Olympic marathoner Magdalena Boulet chose one of the most competitive races at which to debut in ultramarathoning, the 2013 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships. ‘Go big or go home’ is the mantra that Magda seemed to use last weekend as she exploded onto the ultra scene with her second-place finish. In this interview, Magdalena talks about how her race went, how she’s feeling two days after the race, and whether we’ll see her at a trail ultra in the future.
[Editor’s Note: For more information, we’ve published a full race-results article.]
Magdalena Boulet Post-2013 TNF EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks here of iRunFar with Magdalena Boulet after The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. You were second place on Saturday. It’s Monday morning. How are you feeling?
Boulet: Really sore. Really excited. Really glad it’s over. Very, very proud of being able to finish it and with a smile, too.
iRunFar: Olympic marathoners get sore, too, don’t they?
Boulet: Absolutely. I don’t care who you are. Running 50 miles with some crazy elevation gain and loss—it’s definitely challenging on the body.
iRunFar: First of all, let’s walk through the race. Tell us about your morning out there in terms of how it progressed for you. I know you said you were in a conservative place in the race’s early miles, but by about mile 20 you were tied for second. It only got better from there. Tell us how your morning progressed.
Boulet: First of all, I woke up at about 2:30 a.m. which is REALLY early.
Boulet: Yes, I couldn’t believe that my alarm was set for that time.
iRunFar: It’s Christmas!
Boulet: Really early. I’ve only done that once or twice before when there was a time change so it was equivalent to 2:30 a.m. back home. It was a really cold morning, so I felt like at the end of the race I was really overdressed, but I felt like it really helped me at the beginning of the race. I was talking to Max King before a couple of days. He came out here to talk to GU. He said—it was really great advice and it really stuck with me—he goes, “If you feel like you’re running too slow, you’re in a good place. If you feel like you’re where you should be, you’re running too fast. I really wanted to make sure that I went out conservative. I haven’t done this ever before, and I wanted to walk away and run really smart and within myself.
I started pretty conservative. We’re going up and it was gorgeous. The stars were out, it was dark, all the headlamps, and we’re just climbing mountains and hills and just kind of following the group. We got up the first climb, and then came the downhill. I’m really bad at it. In retrospect I probably should have practiced running in the dark.
Boulet: Downhill. So I was really conservative going on the downhill parts in the dark. Then, once we got to Tennessee Valley, I started to get a little bit more comfortable and little bit more confident
iRunFar: You eventually moved into tying for second place. You ran with Megan Kimmel for quite some distance a few minutes behind eventual winner Michele Yates. At some point in the race, did you make a move on Megan to sort of solidify yourself in second place or did she sort of drop back or how did that work?
Boulet: We ran together for quite a bit. We came through Stinson Beach still together and then came up on a couple of the friends that were in the men’s group. I was really hoping that all of us could work together. But I also picked up a pacer at Stinson Beach, Caitlin Smith, and that put a huge smile on my face. Megan and Caitlin know each other. And climbing up Dipsea, Megan had a hard time with the uphill. I think her hamstrings started to get a little tight, so we lost touch starting there. Michele was nowhere even close to us. At some point there was a two-minute gap between us from what I heard from the volunteers. Then it was five minutes. She was just on a roll—on a mission. I was just trying to concentrate on versus chasing her down to really just making sure that I didn’t blow up.
iRunFar: Well it worked. Eventually Megan Kimmel would drop back a bit and Emelie Forsberg would move forward. Did you ever feel any pressure from behind? Were you getting reports on the chase pack of girls behind you? Was that motivating?
Boulet: No, I never heard anything on who was behind us. That would have been also nice to know, but no one said anything. I only heard the gap between myself and Michele. When I got to Tennessee Valley, the last six miles, my husband said there was a pretty good gap between the chase pack and myself. But my weakest point was definitely coming from mile 40 to 44. That was extremely difficult. I’ve learned that, in that race, that my strengths became my weaknesses. I’ve always thought that running up really, really hilly sections would be my strength, but at mile 40 that became my weakness. That was definitely a learning moment for myself. I did extremely well with executing my nutrition which was very helpful. In the past, I’ve had stomach issues in marathons, and I was really concerned that this was something I hadn’t done. It was a lot longer, and I didn’t know what to expect. But I did great. For future racing, it really sets me up for some good times.
iRunFar: You said “future racing.” Does that mean possibly future trail ultra racing?
Boulet: Absolutely. Absolutely. I walked away from this and the first thing I said was, “How do people run 100 miles?” Those were the first things I said. “How do people do it—50 more to go?” I remember saying that in college when I heard people run marathons. I felt a little bit maybe unprepared in training-wise never running past 35 miles—not really sure how much of that played into it but probably doing a little bit more. But now having actually completed 50 miles in one stint, it gives me a little bit more confidence.
iRunFar: A lot more confidence. Do you have any races that you’ve been clicking away looking at the last couple days or are you still in afterglow?
Boulet: I have not. I have not, but I’m sure I’ll find something.
iRunFar: Is there anything in particular on your racing calendar right now—road or trail?
Boulet: Nothing yet, no nothing yet. A little bit of swimming this week—I definitely want to recover. I think physically I should do this. In my heart, I’d love to go for a run today and I probably shouldn’t. That’s a really good feeling to walk away and feel like you want to go for a run after running so much. Sometimes when I’ve prepared for a marathon and had a 12-week stint, I remember finishing a race and going, “I really need a break from running. I really need to do this mentally and physically.” Mentally, I’m super excited. I really want to go to pretty places and run. I want to find more mountains to chase.
iRunFar: It sounds like the trails have cast their spell on you. It took just one race.
iRunFar: Just one more question for you. You come from a road-racing background as high a level as it gets for women’s road racing—endurance distance road racing in America. You’ve run with some pretty fast women over the years. How does competition compare crossing over into the trail racing scene? What are some differences and similarities you’ve found with last weekend?
Boulet: Well, I’m still learning about the competitive world of ultrarunning. There are definitely women that have a lot of experience and have done some amazing races and set some amazing records. Maybe the times are different, but I don’t think you can compare road racing to trail racing in terms of times because it’s a completely different animal. You can run really fast on the roads, but that does not mean it’s going to translate if you don’t train properly for some of the really technical races. I talked to Michele [Yates] right after. She’s also a GU-sponsored athlete so she was in the office talking with me two days before it. Right after the race, I was extremely happy and proud of what she’s done, and she came up and she said, “I can teach you a thing or two about running downhills.” There is so much that goes into… it’s not just leg speed. Maybe you can translate that a little bit, but there’s so much that goes into it. You can be very competitive without having all the leg speed. It does help if you train properly for the mountain races.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations on your second place this weekend. Welcome to trail ultra racing, and we hope to see you down the trails.
Boulet: You definitely will. Thank you, Meghan.
iRunFar: Thank you.
iRunFar: Bonus question from behind the camera. What’s your favorite flavor of GU?
Boulet: Oh my gosh. Just all time? Or yesterday?
Boulet: I absolutely love the Chocolate Raspberry Roctane. It’s my go-to. But Salted Caramel has been my favorite lately and has won many of my runs.
iRunFar: Alright, well, I think that’s a cue to go hunt for Salty.