Team Colorado: The Beeriest Club in Trail Running

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Peter “The Prez” Maksimow. Photo by Tim Bergston

In the past, we’ve covered the notorious relationship between beer, booze and trail running from various angles. (For instance, vertical beer miles, beer as recovery drink, mezcal-sponsored ultrarunners and this deep-dive look at the role of beer in trail-running culture.)

Given our sport’s affinity for a cold pint, it’s no surprise that when a group of trail runners forms a club in one of the epicenters of craft-brewing culture—Colorado’s Front Range—that that club is going to drink a lot of beer. Team Colorado goes beyond that. It’s incorporated the beverage as a central part of the club’s philosophy.

Team Colorado has multiple runners sponsored by local breweries and created its own mountain beer mile, held on the wicked steep Manitou Incline—2,000 feet of gain in just under a mile—in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Part of the gang. Photo courtesy of Peter Maksimow

Don’t think that this club is all beer and no business, though. With big-name members like Stevie Kremer, Megan Kimmel, Sage Canaday, Alex Nichols and Rickey Gates, along with a wealth of up-and-coming talent, it would make any list of the country’s fastest trail-running clubs.

Peter “The Prez” Maksimow, the president of Team Colorado, is himself a top athlete who ran for the United States at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championship in Zermatt, Switzerland, in July. (He also has perhaps the best mustache in trail running.) Earlier this year, he spoke to Trail Runner about the club’s high-caliber talent and uniquely beer-centric focus.

It seems like you have members all over Colorado, with a lot in the Front Range. Do you have a home base?

We do have team members all over the state, some in other states and some that don’t even have a domicile but are nomads roaming around looking for mountains to run up.

Most of us are concentrated on the Front Range, however. The beauty of Colorado is that there is an abundance of amazing mountains and trail systems, so wherever someone is, there is no lack of ideal training.

What is your club’s favorite brewery?

Oh, we don’t discriminate. A good brewery is a good brewery!

“The Prez” and his buddy Sam hanging out on the Boston Marathon course. Photo courtesy of Peter Maksimow

If you asked Sage “The Rage” Canaday, he would insist that Avery Brewing Company [which sponsors Canaday] is the place of choice if you’re running up Green Mountain in Boulder, or Manitou Brewing Company if you’re ascending Pikes Peak or joining the other thousand people climbing the Manitou Incline.

Stevie “Sunshine” Kremer is really liking the New Belgium Brewing Company’s seasonal beers right now. (Hint hint, New Belgium, you need to contact her!)

If your club was a beer what would it be and why?

Team Colorado would probably be a Pumpkin Peach Ale because it is unique and special, just like every one of us. Besides, life is too short for that boring stuff that stole its name (pilsener) from the Czech Republic!

Two of you are sponsored by brewing companies. How does one go about getting a brewery sponsorship? Are there any standards or trials?

For the Manitou Brewing Company sponsorship, I had to break 26 minutes in the Incline Beer Mile. Sage “The Rage” Canaday had to win at least three National Championships before Avery would accept him.

Just kidding, those things were done all on our own accord. We are out in the mountains, exploring nature and testing our will in what is a very difficult sport, so the trials and standards are within ourselves.

Photo courtesy of Peter Maksimow (center)

In much less philosophical terms, the harder you work the better the beer tastes when you are done! Beer and mountain/ultra/trail running go together like, well, like beer and mountain/ultra/trail running.

We are a very accepting group, I feel. So even if you are sponsored by a brewery, you can enjoy other breweries’ fine concoctions and not feel like you are cheating.

You host your own mountain beer mile on the Manitou Incline. What inspired you to start it? What are the rules of the race? Does anything prohibit filling a hydration bladder with four beers, sipping all the way to the top?

I cannot take the all the credit for the Incline Beer Mile myself. I just made it look good with my fashionable hydration system (a.k.a. plastic bag of beer cans), facial hair that was more hair than face and the coveted, sharpie-inscribed “Where’s Anton?” shirt that also doubles as the IBM grand prize.

Maksimow rocking beard, bag of beer cans and “Where’s Anton?” shirt at the Incline Beer Mile. Photo by Brandon Stapanowich

A local friend and fellow beer-runner, Jon Teshier, organized the inaugural IBM. Although I don’t entirely trust him because he drinks such things as Brass Monkey and a little too much PBR to be trustworthy.

