Meet Helen Cospolich, a well-known endurance runner, member of the elite North Face Endurance Team and a proud Breckenridge local. Originally from Boulder, Helen did a short stint on the East Coast attending the University of Virginia as D-1 collegiate rower on their top-ranked Lightweight Rowing Team. A chance to coach rowing on Lake Dillon brought Helen back to Summit County years ago and since then she has been happy to call Breckenridge her permanent home.
We caught up with Helen to talk about some of her past running accomplishments and to see what big events she has coming up.
How did you first fall in love with running?
For as long I can remember I have loved to run. I raced the Bolder Boulder starting at age 6 and always loved running around in the woods as a child. I didn’t start running competitively until after college, though, and started running ultra races (longer than marathon distance) about 10 years ago.
To date, what is your proudest accomplishment? Sports related or otherwise.
I think I am most proud of winning the Leadville 100 in 2008. I had a solid race in tough conditions and was really pleased to pull off a win at one of the most well-known 100-milers in the country. I’m also proud of placing 6th overall in a strong international field at last year’s (2011) Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 166K. And of course I’m proud to be the mom of an amazing 6-year-old and the wife of a wonderful husband.
What does a typical training day look like for you?
During the work week, I typically run before work and again at lunchtime, sometimes adding a strength workout at the end of the day. On weekends, I’ll put in my long runs, which can be up to 35 or 40 miles and often back to back (30 miles one day, 20 miles the next). I peak at about 100 miles of running for a week.
How do you balance work, play and training?
I have a very busy schedule, so it helps that I’m a planner by nature. In order to fit everything in and have time for family and shuttling my daughter to her activities (dance, violin, snowboarding, art), I have to be very organized and be ready to train at odd hours (early mornings, late nights) to make it all work. On the weekends, it’s not unusual for me to get up as early as 3am to fit in my long run and be back in time to spend the rest of the day with my family. I have a pretty predictable work schedule, so that helps me plan it all as well. My family travels to my races with me as vacations and they’ve been able to see some amazing places as a result.
Do you have any races coming up?
I race quite frequently through the summer months, mostly in Colorado, Utah and California. My races range in distance from 50K (32 miles) to 100 miles. In addition, my focus this year is on the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc 166K (105 miles) in France in August. My goal is to make the podium at that event, which attracts a top international field. I am lucky to be sponsored by The North Face as a member of their Endurance Team for the last 3 years. With their support, I have traveled around the United States to race, and to Europe and South America as well. Next year I plan to race the Ultra Trail Mont Fuji in Japan in the spring.
What’s your favorite place to run or hike around Breckenridge?
I absolutely love the Breckenridge Crest Mountain Marathon course, which traverses the Ten Mile Range above Breckenridge and follows the Wheeler, Peaks and Colorado trails. It’s incredibly beautiful and has amazing views. It’s high altitude trail running at its finest. We are lucky to have that in our backyard.
Favorite local hangout?
I’m a coffee lover, so my favorite local hangout spot is Cuppa Joe. I love their coffee and it’s a great atmosphere for relaxing and enjoying the view of the mountains (check out Cuppa Joe on Ridge Street).
Best Breckenridge memory?
Running the trails around Breckenridge on early mid-summer mornings, with flowers blooming in the crisp, cool air. It’s the most beautiful time of year here and I love it more than anywhere else.