I already introduced you to my friend Kate and her Ultramarathoning Awesomeness, and now for part two, I would like you to meet Anya!
I met Anya during our first season with Team in Training but it really wasn’t until our second season together as mentors that we got really close, especially on those 6am, very dark, very cold, very wet buddy runs. She is probably going to kill me for saying this but not only is Anya an amazing runner but is she such a sweetheart! Don’t let the fact that she wears all black fool you- she is kind, funny as heck, and the type of person that will tell you what you need to hear even if you don’t want to hear it! I LOVE THAT!
After completing 2 seasons of road running with TNT, Anya informed me that she was going to go Ultra. And, honestly, I was very surprised! Knowing the struggles she had on the road, I was a little concerned for my friend that jumping from a road half to a trail ultra may just ruin Anya for life; but, knowing this team and these Coaches, she was in the best hands ever. Within just a few runs on the trail, Anya was hooked! And here is what she had to say about it…
What made you decide to join the ultra team?
My decision was an impulse one. My favorite runs with the marathon team were always the trail runs, so after chatting with a few of the ultra team members, I decided to just go for it! Despite never having run a marathon, I liked the challenge of a 50k, and I liked being told to walk up hills. Also, I felt that the ultra team was less pressure and more in tune with what I wanted to do, which was experience running in nature.
What made you decide to train with TNT as opposed to going it alone?
Um, you mean other than the snakes and mountain lions? Accountability and camaraderie. I don’t really need someone to run with, however, I need a team, or a group, to run with because I like the sense of camaraderie, and it keeps me honest. Knowing that people are waiting for you to finish, and being able to cheer on your teammates is such a great feeling. I get to share in everyone’s struggles and triumphs, and I learn about myself through them.
TNT is also just a great organization in general- raising money to fight blood cancer, and thinking of your honorees is a pretty great motivator when you’re climbing 4,000+ feet of mountains.
Tell me little something about what it means to you to be a part of the ultra team and Team in Training.
Being part of the Team in Training Ultra Team means I’m a completely ridiculous overachiever. Team in Training only has one ultra team in the entire country, and I am lucky enough to be a part of it. We have a world class coach who motivates us, challenges us, and trains us to be as ready as possible on race day. You can’t buy that type of support.
What is your favorite/least favorite part of trail running?
My favorite part of trail running is the technicality of it. I like maneuvering over tree roots, and climbing rocks, and being forced to think three steps ahead. It adds to the sense of adventure and excitement! Also, the views we get to see after climbing a steep, technical hill? Totally worth it.
My least favorite part is watching out for wildlife. It’s generally not an issue, but you do hear snakes and one of our teammates had a terrifying run in with a mountain lion that decided she was going to be his snack. She’s fine.
Did you have any setbacks during training?
I think all of us had setbacks. We trained for seven and a half months, and with ultra training, you need to devote as much of your life as possible to the sport, because some of these trails are pretty dangerous. I dealt with my knees and my IT band. My leg muscles aren’t developed enough to help support my knees, and my IT band has never really had to work this hard before, so I felt aches and pains that I was unfamiliar with. To deal with it, I foam rolled, I stretched, and I tried to develop my weak muscles through various strength and cross training exercises.
For me, the mental toughness came in when I would fall, or get stung by a bee, or attacked by some sort of bug. I remember at one run, I was stung right underneath the butt cheek, and I didn’t know what to do. It was my first sting in my life, and I had to take my pants off in front of my teammates, so they could try to find the stinger. We finally got the stinger out, and by that point, my knees had been destroyed from so much training, so I had to walk the majority of the trail. I started running towards the end, about 300 yards from our finish, and I tripped on a rock and fell on my knee. I was so frustrated. Just so, so frustrated. I felt like, “Maybe I’m not a runner. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this. I suck at this. I want to be a part of this so badly, but I am horrible.” I definitely had hit a wall.
