Best of Inside Dirt 2014

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10 of our best online stories from the year


With January 1st almost upon us, it’s natural to focus on the year ahead will bring. Before we dive headlong into 2015, though, here’s a look back at 2014 in trail running, through 10 of our best online stories from the year.

These stories appeared in Inside Dirt, our weekly e-newsletter. Like what you see? Inside Dirt is free. You can subscribe here.


Creative Commons / Photo by Flickr user Pedro Lozano

1. Top 10 Dog Breeds for Trail Runners
What to look for when selecting a four-legged partner for the trails
By Jade Belzberg

Sometimes, the best running companions are the ones who don’t talk, and let you make all the decisions about where to run, how fast to go and how long the run should last.

Sometimes, the best running companions are our dogs.

“When choosing a dog as a running companion, look for a high-energy dog that is fast, agile and spunky,” says J.T. Clough, professional dog trainer and handler and author of the 5K Training Guide, Running with Dogs.

Here are a few other guidelines to keep in mind on which breeds are best suited to running.

Read on …


Krupicka descending Mount Elbert during his Nolan’s 14 attempt. Photo by Caroline Treadway.

2. 21 Questions with Anton Krupicka
Speaking out on high mileage, injury lessons and the future of the sport

By Mike Benge

Most readers are familiar with the bearded, wild-haired, typically shirtless, high-mileage runner from Boulder, Colorado, Tony Krupicka. After quickly gaining fame for back-to-back victories at Colorado’s Leadville Trail 100 (2006 and 2007), Krupicka also became known for his big weekly mileage, which would top out over 200 miles, minimalist shoe and gear preferences and disappointing injuries. Now 31, he’s back and healthy this season, with recent wins at the Lavaredo Trail 118K in Italy and Jemez Mountain 50-miler in New Mexico.

Here, he took a few moments to answer some questions with us.

Read on …

Photo by Powell

3. The Beards of Ultrarunning
Fear the beard. Or admire it.  At the very least, envy it.
By Alex Kurt

Trail runners are cut from a different cloth than their clean-shaven brethren on the roads. And the longest events on the trails pull another type of eccentric breed entirely.

Maybe it’s because beard-growers are tough and strong; maybe it’s because a lot of ultrarunners want the competition to think they are tough and strong. Whatever the reason, the “ultra beard” – that phenomenon occurring when ultrarunning meets facial hair – has never been more popular. Here are a few of our favorite examples.

Read on …




Photo courtesy of Michele Graglia

4. From Top Model to Top Ultrarunner
How Michele Graglia went from photo shoots to podium finishes

By Sarah Lavender Smith

When Michele Graglia surpassed stiff competition to finish second at the recent Angeles Crest 100 in a time of 20:25, every sweat-soaked, dirty inch of him reflected the top ultrarunning competitor he has become since attempting his first ultra three years ago.

A bandana covered his head and a beard covered his face. Two water bottles stuck out of a vest on his chest. Arm warmers, pulled down toward his wrists, revealed sculpted yet lean biceps.

Originally from Italy and now living in Los Angeles, Graglia used to be known in Miami, New York and Milan for a much different look: that of a top model who specialized in underwear ads and other bare-chested spreads for clients like Calvin Klein, Nike and Armani. His gleaming six-pack abs, beefy arms, gelled hair and sultry expressions graced the pages of W, GQ, Cosmopolitan and other fashion magazines.

Read on …


Eric Loffland, a Rock/Creek race team member and Assistant Store Manager, and several other Rock/Creek employees got an unexpected midday run in this week. Photos courtesy of Rock/Creek.

5. Shoplifter Gets Schooled by Ultrarunners
Rock/Creek employees, avid trail runners, successfully apprehend a shoplifter after chasing him into the woods

By Yitka Winn

Last Thursday, October 16, at the North Shore branch of Rock/Creek, an outdoor retailer based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, several employees got an unexpected midday run in when a customer allegedly bolted out the door with stolen merchandise. A small team of Rock/Creek employees and accomplished trail runners, including Eric Loffland, 40, the store’s Assistant Manager, took off immediately after the suspect, chasing him down the street, through parking lots, around a neighboring business’s fence and into a nearby wooded area.

