Ryan Ghelfi (featured)


Age: 24
Running Stats:
5k 15:06
10k 31:03
half marathon 1:09:24
marathon 2:32
trail 50k 3:26
trail 50m 6:32

half dome, ca 2:30:50 round trip (second fastest all time)
mt Shasta ascent 1:44:10 (third fastest all time)
rim to rim to rim grand canyon 7:17

What is your favorite ultra that you have competed in, and why?
“I’d have to say that thus far in my career antelope island buffalo run 50k in 2013 was probably my favorite. For one there are literally entire herds of the beasts along the trail, and the landscape on that desert island in the middle of the great salt lake is as majestic as it is bleak. But as much as the natural landscape played a role in making it my favorite it didn’t hurt that I got a come from behind win and ever so narrowly missed the course record”.

What is your educational background?
“I graduated from high school in redding ca (far far north state) in 07. From there I went straight into college at a place called southern Oregon university in a town called ashland which I’m sure by now many ultra runners know of (I had no idea when I started school there that it was simultaneously becoming one of the premiere ultra running centers in the us). I graduated from SOU with a business accounting major”.

You have an incredibly varied background. Which part of your resume’ translates best to the world of ultra?
“After finishing school,or even before I should say I began pursuing an early life career as an alpine climbing and backcountry skiing guide. To make a long story short working and playing full time in the mountains has its perks for the psyche as well as the body. For me climbing mountains with or without skis for 10 to 20 hours at a stretch on a regular basis seems to crossover to racing ultras quite well. I Think also it is pretty key for me to not focus on running year round and have the majority of my winters focused squarely on skiing the best powder I can find”.

Is there a race you always turn as inspiration when training?
“It’s hard to say there is one race I always think about year in and year out. Generally I end up thinking most about whatever the most competitive race in my schedule is. At this point in my racing I realize there are still a good number of guys out there that are gonna be really tough for me to beat. But that’s what I want to do, so that can help when training is tough to think about my next chance at racing whoever the best guys out there are”.

Is there one portion of your training that you think universally translate to all runners
“The one thing I seem to see over and over again from highschool and college running and now into longer distance running is that most runners think they need to run pretty hard all of the time or else they think they aren’t getting any better. The thing I have to constantly remind myself of is that most of my training runs should not be monstrous efforts. Most of the days I run I try to keep myself running relatively easy, this I think plays a big role in A. Not getting injured and B. hopefully having some longevity to my competitive running days”.

The Ultra scene is changing rapidly—more money, more sponsors—in your estimation is this improving or hurting the running scene?
“Honestly I’m probably too young and new to the sport of ultra running to really know. My first ultra race was in April of 2012. But from my perspective it has to be a positive thing. For one I love having the potential and opportunity to have running become part of a balanced early life career path. And two, I prefer competing against whoever the best competition is even though that will obviously hurt my chances of winning any given race. So if money and sponsorships bring more depth and talent to the sport then I say bring it on”.

Describe the moment your realized that ultrarunning was your true passion?
“True passion is a dynamic thing really. For me my true passion is whatever i am doing at the time. so if I’m skiing then skiing is my true passion, and when I run then the passion follows suit. I will say this much, I knew from early in highschool when I first started running that I couldn’t wait to go run ultra races someday. But I waited til I was 23 to do my first one. As soon as I was finished with the tehema wildflowers 50k I knew for sure that I just wanted more”.

What aspects of your training do you have difficulty with? How do you overcome those mental obstacles?
”I have the most difficulty balancing training and racing with the other things going on in my life. All my work these days comes on multi day guided climbs and ski trips where often it is difficult or not even possible for me to run on some days. I’ve had to get used to the idea that not running 7 days a week might be alright, and sometimes find creative ways to train during trips (like going on jaunts higher up old mount Shasta after the clients have gone to bed on summit night). It has taken a couple seasons to figure out work with running, but it’s coming around”.

Are you technology driven or do you run by feel? Or a combination of both?
“Pretty much no tech for me at this point. Regular watch, so I run by time, not miles. But more and more I just run the logical route whether its up a mountain or around a certain loop. At this point I kind of know how long stuff takes and how hard I want to go”.

There are so many amazing new products available in today’s ultra running world—how much do you explore all of these options? Are you a “keep it simple” person or do you like to see what the new technologies can deliver?
“I’m definitely pretty far to the keep it simple side of things. That is one of the most beautiful things about running is it utter lack of complication. Shoes shorts go (and now that I am running longer water bottle and food often get added to the list, but still pretty simple)”.

As an elite athlete do you think your training becomes as much a mental exercise as a physical one?
“To me separating those two things mental and physical can be difficult and often futile. They are more like one in the same in that they are both senses you can use to see how you are doing. So I guess in short I think of running as equal parts mental and physical in the sense that it involves both parts of me all the time”.

During a race—cuss words or words of encouragement—and how do you use these mental pokes to push it to the next level?
“I’ve always had better success being generally positive or more accurately level headed. If I’m in a low point and get pissed at myself then my odds of coming back out of it are a lot lower. I try to focus on knowing that things almost always get better at some point, then when they do I’ve stayed positive and am more ready to capitalize on feeling good again”.

Getting lost out on the trail is no fun but in hindsight is there a time that it happened to you that can be considered humorous now?
“Honestly it’s pretty hard for me to Remember the last time I was lost in the mountains (cities sure). Long ago I did this thing called a nols course, basically a month out in the mountains backpacking with a bunch of other younger folks. Pretty early on the instructor’s left us to our own devices when it came to navigating. The first day we were immediately lost as there were no trails and we were all terrible with maps. After that debacle I decided to not get lost again. So I studied the maps every night for an hour. After that month navigating in a trail less wilderness in Wyoming every day I got pretty good at not getting lost. Before most races I’ve studied the map of the course enough to keep the whole not getting lost thing going”.

Is there a difference between sports becoming life and sports being part of and enhancing one’s life? In other words, how do your balance your life as an athlete with your life outside of athletics?
“I think it can be super difficult for me to try and balance all these things. Honestly between being a full time skier and runner year round lots of stuff gets neglected, for instance ever having a girlfriend. I don’t know what good I’d be to most girls though as I’m never in the same spot for more than a week at a time it seems. Someday I’ll find that balance we are all looking for. Unfortunately probably not til my thirties”.

What does the next 12 months hold for you? Do you work on a long arc or just take life as it comes?
“My year is quite cyclical. From now (aug ) until early december I’ll mostly be training and racing and getting in a bit of shoe slinging at rogue valley runners for hk. I’ll be running UROC and maybe run rabbit run 50 In Colorado, then bootlegger 50k in November and hopefully will remain uninjured all the way til sf north face 50 in dec. After that race it on to ski season. I spend my winters living in a tiny town in northeast Oregon called Joseph where I work for a backcountry ski operation called wallowa alpine huts. Just google the Wallowas and you’ll know why I am there. By the end of April I’ll transition back to a more running heavy diet, but as far as racing its way to far in the future for me to predict at this point, hopefully lots of rad races with plenty of competition”.