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💥Trail Gangstas of the Month (OCT '21): Melissa & Sarah Ostaszewski💥

Names: Melissa & Sarah Ostaszewski

Age: 30, 30

Occupations: Merchandiser, Copywriter

Hometown: Crown Point, IN

Current Residence: Flagstaff, AZ 

1. How do you pronounce your last name?!

Melissa: Ah-stuh-zew-skee is how most of our family pronounces it.  Real Polish way is something like Ah-stuh-chef-ski\ee

Sarah: “Aah-stuh-zoo-skee” is how we pronounce it. Our grandparents on our dad’s side pronounce it like “Aah-stuh-chef-skee.”

2. How did you discover trail running?

M: I ran in the Indiana Dunes (now a national park!) along Lake Michigan growing up.  We’d also take family trips to hike---as I got more into running, heading to the trails didn’t seem too foreign.  In 2015 I moved to Beaverton, OR where I really started becoming involved in trail racing and the ultra community.

S: Our high school cross country team took weekend trips to the Dunes for long runs (seemed long at the time!), and growing up we spent a lot of time outdoors. We actually did quite a bit of hiking with family, but any running was simply just running. Melissa and I learned about ultra-distances during college, and that’s when “trail running” became this entire new world. We ran a trail 60K in Indiana, then I moved away to Oregon in Aug. 2014 to see bigger landscapes and really get into the trail running community.

3. How often do you and your sister run together during the week? Do you do similar training, weekly mileage, etc?

M: We go to group runs together, and often run bigger, weekend adventures like R2R2R together.  I’ve also paced Sarah at a few of her 100+ mile races. Otherwise we are off doing our own thing, and as far as similar “training” goes---we don’t discuss workouts or mileage with each other!  Most every run I do is visible on Strava but Sarah keeps some runs a secret I think. :)

S: We join group runs and we’ll do longer runs together, but we actually run a lot of our miles separately. We race together often, or we’ll pace each other at races. I do feel a little guilty if I get out on a new trail without Melissa though!

4. Are you competitive with one another? In which distance would you most be able to beat your sister? 

M: Low-key competitive because we are often racing the same events. :D  I have the faster marathon  time and think I can still beat Sarah in the shorter distances up to 50M (on comparable terrain and elevation gain).  100K+ is a toss-up!

S: Secretly competitive with running. Melissa only has a few minutes on me in the road marathon, but I have faster 50M, 100K, and 100M times on certain courses. I will beat Melissa at fixed time events. Melissa is strong, so she can beat me on some climbs, probably.

5. Which personality trait(s) do you share/not share with your twin?

M: We’re both organized, ambitious in setting goals, and efficient in getting work done.  I think I’m more rational or strategic whereas Sarah is a bit of a dreamer!

S: We’re both type A — hard-working, determined, super organized, ambitious. We’re great at setting goals for ourselves and seeing those through. Melissa’s right, I’m more of a dreamer whereas Melissa is more rational and can be very critical.

6. What’s a unique talent that you have that your sister doesn’t?

M: What constitutes a “unique” talent?!!

S: Not sure about unique talents...I can weld?

7. Midwest, Northwest or Southwest? 

M: SW > NW > MW but I’ve enjoyed my time in each!  I am absolutely stoked on Arizona.

S: I enjoyed my time in the Midwest and still consider it “home,” and Oregon certainly had its time, but I absolutely LOVE Arizona. Wide open spaces and SUN! Thrilled to be here.

8. Cats or dogs? 

M: Cats.  My cat is named Avalanche and he is just the cutest boy.

S: Cats. Our blue tabby cat, Avalanche, is a big troublemaker but also a big, friendly cuddly dud.

9. Favorite meal? 

M: It’s gotta be breakfast burritos.

S: Wood-fired pizza and salad.

10. Favorite race? 

M: Hard to choose!  UTE 100 in the La Sal mountains near Moab is a beautiful course, and I love Aravaipa’s Black Canyon 100K for not only the course but the volunteers and energy.

S: Cocodona 250. Need I say more? It’s the best footrace in the US, hands down. I also love Black Canyons 100K because it’s an excellent “kickoff” to the year. Backcountry Rise 50K in Washington, near Mount St. Helens, is also a good one if you’re in the PNW. I also loved the NUT 100K, but sadly it’s been discontinued.

11. What do you most enjoy about running the 100 mile distance?

M: In a 100 mile event, you have so much time to yourself to learn and process your thoughts or emotions.    I like to reflect on my surroundings, my performance and the achievement of finishing. It’s a long enough distance to recognize that you’ll experience both extreme lows and extreme highs all within 20-30 hours.  I’ve also met some incredible individuals at 100 mile events!

S: The challenge. You can get away with some things during shorter runs, but for 100 miles you need to stay engaged and problem solve all the way through. Shit gets real at night (at least for me because that’s when I’ve had the lowest lows), but there’s no better feeling than making it through and seeing sunrise. You meet great people and make friends along the way, too. It’s pure satisfaction and a massive accomplishment to travel 100 miles on foot.

12. There’s an Aravaipa documentary in production that features both of you! Can you give us any teasers? Which part of the documentary are you most excited to see? 

M: This short film is about Sarah’s Mogollon 100 mile race and my involvement as crew/pacer.  I am SO excited to see Sarah’s GoPro footage from the race--I heard she was trying to keep the wildlife at bay with some self-talk and was also on the lookout for Sasquatch.

S: The film is about Aravaipa’s Mogollon Monster 100, an incredible point-to-point course that ends in Pine, AZ. I’m curious to see how Melissa describes the race from her pacer/crew perspective. Dylan Harris, the filmmaker, no doubt got amazing footage of the course, too — I’m excited to see how it all comes together. I can reflect back on what I was doing, feeling, or thinking during the race, but it’ll be like a different story coming from the outside perspectives


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