Michele Yates dominated the women’s race from start to finish to win the 2013 Run Rabbit Run 100. In the following interview, Michele talks about her athletic background, why she was wearing camo, and where you’ll see her racing the rest of this year.
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Michele Yates, 2013 Run Rabbit Run 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Michele Yates after her win at the 2013 Run Rabbit Run 100. Congratulations, Michele.
Michele Yates: Thank you. Appreciate it.
iRF: Were you expecting such a tremendous run out there?
Yates: I was coming out hard. I definitely wanted to come out hard. I came in fit. I’m coming off an injury, so it’s… all of that builds up. You really want to perform well, so that drives you. It was a little underestimated, which is okay. I like being the underdog.
iRF: You were. Caught me by surprise a little bit.
Yates: Yeah, fair enough because I’m new to it. I just wanted to prove to myself and within myself and see my capabilities and what I can do.
iRF: You training pretty specifically for this race, didn’t you?
Yates: Yes, we were here. My husband and I came up here a couple weeks ago. We came up and took a look at the course because I was here last year and went the wrong way several times. I wanted to make sure I felt confident and comfortable with that. I think that he’s part of the success, too, knowing as soon as I get into an aid station which direction I’m going to go—not stumbling around and just keeping it smooth all day.
iRF: You were pretty aggressive in your racing.
Yates: Yeah, I think I’ve always been an aggressive racer. I try to still be smart about it though.
iRF: So you thought… you’d built basically a minute/mile lead on the rest of the women’s field for the first 17 miles and still kept building pretty quickly.
Yates: Yeah, well, I’m racing them and that was probably my biggest motivation was to kind of prove myself but then again within myself.
iRF: You didn’t feel that you were stepping out too far.
Yates: No, even up the mountain there I was surprised to find that I was up front at the gondola and happy about it, but I never let my heart rate get over a certain amount. I kept it low and I was really comfortable. I was happy with it.
iRF: Eventually you built 45 to 50 minutes lead on the rest of the women’s field. At any point did you say to yourself, Time to go conservative.
Yates: No, the only part I really panicked was—because I felt fairly well the whole time, as good as you can feel in a 100 miler—but the part I got nervous on is that my headlamp was going dim because I made the rookie mistake of not changing out my batteries and it was kind of flopping around. So it wasn’t the greatest one. I’ll look into getting a better one now. Up on the Wyoming Trail where it was flooded and it became more of a technical trail than it was two weeks ago when we were here because of that, I had just this little baby dim light that I was trying to use. I slowed down a lot. I felt that. I really tried to make it up on the last two sections or just basically the finish. You never know, people could tell you, “Hey, they’re this far behind, or this far,” but the reality is you never know.
iRF: Between what aid stations is that Wyoming Trail? I’m not sure where that is.
Yates: The Wyoming Trail is up between Summit Lake and Long lake. It’s just that back trail. It was snowing, it was pitch dark.
iRF: So it was snowing. Somebody reporting from Long Lake said it was snowing, but nobody believed it.
Yates: Yeah, it was snowing. You know, we got that freak thunderstorm down at Dry Lake in Spring Creek and then went up to the snow.
iRF: Was the weather really bad?
Yates: No, you know, if you prepared for it, it was fine, but I could tell there were some people out there that were not prepared. I would imagine that they probably dropped out especially getting to the top. You know, mountain weather, you just can’t play around with.
iRF: Fortunately it was over pretty quick.
Yates: Yeah, and just come prepared. I had several different layers, and I kept doing change outs and making sure I wasn’t wet. Keeping my hands warm is a big thing for me, so I tackled that really well and got some of these cool hunting mittens. They’re like flip-top and…
iRF: Hunting mittens and a camo cap—is there any story behind that or is it just…
Yates: Actually, I grew up hunting and fishing and those products always seem to work. Now they’re even coming along with more performance stuff. The hat was actually a waterproof hat, and I like camo. But waterproof hat and then the gloves were also waterproof with the flip-top mittens. So I had the tight gloves around them so I could grab and do what I needed to and then I could flip the mitten back over. They also had the hand warmer pockets, so I could put in the hand warmer thing in there.
iRF: You never went to that. I know your husband was asking about that.
Yates: No, I was warm, comfortable, and felt great with all of that.
iRF: On the Wyoming Trail, there were two aid stations in a row where Nikki [Kimball] made up five minutes each aid station on you. Were you able to find out that Nikki was moving on you?
Yates: I didn’t. Again, I felt like I knew up there on that Wyoming Trail that I had slowed down due to my light. I was still confident that it being kind of up and down and a downhill finish that I could do really well on that. I did really well going from Dry Lake up to Summit Lake. I was playing games with myself to get up pretty fast. It wasn’t as taxing as I thought it would be. Coming down I was like, Oh, it’s going to suck going back up. But it really didn’t.
iRF: At some point did you start chasing the guys? At one point, Timmy Olson was the guy ahead of you.
Yates: Yeah, I was hanging out with Timmy going down Fish Creek. We had a good little conversation. It was great to see him and meet him personally.
iRF: At some point you passed Dave Mackey?
Yates: Yeah, it’s funny because being so new to this, I don’t really know everybody yet. Basically I was just running my own race and running to what I felt was my potential and trying to push myself but, again, be smart about it. It’s cool to be up there with the guys, but I consider them to be competition as well, but I don’t get so hung up on that.
iRF: You have a pretty diverse athletic background. Can you share a little bit about that?
