Extra/ordinary: A Teacher Takes up Ultra-Distance Trail Running

November 4, 2013

by — Posted in Wild Women

I admit that I am no hard woman. I’m not good at pushing myself (though I’m working on that), and I get overwhelmed pretty easily. When I go to mountain film festivals and watch crazy footage of people like Sonnie Trotter or Shane McConkey, I know I will never (ever) achieve anything remotely close to what they have, and that can become an excuse to not bother trying to get better. But then I look around at my friends, and my friends’ friends. People with regular jobs and regular bodies, who are doing some pretty cool stuff in their spare time. These are the people who really inspire me, because they’re making it happen despite not being freaks of nature. They remind me that I can be better.

I have decided to profile some of these people on the blog, in the hopes that they can inspire you, too! (So if you know of someone I should talk to, or you ARE someone I shoud talk to, let me know!)

First up (and a big thanks to her for being a willing guinea pig) is Krystil. We met through the Varsity Outdoor Club at UBC, and she’s been inspiring me ever since. Lately, she’s been running ultra distances, which she’s pretty nonchalant about, but I think is pretty amazing. She’s answered some of my burning questions below.

In case you're wondering, that's not an oyster in her hand -it's a bagel.
In case you’re wondering, that’s not an oyster in her hand -it’s a bagel.

What do you do in your “real” life?

I’m an Outdoor Education Teacher for high school students in Vancouver.¬†Once in a blue moon I’ll set up my piano keyboard or pick up my guitar, but I only like playing when nobody’s around. I love love love the wilderness. I enjoy most activities, and I’ll do almost anything to go wilderness camping, hiking, ski touring, sea kayaking, bike touring (which sort of counts) or alpine climbing/mountaineering/rock climbing. Lately I’ve gotten into trail running as well.

How long have you been running?

I’ll usually insist that I’ve been doing one thing or another since the beginning of time. Although at what point an activity that I enjoy becomes something that I do is probably a grey area.I started running when I was 13. I was a chubby kid, and I wanted to do better in PE class during the cross-country unit so I would practice. I would jog four blocks down and then back home thinking that if I started with that then someday I would make it eight blocks, and then over the years I would keep adding a larger goal. Usually I would stop over the winter and otherwise run a fairly small amount.

Finally, in my first year of college, I ran more consistently during the winter, so I guess I could say that I started running when I was 18. The one thing is that running has always been an activity that I approach with a fairly casual attitude. I ran my first half marathon at 24, and then a full marathon (which I’ve only done two of) at 28.

What is the longest distance you have run?

I ran my first 50 miler this past September. It was the Meet Your Maker race. It was RAD!!!

When did you decide to try longer distances? And did you ever think you would one day be doing ultra distances?

Hahaha, I still don’t feel like I run ultra distances, but rather that I ran an ultra distance. That said, I am SUPER excited to hit the trails next summer. I’m starting to feel recovered enough to go for longer runs, and even wishing that I could get out tomorrow¬†one more time before the snow returns in the mountains. I typically think that I would like to improve my time at a shorter distance before running another long race, an then the idea of running a little bit further starts to creep into my mind and before I know it I’ve signed up for something a bit longer.

How do you build up your mileage?

I just run. I think I was kind of lucky with my race in September, and that I probably did the minimum amount of training I would have wanted to do for a race that distance. I got in about three 30 milers before the race. I also tried to get my weekly distance total to approach that of the race for a few weeks, about a month before the race. I did a few “back to back” long runs, and I think I would like to incorporate those into my training “plan” for the future.

I think I usually take time off after a long race; I pretty much stop running until I feel like running again. For me it’s important to keep it fun. And then I think I run a small amount to maintain a solid base. Because I’m often camping, some weeks go by when I’m not running at all, and other weeks I will run five times.

I’m not actually a fast runner at all, I think I just make it through these mountain races because I have a good base from all the hiking I have done through work and hobbies.

Have you had any running-related injuries?

Luckily, I’ve had no major injuries. I’m always fairly conscious about taking it easy (maybe too easy sometimes). The reason is because when I was 24, I originally signed up for the full marathon. One day after not running for about three weeks I decided to do a 22km training run, which ended up leaving me with pretty serious knee pain for months after that. From that I learned to take it easy and listen to my body. This is a slippery slope to laziness, but I am pretty hard on my knees and I just want them to last as long as possible before needing knee replacement surgery. Hopefully when the time arrives the technology will have improved.

Do you do any cross-training?

Not on purpose. I try to exercise every day, but some months I do better at this than others.

Do you prefer trail running or road running?

Hmmmm, good question, I know the cool answer is trail running, but really I just enjoy doing anything. Also, road running around Vancouver is pretty luxurious.

What’s the best run you’ve ever had?

I don’t know of one run, I just really like those jogs when I go out and end up feeling energized during the run. Whether or not I’m actually running fast doesn’t necessarily match the level of energy I feel; I just like it when I feel like I’m running fast and like I could run forever.

Where do you run around Vancouver?

Around the UBC area. There are great beaches, trails, and sidewalks!

What advice do you have for the average person who’s thinking about longer distances?

Just focus on the fun. Longer distances are really not that hard, they just sound hard. In ten years I bet everybody will be running longer distances