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December 15, 2022
Eric LiPuma is November 2022 Athlete of the Month
USA gold medal team member at World Mountain and Trail Championships
(Richmond, Vermont), a member of the gold medal USA team in the 80km trail race at the
World Mountain & Trail Running Championships
held in Chiang Mai, Thialand November 3-6, is the USATF-New England November 2022 Athlete of the Month. Eric was the second scorer for Team USA with US runner Adam Peterman winning the race. France and Spain were scond and third in the team chase. The multi-day championship event included a 40km and 80km Trail race, and an Uphill and an Up/Down mountain race.
USATF-NE asked Eric for some background on the championship, his training, and his experiences in ultra trail running.
: Team USA winning in the World Championship is being called an upset. Was it really? What was the team expecting?
I think an upset is a very accurate way to put it! We came in as a strong team but I don't believe any of us thought we'd walk away with a gold medal. Bronze would have been a perfect day in my mind. It was the miracle in the jungle!
The 80K race took nearly 8 hours with over 15,000 feet of elevation change; what are the fueling and mental strategies that worked for you?
I had some fueling issues in my last race (IAU World 100k Championships in Germany) so I wanted to try a new approach for the race in Thailand. I aimed to take in about 85-100 grams of carbs per hour, all in liquid form. I used Skratch Labs Superfuel but also added a scoop of Skratch clear for added salt and electrolytes since it was so hot in Chiang Mai. This ended up working pretty well but It's hard to get anything down in heat like that.
My mental strategies are just to break the race into chunks based on when we'd see our crew. I also tried to just think of it as a cool adventure day to take some of the pressure off.
What should we know about your teammates?
That they are the best guys around! I was lucky enough to have Adam Merry, Jeff Colt, & Adam Peterman as my teammates. These are all runners who I had a ton of respect for going into the race and I now consider them good friends. I couldn't have picked a better team.
Beyond racing, what did you discover in Thailand?
SO MUCH. This was my first trip to Asia so it was a huge cultural experience. I ate at least one dragonfruit & one papaya per day, had a bunch of Khao Soi, pad thai, and a few Thai beers. We visited a Buddhist temple and the famous sticky waterfall. Overall it was a great trip with great people.
If it is possible to summarize, what does your training mix look like?
Living in Vermont, I have unbelievable access to rolling dirt roads. I would say about 70% of my running is done on these. Almost all of my runs in summer and fall involve some section of single-track trail and I try to have at least one big vertical day per week. Overall, I don't have extremely structured training and try to go with the flow. I find that If I'm enjoying my running I tend to race much better.
: What makes the Mountain/Ultra/Trail (MUT) community special?
I've found the MUT community to be far more relaxed than any other running community. There's pretty much a group run for any pace and a race for any possible niche you can think of. I think MUT is a great gateway for anyone looking to start running, especially here in New England!
: What was your path into ultra trail racing?
I ended up quitting running right before my senior year of college and took about a year off. I ran on and off after that until my best friend Casey asked if I wanted to do a 50k in New Jersey with him called the Mayapple 50k. We had a lot of fun but it wasn't until I moved to Boulder that I got really into the sport. The community out there is hard to beat just based on how popular running is, so it was hard not to get into it.
: We seem to have a few Mid-Atlantic transplants in the New England MUT community. What came first, MUT or the Green Mountains?
MUT definitely came first but the Green Mountains gave me a new perspective on it. The running here is very unique and I hope the community continues to grow.
: Is there a single race that you can look back on, over the years that you are most proud of personally?
I would say Broken Arrow 52k back in June. It was my first time racing at altitude since moving to Vermont and I was pretty intimidated. Everything came together and I was able to place second behind fellow Vermonter (now living in California) David Sinclair (Note: a past USATF-NE Athlete of the Month). I hope to see more runners from New England race out west because after running here, the trails everywhere else seem easy!
: What's your favorite New England MUT race?
The one time I tried racing it I ran pretty poorly but I think the Ragged 50k in New Hampshire is a cool race. It has a bit of everything and is a good showcase of New England terrain. Having Tom Hooper as a race director doesn't hurt either. I also need to give a shout-out to the Bolten Three Peaks Mountain Race. I'm looking forward to seeing that one grow into a staple of the NE MUT community.
What's your favorite course worldwide?
There are so many courses that I love to pick just one but I've really enjoyed Bighorn 100, Broken Arrow, Vermont 50, and Leadville 100. The course in Thailand was the most unique course I've run and was the coolest racing experience I've ever had.
: What's next on your racing schedule?
I'm not officially registered for anything yet, but I'm planning on racing the Canyons 100k in California in late April.
: If I'm a marathoner or a "retiring' college XC runner, where should I jump into mountain, ultra and trail running?
I'd love to see more marathoners and college runners jump right into the ultra distance. If you can run a marathon you can run a 50k! New England is also known for its short-distance mountain courses which would be a great entry point for someone intimidated by the ultra events. Loon Mountain, Waterville, and even Mt. Washington would be great places to start.