The Woman Behind Spectrum Trail Racing: An Interview with Mallory Brooks

This is our second race director interview in our fall series. If you missed our first with Chris McWatters of Tejas Trails, you can read that here: https://austintrailrunning.com/2019/09/17/whats-it-like-to-be-a-race-director-an-interview-with-chris-mcwatters-of-tejas-trails/

Spectrum Trail Racing, located here in Austin, offers a unique and fun trail running experience in the Texas Hill Country. Mallory and her husband Jason own and operate the business. Now in their fourth year as race directors, Mallory manages to juggle being a great mom, ambitious athlete and business owner, all the while making it look pretty easy.

ATRC:  When did you first consider directing races? How did you get started?

Mallory: For many years, I tried to run anything and everything that Joe Prusaitis directed. In 2013, my husband’s job took our family of three to the Pacific Northwest, where we got to experience James Varner’s trail races. It inspired us to think about what a race would look like if we blended the two and added our own flare. When we moved back to Texas a couple years later, we called Joe to collaborate. Turns out, he was considering selling his race company. Although we didn’t end up buying it, I realized that this was where I wanted to focus my energy: on bringing a new energy and style to the Texas trail running scene. In 2015, we launched a series of big-loving, crazy races under the direction of Spectrum Trail Racing.

ATRC: What’s the funniest experience you’ve had race directing?

Mallory: Oh, geeze…so many funny things have happened. At one of our races, the aid station was stolen the night before the race. We sent one of our all star volunteers, Brandon Batiansila, out there to work the aid station. When he arrived and realized there was nothing there, he just assumed we were taking the minimalist route, I guess, so he took off his shoe, set it in the middle of the trail and encouraged runners to jump over it. They all thought it was so hilarious, they hardly noticed there was no nutrition there!

Another funny story comes from last year’s Circus 12-hour race, which is made up of three small loops that the runners repeat. It started pouring during the race and every time a runner came back in from a loop, they’d let us know that there was a new water crossing. The first guy said it was up to his ankles. Five minutes later, a lady crosses and says it is up to her calf. It went on and on until one guy said, the water was up to his neck. Needless to say, we immediately closed off that loop. We are a running race, but at that point, we had become a mud skiing and deep water crossing race.

ATRC: What makes race directing special for you?

Mallory: I equally love the chaos and the quiet. The energy of race day is unparalleled, between the nerves and excitement. Welcoming a runner into the finish line is the highlight of race directing. On the other end of the spectrum, I thoroughly love the quiet moments of marking or taking down the course. I think about all of the memories that are about to be made out there. I think about all of the hard work these runners have put into their training. It’s a time for me to think “alright, you’ve done everything you can to make this race amazing…it’s almost go time”.

ATRC: What has been the hardest aspect of race directing that you did not expect?

Mallory: I knew that racers would be frustrated when they didn’t meet a cut-off, but I didn’t expect that they would be furious at me. One guy who missed a cut off went to one of our volunteers and yelled “you can tell the race director to shove this timing chip up his ass”. The volunteer took the chip from the angry racer and politely said “okay, but it’s HER ass, just to be clear”.

ATRC: If you could run one more course/trail in the world, where would it be?

Mallory: I’m such a creature of habit, so it would probably be the Wonderland Trail. It just feels like home to me.

ATRC: If you could organize a race anywhere in the US, where would it be and why?

Mallory: If politics and logistics weren’t a factor, I’d host a race on the John Muir Trail. All 222 miles of it. editors note: YESSSSSS

ATRC: What do you love about the Austin and Hill Country running community?

Mallory: I love the tight-knit community. We range in age, speeds, preferred distances….but we all tend to love to sit around a campfire and share a beer. We have some of the most amazing, big-hearted trail blazers in the world. At Spectrum, we work to keep the Texas trail running scene from being divisive or exclusive. I’m hoping that fellow race directors decide to join us in that.

ATRC: What is your favorite non-running book?

Mallory:  The Hidden Life of Trees By Peter Wohlleben This book gives you a whole new appreciation for the trees we frequently blaze past. They are immensely complex and have far more communication between them than I had ever thought possible. Oh, and…. What Do You Do With An Idea? By Kobi Yamada. The story, which is intended for kids, is of a child’s brilliant idea. At first, others question it. As the child’s confidence grows, so does the idea. It ends with the lesson, “What do you do with an idea? You change the world.” I read it to my 7 year old son every few weeks to remind us both.

ATRC: You also train, have a family, run a business, and are all around awesome! So over the years of juggling everything, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips on setting boundaries?

Mallory: This is the best question and something I am constantly trying to work on: balance. As everyone does, I wish I have 5 more hours in the day to get everything done. Since I can’t reconstruct Earth’s rotation, I have found a way to multi-task and overlap nearly everything. My husband, Jason, and I have “working workout meetings” where we talk shop and work on mobility/stability. When I’m nearing a big goal, I meet friends for coffee rather than cocktails and I take my son out to the Hill of Life rather than a movie. I’ve learned that turning off your phone or disconnecting from social media is hard for the first day or so, but it becomes super refreshing after that. I’ve deleted nearly every toxic person from those threads. I want to be inspired by others, not left questioning whether or not I look like them or have the money/time that they do.

ATRC: What is one thing people probably don’t know about you?

Mallory: I refuse to use a digital scheduler/calendar. I’m old school and write everything down. Pen to paper is the only way to go.

ATRC: What is your favorite book you’ve read in the last 6 months? 

Mallory: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. I studied psychology at the University of Colorado for four years and left there with a growing curiosity to learn more about the brain. This book is a great look into the self-perpetuating cycle of our behaviors and how to move towards correcting bad habits. 

ATRC: Mallory sent me her responses after finishing up a busy weekend of race directing out at the Davis Mountains, so thank you Mallory for this! I loved your tips, insight and honesty. Books are already on hold at the Library.

You can learn more about Spectrum here: https://www.spectrumtrailracing.com/
Finally, their upcoming race calendar is:
  • October 12th: “We Will Not Be Tamed”, Kronkosky State Natural Area
  • November 2nd: “Wonderland”, Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area
  • December 14th: “The Circus”, McKinney Roughs Nature Park
  • January 25th, 2020: “Goodwater”, Russell Park, Lake Georgetown
  • February 22nd: “Aurora”, Lost Maples State Natural Area
  • April 18th: “The Game”, last man standing style race

You can follow Mallory on Instagram at @hilloflife and Spectrum Trail Racing @spectrumtrail.

 

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