Mountain runner: Basalt’s Megan Lund aims for the top | AspenTimes.com
Jon MaletzAspen Times WeeklyAspen, CO Colorado

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Mountain runner: Basalt’s Megan Lund aims for the top

BASALT – Don’t sprain your ankle. Don’t get caught.The words raced through Basalt runner Megan Lund’s head as, with heart pounding and legs and lungs burning, she propelled her spindle-thin 102-pound frame toward the finish line in the 8-kilometer Cheyenne Caon Mountain Race on July 26 in Colorado Springs.For more than 30 minutes, she and a group of elite mountain runners jockeyed for position. Lund surged to the front of the lead pack on the opening climb, plowing through bushes and brush adjacent to the trail to make headway on the narrow patch of singletrack. On the ensuing downhill, however, three competitors breezed by her.Lund was determined not to let the trio out her sight. She accomplished that feat, and even made up ground to snag third place during the early stages of the second loop.That was not good enough. Only the top two finishers would earn spots on the U.S. Mountain Running Team, one of the 25-year-old’s goals. Lund, competing in just her third event on the mountain running circuit, summoned the energy for one last pass.”I joked to a friend [before the race] that I might sleep in …” Lund says, flashing a smile as bright as sun-drenched snow during a recent conversation at an Aspen coffee shop. “There’s so much stress and anxiety on race day.”Why do I put myself through this?”The answer is simple: Lund was born for moments like this. Running is infused in her DNA – her father Ron competed in his first marathon in seventh grade and coaches the Basalt High School cross-country team. Her mother, Kaye and sisters Whitney and Amy are also avid runners.Running is her passion, her identity and now, her vocation. She recently launched her own custom training company, aptly named Hit the Ground Running, and graces the cover of the August issue of Trail Runner magazine. (You’ll be hard-pressed to find a copy in the midvalley, because mom Kaye bought seven, Lund jokes.)This sure does not feel like work. It never has. “I love how it makes me feel, and I like being fit,” Lund says. “I love the competition. … I knew this was something I never wanted to stop doing.”Lund is rarely at a standstill. That appetite for competition is the reason she routinely logs more miles than some valley commuters – as many as 85 in a week. It’s the reason she wears out the dirt on area tracts, from Carbondale’s Hay Park Trail to Conundrum Hot Springs to the top of 12,461-foot Buckskin Pass. She sometimes runs twice a day, and typically rests once every two to three weeks.It’s the reason she goes through shoes quicker than a hotel heiress. After 350 miles, she donates each pair to Independence Run & Hike or Boulder Running Company, where it is either distributed to under-privileged children or recycled. It’s the reason she competed in a half marathon on Vail Pass one day, then the 10K Spring Runoff on the ski resort the next during June’s Teva Mountain Games. She finished first and fourth, respectively, and was the lone female to run both events. It’s the reason she lines up in races large and small, from Glenwood Springs’ Turkey Day 5K and the Boogie’s Diner Buddy 5-Mile Race to the St. George Marathon in Utah where, in October 2007, she finished second overall in a field of 2,228 women and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials.”If you don’t love it, you won’t last long in this sport,” Lund says. “From the eating, the sleeping, the recovery, getting managed, stretching, icing, all that stuff. … It’s like a full-time job.”This is what I’ve always done, though. I don’t know how I would do anything different.”••••She still remembers traveling to her father’s races in California, Las Vegas and Utah, among others, as a young girl and enthusiastically cheering him on from the sidelines. The Lund girls didn’t have pajamas; they slept in their father’s event T-shirts.”All our family vacations revolved around going to his races,” Lund says. “I remember thinking I wanted to be just like him.””I’m accused of that, that my races dictated the vacations. In my defense, once we decided where we were going, I looked into seeing what race I could run,” joked Ron Lund, who has laced them up in an estimated 37-40 marathons.Megan Lund was 5 the first time she competed – in a kids’ race around the Aspen Valley Hospital parking lot during a fundraiser. Her father followed stride for stride.While she dabbled in softball and soccer in middle school, Ron Lund said it became increasingly clear that running was “going to be her event.””She really didn’t have passion for those other sports like she did for running,” he added.That enthusiasm resulted in an accomplished prep career. Lund competed in cross country for Glenwood High School during her freshman and sophomore years, and track at Basalt High School all four years while a student at Alpine Christian Academy. Ron Lund started a cross-country program at Alpine during his daughter’s junior year.Megan Lund took her talents to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, where she studied communications and marketing and competed in both cross country and track. The 2006 graduate set a school record in the 6K, qualified for Division II nationals in cross country, 5K and 10K and was an Academic All-American. She says her career really began to take shape soon after when, at the behest of a teammate, Lund hired Art Siemers as her coach. Siemers heads the Colorado School of Mines’ cross country and track programs in Golden and is a member of the elite running team Boulder Running Company/adidas.”I definitely responded well to his program – the general strength drills he had me do, the tempo running, the long threshold runs,” Lund says. “I liked his approach and his philosophy and that he cared for me as a person.”Lund became a member of Boulder Running Company/adidas, which includes 10 men and 10 women, soon after joining Siemers. The team, one of her main sponsors along with Basalt’s W.I.N. Health Institute, provides her with free equipment and pays her entry fees on occasion. The women’s team won the national club cross country championship in December at Plantes Ferry Recreation Park in Spokane, Wash. The seminal moment in her competitive career came little more than one year before that, however, when her father suggested the two run in the 2007 St. George Marathon to celebrate his 50th birthday.