Jamie Donaldson, Badwater Champion: A TWIR Special Edition
TWIR: TWIR and iRunFar.com are especially privileged to get to chat with Jamie Donaldson today, fresh off of her victory (1st place female and 3rd place overall) and women’s course record at the 2008 Badwater Ultramarathon. In addition to her victory at Badwater (26:51:33), Jamie has also recorded first place finishes this year at the H.U.R.T. Hawaii 100k, Pemberton 50k, Umstead 100m, Cornbelt 24 Hour and Rocky Mountain Double Marathon. Jamie, many thanks from TWIR, iRunFar.com and their loyal readers for taking the time out of your busy schedule, and congratulations on an outstanding 2008 thus far.
JD: Thank you—it has been an amazing race season for me.
TWIR: Jamie, readers are likely itching to get some insight into your preparation for and performance at Badwater this year in light of what happened there in 2007. In 2007 you were miles ahead in the women’s division for 122 miles, when you were reduced to a near crawl and dropped you to a 5th place finish in 41 hours. Did you do anything different in training for Badwater in 2008 based on your 2007 experience?
JD: Yes, my husband David completely changed my training strategy for this year. Basically last year I trained to complete a 100 mile race. This year I increased all aspects of my training to compensate for the extra 35 miles.
TWIR: You played a little back-and-forth with Pam Reed in the early stages of the race, trailing her by 3 minutes at Furnace Creek, taking the lead by 5 minutes at Stove Pipe Wells, trailing again by 10 minutes through Panamint Springs and 30 minutes at Darwin, before finally taking the lead for good and opening a gap prior to reaching Lone Pine. Any thoughts on that?
JD: Pam is amazing! She never once let up. I had a specific pace that I knew I needed to follow to be successful. As hard as it was, I focused on my goals at each check point and not what other runners were doing. My crew kept close reins on me even giving me “time outs” if I needed to slow my pace down. I was within 5 minutes of my planned pace from Furnace Creek to Darwin. From Darwin to Lone Pine, I was a bit ahead of what I anticipated. After the 100 mile mark, I was allowed to go at the pace I felt appropriate and that’s when I started to close the gap on Pam. Around mile 105, I caught her for good.
TWIR: You and I spoke early on in your race and you mentioned to me that your goal was to just “stick to the plan”. Did your strategy change during the course of the race based on your knowledge of where Pam and some of the other top women runners were?
JD: My plan never changed. I didn’t worry about where everyone else was until mile 100.
TWIR: You had some trouble during the night with vomiting and nausea. Any idea as to what caused that, and what was going through your mind at that point, remembering what happened last year?
JD: Townes Pass is when it all started. I remember thinking it is too early for this! I remember seeing the worried look on the faces of my crew. I developed gas in my stomach that was causing a lot of pain. I kept positive because the rest of my body felt terrific. I knew if I could just get over the stomach issues, I would be able to run hard again. I have no clue what caused it, but my crew gave me the proper products to alleviate it. Their main goal was to keep my hydrated and refueled with electrolytes.
TWIR: Clearly, nothing is ever in the bag until one crosses the finish line, but was there any point during the race that you felt, barring injury, you had it won?
JD: I remember the excitement of my crew once we turned onto the Portal Road. I, however, was still not comfortable. I actually was very nervous here. When I got to mile 131, I found out Pam was over 2 miles behind me and I only had 4 miles to go. Only then did I feel like I secured it.
TWIR: I’ve heard people say that at Badwater, the crew makes the runner and that without a crew, there is no runner. You put together a phenomenal crew consisting primarily of family members – your husband (Dave), your brothers-in-law (Rob and Steven), and your sister-in-law Connie. You also mentioned that you didn’t necessarily want your parents out there to see you battling in the heat of the desert. Was it extra special to have family as your crew, most of which I think were with you in 2007?
JD: My crew is amazing! They were there for me no matter what. They supported me through every (slow) step of the way last year even when things weren’t going good. So, it was extra special to have them here again to have things go so well this year.
TWIR: Can you tell us a bit about your training for this event? Can you give our readers any advice on training for Badwater?
JD: First of all, training for an ultra is very individualized. What works for me may not work for somebody else. The 2 most important training tips for Badwater are heat acclimation and preparing your body for the135 miles.
TWIR: I’m certain your win at Badwater and course record there holds a big spot in your 2008 memory bank. Badwater aside, is there any other race this year that sticks out as a major achievement for you?
JD: The Umstead 100 miler in April was a great start to my racing season. I was able to better my time from last year which was an indication that my fitness was improving.
TWIR: What’s up next on your race calendar? The 2008 World Championship 24-Hour Run of the International Association of Ultrarunners in Seoul, Korea on Oct. 18-19?
JD: Yes, I have the 2008 World 24-Hour Championships in October. Depending on how I feel in a couple weeks, I may run the Leadville Trail 100. That was my first 100 in 2005, so I feel attached to Leadville.
TWIR: Congratulations on your selection to the World Championship team. You are in good company – Connie Gardner, Debra Horn, Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek and Phil McCarthy, among others. What does being selected to the team mean to you?
JD: I feel it is an honor to be selected to run for my country while competing on the same team with many amazing athletes.
TWIR: When you are not training for ultra marathons, what does Jamie Donaldson do? Life isn’t all about running, is it? What do you do in your “spare” time?
JD: I like to spend time with my 2 “children”: my 7 year old Golden Retriever and a 2 year old Newfoundland. Also, my husband and I spend a lot of time doing outdoor
TWIR: You’ve been running since the age of 6. What on earth got you to convert to ultramarathons?
JD: After competing at Penn State, I started training for my first marathon. I did a whole bunch of marathons, but thought I was a little bit too slow to be an elite marathoner. I got hooked on ultra running because of Scott Weber. Scott directed several difficult, muddy, wet, trail races in Colorado that showed me how much fun ultra running could be. I haven’t looked back since!
TWIR: Have any role models and other runners that you look up to?
JD: I think Bonnie Busch from Iowa is amazing! I met her during the Cornbelt 24-hour race this year. At this year’s event, she ran over 100 miles in 24-hours. She has been doing ultras since the 1980’s and has finished Badwater twice.
Also, I think Krissy Moehl is phenomenal. When I was first starting off doing ultras in 2005, she was supportive and took me on the Montrail Team. She seems to do every race with ease. Krissy is an amazing person and runner!
TWIR: If you could look into a crystal ball and see the future, where do you see Jamie Donaldson 10 years from now?
JD: Ten years from now, I hope I am injury free running ultra events that I love.
TWIR: Anything about Jamie Donaldson that we don’t know that you’d be willing to share?
JD: I am a middle school cross country coach. I enjoy making running fun for the kids while seeing them progress through the season.
After all ultra events, I look forward to consuming mass quantities of desserts, chocolates, ice cream, or anything else made with sugar.
TWIR: Well, Jamie, it has been a real pleasure to get to chat with you. Perhaps we can do this again somewhere down the road. Again, congratulations on your big win at Badwater, and an amazing 2008. You’ve got TWIR’s vote for ultra runner of the year!
JD: Thanks for your time and support!
You can learn more about Jamie and keep up to date with her adventures in ultra running (as well as read her 2008 Badwater Race Report) on her blog, Run Like a Girl. You can watch a television interview with Jamie: here.