Get outside, get stoked, dream it and go do it, Jax Mariash-Koudele proclaims with conviction.
The Hood River resident and owner/founder of the new Stoked Roasters+Coffeehouse in downtown Hood River has been a go-getter for as long as she could walk, and as she adjusts to the lifestyle of a hard-working business owner, she remains true to a few core values that have helped her get where she is today.
“I want to inspire others to get outside and move their bodies, to prevent disease and feel the wind on their face and realize how important exercise is to the mind, body and spirit,” the 34-year-old writes in a blog post chronicling her recent completion of the 50-mile North Face Endurance Challenge.
Among the many achievements in her past, Mariash-Koudele claimed national triathlon and duathlon titles and a bronze medal in the world duathlon championships. She has since moved on from the rigors of that lifestyle, however, and has pursued her professional career, working with several brands in the outdoor industry before founding a marketing company, Mariash Marketing, and, most recently, combining a knack for small business with a love of coffee to open a high-end roaster and café in prime new construction along the Hood River waterfront.
“In 2008 I competed as an elite duathlete and triathlete at the same time,” she said. That year her achievements included winning the long course and short course duathlon national titles for her age group and a bronze medal in the long course world championships in Belgium. After that year I decided I was burned out and needed a break from it all, so I took a few years off.”
Fast-forward about six years to Dec. 6 – location, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area just outside of San Francisco, site of the grueling 50-mile North Face Endurance Challenge. Rated a five out of five for difficulty, the visually-stunning course features enough elevation gain and loss (about 10,000 feet) to ensure constant pain and suffering for all but the most conditioned competitors.
“As a competitive athlete, I wanted to run under eight hours and be in the cream of the crop,” Mariash-Koudele said. “But at about mile six my stomach felt weird and my head hurt. I basically had a digestive system failure and had to manage that the entire time. My mentality went from finishing at the top to just finishing.”
She started the race bright and early, at 5:04 a.m. and finished with an official time of 9:14:25, and although that time wasn’t what she was hoping for, just finishing what is ranked the most competitive ultra marathon in the country is something she is proud of.
“It’s hard when you’re as competitive as I am,” she said. “It definitely didn’t go the way I had panned, but I realized the whole reason I was doing it was to inspire others, and that gave me the strength to keep going, to fight through the unexpected challenges and to just finish.”
Mariash-Koudele says when she started training for the race, she was in about the worst shape of her adult life. Often working 80-hour weeks to manage her business, fitness was a priority that often didn’t get attended to.
“I came to a point where I realized I was turning into someone I wasn’t proud of,” she said. “I’ve always felt that fitness is incredibly important for the mind, body and spirit, but I wasn’t making time for it. I knew I had to change that.”
Mariash-Koudele logged 1,029 miles in 20 weeks to prepare for the North Face race. She competed in a number of local races, even winning the female division of the 2014 Columbia Gorge Marathon. Now that she has one major goal checked off her list, she’s looking ahead to the bigger challenge of competing in a 100-mile race; ideally, she says, the Western Sates 100 in Squaw Valley or — her dream race — the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, which passes through France, Italy and Switzerland.
“I checked off a bucket list item,” she writes. “But more importantly, I continued to inspire those who needed a little kick. Do what you love, and love what you do. You never know who is watching … it may change their life.”