Yates: Where do you want me to start? High school, actually, I ran cross country and track and played soccer and actually was on the wrestling team. I started wrestling in middle school. I wanted to make that my own sport, and it was something to keep me in shape. It really was… it was really hard core and it’s really been a part of my life today. Even being out there going through that discipline… and that has really helped. Moving on, I actually played collegiate soccer for the first couple of years and then switched over to running in indoor/outdoor track and cross country.
iRF: What did you specialize in in college track?
Yates: Steeplechase, actually. I wanted the more challenging thing. Actually, it’s funny because when I first did my first steeplechase, I’d never even watched it. My coach just sent me out there and said, “Uh, you’re going to do the steeplechase today.” I literally laughed, “I don’t know what that is. What is that?” She had me go do it. I was double-footing the jumps like a fool, but I actually won. So from then on, it was my passion.
iRF: You improved a little bit on that one?
Yates: Yeah, and of course distance—any kind of distances. Basically, I pursued my running career and also did some of the figure-fitness competitions. That was fun for a little while, but that was just something I wanted to check off my bucket list, like to do one…
iRF: So that was not your focus for a long time.
Yates: No, I did the first one and I cleaned house which was cool. Then of course, right away they’re like, “You’re national level. You could go pro at this.” So I did a few more and then I really, actually, at one point at nationals, I just kind of walked off stage and was like, I don’t like this. It’s not nearly as gratifying as running is. I really don’t need to stand up here and have somebody tell me ‘you’re fit and pretty,’ or whatever. Power to the people who do it because it is a sport. You have to be fit for it.
iRF: There were a lot of comments from the women who were following the race about your guns. You definitely impressed some people out there.
Yates: Thanks. I believe in being overall fit. The fitter I am for this event, I feel like, not only will it help me during the event but also afterwards. Right now I’m actually really happy with how I feel and really surprised, too.
iRF: You’re moving pretty well.
Yates: Yeah, I’m recovering quickly. I’m sore, but I’m not that sore at all. Surprising.
iRF: Post-collegiately, you went into road racing.
Yates: Yep, I did. I’m probably more known for obviously road marathoning and a couple Olympic Trials and all that fun stuff.
iRF: You got down to 2:39.
Yates: Yep, and I definitely feel like I haven’t tapped that out yet. I’ll probably do a few road races within the next couple of years to hopefully qualify for the Trials again. I definitely love the trail scene.
iRF: You’ve also raced the shorter trail scene like the U.S. Mountain Running Championships. You’ve made it to Worlds. You’ve run really well at Pikes Peak. How do you split your year up with running some shorter, faster stuff and then running ultras or what’s drawing you these days?
Yates: This year, you have to qualify for those teams, so obviously given the opportunity to represent my country has been a priority for me. Especially this year, the traveling and all that, having the funds to do that was kind of the focus, and then everything else kind of filtered out. In the future, I’ll always want to represent my country, but sometimes with the traveling expenses and that kind of stuff, you can’t really afford it. It’s unfortunate, but you just have to make those decisions.
iRF: There’s a sacrifice to represent the U.S. at this point in terms of financial commitment.
Yates: It is, unfortunately.
iRF: As opposed to here where you do walk away with a nice $10,000 paycheck.
iRF: It’s not about that, I’m sure.
Yates: Actually, obviously money is an incentive somewhat, but really out there on the course, I don’t think I thought of it once. It was really more of, I’m out there to see what I can do and to prove this. Then of course actually at the end coming down the Zigzag Trail, I was like, I’m going to win $10,000. Holy crap! Yeah, that was kind of awesome. It’s great and it will be great to put it back into the running funds. Actually, On Target for Veterans is my charity. They’re local, and so they’ll get some of that, too.
iRF: It was also your first finish in a mountain 100, right? You did Indiana Trail.
Yates: Yeah, I did Indiana Trail, which was more like “flooded trail.”
Yates: Yes, which prepared me a little bit for some of the stuff the other day, yesterday, whatever day it is. So it was my first completion.
iRF: It must have felt good.
Yates: It did. I actually felt kind of bad a little early, I’d say maybe 30 or 40 miles. I knew that the big climb at the beginning would hurt a little. And I knew that would take away no matter what, no matter how slow or how fast you’re really going, it’s going to take away. I tried to include more protein and just keep that in mind. But there was a point where I was like, Man, are my legs going to bounce back or not? But I just kept going one foot in front of the other, and I was totally fine after that five minute period of, Did I take it out too hard? No, I don’t think so. I really didn’t have my heart rate up and everything else feels good.
iRF: Nice. Got any more races on the schedule for this year?
Yates: I’m actually supposed to do UROC in a couple of weeks. So that will be a last-minute decision. I’m in there and I have the plans to do that. Like I said, I’m actually feeling really well, but it will still be a last-minute decision. Then actually I’m doing the Moab Half Marathon Trail Championship and the 50k championships in Boulder City, Nevada. I went to UNLV so those were all my old trails as well, and then I actually lived up in Frisco, CO, for six months, so UROC…
iRF: Is that Bootlegger 50k?
Yates: Bootlegger, yep. Then TNF 50 Mile Challenge, so that will be the rest of my year.
iRF: We’ll be seeing you around a lot. We’ll be down at UROC and hopefully run the Trail Half Marathon.
iRF: We’re moving to Moab. Then TNF…
Yates: You’re moving to Moab? I’m coming to visit.
iRF: Alright! Well congratulations and have a great rest of your season.
Yates: Thank you. Thanks.