New ultra runner embraces UTMB quest
Around the time he turned 30, David Trow received bad news from a cardiologist. The doctor explained that Trow had neurocardiogenic syncope, a condition that affects the heart's ability to pump the correct amount of blood.
Faced with needing a pacemaker, Trow “felt scared and uncertain about the future —not just in regard to running, but how I would live my life.”
Running has been a part of Trow’s life since he was a child. He ran through the woods as a child. Ran on the soccer field. And sprinted around a track.
“I have always loved to run,” he says. “It’s been over the past eight to 10 years that I’ve become more involved and passionate about trail running For me, time on the trail is real, grounding, and even liberating. Every run is a mini adventure that can be pure fun or a grueling, extensive test of endurance or, more often than not, a combination of both of these. In either case, I crave it and find accomplishment after each and every run.”
After the diagnosis, not only did he reconnect with running, the sport helped him.
“As I learned how to live with this, I found ways to do better than get by, I learned how to thrive,” Trow explains. “I found that stimulating my heart and pushing my endurance levels actually helped my condition. This time, running was life giving. It became more and more a staple in my life, and as I developed into a stronger runner, I decided to pursue one of the ultimate tests of endurance and take the leap into ultra running.”
His leap has landed him among those lining up this summer at Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). The epic 100-mile ultra marathon takes runners on a journey that circumnavigates Mont Blanc, passing through France, Switzerland and Italy.
“Running the UTMB had become a dream of mine after watching it stream live for two to three years prior,” he says. “I was in awe of what these men and women were doing, setting out to run through these magnificent mountain ranges of Europe. I’m not sure exactly how the connection was made, but I realized that my birthday and the timing of the race were very close and decided, ‘Why not?’ I’m going to figure out how to run the UTMB for my 40th birthday!”
And this year, he will indeed be at the starting line of UTMB.
The heart of an ultra runner
When Trow started running, it was an individual endeavor “that had as much to do with my mental and spiritual health as it did with my heart’s,” he says. But during his journey he’s realized that ultra running is actually a team sport.
“My coach (Josh Arthur) has provided guidance and preparation, friends have traveled and supported logistics through the race, and I’ve seemingly been embraced by the running community as strangers offered their help and became good friends,” Trow says.
With his team in place, Trow committed to a year of sacrifice, training and effort. He finished three qualifying ultras in Arizona, British Columbia, and Oregon, achieving his my dream and obtained entry into UTMB.
First up was the Whiskey Baskin 88K.
“It went better than expected and offered a huge learning curve and hint of what to expect as distances increased over the next two events,” Trow says. “Then forest fires swept the Northwest and impacted the lives of many in the area, but also my next test in the NUT100K which was cancelled at the last minute.”
Undeterred, Trow coordinated a trip to British Columbia and ran the Black Spur 108K.
“This was an awakening of the toll an ultra can have on a runner’s body,” he recalls. “The course dropped in and out of a ski resort in a series of three loops that were repeated. I wasn’t used to charging down such steep terrain and by the fifth loop my quads were toast.”
Trow finished but faced a longer recovery time, which didn’t allow for much training for the final test — his first 100-miler at the Mountain Lakes 100 in Oregon.
“It was incredibly memorable and incredibly valuable in setting a foundation to my ultra running knowledge and experience,” he says. “This race was also a hobble to the finish due to my legs still thrashed from B.C. But, I crossed the finish line in the final hour of cutoff!”
While Trow obtained enough points to qualify for the UTMB lottery, he knew the odds were against him. Since he had accumulated enough points, he had another option.
“I discovered the opportunity of a solidarity bib, where a runner is allowed to make a charitable donation after meeting the other qualifications and bypass the lottery,” he explains. “After seeing that one of the choices was Soutien Orphelinat Pangala I was thrilled at the idea of being able to support this French orphanage and ensure my entry into the UTMB. I have a personal passion for organizations that work with children as I spent many summers as a counselor at Kanuga, a Christian-based boys and girls camp in North Carolina. Some of the best memories of my life were created there."
Now that he is preparing to run mountains in Europe, the Denver resident relishes the fact the he routinely runs at elevation.
“I’m fortunate to live in Colorado where trails are everywhere and am already at 5,000-6,000 feet above sea level before even venturing up into the high country,” he says. “With a full-time job in real estate it’s been tough to commit to consistent runs with meaningful miles.”
He runs about five days a week with a mix of short 45-60 minute runs to longer four-hour runs that sometimes focus on vertical gain. “I also mix in three to four workouts at Fierce45, an aggressive version of pilates in a studio, group class setting. It’s the perfect cross trainer for me, offering a full body workout with zero impact.”
‘Crushing lows, euphoric highs’
As a relative ultra newcomer, Trow is thankful for Arthur’s support. “In regards to training, Josh has been a phenomenal coach. His experience in competing in ultras along with his patience for a newbie has been clutch.”
After UTMB, Trow lists other bucket-list races. “As I become more involved in the running community I’ve started to make a list of races beyond UTMB that I’d love to participate in,” he says. “They range from the local favorites of Leadville and Never Summer to the HURT 100 in Hawaii and R2R2R of the Grand Canyon. Then maybe, I’ll throw my name in the hat for some coveted races like Hardrock and Western States.”
Trow has come a long way from the cardiologist appointment a decade ago. As he counts down to fulfilling his dream of UTMB this year, Trow also offers encouragement to others looking to achieve their dreams.
“For others who are in awe of this crazy ultra running experience as I was, I’d tell them to go for it!,” he says. “Be smart about it, but believe you can do it. Your mental belief in yourself has to be engrained in your heart. It’s truly what will carry you to the finish line after your legs and body are thrashed. Very few things in life will offer the crushing lows and euphoric highs of completing an ultra.”
Name: David Trow
Hometown: I’m originally from Ocala, Fla., but now call Denver my home and am planting roots to stay.
Number of years running: Competitively only two, but I’ve been running nearly all my life starting with soccer when I was 6 years old.
How many miles a week do you typically run: 30-50 miles
Point of pride: Hmm, not sure about this one.
Favorite race distance: Still being determined, but 100 miles is most appealing to me.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Apple cinnamon oatmeal.
Favorite piece of gear: Sunglasses. If I’m wearing sunglasses then it means I’m outside on the trail, likely with the sun beaming down on me.
Favorite or inspirational song to listen to: Mamma Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J
Favorite mantra or inspirational phrase: "My race, my pace” and "I have more to give."
Where can other runners connect: Instagram at dct8