Powell’s passion leads to ‘Progress’

Western States veteran writes how-to book on ultrarunning
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Bryon Powell is torn. He loves his job. He also loves to run. Thus his dilemma on June 25, when he is scheduled to toe the starting line at the Western States Endurance Run. A three-time Western States finisher, Powell is excited to test himself once again at the world’s premier ultramarathon. He also feels an obligation to follow the race and report to his thousands of followers on Twitter and many more devoted followers of his website – . “As a journalist, do I serve the public better by going out there and live-casting or do I run and just have the experience and share that with others?” Powell asked. “It’s a big consideration.” Despite his interest in the competition at the front – particularly the return of defending champion Geoff Roes and Spanish phenom Kilian Jornet – Powell intends to run. It’s appropriate, since he recently wrote the book on ultras. Powell’s “Relentless Forward Progress” is drawing praise from beginners and experienced runners. The Park City, Utah resident penned the book as a guide to endurance running. “It explains the building blocks of training and the basics of trail running,” Powell said. “It covers everything from extreme conditions to elevation training, as well as nutrition and even race-day problem-solving. People talk about ultramarathons as an experiment of one, but if you can learn from mistakes others have made, you can shorten the learning curve.” Powell also tackles some of the debates about training for ultras. In one chapter, he has guest writers present their arguments for, and against, speed training. The author has been encouraged by the response to the publication, which ranked 21st this week among “Running” books on “I’ve sold more copies than I ever thought I would,” Powell said. “People are inspired. I’ve heard from a lot of veterans in the ultra community, but also a ton of new people.” Those new people – the ever-expanding number of ultramarathon participants and spectators – helped convince Powell to quit his job as an attorney two years ago and dive into the world of ultras full-time. He covers races, reviews products and profiles athletes, both for his website and on a freelance basis for several prominent publications. Western States is as popular as ever, with well over 1,000 people entering the lottery for the 2011 race. The field for the race is limited to 369 runners. There are new races popping up each year and the renowned Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in France draws thousands of participants each year. “I think it’s sort of an organic growth,” Powell said. “There are a ton of runners – more and more – who cover the ultra distance. Their friends see they can do it and say, ‘Maybe I should give it a shot.’ There’s also a lot wider exposure. With the Internet, people can feel connected to the races.” Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized the way people follow races, and Powell has made the most of the technology. Last year he provided dozens of interviews and countless updates for those following the action at Western States online. This year, he’ll be rubbing elbows with his fellow runners, experiencing the unique bond that comes with the highs and lows on 100 miles of rugged trail. “It’s a common experience, and it’s a challenge,” Powell said of the ultra community’s tight bond. “It really digs deep into your core. It’s not just the front-of-the-pack guys. They have respect for those at the back of the pack. For the top guys, it may look like it’s effortless, but they’re suffering out there too.”