How Ski Mountaineer and Ultra-Runner Ted Mahon Finds Balance
In a competitive town like Aspen, where astounding athletic accomplishments by the locals seem quotidian, Corbeaux athlete Ted Mahon muses on how to make the news…
It was 2002. “I [had just] run the Leadville 100, and actually had to go to work afterwards.” At this time, Ted was at the forefront of one of the most noble of professions: waiting tables. “It landed [me] on the front page of the local newspaper. I guess the challenge of a 100 mile race wasn’t as noteworthy as the fact that I had to go to work afterwards.”
If tremendous physical feats are a normalcy in Aspen, for this waiter / ski instructor / ultra marathoner / mountaineer / National Geographic Adventurer of the year nominee, they seem to be almost habitual. Ted is a fifteen-time finisher at the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, and holds one of the fastest times recorded on the Nolan’s 14 Traverse. He has competed in the Leadville 100, the Wasatch 100, and the Bear 100, as well as holding 8 finishes in the Hardrock 100, and finishes at the 50 mile and marathon distances numbering in the dozens (yes, dozens). He’s summited Denali, Everest, and Ama Dablam (a striking peak in the Himalaya), as well as completing ski descents of the Grand Teton, Rainier, and Gunnbjornfeld (the highest peak in Greenland). It should also be mentioned that in 2015 he completed ski descents of Colorado’s 100 Centennial Peaks, alongside his wife Christy Mahon and Aspen native Chris Davenport.
Yet the key to all of this running and skiing success, Mr. Mahon says, is balance. Just as he found a happy equilibrium between work and play as he transitioned to waiting tables from 100 miles underfoot, so too does Ted find balance throughout his year. “I’ve come to love the changing of activities that reflect the different seasons in a ski town.” Ted believes that this adaptability has enabled him to have such an illustrious running career without injury. “I hit the trails in the summer and ski in the winter. [I’m] still getting out in the mountains, just through different [avenues]. I take half the year off of running and let the joints and muscles recover. Your body appreciates the break.”
“Surprisingly” Ted says, “I’ve also learned that being fast isn’t the only thing that matters.” While outright speed may be reserved for the “younger guys”, he believes that his years of experience have given him a mental advantage come race time. “I’ve learned how to train and race smarter.”
“It’s more year-round maintenance as opposed to sport specific training.” Ted says. “I try to maintain a good aerobic base in the winter through backcountry skiing, skinning, and skimo racing. As spring approaches, I take that base into the ski mountaineering season, and as the snow melts…all I really need to do is start running. The fitness is already there. When summer is done, all of my running takes me right back into winter, and the cycle continues.”
Amidst this romantic seasonal cadence, and his long résumé of mountain feats, when asked about particularly challenging moments, Ted responds humbly that it can all be challenging at times. “Just getting out of bed early to hit the trails on the days you don’t feel like it can be the hardest part of the effort.” However, “if you remind yourself that you’re always psyched once you’re out there, it’s not so bad.” Simple thoughts, that lead to incredible outcomes, reflecting Ted’s belief that lofty targets are achievable provided firm objectives are set along the way.
“I’ve set personal goals and challenges for myself with regard to running and skiing, and I believe they’ve helped shape who I am as a person. I try to encourage people to challenge themselves in similar ways, for they in turn might learn something about themselves they didn’t know.”
So, what will the summer bring? “Two laps of a half marathon course over in Leadville this weekend, just to get miles.” On June 24th, he’ll run in the San Juan Solstice 50-miler, then in the Hardrock 100, a race in the same area that boasts “quite a bit of vertical gain.” “It just endlessly climbs up and down mountains and passes for 100 miles…it’s one of my favorite events of the summer.” It will also be Ted’s 9th time there. Following the Hardrock, it will be on to the Pikes Peak Marathon in August. An event that takes competitors up and down the 14,000 foot mountain. “That” Ted reflects “is a hard one.” Come the fall, Ted says that an attempt to ski the 8,000 meter peak known as Cho Oyu in Nepal is in the works. The details are still being hashed, but it’s looking promising…we’re pretty stoked to see what happens.
Notes from the trail: We asked Mahon which piece of Corbeaux clothing will help him through the summer…
“The Everyday Tee is about as light of a running shirt as you’ll find. Wearing layers that are too heavy out on the trails will only make you sweat more, which in turn means you either become dehydrated faster, or you need to carry and drink more water. It’s better to just dress cool, and the Everyday Tee is perfect for that.”
You can follow the outdoor exploits of Ted and his wife Christy on their blog stuckintherockies.com
– Words and editing by Christian Johansen