Eric Johnson and Russ Traphagen are managers for Ultramax Sports in Springfield and Prairie Village, respectively. Both are pretty good athletes, but more importantly, they are great guys and are a big part of the success of their stores. We sat them down for a little Q&A so you could get to know them a bit better.

EJ: Where did you grow up and what sports did you play, Russ?
RT: I grew up in Burlingame, Ks – south of Topeka. In high school, I played football and was a state qualifier thrower in track. After high school, I signed to play for Coffeyville Community College then transferred to Southwest Missouri State. I played four years of football and started three years at right offensive guard at 295 lbs. (He now weighs 190lbs)

EJ: Not your typical runner bio! What’s your favorite food?
RT: You don’t get to 295 lbs and not love food! Now I still love all food, I just eat a lot smaller portions. If I had to name one, I would have to say you just can’t beat a great T-bone steak.

RT: How about you? How did you get into running?
EJ: I played soccer in the Pacific Northwest from ages 5-18…thanks to my parents for standing in the rain all those years. When I moved to Missouri, running seemed like a good way to meet people and it was pretty natural after all that soccer. I soon started doing triathlons. Now they are my passion. Around 20 of us from Springfield are traveling to Ironman Arizona this year, so that’s the focus for 2013. I am also doing a bit more running after many years of injuries.

RT:The 112-mile bike ride in an Ironman race makes me hurt just thinking about it.
EJ: It’s all about the right gear and the right training. My tri shorts are worth their weight in gold.

EJ: So what’s your favorite race distance and PR, Russ?
RT: Probably the marathon because of the months of training and preparation that goes into the distance. I like to travel as well – I go to a destination most of the time. My PR is 2:50:34.

EJ: Holy smokes. Not bad for a big guy! That’s 40 minutes faster than my marathon PR. I know you’ve been dealing with some injuries. Why do you think runners get injured so much?
RT: I can’t just say one thing. Usually it’s a functional or muscle imbalance of some sort. In my case, it has been functional from past football injury. I am also a block head and don’t listen to my body when it is telling me I have had enough. I really feel that to keep injuries at bay, I need to focus on functional strength training, do 85% of my training in zone 2 heart rate, mix my surfaces (trail, road, and track), and rotate my shoes (usually three different pairs).


EJ: What did you do before working at Ultramax?
RT: I was a physical education teacher and a football/track coach for 14 years. I started working part time for Ultramax Sports four years ago and really loved being in the middle of new innovations associated with running and triathlon. I loved how beginner-friendly Ultramax Sports is – they are there for everyone, whether that meant a walker, runner, or someone who just likes to hit the gym occasionally. My favorite part now is being able to help customers enjoy running as much as I do.

RT: What did you do before Ultramax?
EJ: I was a fitness manager and certified personal trainer for the local Park Board. It gave me nice background on physiology and injuries coming into this job. Injuries fascinate me, and I spend a good portion of my spare time researching them. Part of that comes from trying to solve my own injuries. I’ve traveled all over the country visiting gait labs, learning from experts in the field, and attending conferences. While we aren’t doctors and never diagnose an injury at our store, we are often the second place an injured runners goes after the Internet. So we see a great deal of people in pain, and it’s our job to send them to the right providers and recommend products that might help in the meantime.

RT: Do you follow professional sports, EJ? Do you have a favorite athlete or team?
EJ: I don’t follow any sports. We don’t have a TV. I’ve got young kids and I’d rather be out training than watch sports anyway. But I do follow a lot of the athletes in our community. We see a lot of them come into our store, so I enjoy looking at race results and seeing their successes. It’s particularly fun watching a newbie, such as one of our Couch to 3.1 participants or a Galloway group participant, grow into a seasoned runner and take on bigger and bigger challenges.

EJ: I know you enjoy all sports, particularly football. But what I want to know is if you have any secret talents.
RT: My reputation precedes me! I like making cakes just like Cake Boss – except a little on the unique side. I will leave it at that…