Brian Holzhausen, 46, has run hundreds of races, from short blasts to 31-mile ultramarathons on rugged dirt trails. He has also notched more than 200 triathlons, as well as adventure races that can last up to 30 hours. He has channeled his passion for outdoor exercise into a company, DINO LLC (for Do Indiana Off-Road), which he bought in 2001 from a previous owner. The company produces trail-running and mountain-biking races across Indiana.
Explain the allure of dirt trails.
It’s about being in nature, away from traffic and the noise of roads. When you are trail running or riding a mountain bike, you need to be in the moment all the time. You’re focusing on the next step or the next drop on your bike. You’re always paying attention to where you are and what’s next. Time goes quickly. It’s more of an in-the-moment experience than when you’re chugging along on pavement.
Tell us the DINO story.
DINO got started in 1990 under a previous owner with a single mountain-bike race. The following year, they decided to make a series of races and they called that the DINO series. Then in the late ’90s, they sold the series off to someone else. And in 2000, I heard people talking that the company might be sold, and if they couldn’t find a buyer, they would close it down. I came home and told my wife. She said, “Oh, I wonder who would take it on?” We kind of looked at each other, and I said, “Oh, I thought we could.”
Did you already have a job?
I was a civil engineer. I was working for a good company, but I just wasn’t passionate about it. I was just keeping my eye open for something else. I thought this might be something to do as a hobby, add some interest in my life. But when we started the work of planning and promoting these races, it soon became pretty obvious how much time was going to be needed. I talked to my employer about whether I might be able to work part time as an engineer, but they were not willing to do that. They wanted me full time. So I quit my job in July 2001.
Have you been able to build DINO into a viable, full-time business?
Our average race attendance is around 250 or 300, depending on event and type. I think we bring in probably between $200,000 and $250,000 a year.
How do Indiana’s parks and forests compare to the rest of the country?
It’s definitely different than out West. You don’t have the wide, sweeping views. There are a few key spots in southern Indiana where you have some nice vistas, but nothing like the big, wide, open terrain out West, where you can see for miles and miles. Indiana is on a smaller scale.
What could Indiana do to make the outdoors more enticing?
Indiana has lots of large state parks, but one of my desires is to see more small, natural areas with trails, easily accessible. A majority of people who want to run or ride on dirt trails have to drive to get there. Only a small percentage of people are fortunate to live close enough that they can run right over to a dirt trail. It just makes it less desirable. I’d love it for everyone to have access to even a small nature area that they could walk to, in addition to the big state parks and forests.•