I met Kate my very first season with Team in Training and it was very easy to get to know her as she is one of the sweetest, kindest people I know. Plus, she is an amazing runner- very speedy, very willful. A few months after that season concluded, Kate (as well as a handful of other TNT buddies) told me that she had decided to join Team in Training’s Ultra Marathon team to raise funds for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while getting ready to run her first 50K race.
Wow, I thought, that’s freaking crazy- 26.2 seems fine enough but you go girl with your 31 miles of hilly trails!
Kate started ultra training in February and completed the Skyline 50K race one week ago today. I am so very amazed and inspired by Kate’s accomplishment that I had to interview her to find out more about this crazy thing called Ultra Marathoning, and here is what she said…
What made you decide to join the ultra team?
I’ve been on Team in Training’s marathon team a few seasons every year since 2009, and, at first, I was planning on signing up for another season with the marathon team. I went to an intro run with the ultra team, and it was a lot of fun. Then, a friend signed up and convinced me that I’d be able to make room for the increased time commitment. And, I figured, it was time to get past my dislike of running hills!
What made you decide to train with TNT as opposed to going it alone?
I’ve had so many running “firsts” with TNT (first half, first full, first mentoring experience) that I didn’t even consider taking on an ultra-marathon without TNT being involved. Plus, falling down is always a lot better when there are others around to help you pick yourself back up. In ultra running, this happens often both emotionally and physically!
What does it mean to you to be a part of the ultra team and Team in Training?
The ultra team is much smaller than the marathon teams I’ve been on through TNT. I think this is one of the reasons that we have all become so close over this season. Several people on our team used the term “family” to describe our team, and it really fits. When you’re out on the trails there for 5 or 6 hours at a time- slogging up mountains, crossing slippery rivers- it creates a very unique bonding experience. Also, a lot of people think that running 31 miles or 50 miles or 100 miles is absolutely insane, so it’s great to be around other people who think that it’s the most exciting thing in the world to be running so far and on such intense terrain. I think that as a team, we took genuine joy and pride in each others accomplishments, and really supported each other when things were rough.
What is your favorite/least favorite part of trail running?
If you had asked me this question a few months ago, I would have said that running up hills was my least favorite part of trail running! But after learning so much more about form and technique on hills, uphills have turned into the part of trail running that gives me the greatest feeling of accomplishment once I’ve reached the top.
My favorite part of trail running is this: My shoes make soft footfalls on the path beneath me, which is covered in needles from the redwoods towering overhead. In the distance, a bird calls, the wind whistles, a stream trickles over some rocks. Sun and shadow make patterns through the leaves. All this hovers on the edge of my awareness; my eyes stay focused on the twists and turns of the trail. The outside world fades away, time ceases to have meaning. I’m not thinking about how far I’ve gone, or how fast, or about what’s over the next hill. I just am, present and running. A small slip on a leaf or a branch tugging at my hair, and the moment whisks away into the trees. But this is where I run to when I’m on the trails.
Did you have any setbacks during training?
I spent most of my time prior to ultra-training focusing on speed work and improving my road racing times. It was a huge shift for me to stop mentally focusing on speed, and start focusing on strength and time on my feet. I definitely made progress as a trail runner over the course of the season even though I consider myself one of the slower runners on the team. It was very hard to not compare myself to others, and there were many times I felt negatively about my performance because I couldn’t keep up with a certain runner. I consider this a setback because I think that kept me from enjoying the run at that time, and I didn’t show myself enough appreciation for what I actually did accomplish.
Learning to let go of my inner negative voice – it’s a process!
What do you eat the night before a long run? During? After?
Pasta with pesto sauce and french bread the night before, plus lots of water. My favorite foods to eat while running are boiled potatoes dipped in salt. Watermelon dipped in salt is also amazing! I like protein-heavy foods after running, anything with eggs is usually good.
Do you recommend ultra running to anyone and everyone?
Yes! If you’re interested in running further than a marathon, and running lots of beautiful trails, go for it!
What kind of person/personality do you think it takes to be an ultra-marathoner?
You have to have the desire to do it. If you don’t have that desire, or some other motivation, it’s really easy to give up along the way.
What was your hardest and best moment of the 50K?
Around mile 20ish, there was a huge hill after the Big Bear Aid station. I was with two of my teammates and I told them that I was “stressed out” because I couldn’t keep up with them. Then I got to the top of the hill and Mama Lisa was there. I told her that I was stressed out, and so she walked with me for a little while. I was crying and telling her that I felt so full and I couldn’t eat. I have no idea what she said to me, but it made me feel better and I was able to start running again.
The best moment, though, was crossing the finish line, and seeing all my teammates and AJ there clapping and cheering. That moment felt so incredibly amazing, I don’t even have words to describe it!
Now that you have completed your first ultra, what’s next? Will you do one again?
I have a road half in October and a trail marathon in December. I definitely want to do another 50k, and have my eye on one next spring. I’m waiting to see what’s on the ultra team calender for 2013, but I think it’s pretty likely that I’ll be lacing up my trail shoes for another ultra with TNT.
(All photos in this post courtesy of TNT Ultra teammates, Kate, Patty, May, and Brian!)