2019 Clif Bar Athletes of the Year: Katie Zawacki Tosh & Ryan Verchota

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You voted, and the results are in. Meet our 2019 Clif Bar Athletes of the Year, Katie Zawacki Tosh and Ryan Verchota! We got the chance to learn more about them, read about their 2019 accomplishments that earned them this name, and find out what their goals are for this year.

Katie Zawacki Tosh

  1. What was the highlight of your 2019? I have a tie for my 2019 highlight! Both happened at the Spring Chance BQ.2 race in Geneva. I won that race, but when I finished, I was completely unaware that I had won. Because it’s a looped course, I had no concept of who was ahead of me or behind me…so I was SHOCKED when I was told that I had won! But the other highlight for me was that I trained all winter with and ran that race with three of my best running girl friends. We all BQd at that race by working together, believing in each other, and keeping each other calm and on pace – just like we did for that entire training cycle. So while it was amazing to BQ, it was so much better to share that BQ with my training partners.
  2. What is your goal for 2020? I am running my first Boston Marathon this year, and I am so excited! The plan is to have fun and take it all in. But after Boston, my goal is to PR and run a 3:05 marathon (or faster!) at the Chicago Marathon.
  3. What is your favorite part about being involved in the Chicago endurance community? My favorite part about being involved in the Chicago endurance community is that everyone is so dang inspirational. Seriously. Every single athlete I have ever met has incredible stories of how they have overcome injuries, how they balance their training with crazy work schedules, how they’ve battled personal obstacles, etc. Endurance athletes epitomize grit, and they inspire me to be a gritty, tenacious athlete and human.
  4. What motivates you in the sport? My greatest motivator is simply being grateful for the health, ability, and means to do this sport. I broke my ankle in 2017, and that experience taught me to never take a moment for granted.
  5. Must-have gear. Pick one. Do great running friends count?! If not, then definitely Goodr sunglasses.

Ryan Verchota

  1. What was the highlight of your 2019? Completing the Barkley Fall Classic — Roughly 14k feet of climbing over a 50k on an unmarked course without the use of GPS all while traversing through power line cuts filled with saw briar. Going into the darkest place that I have been during a race and coming out victorious!
  2. What is your goal for 2020? Everesting Run— Picking a hill, anywhere in the world and running repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 29,029 feet — the equivalent height of Mt Everest. During this activity I would like to raise some money for Mental Health research and resources. Still working to find the proper charity to raise money for!
  3. What is your favorite part about being involved in the Chicago endurance community?  Chicago is a diverse thriving metropolis with a small, tight knit group of endurance athletes. Having been in the community for nearly 15 years, there only seems to be 2 degrees of separation from me and another fellow runner, triathlete. I enjoy the benefit of treating injury and improving performance of my clients on the clinical side and then turning around and grinding out miles on the trails with them on the personal side. Win-Win.
  4. What motivates you in the sport? My wife Jesi and my two boys Leo and Miles. Over the years, running and triathlon have helped to grow my self confidence and improve my health allowing me to be the best version of myself both as a husband and a father. I strive to challenge myself daily and set an example for my family
  5. Must have gear. Pick one. Solomon Advanced Skin 5 Hydration Vest! Allows me to run for hours upon hours while holding all of my gear, nutrition, and hydration.

Watch for future articles about Katie and Ryan, as well as a group run featuring our Athletes of the Year! Congrats Katie and Ryan!

Photo credit: Mike Killion (@killertown)

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Mandi began running in middle school and never stopped. As a high school and college cheerleader, running was the exact athletic counterpart to keep her fitness levels high. While attending The John Marshall Law School in 2007, Mandi ran her first Chicago Marathon, the final year it was partnered with title sponsor, LaSalle Bank. Mandi has continued to run several marathons and half marathons each year. An Illinois licensed attorney, Mandi is currently the Executive Director of the Lake County Municipal League, a council of government representing 42 municipalities in Lake County. An avid weekend race warrior, Mandi tries to run 2-3 races each month from Milwaukee to Chicago and loves the opportunity to report about her experiences in Chicago Athlete

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