Apparently, Stephanie Howe’s secret to ultrarunning success is long, injury-based layoffs before important races. She was second at last year’s TNF EC 5o Mile Championships after being hit by a car while cycling and, now, she’s won the Speedgoat 50k not long after returning from a three-month setback from a stress fracture. In the following interview, Stephanie talks about all this and more.
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Stephanie Howe, 2013 Speedgoat 50k Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Stephanie Howe after her win at the 2013 Speedgoat 50k. Congratulations, Stephanie.
Stephanie Howe: Thank you.
iRF: I don’t even know where to begin.
Howe: I don’t know either.
iRF: I think I’m going to go with you’ve had two great races… well, you’ve had a couple great races in the last year, but… The North Face 50, you came back from getting hit by a car while cycling—messed up hip and couldn’t run for a long time. Now you’re coming back from a stress fracture. How long have you had to take off for that one?
Howe: I had about three months off, so it was awhile.
iRF: That’s a huge break.
Howe: Yeah, I learned a lot. I cross trained. I did the elliptical. I’d bring a little movie and sit there and elliptical… not fun. I got it done though.
iRF: You got it done. When did you get back to actual running?
Howe: I started running in June, just like little bits and kind of testing it out. I think I was healed, but I was so afraid to hurt it again. I did a couple runs and it felt good. So last week was the first week I started training again—well, two weeks ago. So I’ve been training for two weeks and it feels good.
iRF: That’s just incredible.
Howe: Yeah, I cross trained hard though, and I was rested.
iRF: And here you are.
Howe: Yeah, I know. I’m so happy right now. I’m so surprised. I told you this morning I was super nervous—Uh, how do I race again? I kind of just did my own thing and that worked pretty well.
iRF: You were in second most of the day, or early on?
Howe: I think I was in fourth up the climb—third or fourth. Then I kind of went back and forth with Ruby Muir as she would just fly downhill. I’d pass her on the uphill and then she would just zoom past me. So we went back and forth and, then, I think I was in second for the second half.
iRF: Behind Jodee Adams-Moore who has had some great runs out in the Pacific Northwest.
Howe: Yes. She’s fantastic.
iRF: She’s sort of jumping onto the big scene here. She had a good lead on you.
Howe: She did. She was 10 minutes ahead for most of it.
iRF: Even with 10 miles to go it was about that. She had four minutes on you at the top of the last climb. You know; you’re getting the splits. You come to the top of Hidden Peak the second time at mile 26, somebody there tells you.
Howe: Yeah, I was hearing.
iRF: Four minutes back.
Howe: Honestly, I was psyched I was gaining on her. I wasn’t necessarily trying to catch her because I was kind of thinking about myself. Okay, get yourself to the finish line. I was a little afraid to nail the downhill just with my calf. I hadn’t really tested it with steep downhill. I kind of took it a little conservative. But then I saw her and I was like, Oh, man. I think I can catch her. So I picked it up a little bit and passed her with three miles to go. I was hauling. I was running scared.
iRF: You passed her with three miles to go.
Howe: Three miles to go and really put on turbo.
iRF: She must have hung on.
Howe: She did. She was about a minute behind me.
iRF: You caught her really quick.
Howe: I did and then she tried to stay with me. She did for awhile, and then we switchbacked for awhile and I could see she was getting further behind. I was stressed but I was also relieved. It was good.
iRF: Real mountainous course. Lots of descent. There’s 11,000 feet of descending. Climbing is cardiovascular. How do your quads hold up? Like you said, you had three months off. Before that, it was winter, so you weren’t doing a lot of downhill mountain runs.
Howe: They’re a little beat up. I’m not going to lie. I took the first downhill “easy” (relatively speaking). So they’re going to hurt from that second one. I did South Sister in Bend the week before I came out here. That’s 3,000 feet of elevation. So I ran down that and got my legs really sore. They’re a little bit better today since I did that.
iRF: How did you find the footing and technicality of the course? Was it pretty technical out there?
Howe: It was. I like technical because it keeps me interested because you always have to be thinking about it. The one mile or over a mile of creek bed downhill—I was not really a fan of that. I was happy when that was over.
Howe: Yeah, there were some things where I was like, Really? We’re going over this? Of course we are.
iRF: Of course. How did your feet hold up over that?
Howe: Good. No complaints.
iRF: What’s up next for you? You’re just getting into your summer season with your training. Everyone else is five races in and tired.
Howe: I know. Yeah. I’m going to keep it conservative. I’m going to do Sierre Zinal on August 10. That’s in Switzerland. I’m registered for UROC. I want to see how everything goes with the injury and make sure I’m okay. I think I’ll do that, and then The North Face 50. That’s kind of all I got right now.
iRF: Pretty conservative schedule.
Howe: I’m excited about all of them.
iRF: You’ll be focused.
Howe: Focused—yeah, that’s the thing with me that I’ve realized with being injured. I have these big periods of time off and then I race and I race well. So rest is good, and I do well when I race less I think. It’s hard to do because there are so many good ones.
iRF: It’s so tempting when you have the opportunity, too.
Howe: You hear about people doing stuff and you think, Ah, I want to do that, too!
iRF: Earlier this year you had the stress fracture; now you’ve had a calf injury as well?
Howe: Well, the calf injury caused the stress fracture. It kind of pulled off the bone.
iRF: Where was the stress fracture?
Howe: In the fibula—Ellie [Greenwood] and I are like the fibula stress fracture twins. It’s a weird injury for a runner. It was higher up on my calf and super painful. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t swim.
iRF: Just the elliptical.
Howe: Just the elliptical and that was a month into it. There was a month of nothing. That was challenging. But I had to find some other outlet that wasn’t physical. I paint a little bit, so I did that. That helped me get through it.
iRF: You’re happy to be back at it.
Howe: I’m so happy. In a way it was good because it makes me really appreciate being out here training. I think I have a better balance now.
iRF: Aside from racing, do you have any runs you’re just itching to get out there and do this summer?
Howe: Oh my gosh, there are so many. I want to go do the Grand Canyon at some point—the double crossing. I want to go to Colorado and run some of the trails because I’ve only raced there a couple of times. I don’t know. There are so many trails in Oregon, too, and they’re just finally opening up. Yeah.
iRF: If you went to run UROC, would you be able to go out there a little early?
Howe: A little bit. I’d probably go out a week early and check out some of it.
iRF: Congratulations on your win here and have fun at Sierre Zinal and the rest of your season.
Howe: Thank you.