The question is apt on this particular post-snowstorm morning, with the crystalline mountain air registering, last time I checked, at no more than 30 degrees. The truth is that this morning my major motivation is getting a story for my looming newspaper deadline. But I already can tell, as this small tribe of women lead by Permakoff jogs into the warming rays of the sun rising over the end of Telluride’s box canyon, that I’ll be getting more out of this assignment than just a story for next week’s paper.
Permakoff owns Supergirl Sports, a local business dedicated to helping athletes of all stripes reach their potential. Running is Permakoff’s specialty: A competitive runner all her life, Permakoff first made her mark by setting a cross-country record at her West Point, New York elementary school – a record that still stands today. Later she raced with the University of Tennessee’s cross-country team, where she was coached by Missy Kane, a 1500-meter bronze medalist in the 1983 Pan American Games and competitor in the 1984 Olympics.
Permakoff continued running competitively post-graduation, self-training and qualifying for an Ironman triathlon, and after moving to Telluride in 1994, she ultimately set her own personal best time of 3:05 for the burly Imogene Pass Run.
Yet Permakoff isn’t merely a well-seasoned runner. She is also a coach, born into a family of coaches and now fluent in the language of instruction thanks to her past 16 years as a ski and snowboard coach for Telluride Ski Resort’s Ski and Snowboard School. She has also been a hiking guide, working in the Alps.
Pemakoff knows I’m a lifelong skier, and immediately parlays that knowledge into constructive instruction that I can understand on an innate level. She makes correlations to skiing a steep hill with running downhill, drawing parallels between where one’s center of gravity would ideally be focused in each instance.
I heed Permakoff’s advice, as we come to a downhill section of the path, and while the changes she suggests are seemingly minute – focus my center of gravity more over my feet, keep my elbows more in-line with my shoulders – I can immediately notice a difference.
Permakoff’s approach isn’t just about methodology, however. A large part of what she brings to her Supergirl Sports clients’ is her own tenacious character, a quality that’s tailor-made for both coaching and running. When Permakoff urges you to run faster, push harder, and dig deeper, it’s because she herself is doing the same – and one can’t help but want to follow suit.
“I bring both the mechanics and the motivation,” she describes, noting that her many years analyzing high-speed movement as a ski and snowboard instructor have trained her eye to see the small but significant changes a person can make to enhance their stamina, avoid injury, and see better overall results, whatever their running endeavors may be.
The motivation part just comes naturally to Permakoff, nicknamed “Supergirl” by her colleagues on Telluride’s Ski and Snowboard School, who over the years have watched her juggle her profession, her passion for competition, as well as motherhood with her token zeal. Supergirl Sports evolved out of Permakoff’s desire to turn her enthusiasm for sports as well as being a coach into a year-round job. Through the company she also offers guiding services and party planning, gleaned from her 17 years of experience exploring both the trails and the nightlife as a Telluride local.
For Supergirl client Elizabeth Gaz, who is training for a marathon, working with Permakoff has opened her eyes to the benefits of her new sport. A longtime competitive hockey player, Gaz was drawn to Supergirl to assist her with reaching her newfound goals as a long distance runner.
“I’ve always been into team sports, but the lone aspect of running was difficult for me. Kristen has helped me with my discipline to get me to a marathon… running with other people is such a positive thing. She’s given me good feedback on my technique – things I didn’t even know I was doing,” Gaz says. “Really, though, Kristen motivates me.”
Supergirl Sports is currently offering “Free Friday” running clinics every Friday through the off-season. The group meets at 8:30 a.m. at the Entrada Park bridge, rain or shine. For more information, visit www.supergirlsports.com, or call Permakoff at 970/708-9008.