Peak performance

Weaverville resident Shiloh Mielke is definitely cut out to be an uphill runner, and he has a world-class VO2 max to prove it: 91.8 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (by way of comparison, Lance Armstrong’s was 85 mililiters in 2005, according to The New York Times).

Wind at his back: Shiloh Mielke, best known as the three-time defending champ of the Shut-In Ridge Run, is a favorite to win this year’s Rock2Rock Trail Run. Courtesy Shiloh Mielke

VO2 max is to mountain running what IQ is to genius. It measures an athlete’s ability to process oxygen during punishing exercise—an essential anatomical function for elite athletes to perform at peak level for uncommonly long intervals. The 28-year-old admits that his overachieving aerobic capacity is probably genetic in origin, but that alone isn’t what makes him the favorite to win the Rock 2 Rock Trail Run at this year’s Mountain Sports Festival.

A former college cross country runner who trains five to six days a week, Mielke is a regular at local running events and may be best known as the three-time defending champion and record holder of the Shut-In Ridge Run. Although he’s been running since he was 13, it was only several years ago, in Colorado, that he found his stride after a friend invited him to a mountain-running competition.

Mountain-running events often follow trails, but what sets them apart from other foot races isn’t length or surface: Typically, the finish line sits atop a precipitous peak, and the uncommonly steep grade of the route is a chief component of the challenge.

“The best way to describe mountain running is going up and down a ski slope,” says Mielke. Despite a so-so finish in that first race, he was hooked, and success soon followed. In 2006 and 2007, Mielke qualified to represent the U.S. at the World Mountain Running Trophy. At last year’s event, held in Switzerland, he placed second among the American competitors and a respectable 37th overall.

Mielke hopes to place in the June 21 USA Mountain Running Championship race on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which would qualify him to return to Switzerland in September for this year’s world championship event. Once there, he hopes to finish among the top 20 of the world’s finest uphill racers. In the meantime, though, he’s perfectly happy exploiting the local oxygen and zeros in on one race at a time.

“I’m much more successful if I focus on short-term goals rather than looking way into the future,” says Mielke. “I’m not running to win [this weekend], but I expect to. I’m as fit as I’ve ever been.”

this is info for box at end

Friday
Rock2Rock Trail Run 10K
5 p.m., Camp Rockmont

Saturday
Kid’s Stampede 1-mile Fun Run
8:15 a.m., Martin Luther King Park

Mission Hospitals Sunset Stampede 10 mile and Wondergirl 5K
9 a.m. to noon, Martin Luther King Park

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