The IBM includes four beers, to be consumed at the start and approximately every quarter mile. You must stop and finish each of your beers; no movement until it is gone. You have to carry your own beer. No “lite” beer. If you have a “reversal of fortune”—vomit—you must go back to the starting point, unless you have progressed more than halfway; then you just have to return to the halfway point before continuing to the finish.

Sound doable? It’s over 2,000 feet of gain in less than one mile, with grades of up to 68 percent in places—and trying to run with a belly full of foam is a horrible feeling.

Oh, right, the last rule is: Don’t kill yourself.

What brought your club to have such a strong beer focus?

I really enjoy talking about beer, the different hop varieties, the grain bill, the yeast strains. I’m not one to just pour beer down my gullet (unless it’s the Incline Beer Mile, of course; that’s all about speed). Sometimes I am even distracted from conversation if I have an amazing double IPA, oak-aged stout or puckering sour in my hand.

Wow, that sounds delicious. Now I’m distracted, what was I talking about?

At first, I thought I might be forcing my own personal love of beer onto people, but then I realized that other Team Coloradans have this very same affinity for a well-tooled craft brew.

Cheers, Eiger. Photo courtesy of Peter Maksimow

Also, there are now about 230 breweries in the state of Colorado, so not only is there an abundance of trail enjoyment, but it can be followed by an abundance of refreshment opportunities.

I believe there is a connection to working really hard in training and races, and enjoying the successes and decompressing by getting together with friends, socializing and sharing war stories over a beer. Not everyone can win the race, but everyone can choose to have a beer afterwards.

The great thing about the craft-brew culture and mountain and ultra culture is that they are full of friendly people who get along very easily. [Club member] Hillary “HillyGoat” Allen brought up another great point: there is quite a bit of traveling involved for mountain and ultra races, and it is nice to taste the local brews in places where the races are held.

What else makes Team Colorado unique?

Well, we wear pearls when we race, for starters.

We name our VW buses—which many of us have actually lived in—such names as “Olga,” which belongs to Alex “Axel” Nichols, and “Orange,” property of Rickey “Heavenly” Gates.

Rickey “Heavenly” Gates on his skull-capped hog. Photo by Peter Maksimow

Folks like Justin “Mad Moose” Ricks quit their corporate jobs to make much less money on things like race directing and coaching.

We take on nicknames that are usually reserved for mountain goats. Like Hillary “HillyGoat” Allen. If we do not take on a nickname, one will be assigned to us by a higher authority.

We are full of strong women, who also happen to be strong mothers and strong runners, and insist that gender should not be an issue. Sandi “The Riveter” Nypaver is outspoken on women’s issues in the sport and is nicknamed after Rosie the Riveter.

Our men … not so strong. But we can run fast! We find joy in running for 56-hour stretches, which is how long it took Brandon “The Stank” Stapanowich to complete Nolan’s 14. Others, like Simon “Gute” Gutierrez, want to cover ground as fast as possible and avoid any type of downhill running. We blame age for that. (Gute is still damn fast at 49 years young.)

Membership card. Photo courtesy of Peter Maksimow

Jared “The Youngster” Hazen isn’t even old enough to (legally) drink beer. (We won’t allow him to have a fake license, either.) Still, he did place third at the Lake Sonoma 50-miler and qualified for Western States again.

Brandy “Mile-a-Minute” Erholtz talks as fast as she can run and Glenn “Pulling a GR” Randall led the Boston Marathon through 5K because he believed in an honest pace.

I, “The Prez,” have a mustache and fuss over my beer.

Jared “Hippie” Scott and “Mad Moose” Ricks have last names that could also be first names. Kim “Queen of Uphill” Dobson is royalty within our ranks, James “Burner” Burns always sets a hot pace and Laura “Honey Bee” Haefeli always tells you to “bee” happy. (She also owns and operates Haefeli’s Honey farm in Del Norte, Colorado.)

We have Junior and National Champions, Olympic Trials Qualifiers and some that are half as fast. Beer lover Ryan “Highlander” Smith, a U.K. native, wears kilts.

Basically, we just “kick Aish.” Like New Zealand native and two-time Olympian Mike “Kick” Aish.

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