Below is a guest post from Joel Stanford in Austin, Texas. Joel was the lucky winner of our New Balance contest to meet and run with Anton Krupicka in our hometown of San Luis Obispo, CA. We all felt fortunate to have Joel in attendance, and want to again extend a big thank you to everyone who helped to make this event possible – New Balance, Ultimate Direction, Joel Wolpert, and many, many others including Tony himself.
Almost immediately when I met Jason (of New Balance) and Erik (of Running Warehouse) at the airport I was asked if I’d like to go for a run before touring Running Warehouse’s facilities. I’d just spent 3 1/2 hours sitting on planes and had been filled with deep runner-lust while looking at the golden brown mountains and hills surrounding San Luis Obispo as the plane dropped into the airport, so of course the answer was yes!
After donning a graciously supplied New Balance running tee, shorts, and fresh pair of 1400 V2s, Erik, Jason and I went for our first run together – an 8 miler at Johnson Ranch. The mixture of singletrack and fire roads in a stunning setting really helped drive home how lucky and privileged I was to be on this adventure.
After we got back, nothing really prepared me for the tour of Running Warehouse. The facility is absolutely huge! Moving through the retail operations we went to to the warehouse (yes, Running Warehouse is literally a warehouse) where I was shown how the computerized inventory, packing process, and shipping process all tie together. I imagine that just about every runner could appreciate this paradise of the best running inventory on Earth stretching out before them. Shoes, accessories, apparel, and nutrition were neatly filed away across two floors with numbers guiding order fetchers to their goods.
Everything looked to be extremely efficient and it is no surprise that they are able to ship orders so fast. After visiting the warehouse we went upstairs to see the offices where all of the web magic happens. Buyers, designers, retail workers,and photographers alike – every single person was exceedingly friendly and clearly knowledgeable and passionate about what they do.
After work, I snagged a meal and an 805 beer at Firestone in downtown SLO with several folks from New Balance and RW. The perfect end to a busy day!
Saturday morning, Jason and Erik took me out to Montaña de Oro State Park for a good bit of proper mountain and canyon running. Our run took us along Bluff Trail and Coon Creek up to the top of Oats Peak before we dropped back down gradually to our starting point for a total of about 11 miles.
The scenery was absolutely fantastic. I found myself transfixed by the tiny coves, sheer mountainsides, novel vegetation, and bird life. We simply don’t have scenery like that in Texas (but we have our own charms, of course!). It’s one of those places where, once you’ve filled your memory with the sights you want to close your eyes and go back there mentally. The only terror inducer was the constant lurking threat of Poison Oak which seemed to be not-so coyly looking to cop a feel of our thighs and ankles. Regardless, I can’t wait to make a return to the park to explore more of what it has to offer.
That evening when Jason and I arrived for the screening of In the High Country I finally got to meet Tony Krupicka and Joel Wolpert, who had arrived in town a bit earlier. I initially felt a bit in shock at meeting both the runner I find so inspiring and the filmmaker whose work on runners I have long deeply admired (if you haven’t already, check out http://thewolpertinger.com for a collection of his films). Over 150 people filled the screening room after they met Tony and had posters signed. Before the film started, I enjoyed talking with Tony, Joel, Buzz of Ultimate Direction, Monica (a New Balance rep), and Running Warehouse employees.
I also kept on finding myself drawn to a table of sample shoes where some pairs of New Balance 00 V2 Trail kept inviting me to indulge in shoe-lust and in dreams of utilizing that sticky rubber outsole for downhill bombs on scree-covered slopes. I noticed that Tony also seemed to be gravitating to that table and those shoes (he hasn’t been sent prototypes in his size yet).
Soon enough we all settled into our seats and the film started. It was really great to see it on the big screen. Not only is the footage of the Rockies and Anton ravishingly beautiful and compelling, but the film is meditative and almost impressionistic in its small exploration of what makes Tony tick. The film sheds light on how someone from Nebraska came to become so deeply emotionally and physically enmeshed with the wilds of Colorado. Following the film, Erik led a Q&A session, which included my own question (how he deals with failure) before opening it up to the audience.
The next morning I got to indulge in the crowning event of my stay as contest winner – a morning run with Anton and a great group of people that included locals, Running Warehouse staff, and some who had driven in from more distant locales. The run took us down Poly Canyon Road, which was not only visually riveting but smooth and rolling – like the best bread and butter sort of running places are. Everyone moved about the packs to get a chance to talk to Anton and to Joel and after an all-too-short 4.3 miles, we were back at the start. Tony generously stuck around and signed more autographs and chatted it up with everyone, including me. Later in the morning Jason, Monica, and I joined Joel and Tony for a late breakfast/early lunch. I could not have asked for a better group of folks to have a meal with.
My happiness meters were essentially pegging into indescribable the entire time I was in San Luis Obispo. I’m still in shock that I won this and that I was able to partake in all the amazing events and sights and experiences that I did. Of course, getting to meet and hang out with the ever-inspiring Anton and the talented Mr. Wolpert just made it all the more special. Thank you so very much to Jason and Monica of New Balance (who generously sponsored my travel, stay and meals), Erik and Tera of Running Warehouse, and of course the entire RW crew for making me feel so welcome. It was some of the best fun I’ve had, and I owe all of you a debt of gratitude.