The Secret Lives of our 2019 Ambassadors

Have you been wondering who your 2019 Ambassadors are? We asked them to share a lesser known tidbit, and found out everything from childhood nicknames…


Have you been wondering who your 2019 Ambassadors are? We asked them to share a lesser known tidbit, and found out everything from childhood nicknames to side hobbies to past lives.

Conclusion: Our ambassadors are pretty damn rad.

Go on, read for yourselves!

Amanda Schumaier (Auburn, WA): wanted to be a Disney animator when she was younger, and still loves to draw. A ‘long time Disney nerd,’ from time to time you can find Amanda playing Cinderella in remote locations.

Jason Burrell (Demorest, GA): has been spotted at a GoRuck event or two.

Jason Peddycord (Pinkney, MI): makes wine, and can be found passing it around the night before a race. Generous? He thinks of it more as ‘gaining a competitive advantage.’

Seth Longacre (Carlsbad, CA): still remembers his first pair of ‘real’ running shoes, a pair of Onitsuka Tigers that his father bought for him from the Central Park YMCA in New York City. He was 12.

Julie Ward Burges (West Sacramento, CA): has a pet cow named Miracle, which has subsequently rendered Julie a lifetime member of the American Jersey Cattle Association.

Anne Bevilacqua McDonnel (Ridgewood, NJ): was nearly exchanged for a camel in Morocco (more details on that, please!). Her first concert was also New Kids on the Block, where she proudly adorned an “I <3 JOEY” sign.

Jamie Marcellus (Toronto, ON, Canada): used to be a professional curler (with a head of hair to be jealous of).

Elana Stahl (San Diego, CA): shared with us her experience fire walking (scary, but what a rush!).

Alyson Wessells (Detroit, MI): studied classical ballet in early college before changing to biology (which, she thinks contributed to an eagerness to pursue a career with intellectual freedom and creativity).

Lucas Walters (Meadow Lake, SK, Canada): used to be a competitive unicyclist back in the day, specializing in trials riding and downhill unicycling (Chad Hinkle too!).

Lyle Mitchell (Asheville, NC): instructs slackline yoga in his spare time (who wants a lesson!?).

Amy Carrion (Simi Valley, CA): has had Type I Diabetes since the age of 19, and has to run with an insulin pump and glucose monitor. While racing, the glucose monitor will track blood sugar levels connected to her phone so she can make adjustments to her nutrition and insulin levels while on the trail. How amazing is that!?

Kara Clark (Seattle, WA): loves to ‘be a menace on the dodgeball scene.’

Cory Langenbeck (Canton, OH): had the grade school nickname of Podgie, and is still called that when encountering folks from his hometown.

Kelly Hutchins (Paducah, KY): was once out for a run, and came upon a possum doing his No. 2 Business on the trail. They made eye contact, and Kelly still thinks it told him off under its breath.

Sarah Frasier (Queensbury, NY): Wanted to say she’d completed a real OCR, and with no specific OCR training, JUST missed top 10 female elite!

Jason Hardrath (Klamath Falls, OR): has been known to pull on a few rocks.

Jen Laughlin: was a First Team All American soccer player in college. And is a twin!

Jody Nugent Deal (Marysville, CA): is a professional animal lover. She has authored several veterinary anesthesia/medicine journal articles and book chapters, adopts old cats and dogs, and can place an arterial catheter in tiny animals.

Pamela Drotman Broudy (San Diego, CA): Used to be goth (with some serious style, if we don’t say!).  

Sierra Eberly (Seattle, WA): had a pet bear cub when she was a kid.

Maty Dudek (Berlin, Germany): took up Kyokushin-Karate as a young girl, fascinated with Japanese culture. She was the only girl in her Dojo and trained there for 20 years. Maty admits, she still has a strong love for Japan, and has Samurai sword under her bed.

Wayne Smith (Cleobury Mortimer, United Kingdom): was a retained firefighter for about 10 years, and goes by the nickname of ‘Pinhead.’

Janne Simola (Helsinki, Finland): Turned his life around after a few close calls with drugs and alcohol. First he found martial arts, and after a divorce found trail running. The rest is history – and he thanks running for positive influence its had on his recovery.

Ashly Winchester (Chico, CA): went skydiving and bungee jumping on the same day (and probably had enough adrenaline to run three ultras afterward!).

Antti Lepo (Lahti, Finland): wanted to become a comic artist as a kid, and did some graffiti as well. He then realized the profession wasn’t going to pay the bills, but instead take up all his free time. He still draws, but now with pen and paper.

Tanya Giannotti (Normal, IL): was a pastry chef in Chicago in a former life, all the while smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and cringing at the thoughts of outdoor activity (or any physical activity, for that matter!). How times have changed!

Josephine Anselin (Jakarta, Indonesia): Told that she was running a ‘fancy dress’ race, Josephine ran a marathon in her mother’s wedding dress a month before her wedding day. When she showed up, however, everyone else was in lycra!

Jared Zeller (Flagstaff, AZ): loves running trails, but his heart is really pining after summiting mountains. Next up: Denali!

Erika Sherwood (San Diego, CA): is a chilihead. Wondering what that entails? Her and her partner have amassed a hot sauce collection well over 100 bottles, with their own designated mini fridge and a garden of hot peppers in the back.

Blake L Ferguson Jr. (Santa Clara, CA): On a dare in freshman year of high school, he was mascot – The Bouncing Bee (no photo evidence, we regret).

