Thursday, September 01, 2005

Los Angeles Sports & Fitness Magazine 9/1/05

This is an article from the September 2005 edition of Los Angeles Sports & Fitness Magazine:

Happy Trails

Trail runners Dale Reicheneder and Angela Brunson are
frontrunners in the nation's top trail running series
By Heidi Creed

Over the hills and through the woods, competing for the national title they go. That version of the classic song is quite appropriate for competitive trail runners Dale Reicheneder, 39, and Angela Brunson, 34, the leaders of North America's largest trail-running series organized by Trail Runner Magazine.
The Trophy Series, scheduled from March to September, consists of 120 races across the U.S. and Canada with distances ranging from 2.3 miles to 101.8 miles. The various races are not for the weary as they are loaded with courses that traverse mountains, cross creeks and meander through forests. The series is divided into two categories: Ultra Distance and Marathon & Shorter Distance, with runners earning points simply for finishing and bonus points for finishing in the top three.
Reicheneder is leading the men while Brunson leads the women, both in the Marathon & Shorter Distance series. While the races span the continent inviting trailrunning enthusiasts from across the country, we can be proud to have Reicheneder (Malibu) and Brunson (L.A.) call the Southland home.
Sure, they are focused, eat sensibly and run with clubs, but Reicheneder and Brunson are not slaves to competition. Nor do they have sponsors or endorsement deals, they pay for 100 percent of their expenses. While they both thrive on the feeling of accomplishment and share similar careers as attorneys, the comparisons end there.
Brunson doesn't track points or keep a master calendar, while Reicheneder meticulously tracks distance, time, course and race information for each event. Brunson enjoys celebrating the experience, while Reicheneder won't settle for doing any less than his best. Reicheneder is a born runner, while Brunson became a runner later in life.
While genetic abilities probably have a lot to do with Brunson's accomplishments, she didn't start running until 1999 when she made a New Year's resolution to run a marathon.
"It all started with running around my .2-mile block once more each day," Brunson said. "By the 16th day I had to carry a box of wooden matches in my left hand and transfer one match to my right after each lap in order to keep count." This training was just the beginning. Brunson finished the 1999 L.A. Marathon in a respectable 4:09. She modestly chalks it up to her passion for travel and an addictive personality, but that year Brunson trained to improve with each subsequent race. Rock 'n Roll San Diego (3:45) and Chicago (3:29). By 2000, she dubbed herself a 'serious runner.' She no longer bought shoes for how they looked but rather how they performed. She read some books, joined running clubs Track Club LA and the Santa Monica Mountain Goats and finished the Boston, San Diego and New York marathons. Always seeking the next challenge, she attempted her first race longer than a marathon in 2001. At the San Diego One Day event she circled a track for 24 hours and logged 107.42 miles, earning first-place female honors.
In spite of her success, she still doesn't live to run. "I feel that my training is essential in reducing the stress associated with my job, so it is really more accurate to call it a 'natural fit' as opposed to a balance," said Brunson, an L.A. County Deputy District Attorney.
In her free time, Brunson skates with a female roller derby squad, is a goalie in a women's hockey league, rock climbs and does Pilates. In other words, cross training is "whatever sounds like fun at the moment," Brunson said.
While her accomplishments are a testament to her character, she says she stays focused by taking time to notice the little things. "For me, it is now about the journey I experience along the way," she explained. "Since this discovery, my events have become personally significant and much more meaningful on a deeper level."
She added that the Trophy Series has given her the opportunity to savor all that the local communities have to offer and visit friends in random parts of the country.
To learn more about Brunson, follow her through her blog at
Reicheneder, on the other hand, has been running for as long as he can remember. He dabbled in several sports while growing up in Colorado, but running is what stuck.
"Running was fun for me, plus I had some success with it, which always helps," said Reicheneder, looking back on his high school cross country days. "I wasn't the best one out there by any means, but I was always one who was willing to train more miles than others who had more talent." He was logging 90 miles a week on average through college at Pepperdine University until he opted for a law career. The days of pounding the roads and trails for hours came to a screeching halt when he discovered the rigors of law school and the demands of the career that followed. His 90-mile running weeks were traded for 70-hour work weeks, and 10 bottles of water were replaced with 10 cans of Mountain Dew. Reicheneder's life went from healthy and active to vending machine diets and desk work.
In 2001, four years and 60 pounds later, Reicheneder entered the Malibu Creek Trail Challenge, a 14-mile event that was essentially in his back yard. He wanted to see if he still had it in him. He finished, but he sat at the post-race area for four hours, long after everyone else had left, before he felt able to drive a few miles to get home. That's when he decided something had to change, so he joined the Trail Runners Club, kicked the Mountain Dew habit and traded the marathon-like work week for marathon training.
Unlike Brunson, Reicheneder struggles to achieve balance. When he commits to something, he takes an all-or-nothing approach. "I admit that I run every race to win, but more importantly, I do my best in every race," Reicheneder said. "Racing is a gift that shouldn't ever be treated as anything less."
Reicheneder has traveled thousands of miles over the span of four months and 19 races for the Trophy Series. He has set four course records and has placed in the top five in 16 of the 19 races. And while he has a handsome lead, he is not about to let up. With this commitment comes a price. Reicheneder estimates his travel expenses to date at around $10,000, plus the necessary time off work to trek to those places and the rigorous training schedule.
You wouldn't believe Reicheneder can run the way he does after you see him limp to protect a broken toe on one foot and an outgrowth in the back of his other heel called Haglund's deformity. After the series, he plans to have them operated on by the same surgeon, on the same day, to avoid any extra time off.
So what draws him to trail running? "The mud, the blood, the verticals, the falls, the dirt, the grime, the snakes," he said. And when he's not being masochistic, he does have a softer take on why he runs. Among his favorite parts of the series is hearing about the "local lore," as he calls it. He also loves experiencing the different post-race parties and local hospitality, claiming they give a race that special character and charm. This bundle of experience that caters to all the senses has ultimately made him prouder to be an American.
While Brunson and Reicheneder approach the sport differently, they are on the same path and have become friends along the way.
For more info on the Trophy Series, visit