Jessica Crandall Having a father who taught physical education and coached multiple sports, Jessica learned the value of exercise right from the start. Her main sport growing up was gymnastics, however needed some cross training in the off season once she got to high school. She followed her brother’s lead and joined the cross-country team, however didn’t quite fall in love with running right away. It wasn’t until during and after college that she started to really find a passion for running - doing many 5Ks and a few adventure races with her older brothers, soon moving onto half marathons then full marathons in 2004. After an injury and career change, a dozen marathons followed from 2008 on, including 2 Boston’s. Her first taste of an ultra-race came with the Ragnar Cape Cod in 2017 in which her team took first for female ultra. She also was part of the first-place female ultra-team at RiMaConn in 2019 and was now hooked on pushing farther than 26.2. The Covid pandemic put on hold plans for her first 50K in 2020, but she did eventually complete an 8-hour race, finishing with just over 40 miles. Now she’s hooked on running trails and has completed several timed loop races, 3 Traprock 50Ks, finishing 2nd female in 2023; the Vermont 50 mile in 2021; and Vermont 100 mile in 2022, finishing as 6th female in just under 23 hours. Looking ahead, Jessica is most interested in the 100-mile distance because it has a strong pull as the journey involves a lot of on the fly problem-solving and truly tests the endurance of both body and mind. Outside of running, Jessica works as a registered dietitian at a diabetes clinic, and has a passion for the plant-based diet. She also loves spending time with her husband and 2 kids, who every so often will join her on a run.
Chris Deming Chris' first contact with running was with the track team at Broadview Junior High School in Danbury, CT in 1981. where he competed in the mile. He mostly stopped running when he started high school, and didn't start regular running again until in his late thirties. In 2004, the sedentary lifestyle had him weighing an uncomfortable and unhealthy 275 lbs. To lose some weight, he started running on a treadmill every other day. After a year of this, he started racing 5K road races, and found that he really liked the competition and the training plus the improvement in his waistline. He started running dozens of races each year - mostly in Western Connecticut - first on roads and eventually adding mountain and trail races to the mix, varying in distance from 1 Mile to the marathon to 50 Kilometers.
Some of his favorite road races are the Roxbury race series, New Haven 20K Road Race, Danbury Half Marathon, and the Western CT United Way King of the Hill 5K. In mountain and trail races, the Soapstone Mountain 24K race, the USATF New England Mountain Race series, and the Steep Rock Trail Series in Washington, CT are some of his favorites. Exploring roads and trails in solitary or group runs has become part of daily life for Chris. In October 2017, he did my longest run so far: a supported solo run from Brewster, NY to Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx, NY - 48 miles on paved rail trails. He hopes to continue running far into the future, exploring trails and roads, testing and stretching endurance.
Nichole Ellis Nichole started running shortly after having her first child. She was a young new mom, newly relocated to Long Island, NY and didn’t know many people. Daily, she would take her baby on walks to the nearest shopping center. Realizing that she could get to Baby Gap faster if she ran, Nichole subsequently discovered her unknown endurance abilities. Fast forward to four kids later, a couple of mountain marathons and a couple of trail ultras, Nichole still maintains some remnant of that endurance from long long ago. These days, Nichole lives in the Harlem Valley of upstate New York and trains mostly on the Taconic Ridge and the CT/AT. Her faithful training partners are the forest animals and fungi and you can frequently find her wandering the woods talking to herself and laughing.
Ted Erkkila In addition to football and lacrosse, Ted ran indoor track in high school where he considered anything over 400m unreasonable punishment and possibly anything under as well. After finishing his college football career (including a season in Germany) he caught the endurance bug rowing on Lake Cayuga and later the mighty Hudson. This was just a gateway to the harder stuff: triathlon and road cycling (including multiple participations in the NY Empire State Games as well as sandbagging as a CAT 5 and breaking legs for as long as they would let him). Completely unsuited for climbing, Ted turned to climbing – not just by bike but also through a successful stint in stair climbing races. After moving to Seattle, Ted started to slowly slip into the high mountains only to be brought harshly back to earth – and then slightly further – for 5 years in the Netherlands. This led to 4 more years of football and dozens of meters of vertical cycling when not sneaking out of the country on long distance cycling tours. After moving to Switzerland in 2011, Ted spent long days up in the clouds and longer and faster races including just over 5 hours running ‘alongside’ the likes of Kilian Jornet in the Marathon Mont Blanc in 2014 – which it turns out Ted ran with a mild case of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Oops. During the next few months a lot of days were spent in the mountains wondering if it might be the last time on his favorite trails. Rumors of his runner career’s imminent demise were greatly exaggerated, however, and after a year Ted picked up where he left off – always with an eye for the steepest, highest and least advisable. Highlights include the Matterhorn Ultraks and Ultratrail des Vercors. After moving back to the USA in 2016 Ted started running with the Leatherman Harriers and participating in the local scene as well the global with recent trips with 3000+ meter adventures in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Switzerland and the Hawaiian Islands. Destinations this year will include Mexico, the high French Alps and several ‘work’ trips to Switzerland. Ted’s lovely wife has three children - ages 9, 20, and 44.
