herman. I just love anything where you can point to the mountain skyline and say, "I was up THERE this morning" -- because how cool is that?

When you aren't running or working, what do you like to do? I really like sleep (not that I do much of that these days). Spending time with my husband and our son is my top priority these days, but I also enjoy yoga, hiking, camping, backpacking, and sampling craft beers with friends. In my "spare time." Ha. Haha!

Kari Taylor-Romero, 39, OBGYN, Nurse Practitioner, St Francis Medical Center L&D RN

How long have you been a runner and how did you get started?
I started running in 2010 due to health issues/needling to lose a lot of weight. I lost over 130 pounds by running/diet. Once I ran my first half four months later. I was hooked on running. I completed my first marathon in eight months with Team in Training.

Tell us about your best running experience.
My best running experience was completing Silver Rush 50 mile race in Leadville. My longest run prior to this race was Greenland 50K. I was so excited that I earned my silver bracelet and was counted as an official finisher. The scenery was beautiful and the race tested my endurance like nothing I had experienced previously.

What attracted you to the Triple Crown of Running series?
Triple Crown series is one of my annual events I have done since I started running. My goal every year is to complete the Triple Crown series, Barr Trail, and be a Doubler for the Peak. So far, I am on a great streak! Last year, I completed the Doubler after falling in Barr Trail race and breaking my right cheek none/sprained ankle. I completed Barr Trail within time limits and was an official Doubler despite my sprained ankle.

Why do you run?
I run because it allows me to reduce the stress of life and keeps me in shape. I also enjoy training with my husband Gerald Romero. He actually will run my pace during training to spend time together.
Where is your favorite place to run in the Colorado Springs area, and why? My favorite places to run in Colorado Springs is Garden of the Gods, Section 16, Palmer Park, and Ute Pass trail.

When you aren't running or working, what do you like to do?
 I like to spend time with my three children when I am not training or working. We enjoy going to the movies together. We also like to travel and try new places to sightsee.

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