Discrete Cirque Series Packs Big Mountain Fun into Short Distance Races

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

This past weekend, Saturday, September 7, 2019, I attended the final race of the Discrete Cirque Series. First organized in 2015, this mountain running series consists of six races that take place at some of the most beautiful mountain locations in the country including, Brighton, Utah, Alta, Utah, Alyeska, Alaska, Arapahoe Basin, Colorado, Sun Valley, Idaho and the final at Snowbird, Utah. The events at Brighton and Alyeska were also part of the Skyrunner USA short course series.

Cirque Series races feature some of the most elevation gain per mile of any races in the United States. “Vert-lovers” will enjoy the technical and steep climbs found in all of the races in this series, particularly the race in Alaska which features 3,890 feet of elevation gain in under 6 miles. While steep, these courses are shorter in distance at 6 to 10 miles, making them a perfect introduction into mountain or skyrunning.

Photo by Discrete Cirque Series.

The race at Snowbird drew some top professional trail runners, as well as many beginners. The course included two 11,000 foot peaks and boasted over 3,566 feet of vertical gain in just 8.7 miles.

Listed below are my top three takeaways from the 2019 Snowbird Cirque Series race and why you should add a Discrete Cirque Series event to your racing schedule in 2020.

Maximize Your Vertical Gain
The Cirque Series provides a style of racing similar to Skyrunning’s Vertical Kilometer (VK) that are somewhat uncommon in US trail running: a short distance trail race with healthy dose of vertical gain. Because of their distance, many trail races in the US with significant amounts of vertical gain are ultramarathons. Cirque Series races offer a great way to experience steep racing terrain without having to run longer than 26.2 miles.

Professional runner and World Mountain Running Championship veteran Morgan Arritola cruising the high ridges at Snowbird. Photo by Discrete Cirque Series.

As a professional trail runner who has traveled to race in Europe several times, I can attest that many of the races overseas feature much more challenging climbing than we are accustomed to in the United States. Runners looking to prepare for European trail races should consider signing up for a Cirque Series race to be better prepared for the steep and more technical running found overseas.

Transition to More Challenging Types of Trail Running
The Cirque Series races are a great introduction into more challenging types of trail running. Their courses provide technical ridge running, bouldering, loose dirt, steep climbs above 11,000 feet and rugged single-track.

Photo by Discrete Cirque Series.

The short distance makes these races accessible to younger runners, which promotes youth involvement in trail running. Approximately 70% of all participants register in the Sport, or beginner to intermediate division. Participant age ranges from 8 to 82.

Connect With Local Companies
The race organizers do a great job of involving many local companies with their events. The race expo in Snowbird featured many Utah-based companies such as Kodiak Cakes, Gnarly Nutrition, Caputos Market and Deli, Trail Truffles, Amp Human, and Wasatch Nectar. The race’s involvement with these companies helps support small business and grow trail running in the local community.

Photo by Tayte Pollmann.

The race also partners with several environmental activist non-profits such as Protect Our Winters (POW), Save Our Canyons, SUWA, and Utah Open Lands. One dollar from every Cirque Series race registration goes to these organizations.

2019 Discrete Cirque Series Snowbird Pro Division Results

Top 3 Women:

  1. Morgan Arritola, 33, Ketchum, ID 1:29:59
  2. Mathilde Sagnes, 23, Montauban, France 1:36: 59
  3. Kristen Findley, 28, Cottonwood Heights, UT 1:40:44

Top 3 Men:

  1. Seth Demoor, 34, Englewood, CO 1:20:38
  2. Rick Floyd, 36, Reno, NV 1:23:37
  3. Stephen Mulherin, 25, Jackson, WY 1:27:14

Full race results can be found on the Cirque Series results page.

Snowbird women’s podium: (1st) Morgan Arritola, (2nd) Mathilde Sagnes and (3rd) Kristen Findley. Photo by Tayte Pollmann.

The overall 2019 Discrete Cirque Series winners were also recognized.

2019 Discrete Cirque Series Pro Division Overall Standings

Top 3 Men

  1. Stephen Mulherin, 25, Jackson, WY 204 points
  2. Joseph Gray, 35, Colorado Springs, CO 150 points
  3. Joseph Demoor, 29, Carbondale, CO 94 points

Top 3 Women

  1. Erin Storck, 29, Salt Lake City, UT 208 points
  2. Morgan Arritola, 33, Ketchum, ID 194 points
  3. Mitzi Gray, 42, Salt Lake City, UT 112 points

Full results for all six Cirque Series races are available on their results page.

Photo by Discrete Cirque Series.