Aaron Heath Aaron Heath has had a passion for being outside his entire life. Growing up in Western Colorado provided plenty of opportunity for him to push his limits regularly. He transitioned from skiing to running after moving to Germany to attend university after spending nearly a decade as a ski bum in Utah's Wasatch mountains. After earning a Computer Science degree in Germany, Aaron moved to New York where he develops Web Content Management systems for large organizations.
Aaron has made a name for himself in the local ultra running scene in and around NYC. Winning the New York Ultra Running Grand Prix Series for the last 6 years in a row. And now, competing as a masters athlete. Aaron placed 2nd (masters) at the 2017 Hartford Marathon with a time of 2:36 earning himself a spot on the New England's Finest elite program. He also won the masters title in the 2018 USATF 50k road championships with a time of 3:17, which was enough to earn the USATF open athlete of the month for March as well. To Aaron, running has always been more than results though - providing an outlet to focus his energy, while learning about himself and connecting with friends and nature is always the priority.
Jim Harron Jim started running when he was in high school and it has always been part of my life. Jim hails from Brookfield, CT for the last 17 years. His sister and he own a beautiful tea and coffee shop in Brookfield called Simpson & Vail. He started running way back when he attended Pleasantville High School. He ran Cross Country for two years and track for four years. He then attended and ran for Southampton College Cross country team. He loves the camaraderie of being part of a team. In the early 90’s he met and married his wife Monica who is also a runner. They have two wonderful children, Paulina and James, both who have also grown up to be runners. Paulina ran and threw the Javelin for Brookfield High School and now she runs for fun. James also ran for Brookfield High School and now runs for Springfield College. These were very busy years in his lives and running always kind of took second place to everything. He slowly started seriously running again and in 2007 he decided to run the Lake Waramaug 50K. This run was close to home, close to a marathon (ignorance is bliss) and he really wanted to see what he could do. He ended this race in 3rd place, in a respectable time under four hours. Since then he has run 5k’s to marathons which have included the Yonkers marathon, five Boston Marathons, two Hartford Marathons and the Steamtown Marathon. His times have ranged from 2:57 to 3:24. In the last couple of years, he has run various trail races, enjoying the training, the trails and the way you can get lost in the moment. He said he's lucky to have been able to run with a great bunch of runners. His future goals would be a 50 miler, more trail races and just run the miles, enjoy the people and have more fun (and maybe some beer too).
Tessa Mah Like many runners Tessa started running to get in shape towards the end of college. She was always athletic growing up, but when team sports ended sophomore year of college so did regular fitness, a trail run with her roommate junior year made her realize one, she was totally out of shape and two, she enjoyed running. It took a few years to build enough confidence to run a 5K, which turned into a 10K, half and so on. In 2008 she completed her first marathon (Hartford Marathon) and so began the obsession with the pain and joy of running 26.2. To date she has completed 44 Full marathons, Boston qualifying in 35 and completing 10 Boston Marathons (9 consecutively). In 2019 the ultra itch was finally scratched with the completion of the Pineland Farms 50K, which cultivated a new desire to run further and for longer. In November 2020 she won the women’s division at the Steep Endurance 8 Hours at The Brewery completing 46-miles. The older she gets the more she recognizes she is drawn to endurance events that sound mentally exhausting, like running 133 laps around the Hartford Convention Center. She lives in CT with her husband John and their two children. When she is not running, she is working as a Registered Dietitian and has a passion for plant-based eating and sports nutrition.