Read on …




6. 10 Things I Learned from My Summer As a Dirtbag Runner
Two friends hit the road with little more than their car, trail-running gear and a desire to see the country—here’s what they learned (Dirtbag Tips included)
By Crista Scott

This past summer, I hit the road with one of my best friends, Cat. We lived out of my car and drove from national park to national park—taking every opportunity to run and explore new trails, as well as crew at several ultramarathons across the country. We bought maps and circled our goal destinations, plotting out our adventures while drinking stale coffee at small-town diners. We got lost more times than we could count.

Somewhere along the way, abandoning societal norms just kind of happened. What was the point of washing our clothes every day (or showering) when we were constantly getting dirty? Why brush our hair when Buffs and trucker hats solved the problem so easily? There was no one to impress, no jobs to interview for, no parents to question our behaviors and no reason to feel sorry about any of it.

Read on …

Photo courtesy of Joe Grant.

7. High Spirits
Does this star-studded team of athletes—brought to you by a Mexican distillery—have the coolest sponsorship in trail running?
By Paul Cuno-Booth

On his way to shattering the course record at this year’s Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run, Spanish ultra star Kilian Jornet paused to drink a shot of mezcal at the top of 13,100-foot Virginius Pass. Roch Horton, manning the aid station at the pass, was serving the Mexican liquor in an old tin cup in honor of the region’s mining history. Engraved in the bottom of the cup were the words: “Fine grain men seek high places where the juices of life run a little richer.”

That could be the slogan of the fun and very fast team of ultrarunners sponsored by Oaxaca-based distillery Sombra and the mezcal it produces (which is what Jornet and other Hardrockers were drinking at Virginius this year). Mezcal, a Mexican spirit distilled from agave, encompasses tequila as well as other regional varieties.

Read on …

Photo by Nate Dunn.

8. 3 Lessons Learned About Making the 50-Mile Leap
Elite 50-mile rookies speak out about what they got wrong at The North Face 50—and what they learned about transitioning from 50K to 50 miles
By Sarah Lavender Smith

At last Saturday’s North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championship near San Francisco, several runners who are top-level competitors at shorter distances took on the 50-mile distance for the first time.

These runners, who were spotlighted before the race as contenders for podium finishes, had access to excellent training advice and did all they could to prepare for the big day. But preparation isn’t a substitute for actually going the distance and troubleshooting along the way.

Trail Runner asked three notable rookies—Tim Tollefson, Alicia Shay and YiOu Wang—to share what they learned at this race and what they might do differently in hindsight.

Read on …


Photo by Joy Martin.


9. A Short Life in Short Shorts
A life filled with passion ends on a remote peak in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains

By Joy Martin

On July 20th, Alex Newport-Barra set out for more mountains on a solo run-mixed-with-some-technical-scrambling in and around Ice Lake Basin. Two days later, a search-and-rescue team found his body below the rugged peak Pilot Knob.

No one will ever know exactly what happened. Maybe a rock turned as he stepped on it? Maybe he was attempting a wicked V7 dyno?

Speculation at this point is painful and fruitless. A beautiful, tan 33-year-old teacher, writer, runner, biker, Strava-junkie, yogi, gift-giver, ocean-lover, brother, son and friend in short shorts is gone.

Read on …


Photo by Joe Viger.

10. Local Trail Legend Chad Denning Dies on Appalachian Trail
Denning remembered as energetic organizer and inspirational runner
By Paul Cuno-Booth

The New England trail-running community lost an inspirational figure last Sunday, September 7, when Chad Denning, 39, of Graham, New Hampshire, died unexpectedly.

Denning, an accomplished ultrarunner and race director, was hiking and running on Beaver Brook Trail, a section of the Appalachian Trail that runs over New Hampshire’s Mount Moosilauke, according to a press release issued by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Around noon, after more than three hours on the trail, Denning collapsed when the group paused to admire a view. A rescue team evacuated him to the trailhead, but he never regained consciousness.

“He was a giant in the endurance-racing community here in New England. His passing leaves an incredible void,” says Chris J. Dunn, who owns Acidotic Racing in Stafford, New Hampshire. “He challenged all of us to be more, to do more and to love more than we thought we were capable.”

Read on …

Want to Know What It Takes to Finish at Western States? Just Ask Hellah Sidibe.

Find out what happened when this six-year run streaker and HOKA Global Athlete Ambassador took on an iconic ultramarathon in California's Sierra Nevada