Hilary Spires (Vancouver, BC, Canada) and Roberto Francisco Newton (Hemet, CA): used to spend time in a cage as MMA fighters (we call this… badass).

Matt Zupan (Wildwood, MO): has one twin and one younger sister – and they all have the same birthday.  

John Focke (Minneapolis, MN): once won a Rolling Stones karaoke contest while at the Stones’ tailgate party during the Bridge to Babylon tour.

Claire Spitzer (Denver, CO): is under water when not on land running trails, all in the name of researching fish behavior.

Mark Stockamp (Bend, OR): was once obsessed with golf, and used to wear shorts below the knees with a tucked-in polo every day. He was introduced to running through the sport of speedgolf (ever heard of it? Go check it out!).

Cindy Szu-ying Huang (Canton, MI): does jiujitsu (with a side of some boxing). She also danced with her Zumba homepeeps at the Detroit Pistons half time show for three years.

Brian Troy (Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland): used to play Gaelic Football (American football: Irish version) for a local team called O’Currys.

Brittney Tracey (Sparwood, BC, Canada): Flipped her life as an addict on its head, opting for a life of trail running, hiking, and backpacking.

Stephanie Marie Driscoll (Quincy, CA): was ‘painfully shy and quiet’ before she upped and spent six months alone traveling through Europe and Southeast Asia, doing housework and teaching kids English for room and board. Now, you can’t get her to stop striking up conversations with strangers!

Crista Tappan (Portland, OR): was a psychology researcher for eight years, researching the topics of flow and sports psychology. Fascinated with the topics of trail running and its mental benefits, it suddenly became the topic of her Master’s thesis and she was awarded into a national honours society for her research.

Dave Williams (Troy, MI): was all about the trumpet in high school. He played in the marching, concert AND jazz bands! Jaime Peca: with a nickname of Jimmy, marched right alongside Dave.

Bojan Rejec (Idrija, Slovenia): once played the accordion in a band called Chik’n’Shit. They played a combination of jazz, alternative and metal music.

Carly Flandro (Pocatello, ID): is now an English teacher, but came from a background of newspaper journalism and wildland firefighter. She also has four backyard chickens (which used to be five, before little Nugget was overtaken by the family dog).

Kassandra Marie Volpentesta (Pewaukee, WI): had a completely different career before she starting running.

Megan Beilemeier (Bend, OR): can be found helping change the healthcare landscape in Washington, Oregon, Calafornia, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam as Regional Vice President of her company. In her spare time, she’s trying to find zombie apocalypse or true crime horror films to watch.

Sami Bookout (Lakewood, CO): used to fight and teach Muay Thai kickboxing, and was invited to spar at the top pro gym in Denver (a hard thing to explain to the parents of her kindergarten and first grade students…).

Christopher Flower (La Canada, CA): is better known by the name of Flower, and sometimes even Flower Power, and currently getting a certification in plant-based nutrition.

Marie-Eve Pelland (Stoneham, QC, Canada): used to be a rock star (no big deal).

Mackenzie Johnston (Milburn, NE): or Kenzie, as she goes by, is a fifth generation rancher in the Sandhills of Nebraska, where her and her family have a Red Angus cow calf operation.

Alyssa Salava (Bend, OR): is getting into climbing, which is helping her learn to push through her fears.

Tony Deluca (Pittsburgh, PA): likes running, whiskey, beer, cats, guitars and… hugs! He sometimes responds to the nickname of Goat (among other names that shouldn’t be repeated in polite company).

Brad Park (Orlando, FL): has been running since he was a child, and as a kid, was often running into things which landed him the nickname of ‘Bonkers.’ He’s also won an award in the Robert Frost youth poetry contest (I think we all need to read this!).

Louis Chiasson (Quebec, QC, Canada): is a big ol kid! (And we hope he never changes).

Ben Peterson (Pacifica, CA): also used to be a rockstar (but mostly for the costume parties and dancing…).

Nicole Zanoni (Grantsville, MD): was a Sheriff’s Deputy for a full service department near Baltimore, MD. Her incredible journey has consisted of being a patrol deputy; an academy instructor; a field training officer; a detective; a member of the crime scene unit; and a supervisor of a riot squad.

Renate Cunneen (Whitby, ON, Canada): Has a spectacular success story, coming from an abusive home, dabbling in adult entertainment, and living on the street. She then had a son that brought her into the light, and at 50, she now gets to spend her time speaking at colleges and universities about finding the comfort in discomfort.

Zach Waynick (Loveland, CO): used to run cross-country in high school on a dare, wearing the smallest singlet he could find.

Alex Carrion (Simi Valley, CA): has a twin brother. Alex introduced him to triathalons until he got bored and started dabbling into ultras (his twin brother followed along).

Ana Armstrong Hinz (Seattle, WA): was a drum major in high school. Their marching band won state in her senior year (Go Phantoms!).

Lacey Buchorn (San Antonio, TX): claims she HATED running as a kid (and would often end up in the Dean’s Office for forging excuse notes to get out of phys ed). After a cancer diagnosis in 2008, she decided to ‘go big or go home,’ and will now pay to run ultramarathons. <look for more details>

Bobbi Sawchyn (Hamilton, ON, Canada): Is a crack climbing addict with no crack in Ontario. In an effort to get one, she’s been known to bargain with the owner of her local gym (and start Facebook groups to gain support). So far… no luck. So she travels to Utah at every opportunity instead.

Follow our ambassadors to see what they get up to throughout the year!