Racing Highlights: 1st Place Female Roxbury Marathon 2012, 2017 1st Place Female Clarence DeMar Marathon 2018 1st Place Female Arena Attack indoor Marathon 2019, 2020 1st Place Women’s Open Cape Cod Ragnar Ultra Team 2017 1st Place Women’s Open Ultra Team inaugural RiMaConn 2019
Julia Maurer Since elementary school field days, Julia knew she wanted to be a runner, signing up for all the racing events. When she got to high school track, she wanted to compete in the 400 m race - one and done, short and sweet. On her first attempt in practice, the coach told her she was a distance runner. It was upsetting, but he was right. She went on to compete in the 4x8 relay, mile, and 2 mile and joined cross country the following fall. Julia continued running in college in a non-competitive way through the club, UConn Endurance, and is a long time member, and now officer, of the Milford Road Runners. Trail running came later in the post college years when a trade occurred- if her friend Joe did a triathlon, Julia would do a trail race. Coincidentally, that trail race was the Hidden Valley 15K Steep Endurance race! Nowadays, Julia is slowly building up her trail racing profile. In 2020, she won the 4 hrs at the Brewery race put on by Steep Endurance. In 2021, she completed her first 50K at the Traprock 50K and placed 4th female overall. In 2023, Julia won the Lake Mohegan Trail Race 4 hr event put on by Steep Endurance (apparently, 4 hr races are her jam) and The Blue 2 Blue Challenge 50K, earning the 5th fastest time for females in the race's history. Clearly, nothing is short and sweet anymore.
Alan Peck Alan grew up in the Adirondacks with three television stations in the 70's and 80's thus, outdoor experiences were daily routine. Snowshoeing, cross country, alpine, back country and water skiing complimented fishing, boating, rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking the high peaks. As a captain of his high school football team, my coaches had me throwing shot and disc for spring track, which gave him his first real exposure to running, but it wasn't until much later in life that he began running competitively. His first road race was a 10K at age 35, and my first marathon followed a few months, and 20 pounds later. Bit by the marathon bug, he PR'd at 3:00 in Hartford, and went on to qualify/run Boston 6 years consecutively. Organizing relay teams with friends, he won my first race ever at the inaugural New England Ragnar, winning by almost 2 hours over the 200 mile course. The team went on to place 2nd in NY the following year, and then 4th overall as an ultra team. The bug bit again, but this time it was the trail calling, where he has been running almost exclusively for the last number of years in addition to cycling. Team trail racing, long runs with friends, and the peacefulness off the road has been a pleasure. Now it's time to set some more PR's on the trail.
Brian Shafer Brian began running competitively in 5th grade and continued a successful career in XC and track through his last years at Boston College. After graduating, he “retired” from running and enjoyed the life of a non-runner. A decade later, older and heavier, he decided to set the goal of running a 100 mile race. “Since I will never be faster than I used to be, I just have to go farther.” Over the past few years, Brian has gradually worked his way into the sport having completed numerous ultras and three times the 100 mile distance. He plans to continue in his progression and learning of the sport, knowing that there will always be more races to run, and maybe even some PRs ahead of him. “For me, I view ultra running as a completely different sport, especially 100 miles. I love it because I feel like I will never figure everything out. I always learn new things, about running, or myself, or just life in general with each race. It’s more about the experience of the race or run, rather than the result. I want to keep doing this as long as I can, not necessarily as fast as I can. There are times when my competitive spirit peeks out, and that can be enjoyable and motivating, but it can also do more harm than good in the overall “life puzzle” if I’m not careful and attentive to my priorities. Strange as it sounds, doing something extreme like ultras, forces me to have balance. Without balance, things can fall apart.”
