Our positive running story this time is on a 21 year old runner from Salt Lake City, UT, , Tayte Pollmann. Tayte is a Nike team elite trail runner, a recent graduate of the University of Portland, and a Project Ambassador for the American Trail Running Association. I was fortunate to meet Tayte at the Summer OR recently in Denver, and was super impressed with his maturity and passion for all things trail and mountain running! (Tayte is pictured above at OR with Nancy Hobbs from ATRA, and the author.) We asked Tayte if we could interview him and share his positive running story – here is the result of our interview:
Can you share with everyone a brief background on your running career to date?
I began running in middle school with my dad who was training for ultra marathons. We’d go for Sunday long runs together in the foothills of Boise, Idaho. I remember in my sophomore year of high school we were running up to 3 and a half hours together and I was beginning to drop him on the steep climbs. It was then I discovered my strength in running for long distances in the hills.
In college, I ran cross country for the University of Portland. I was lucky to have an amazing coach who supported me to continue training for trail running because he knew how much I loved it. I raced the Moab Trail Marathon as a redshirt freshman during the cross country season! Overall, Portland gave me a phenomenal group of athletes and coaches to train with and my running skyrocketed. It was here my dreams of running professionally began and now thanks to Nike this came true!
What do you enjoy most about running?
It’s a combination of adventure and the feeling of complete focus. I love to get on a trail in the mountains and just go up. There’s always a lake, a peak, or a cool group of mountain goats to find and I like the freedom of running wherever I chose. Running also helps me focus. Running up a steep climb, for example, the only thought in my head is “go up.” I enjoy this peace of mind where there are no distractions and only the goal to keep moving.
What have been the biggest factors that have helped you improve your running, both from a performance and experience perspective?
First, the great runners and coaches I’ve trained with. Second, the incredible mountains who humble me! First, I think of how much I improved when I arrived in Portland. My team of dedicated athletes gave me a stronger work ethic and passion for running. The people I met convinced me that the running life was something I wanted for myself. I knew I’d be wearing short-shorts for a long time! Secondly, the mountains themselves have improved my mental and physical strengths. I feel there’s always something unexpected that happens when running mountains. You can train all the time in the mountains, but there will always be times when no training can prepare you for a storm, a steep scree field, or massive boulders you didn’t expect. Experience in the mountains is the best way to improve running mountains and even then they always have more to teach you!
You are currently dealing with an injury. How difficult do you find it to make sure you treat yourself well and make sure you are healed and ready to run again rather than jump forward and re-injure yourself?
My biggest dilemma with this injury has been that I’ve tried to deny I had an injury. I’ve felt pain in my left heel/achilles since November 2017. Despite this pain, my running goals remained strictly focused on continuing to train and race, as opposed to heal. I realized this was not healthy because I was starting to lose enjoyment in my running and I was not considering how pushing through the pain was affecting my long term goal of consistently improving. Now, however, all of my focus is on healing. When I set my mind to something, I’m all in. I’m confident that now I’ll heal and be right back to running where I was soon. I have no fears of re-injuring myself, but I do intend to make sure that when I’m running I will be fully enjoying it. Right now, I imagine what running happy feels like and that is the feeling I intend to have everyday from now on.
You are a young runner in a sport that is dominated by older runners. What do you think needs to change in order for more runners your age to be participating in trail and mountain running, and what role could you play in this?
This is one of my most important goals: to get my generation on the trails! I’ve traveled to small mountain villages in Italy, France, Poland, and Wales and I’ve seen mountains all across the western USA. Not to mention I’m traveling to India next October for the 110K Malnad Ultra and afterwards I’ll be going into the Himalayas. My hope is that my adventurous spirit will inspire people my age to want to do the same. I want kids to say “Tayte made the US junior mountain running team when he was 18, I can too. Tayte is traveling to the coolest mountains in the world and chilling with mountain goats, why can’t I?”
You are an elite athlete on the Nike trail team. How long have you been with them, and what is it like to be running for a major manufacturer at this stage in your career?
I signed on with Nike after my win last summer at the 2017 Broken Arrow 52K Skyrace. Since then it’s felt like a childhood dream come true. When I was little, I had a passion for tennis and I remember saying that someday I would go as far as I could in the sport and win Wimbledon. I may not have won Wimbledon, but I’m still nurturing my childhood passion to make it to the professional level of athletics. Winning the world mountain running championships is my new Wimbledon dream!
You have recently been trying out a new app, activacuity. The app provides daily guided imagery sessions that empowers focus, confidence, athletic experience & performance, creating new positive neural pathways that leaves self destructive thinking behind.What have you liked best about the app content so far, and why is imagery important for athletes of all levels?
So far, I particularly enjoyed the “Clearing Your Mind” section of the app. I liked the idea of being an observer of your own thoughts because this is an effective way to become aware of negative thoughts and feelings. I’ve been practicing observing my thoughts. For example, “You’re injured. What if you don’t heal as quickly as expected?”. Instead of owning this thought, I simply observe it, and I can let it pass by until I have positive thoughts. As for the importance of guided imagery, it’s in my routine of daily training. I imagine myself running quickly and effortlessly , which is practice for my mind to achieve that feeling when I actually go out for my runs. If you practice feeling perfect and fast in your mind, then your mind will be conditioned to think that way when you run. It’s amazing how a strong mind can lead the body to exceptional performances! Mind training and physical training both improve my runs.
I recall reading that you were impressed when Alex Nichols went past you on a downhill stretch during a race, and how light and fast he was on his feet. You said that you implemented using the same technique for your own running after this. How did you enable this to happen? Did you imagine running with light fast feet downhill before you actually started running that way?
Firstly, you should know that before Alex came along, I was in a poor mental state during this section of the course. I felt uncomfortable on the downhill running over a seemingly endless pile of uneven, jagged rocks. I was pushing with all my strength, yet I felt like I was moving so slow and I was losing time to everyone else. When Alex came by, I was able to snap myself out of this negative thinking pattern by focusing on moving gracefully and quickly like him. I imagined myself moving like Alex, which kept my mind occupied until I realized that I was starting to pick up speed. Once that happened, I started thinking positively and I was actually moving faster than I ever thought I could on that downhill.
Can you share one thing about Tayte that no one would know by looking at you?
Wherever I go I carry a tiny bottle of high quality extra virgin olive oil. I love olive oil so much! I put it on everything from giant salads to ice-cream.
What are your professional and personal goals for the rest of 2018, and beyond?
Right now, my goal is to heal and feel 110%. I also hope to inspire runners with my weekly articles for the American Trail Running Association and to support the awesome people in our trail running community!
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