••••It was the first marathon for Megan, who was then working with Ecoe Marketing in Aspen. It was her father’s ninth trip to St. George. Everything changed that afternoon. A father came to the realization that he could no longer keep up with his daughter. And that daughter caught a glimpse of the possibilities.”I knew she could run faster than I could. … but we happened to be running together at about 12 miles,” Ron Lund recalls. “It was fun to just watch that ponytail disappear in the distance the further we got into the race.”It was not something you could see as a spectator on the side of the road. … I was never near the level she’s at now. … It’s fun to see how that’s coming along and how she’s responding to it.”Megan Lund steadily broke away from her father and much of the women’s pack en route to a second-place finish and a U.S. Olympic Team Trials-qualifying time of 2 hours, 41 minutes, 59 seconds.”After that, my eyes kind of opened to the potential that I had,” Lund says. “I started setting measurable goals. … That changed everything. It put me on the map as an elite runner, and there have been a lot of opportunities and open doors since then.”Open doors and scores of learning experiences – none bigger than her trip to Boston for the Trials in April 2008. She entered as the country’s top-ranked female marathoner under the age of 25. She left battered, but not disheartened.”I was tired. Maybe I was over-trained,” says Lund, who finished 103rd. “I had a bad day. … It was an emotional let-down, and I cried after the race.”I’ve been running for so long that I know that I’m not going to have a great day in every race. You have to roll with it, not dwell on it. … It was still quite an experience.”That resilience has served Lund well. She was laid off in January because of the recession, and amicably split with Siemers in February; the strain of working apart (Siemers is based in Golden) made things difficult for both, Lund says. Both remain members of the Boulder Running Company/adidas team.But when new doors open, Lund instinctively runs through them. She relished her new role as her own coach, something she ultimately turned into a business.Hit the Ground Running was born earlier this year. Working out of her home, Lund develops custom workouts, from speed work and core-strengthening to tempo running and hill repeats, tailored to the goals of a small, but loyal clientele. “Some are weekend warriors, some are competitive and some just want to get away from their kids for an hour and get in shape,” she jokes. Sixty percent of her regulars are women, and most are in their 40s.The new venture has been her most rewarding yet, Lund says. “I’m hoping to give them a unique experience,” she adds. “I like watching people improve and watching people transform.”Lund has experienced a transformation of her own, due in part to her recent foray into mountain running. While she continues to train for the marathon – she has her sights set on another Trials appearance and, if all goes well, a berth in the 2012 Summer Games in London – the mountain-running move was one that always intrigued her. It was one she thought would showcase her strengths – “Growing up here, this is the type of running I’ve been doing my whole life,” she says.Lund was right. She took fourth in her first event in Vail, then finished sixth at the Cranmore Hill Climb, the USA Mountain Running Championships, in New Hampshire in late June.Only the winner of the Cranmore race earned a spot on the country’s mountain running squad. Lund’s final chance to secure her spot came at the Cheyenne Caon race July 26. She was well positioned down the stretch.Exhausted but determined, Lund made one last pass during the second loop and vaulted into second place. She charged to the finish in 39:28 – five seconds behind winner Megan Kimmel of Silverton.Don’t sprain your ankle. Don’t get caught. Mission accomplished.While she earned just $200 for her efforts, Lund received a different payoff: One of four female spots on the U.S. Mountain Running Team (a squad that includes Aspen High alum Rickey Gates) and a trip to Campodolcino, Italy, to compete in the Sept. 6 World Mountain Running Championships.Good thing she didn’t sleep in.”It was one of the most mentally tough races I’ve ever had,” Lund says. “I knew I could do it. I knew I could be really competitive. I’m finally in a position now where I know I am racing smart and racing tough … I never thought I’d accomplish this much so soon.””We are thrilled that Megan is a part of our team,” added Ellen Miller, manager of the women’s U.S. Mountain Running Team. “We look forward to having her represent the U.S. … in Italy. She such a positive athlete and is very focused and very determined.”What a run it has been. And there’s no end in sight.”God has blessed me so much to be able to see the world through racing and meet so many cool, talented people,” Lund says. “I’ve gotten to experience other cultures and do things I would otherwise not be able to afford to do by myself. “I want to be the old lady still around doing half marathons. … I’ll go until my legs fall off.”Added Ron Lund: “She’s made a career out of something she loves. We should all be so fortunate.”jmaletz@aspentimes.com