Everyone deals with hitting the wall differently, but for me, I want to allow myself to feel whatever I am feeling, and accept it. I remember getting up, walk/running in with one of our coaches, and saying out loud, “I am so fucking pissed. Fuck this!” To my team’s credit, no one told me, “It will be okay!”, or “There’s always tomorrow!”, because that’s not what I needed to hear. I needed to be angry, even if it was just for 24 hours. I think accepting your faults, and to some degree your failures, really allows yourself to push through your walls.
The next weekend, I had one of the best runs of my life.
What pieces of gear can you not run without?
My Nathan running pack, for sure. It holds all my nutrition, water, and salt, along with my chapstick, phone, and asthma inhaler. My Asics trail shoes too. I know there’s a lot of support for minimalist running, and I’d love to get there someday, but I need big, clunky trail shoes for now. I tried a less supportive Brooks shoe, and it was a disaster! For my taping, I prefer the RockTape for swimmer’s. We’re out there for so long, and it gets pretty hot on the top of some of the mountains, so we sweat like crazy. I started using the swimmer’s tape, and it stays on perfectly.
Also sunblock. So much sunblock…
What do you eat the night before a long run? During? After?
I’m a gluten free pescetarian, so I don’t eat land animals, and I don’t eat pasta. I usually have brown rice with potatoes, and lots of vegetables. I’ll also include some gluten free bread with soy butter, and maybe an apple with almond butter for dessert.
During I eat Espresso Love Gu, peanut butter, Margarita Shot Blocks, and potatoes at the aid stations. I tried eating the candy that was available for sugar, but it messed me up, so I will eat some Sport Beans if I need sugar.
After I take a recovery drink, or eat a Clif Bar. That 30 minute window is SO important!
What kind of person/personality do you think it takes to be an ultramarathoner?
Training for a 5k is a HUGE accomplishment for anyone, but training for a 50k requires an extreme amount of dedication, patience, and the willingness to put in a lot of hard work. That is certainly also the case with a marathon, but we’re gone for up to 12 hours in a day. We’re sometimes up at 4:30am to wake up, eat, drive to our running location, run for 7.5 hours, eat again, and drive home. It’s very, very time consuming.
I also think people who are interested in running an ultra need to comfortable being alone. You can always have a running buddy, but if your buddy is having a great day, and you’re not, there’s no guarantee that your buddy will be running next to you.
Describe your hardest and best moment of the 50K.
The hardest was dealing with hyponatremia. Around mile 23 I hit a hard wall, and I couldn’t recover. I didn’t realize that had consumed a little over 3 gallons of water at that point, and not enough salt, until my legs cramped up. BADLY. I had six miles to go until the next aid station, and no electrolytes, so I had to fight through it. The trail was spinning, I was so thirsty, and was seriously craving a Gatorade, but I had to keep moving. The last 10 miles was the most challenging, and the most difficult 10 miles of my life.
The best was finishing. It’s so cliche, but it’s true. I had my team and my family cheering me in, and I was beyond ready to be done!
Recently, you completed the Coastal Trail Lake Chabot Marathon– your first marathon! How did that go?
It was definitely less difficult than the 50k, but because it’s still a freaking marathon, it’s a pain in the ass. But obviously worth it.
I think placing first in my age group but also dead last in the marathon was my favorite part.
I’m terrified for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in December, but running in the Headlands is so incredibly beautiful, that you kind of forget how high you’re climbing. I’m also excited because the reason I wanted to run the Headlands in the first place was to pay tribute to my friend who passed away. Her ashes are scattered in the Headlands, so it should be a fairly emotional experience. Also I’m turning 30 a few days later, so it’s a bundle of reasons that should push me when we’re climbing the Dipsea trail.
This was Anya’s 3rd season with TNT, she has raised over $4,000 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Socitey to date and I am proud to call her my friend! You can read her recap of the Skyline 50K here. Cheers to you, Anya, and all of your ultra accomplishments- love ya, girl!