Andy Vermilyea Andy has always been involved in athletics starting with soccer growing up through college, then competing in Ironman triathlons for a few years before finding his passion in the mountains and on the trails. Being an all-around outdoor enthusiast from hiking and camping to fishing and hunting he started to combine his love of the outdoors with running in 2013 when he finished 2nd in his first ultra 50 miler at Virgil Crest. Since then he has found success in races from 50-100 miles with his best results in the races with more technical terrain and lots of climbing. He loves adverse conditions and to cross train in the winter by back country and nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and carrying his daughter up mountains on his back. Some of Andy’s top finishes include
1st Manitous Revenge 54 miler 2018 (CR)
2nd Manitou’s Revenge 54 miler 2017
47th UTMB 2017
2nd Vermont 100 miler 2016
2nd Grindstone 100 miler 2015
1st Virgil Crest 50 miler 2014
Brian Vanderheiden, Steep Endurance founder Brian has been a runner since a young boy running with his father around the track in his pre-teen years. After running XC/track in high school, he took about a dozen years off from running (except for running a marathon at age 21 with little training). Reaching his 30's, it was time to get some exercise and get back in shape! About ten years later and with 15 marathons under his belt, including 2 Boston Marathons, the trail/ultra bug bit him hard. In the last 10 years, he has run 20+ ultra marathons including five 100 milers with one of those the iconic Western States Endurance Run in 2016. Building on his passion for the trails, he launched "Steep Endurance" to create new, exciting, and unique races in the Northeast. He also offers coaching for runners from shorter races to ultra marathons. It's been a rewarding experience seeing them achieve their goals! His mantra is that you should continue to aim to "Reach the Summit of Your Potential"!
Tommy Vanderheiden Tommy has grown into quite a trail runner in the last few years. Diagnosed with Autism at the age of 16 months, he's had a tough road for sure. He's very persistent with his running and you will rarely see him give up. He has run over 20 trail races (mostly Steep Endurance events), but has also completed the Breakneck Half twice, Traprock 17K twice, and has run the Leatherman's Loop the last 4 years it's been held. His biggest achievement so far was 33.33 miles or 8 hours at the Mountain Lakes Backyard Ultra in 2022. This year he's shooting for 50 miles/12 hours. He will also be doing his first 100K in 2024. Big things ahead!
Sarah Vaughan Sarah grew up playing soccer from a young age and began running in high school. After playing soccer and running outdoor tack through her junior year, she decided to trade her soccer cleats for cross country spikes and run indoor track as well. She developed a passion for distance running that only continued to grow throughout college. Attending Southern Connecticut State University, Sarah ran cross country and indoor/outdoor track. Her main events on the track were the 5K and 10K. During her senior year, she was the 2015 NE10 Conference champion in the 10K. Upon graduation, she continued her education at Southern to earn her MBA and ran a season of indoor track which she had redshirted due to transferring schools after her first semester of college. After college, Sarah continued to run but took a break from racing. In October of 2017, she decided that it was time to get back into racing and take on new distances. She signed up for the 2017 Eversource Hartford Marathon and after running 26.2 miles, she was hooked. Since then, she has run various distance races, including half and full marathons. A 5.5 mile trail race in 2018 led to her first trail half marathon later that year, where she fell in love with trail racing. 2019 included more trail and road races, including the 2019 Eversource Hartford Marathon, Sarah’s fourth marathon, where she qualified for the 2021 Boston Marathon. Sarah also swept the 2019 Steep Rock Trail Series. With a newfound love for trail racing, Sarah seeks to take on new challenges and aspirations, including some ultra distance races.
Mary Waterfield As a full time Pilates instructor, movement is an integral part of Mary’s daily life. She’s always enjoyed road running and around the pandemic she started trail running around the Hudson Valley. She started falling in love with the sport and community, and at the suggestion of a friend she ran in first ultra in the fall of 2020. Since then, she has completed 3 ultras and numerous half marathons. She is looking forward to diving deeper into the ultra world and hopes to push towards her first 100 miler soon.
Michele Zandona Michele is Brazilian and a mom of two kids. She came to the US in 2001, leaving her family behind without knowing how to speak English. The passion about running developed when she was 3 years old when she used to wait for her dad hanging on the fence barefoot to go for a run around the block after his work. She started running and competing when she was 11 years old, even though her pediatrician said that she couldn't due to a heart murmur. She ran cross country and track, she won a few State titles and she was second best in the 400m at Nationals in High School. Since then she's run many road 5K & 10K races, as well as a few half's, three marathons, of which two were NYC Marathon, and a Ragnar Relay. After volunteering at North Face Endurance Challenge back in 2009, she fell in love with trail running. She was back the following year to run her first 10K trail race. For her, trail running brings back childhood memories of climbing trees, playing in the mud, and jumping over fences. If she is not running, she is crafting or cooking . She loves to live a healthy life. Her latest achievements on trail races was doing her first 50k at North Face Endurance Challenge NY in 2017 where she placed 7th female overall and first in her age group. She was also first female overall at the Breakneck Point Trail Runs Half in 2018.