Ultra Trails of Lake Tahoe – Interview with the race director, Mr. Charles Sheya!

The mountains are strange places. They are so hard to conquer yet they give joy to everyone being there. It’s true! During my last trips outside Greece I can’t help but notice it more and more! Either you hike, run or scramble over these rocky giants there is no chance to feel like you lost your time without a reason. It may seem pointless to waste half a day to reach a summit but it’s not. On the contrary, being in the mountains worth every single minute and a lot of us already know it. In the end none of us is disappointed, no long faces, just bright smiles and happy people! Sadly, our daily routines prevent us from visiting those iconic places and most of the times we end up looking for a really good reason to start a new trip.



Hopefully, we’ve got people, like Charles Sheya, who never forget of us trail runners. They know how to keep us motivated and excited and most of the times they are the real reason that forces us to spend hours and hours training and logging miles. Charles has an unquenchable thirst for creating new trail races. It’s his way of pleasing others and I can, honestly, say that he is very talented at what he does! How else could I explain to you the fact that he is already in charge of five trail race festivals and is now organizing a sixth one that is about to become one of the best all over the world?


We - at Advendure - are trying to support people that never stop dreaming and who are always full of ambitions! In return we ask from them to explain to the rest of us how they manage to be so creative. That’s why we are hosting, today, the race director of the inaugural Ultra Trails Lake Tahoe race festival, Charles Sheya!


[Advendure]: Hello Charles, we are very happy to have you together with us in this exclusive interview mostly about the “Ultra Trails Lake Tahoe” race but also about yourself. Let’s start by asking who you are and how you got involved into trail races. People may know you across the Atlantic, in the United States, but on the other side of the ocean we have never heard of you or of “Epic Endurance Events”. So please, introduce yourself.

[Charles Sheya]: First, I want to thank you and Advendure for supporting my vision of creating a mountain trail festival here in the U.S, similar to what you have in Europe like UTMB! My friends call me Chaz, I have been fortunate to find my true passion of dreaming up and bringing epic events to all trail runners.


[Advendure]: “Epic Endurance Events” is a series of several trail races. There are all sorts of distances from 25K to 50 milers and 100K, not to mention that one of them offers a golden ticket for the prestigious “Western States Endurance Run”. So, was there really a need for another trail race? What lead you to organize the “Ultra Trails of Lake Tahoe”? Please reveal your thoughts about “UTLT”.

[Charles Sheya]: I believe the U.S. has plenty of great races, but nothing that brings all the world here to experience the beauty of the Sierras and Lake Tahoe, with multiple events, so runners of all abilities can join in the festival.



[Advendure]: Are you the only one behind the “UTLT” project and “Epic Endurance Events” or are there others that worth mentioning? Please, tell us how difficult is it for you to organize such kind of events all year round?

[Charles Sheya]: My team is the best, Abbey Drake can do everything, I dream it and she makes it happen. Sean Flanagan is dedicated to perfection and it shows in our runners post-race comments, Pete Broomhall is our IT guru and we have more behind the scenes like Diane Frederic doing graphics and website.


[Advendure]: One thing that I remember, when interviewing Graig Thornley, race director of “Western States Endurance Run”, was that, due to American laws, only a specific number of runners are allowed, each year, to register for the race in order to preserve the trails. You mentioned before that your dream is to make the “UTLT” race festival part of the “Ultra Trail World Tour” calendar but in order to get that done you need to attract a big number of athletes from around the globe. So, is it going to be as hard as the “Western States Endurance Run” lottery to register for “UTLT”? Are there going to be any restrictions? Can you explain this?

[Charles Sheya]: We are limited to 400 runners as of now by the US Forest Service who issue special permits that allow us to run on the trails we use. I will apply for more spots each year until we can have up to 1500.


[Advendure]: Why did you choose to design a race course, for the 100 mile race, which consists of two circles of 50 miles each? Same question for the 50 kilometer race. Is this plan really going to work for the athletes, I mean doing two identical loops? Does this have anything to do with what I was asking you previously about the U.S government not allowing trail race organizations and runners to use certain trails?

[Charles Sheya]: Our preferred route is a 100 mile loop which includes the PCT but currently the Pacific Crest Trail is closed for events in the Tahoe area, we will continue to lobby for a change. Events are held on the PCT in other areas so hopefully that will change. One complaint I heard about UTMB is that so many miles are run in the dark so all you see is your headlight. Many people go back to run those sections again to see the beauty they missed at night. With 2 loops, you see everything at least once in the daylight.


[Advendure]: The other day, I took a look at your “Epic Endurance Events” website and one thing I noticed was that you try, in each race, to make all the runners feel like they are part of a big family. Surely, this is something positive but I do have to ask you how you are going to cope with hundreds of athletes if the “UTLT” race becomes part of the “Ultra Trail World Tour” calendar. Have you really thought about that?

[Charles Sheya]: We will do our best to make everyone feel like family, hopefully a very big family someday, everyone who comes will walk away with great swag and a great meal but mostly a great experience.



[Advendure]: A few weeks ago, when we introduced the “Ultra Trails of Lake Tahoe” race to the world of mountain and trail running, we wrote a short description of the 50 mile course. Knowing that things may differ, in reality, we would like from you to tell us which parts of the course need extreme caution and which ones are going to make us sweat like pigs?

[Charles Sheya]: There are very steep climbs on Northstar trails then the TRT is a rolling runnable singe track that climbs to 9000 feet above Lake Tahoe. The hardest part will be not falling while looking at the view! Stop, enjoy the view and then start running again!


[Advendure]: Are we going to need any mandatory equipment for the 50 and 100 mile races?

[Charles Sheya]: The 100m race will have mandatory gear, hydration vest with 1.5 liter capacity, jacket, gloves, hat, headlamp, phone or gps device, emergency blanket with sticks recommended.


[Advendure]: One thing that I have to admit, about the “UTLT” project, is that Northstar CA looks very promising! There’s no doubt that you picked the perfect place to start and finish your race! Northstar is a luxurious winter resort so I have to ask you if you managed to get any discounts for the athletes’ accommodation.

[Charles Sheya]: We have Truckee Donner Lodge and the Inn at Truckee with nice discounts and we are working on Northstar discounts which we will email to runners. AirBnB is also a good choice.


[Advendure]: We are used to see well-known brands, like Salomon, Hoka, Altra and many more, sponsoring big events like 100 mile races but in your case we couldn’t spot any reference to a big brand! Are you still searching for someone to sponsor your events or you prefer to stay out of all this and why?

[Charles Sheya]: We are not actively searching for large sponsors the first year. We will do so next year but if anyone wants to, all he/she has to do is just email me.


[Advendure]: This year’s first edition of “Ultra Trails Lake Tahoe” race is going to be a big task for you! Now, I know that you are very experienced when it comes to organizing events but could you tell us what is your biggest concern about this new race?

[Charles Sheya]: The potential for bad weather with cold temperatures, snow and wind is the one thing we can’t control, but unless it snows at least 5 meters the event will be truly epic.


Well, we thank you for your time and bid you farewell! We really hope that everything goes according to your plans and we can’t wait to be there with everyone else who will decide to be a pioneer at “Ultra Trails of Lake Tahoe”!


Theoharis Lezpouridis