At our mother runner party in Denver last week, we were graced with the presence of Michele Yates, the 2013 Ultra Runner of the Year and an Ultimate Direction athlete. Yates is a quiet, confident champion—When I asked her if she was intimidated the running at the Olympic Trials, she replied, "I can't say I've ever been intimidated."—who beats the boys, wins National Championships, and has clearly found her groove in the ultra world.
Early Roots: I started running in middle school after watching my older sister run in high school. She inspired me and helped me get into the cross-country program. I fell in love with the sport and continued to race road and cross country, as well as indoor and outdoor track. I ultimately ended up getting back to the cross country and trail scene a few years ago and pursued the ultra distances with a friend.
Olympic Marathon Qualifier x 2: In 2008, it was just a blessing and an accomplishment to even make it there. I enjoyed every minute of it and ended up with a personal best. If I had any nerves, I reminded myself that you have to earn your way there, and I did. In 2012, I was bit more serious, and I felt more pressure. I had really hoped to be a contender for the Olympic Marathon team, however I got a foot injury a few months prior to the race and could only bike for the majority of my training. I raced well, and once again, it was a mind-blowing experience: Fans line the course five people deep, American flags all along the way for inspiration, and a finish line unlike any other.
The Appeal of Going Longer: There is a point that a certain type of person gets to where they just constantly seek a new challenge. That is me. The definition of "ULTRA" is extreme: exceeding or going beyond all other of the same kind.
I did my first one with my best friend as a girl’s weekend to check off a bucket-list item. It happened to be the USA 50 mile trail champs. I did well, and fell in love with the ultra trail distance, the people, and the challenges associated with it immediately. From there I had to try 100K’s, 100 milers, and I'm still going.
I think the ultra distance suits me because it takes mental and physical strength as well as speed. I always did well in road races, but on the trail with ultra distances, I have found that my overall fitness [Yates is a former bodybuilder] has served me well.
Favorite Race Distance: If I have to choose, I would probably say the 50 mile. The start is early enough to race with headlights, and then you get to watch the sun come up, but you get done early enough to enjoy the evening. The 100-miler can wipe you out for a few continuous days. Even if you finish at midnight, you can't sleep, your adrenal glands and eating are all messed up...not to mention you’re pretty sore.
Three Tips for Ultra Newbies:
1. Decide that you want to do it, then do it no matter what. Anything can happen—and will—happen in an ultra: blisters, stomach aches, soreness, you name it. You will never feel "good' through an entire ultra race. You have to decide whether or not you you are going to finish it.
2. Be as prepared as possible. Train for all potential situations, and remember that training isn’t just about the miles: It’s also about strength training—having strong, capable legs and core—and a solid nutrition plan. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
3. During the race, when you hit a low, play games with yourself (like 1 minute running, 1 minute walking), sing or turn on your iPod (if it's allowed), start up a conversation with someone, or even visualize you reaching your goal that day.
Major Gear Crush On: My Jenny Ultra Vesta, part of a Ultimate Direction collection designed exclusively for females by females. I used to be a belt girl, and then I, with some other female runners, got to give input for the design on the Vesta. Jenny [Jurek] truly listened to us. I asked for a Velcro pouch to put garbage in, and she did it! There’s also room to put emergency items like a jacket and hat, as well things space for protein bars, salt tabs, a phone, and other small necessities. The vest fits all different types of women's bodies, thanks to the adjustable, stretchy straps and doesn’t chafe at all. The bottles (suprisingly!) ride comfortably up front and do.not.bounce (amazing!). And one of my favorite features is that it cleans up very easily. I get GU all over it during long runs and races; all I have to do afterwards is rinse it with cold water.
Ultra Badass Mother Runner Ahead: Our first baby is due December 5th-ish. The pregnancy immediately changed my running routine because I could hardly get out of bed the first month, let alone run. It has been a more of a fearful time for me because I was diagnosed with Thyroid Disease about 6.5 weeks into the pregnancy as well as some other deficiencies that can affect the baby. We are praying for a healthy, happy baby, and I've accepted that I can't do much about it except take my prescribed meds and pray.
After that first month, I was able to run more—of course still only a fraction of what I used to do and nothing even comparably as intense—and I'm still rolling a long now. Although I really only had 2 weeks of steady training, I was able to run a 50k on May 4th and plan on "running" races throughout my pregnancy as long as the doctor approves and I feel good.
We've got an Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta to give away to a random mother runner (no ultra-goals necessary). In order to enter, please answer this question in the comments below: Michele defines ULTRA as, "Exceeding or going beyond all other of the same kind." What aspect of your life is ULTRA right now? Your volunteer commitments? Camp forms that need filling out? The foam rolling you're doing to release your angry IT Band? Let us know in the Comments section below this post to be entered to win.
[Some fine print for this fine prize.] This sweepstakes is open to those over 18 and residents of United States and Canada. It begins on 5/14/14 and ends on 5/20/14; the winner will be announced on 5/24/14. One entry per person. The value of each prize is $124.95. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Void where prohibited by law.