Interview with Hillsound Ambassador John Tribbia

 Originally Posted on November 7, 2014

Over the past couple of months Hillsound has been interviewing our stellar team of brand ambassadors- finding out what events they’ve been competing in and what drives their passion for the outdoors and their chosen sports. This week we got the opportunity to have a chat with our ambassador, John Tribbia, after his very successful finish in the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series 2014. Here’s the interview in full:

H: Hi John! Congratulations for ranking first in the overall US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series 2014! What an incredible achievement! How do you feel?

J:Thanks! With a full-time job and a family, I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to race this summer, let alone travel to many races. But, I chose selectively and had one goal: to win the overall series. Thanks to my wife, son, and dog (who make the best travel companions) I did get to travel with them to Colorado and Montana to race two of the three Vertical Kilometer races in the US Skyrunner Series. I was very happy with my performances at both (1st overall in Colorado and 7th overall in Montana against a world class field of competitors). I felt like I got the most out of myself in both of those races and that (to me) is the highest goal to attain in any endeavor.

H: Could you briefly explain to our readers what a ‘vertical kilometer’ race is?

J: A vertical kilometer is a race over mountainous terrain that must ascend 1,000 meters in elevation in under 5 kilometers in distance. If you are thinking to yourself “that’s steep”, well, you’re right! It’s a painfully simple design.

H: What drove you to start competing – what was the decision process like for your first ever race?

J: Good question! I actually started racing road bikes and mountain bikes in high school before I started running (before that I played baseball). I liked being outside and just pushing my limits. Though, I wasn’t technically savvy on a bike, but I had pretty good aerobic engine. It was my college roommate, Jimmy O’Dea, who helped me get into running and racing. He was on the track and cross-country teams and would let me tag along on his easy training days. I liked it and kept at it. By the Spring of my Freshman year, I was running and racing on the team, chasing Jimmy! After college, I turned to the trails and mountains, doing a lot of local/regional races in Colorado. After I started improving, I did races across the nation and internationally.

H: Other than ski mountaineering and endurance running, are there any other sports you enjoy? Any college sports you were a part of?

J: I love ping pong and baseball. I was on the track and cross-country team in college for a few years, but got injured some. I tried a triathlon and realized how poorly I swim against those athletes.

H: So, John (or should I say Doctor Tribbia!)- you graduated with a PhD in Environmental Sociology and explored how climate change affects the US metropolitan areas. You also volunteer your time in conserving Park City Utah’s trails. That’s a lot of time and effort dedicated to the environment and the outdoors! What fuels this strong passion of yours?

J: Oh wow, another great question! I can only speak for myself, but it does seem most mountain and trail athletes have an affinity for the outdoors, nature, and conserving the environment. Even before I began running, I was always involved in some sort of activity having to do with environmental conservation – be it service projects, attending water conservation workshops, research, etc. I blame it on being a native of Boulder, Colorado, which is notorious for its history in perpetuating the “Green” movement. Now that I have a 1 year old son, I also want him to enjoy the same natural experiences I enjoyed growing up and continue to enjoy. He and I go jogging every day in our stroller and we’re always going on hikes in the trails.

H: I bet a strictly healthy lifestyle is a must when it comes to training for big races. What sort of plan/diet do you try to keep to? Any guilty pleasures?

J: I’m so boring and my wife will confirm that. I eat almost the same thing every day. For sure, I always have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich once per day, sometimes two or three times. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. I eat a lot of chocolate and always make sure to have coffee or tea in the morning. Oh yeah, I have a bowl of cereal before I go to bed each night. Did I mention the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Those are staple. Guilty pleasures? Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter sandwiches.

H: What are some of your favourite songs to get pumped up to before/while running?

J: “Take it Easy” by The Eagles

H: What’s your morning routine before a race? (You don’t need to reveal your personal secrets!)

J: This one is a new routine to me in the past year…

Wake up. Feed the dog. Turn on some coffee. Get baby from bed and feed, change, dress him. Drink coffee all the while. Eat a piece of toast with (surprise!) peanut butter and jelly. Brush my teeth. Get a piece of gum to chew on. Get to race start. Pick up race bib number. Pin it on singlet. Go for a light 20 minute warm-up jog on the course. Do some running drills. Drink some water. Put on race shoes. Take a deep breath and… Go!

H: Being from Utah, and having studied in Colorado, you must have gotten out a lot to run on many different trails! What are some of your favourites?

J: There’s a trail in Boulder, Colorado that goes up Bear Peak through Fern Canyon. That’s my favorite. It is basically a vertical kilometer and good to train on. Similarly, I live at the base of Grandeur Peak in Salt Lake City, which has a 3,000+ foot climb in under 2.5 miles. Another perfect place to train and practice.

H: You must have met so many different people across the years at various races. Any familiar faces throughout the VK Series?

J: There were some new faces, but I always like seeing my friend Rickey Gates at the races. The best thing about Mountain Running is that there is a great community of people. Every race is a nice reunion.

H: It’s such a feat of endurance just to partake in this series. Not only did you complete the series but you came out on top! In what ways was this particular series challenging? Would you say it was rewarding in the end?

J: Getting to the start-line is always the most challenging things. Injuries, travel logistics, scheduling challenges, and the like can prevent you from getting to the start. If you get there, the rest is simple: go as fast as you possibly can until the finish. Thankfully, I got to travel to two key races in the series with my family.

H: What does “competition” mean to you?

J: Competition, to me, is about getting the most out of myself, whatever the circumstances. It’s about looking back after a race and relishing the moments you did all that you could to run/race your best on that day. It’s about making improvements each day. The people you race against are there to help you get the most out of yourself and improve.

H: Thank you for your time John! We can’t wait to hear from you about your next event!

J: Thank you! And thanks for the support… I keep looking out the window to check for snow on the mountains so I can strap on some Hillsound Trail Crampon Ultras and go up Grandeur Peak!

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