Screen Shot 2021-01-03 at 8.28.03 PMmy final Vert Gain was:  87,915′   (Everest x3!) total miles:  182.80
total time spent uphill: 2 days, 7 hours over 40 efforts.final result;  1st place 50-59,  11th OA out of 348 international racers
pic courtesy steve ilg/south rib, Hogsback
Durango Herald:
What made you want to go after this challenge this year?
1)  Spiritual ignorance
2) I wanted to support my friend’s (Jamil Coury/owner and founder of Aravaipa Running) efforts at motivating athletes to get out during CoVid and still race!  HA!  Naively thought that my usual Nordic Race Pre-Season which includes long SkiMo (ski mountaineering) workouts would rack up enough vert to get me close to the AG (Age Group) Podium and maybe break the top-20 OA (Overall)… yeah, well,  that was NOT the case!
Durango Herald:
You may answer this in question 2, but I know you mentioned that you ran in the memory of two of your friends who have recently died. How do that drive you each day on the steps?
• I’ve lost all my dearest friends to the high mountains.  Even more acquaintances have been lost.  So, sure,  it’s easy to find motivation to race three times per day when you somehow survived over 4 decades of elite mountain athletics and you find yourself among an elite group of mountaineers that are still alive at nearly 60 years old.   Yet, the answer beyond that one is an even easier one.   I was paralyzed from a winter mountaineering ascent gone awry on The Diamond (Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado) in 1981.   If anyone else has Self-Healed from spinal paralysis?   There is no longer any need to be searching for motivation to breathe and move in nature!  Each and every day spent moving among Mother Nature, beneath Father Sky, blessed by Sister Wind, Brother Cloud, and the Sacred Snows!?!?  IS SOOO SACRED!   There is NO WAY you’d ever try to distance thyself from nature by listening to music or engaging in gossip while immersed in mountain athletics!   EVERY STEP SACRED, once you’ve been paralyzed!   Reckon a lot of the new gen of ‘outdoor athlete’s’  take a LOT for granted, but then?  That’s part of their karmic learning curve, most likely!   So, yes,  my record-setting Teammate of the 2018 Furnace Creek 508 ultra race through Death Valley, famed Fitness Writer; Roy Wallack died via a mountain bike crash during my month-long race as did Bert Perry, my yoga student and SkiMo competitor friend in an avalanche.  Also,  my bodywork/yoga student pro cyclist Ben Sontagg’s recent death by a young, reckless driver was also a primary meditation object during my countless steps up the stairs and mountain peaks during my race. My weekly Vlog from those weeks details the intricacies of my Stair Running Pilgrimage for my recently lost friends.
Durango Herald:
How did you figure out getting a shuttle ride down the hill to help alleviate the downhill stress on the body?
• Ha!   feeble ilg’s old JOINTS told me!    Reckon the ones that are really slayin’ these vert races have an ideal super steep gradient with access to downhill transit all figured out!  Takes a village to get the podium on this crazy race!    Shout out to my Wholistic Fitness® students;  Caroline “Kavík” Eastburn and Student Charlotte “Char” Lenssen for downhill assistance!
Durango Herald:
How good did it feel when you looked at the final leaderboard and got it done?
• Dude!   It was Christmas!   Logged over 3k’ vert by 3p to buffer my paltry lead then,  between Single Daddying and the CareGiving for my 91 year-old Mom?  Was glued to the Leaderboard to see if i and my Support Crew needed to get out again before midnight to get more Vert… but, alas, by midnight,  had done enough to get the “W”!     Felt SOOOOO RELIEVED!    Not happy, just RELIEVED i didn’t have to call my Crew out again on late Christmas Eve to slog up more vert!
Durango Herald:
How many times did you run up the stairs?
•  Haven’t even precisely counted yet but i do know i “Everested” them (means I logged over the height of Everest on the Sky Steps).   It’s funny how attached people are to wanting to know my laps.   Fitness warriors on the Sky Steps would ask me how many times I did them,  I’d reply,  “I don’t know!  I’m just chasing more Vert!”  Plenty of curious looks,  hopefully?  I have inspired some fitness warriors to keep it up, literally!
Durango Herald:
What other places did you log vertical gain for this achievement?
•  My backyard of Test Tracks (now known as “Overend Mountain Park”)… my  two go-to’s for Vert was every which way up and down Hogsback (worth 700′ vert per lap) and laps into oblivion up and down “Do Drop In” (Suicide on Strava).   Runs up to Animas Mountain Overlook,  Twin Buttes, and SkiMo’s and Skate Skis up Cascade Divide were high on the frequency list.   If Purgatory Ski Resort would allow Uphill Access? That woulda made things a WHOLE LOT easier ….. and?  Safer for so many like Bert who have to venture into and onto Backcountry Global Warming Weirdness Snows to keep uphill fitness…Uphill Access needs to be policy at every downhill resort/area.  Doing so saves lives, just sayin’.
Durango Herald:
How long did you have to run on Christmas Day to finish with the win?
•  2.25 hours…my daughter Dewachen (13) ran with me.  She wanted to be part of the Project.  She was actually the first general public person to run up the Sky Steps (in 4:21) on our opening day!  She helped me, as a Crew Leader for Durango Trails,  build section 250, just above the midway ditch!
Durango Herald:
With no Winter Warrior 10K, what is the next big goal this year for Ilg?
• Yeah,  had to pull the plug of my beloved Winter Warrior 10k Snowshoe Race this year due to CoVid,  yet?  Have a race or two nearly every weekend.  Today, I won the 5k at Coke Nordic Race #1,  still have Titles to defend at the Southwest Nordic Cup Series which is thankfully still on,  and, still waiting to see if the Grand Traverse is gonna happen;  need to improve my rookie performance at that giant beast of a race!   Yet really?  Just doing what it takes to keep my daughter enjoying skiing and racing with Durango Nordic Team and other special races/training experiences.  Gotta imbed in our young ones’ cells the Sacredness of Cold Sweat and surreal winter beauty!
Durango Herald:
Lastly, if you have any of the photos from you doing this mission without the text written on them that I could use for the story in the paper, let me know if you can share them!
Screen Shot 2020-12-27 at 6.44.48 PM.png
pic by Caroline Eastburn
Feel free to add anything else I left out, too!
• Reckon racing uphill is a metaphor for the Human Race.  There is a reason why Enlightened Yogi’s and the highest spiritual Teachings come from the high mountains of the Himalaya…why the Guru is always found meditating on the mountain top… the higher we climb?  the purer the air, the more intense the Prana (life force).  it’s easier to float downstream than to swim upstream, against the current.  downstream is where the debris accumulates.  up high?  is the realm of the rarified ethers whereupon true Transformation occurs.   as my friend Jamil Coury says, “Run Steep, Get High!”   
head bowed in gratitude,
may our work culminate in inspiring others Higher!
head bowed,
coach ilg

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