What was the most valuable lesson you learned from 2017?
2017 was a rocky year of racing for me; I was sick; lost a precious family member, and made a few bad decisions which ultimately cost me a few races. But, I don't count 2017 as a bad year because the lessons I learned were so valuable; some of these lessons I think I will always be learning. I learned the importance of being gracious with what life throws at us; sometimes heartbreaking events or illnesses happen at times we might consider as "the worst possible timing" but I believe this is simply how life goes; we can't control our every step but we can choose how to respond, and I want to be better at doing that. I also learned the importance of choosing crew wisely; and truly what a gift it is when people volunteer their time and energy to help you fulfill a goal; it's invaluable; however it's also deeply heartbreaking when you work so hard for a race and then suffer the consequences of not thoughtfully choosing the right people. 2018 is about being wiser in my decisions and consistently rediscovering the joy and gift of being able to do what I do every day.
What is your racing calendar for 2018?
I only have the first 6 months mapped out as I am still in the process of considering some race invites and events, but so far:
- Tarawera 100 Mile in New Zealand (February)
- SchiaccheTrail 47k in Cinqueterre, Italy (March)
- Penyagolosa Trails 115k in Spain (May)
Which race are you targeting as your A race?
For now, UTMB but I am waiting on 2 other races that might possibly replace that as my A race.
If you were able to give yourself advice at the beginning of your running career, what would that be?
Recover as hard as you train.
Which aspect of running do you enjoy the most?
Meeting people all over the world and hearing their stories; I love connecting with people.
How do you incorporate your race day nutrition strategy into training?
My nutrition is simple. I use Spring in training and racing, so I don't really change anything from training to racing.
Going into a race, do you have a detailed plan for splits and nutrition? If so, how does that plan come together?
I raced 3 times this January to nail my nutrition. I ran 3 distances in varied climates and terrain. I learned I need to eat a spring gel every 25-30 minutes.
How does your nutrition strategy differ for a 50k and 100 miler?
The strategy is the same; it's just the amount that differs. I eat more Spring in a 100 miler.
What are your go-to travel snacks and meals to avoid unsavory airport food?
I typically stick to fresh food as much as possible, so even if it's just a banana or a side salad; I'm happy. This is also why I love Spring so much; it tastes good all the time because it's actual food, so I always have a few packs in my carry-on. I also drink a ton of water in the airport and on the plane.
What advice would you give to a younger runner who has aspirations of becoming a professional? Also, what are some of the biggest challenges attached to the commitment of being a professional?
I get asked this quite a bit. I have been a highly competitive athlete for much of my life, starting with soccer; so I learned the importance of discipline, focus, and patience when going after big goals. And working hard is non-negotiable; you're either going to commit to working hard in ALL parts of training or not; there's no gray area. I would definitely encourage any youth athlete in these four things. Trail running is tricky because it's pretty easy to build your running resume based on several small local races; and while these are great for building confidence; learning race strategy and simply fostering a love and enthusiasm for the sport; if you want to run professionally, you must run the highly competitive races as these give you an honest look at your level of performance; and this is also where the brands will be watching. I believe it's far more valuable to be in the top 10-15 people in a massive, highly competitive trail race then be first overall in a small local race where there is no competition. I think there is a place for all types of racing, and both are needed to build a well-rounded runner, but if you want to be a professional runner, then choose to run competitive races.
You have been working with Mario Fraioli as your coach over the past year. How important is it for you personally to have a coach?
Yes. It truly is a gift to be on Coach Mario's roster. He is wise, relatable and always in tune with my training and racing. He's encouraged me so much in the past year and has helped me become fitter and faster than last year through his well executed coaching plans and sometimes intimidating workouts. Ha ha! Having a coach is crucial for me because I am constantly juggling so much in my everyday life. Mario understands the level at which I operate, and I can safely confide in him knowing he understands the demands and sometimes pressure that comes with being a professional athlete.
What is the working relationship like between you and Mario?
Mario is a great communicator and somehow can keep up with all my crazy travel schedules, races, and special events. We chat on the phone, text, and email every week; seriously it's such a joy to have his support!
What is the most common mistake uncoached runners commit?
They interpret "train hard" as run more; run faster for every workout while ignoring the fact that all great things take time.
What is your oft most repeated advice you give to runners?
Don't focus on others; be YOUR best; get YOUR dreams; no one else can do that for you, and that journey isn't supposed to be like everyone else.
By Rafal Nazarewicz & Ryne Anderson