Stephanie Howe had a great 2014 that included a speedy second-place finish at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. She’s back and running as the race favorite. In the following interview, Stephanie talks about her 2014 season, what she’s done since taking third at last December’s TNF 50, and how she’s shooting to mix things up with her running this year.
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Stephanie Howe Pre-2015 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Stephanie Howe before the 2015 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. How are you doing, Stephanie?
Stephanie Howe: Good, pretty good.
iRunFar: You had a very strong 2014 season with great runs here and at Western States and at The North Face. What do you think about your 2014 now that we’re a couple months out?
Howe: It’s going to be hard to top. Yeah, I had a really good year. I set some pretty lofty goals for myself and achieved most of them. Looking back at last year, it was really kind of a dream. I wanted to do my first 100 last year and to have it be Western States, but I never thought I’d win. It was pretty cool.
iRunFar: You’re a goal setter. Do you have any goals for 2015?
Howe: I do. I have some race goals. I want to continue to improve upon things from last year. I have some non-tangible goals, too—one being to mix things up and get out of my comfort zone. I’ve done that at least once already this year. I want to try some new races. It’s really easy to get comfortable and do the same races over and over again. I always want to try new things and add different types of races. This year, Way Too Cool was actually kind of a different race for me. It was fast. UTMB is going to be kind of a new area for me.
iRunFar: Those are totally different ends of the spectrum.
iRunFar: But you’ve races shorter stuff before with your Nordic background.
Howe: Yeah, I have, yes, it’s not totally foreign to me.
iRunFar: That’s pretty quick [at Way Too Cool]. You were second there, correct?
Howe: I was, yes.
iRunFar: Pretty fast time.
Howe: Yes, it was a 40 minute PR for me in a 50k.
iRunFar: That must have felt pretty good.
Howe: It did. I didn’t know I had it in me to run that fast. I kind of went into it a little nervous. I surprised myself.
iRunFar: Especially so early in the season—that’s March.
Howe: Exactly, yeah.
iRunFar: I’m guessing not a whole lot of snow up in Bend this winter?
Howe: No, unfortunately. I’d planned to ski a lot this winter, and it didn’t really happen that much.
iRunFar: You kept more of that running fitness than usual over the winter.
Howe: Yeah, I did. I took a nice break. Zach and I went to Bali for a few weeks, so there was no running during that time.
iRunFar: So you do take a full stop from running?
Howe: I do. I like to winterize, as Scott Wolfe says.
iRunFar: That’s worked out for you.
Howe: It has. I feel like it’s really easy to just run all year around. You can race all year around. If you don’t set aside time for a break—you know two years ago, my bad year where I was injured, I didn’t really take a good break. I just kind of reflected on that and was like, Okay, if I want to be in this long term, I want to take this time to not run.
iRunFar: So you’re in pretty good fitness and pretty good running fitness, but you also did get out of your comfort zone and do the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse ski race?
Howe: Yes, that was kind of like a lot of new intimidating things for me.
iRunFar: What drew you to try to some ski touring?
Howe: I enjoy doing skiing in the winter just to mix it up from running. Zach had done that race before and he wanted to do it again. He kind of asked if I would be his partner. I was kind of like, “Whoa, you want me to be your partner? This is something way out of my area.” I was like, “Yes, I want to do that. I will take that challenge.” For me, it wasn’t so much about the skis and the snow, but starting at midnight… if I could think of the worst time for me to be up and active, it’s probably in the middle of the night… and the altitude and the cold. It was these things together that made it a challenge for me.
iRunFar: Unlike, say, if you were to do a running race in the Rockies for your focus race in the summer, you weren’t going to Elk Mountain to acclimate for weeks. This was an adventure.
Howe: No, we went a couple days before. It was totally a fun adventure. We had some friends there who were also racing. So it was the race, but then it was also about seeing people.
iRunFar: There were a lot of ultrarunners there.
Howe: There were so many ultrarunners. It was so much fun to catch up with people.
iRunFar: Maybe the whole shift to skimo or ski touring now sort of highlights the whole “winterize” aspect.
Howe: Yeah, it’s kind of becoming a popular thing to do. I think it’s great cross-training because it’s hard. You’re still getting great cardiovascular fitness, but it’s not that pounding on your body. It is a pretty good break.
iRunFar: Do you feel it leaves any aspect of your running even stronger than it would be without it?
Howe: I think so. It’s good for climbing hills. To me, that’s been one of my weaknesses in running, I think, steep climbs. I think the skimo helps it hopefully.
iRunFar: How do you feel coming into Lake Sonoma? You were second here last year. You ran just a couple minutes behind Emily Harrison who had an amazing race. You had a really strong run here. Do you think you’re sort of on par with that?
Howe: Yeah, I think my fitness is pretty similar to last year, maybe a little bit stronger. I just have more experience. Fifty miles is a good distance for me. I’m going to go out there and hopefully have a race like last year. We’ll see. You never know what will happen. I feel good. It’s a race that I’m not really focusing on. I’m going to run my best tomorrow, but my sights are in the future.
iRunFar: Yeah, which would be…?
Howe: Western States and UTMB.
iRunFar: So you have quite a wide variety of races this year.
Howe: Yeah, and that’s all about that goal of getting out of my comfort zone and trying different things.
iRunFar: Good luck out there on Saturday.
Howe: Thank you.
iRunFar: Bonus question for you: I know after this weekend you’re meeting up with Clif and going to Boston to work with them at the marathon. Is it true that you had some of their organic food product at Western States last year?
Howe: Yes, true story. They had some of the athletes test the product in the early spring, and I loved it. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I need to have this for Western States.” So they gave me some, and they were in these little white containers that were unlabeled. I couldn’t talk about it. They were great. I’m so excited they finally released it, and I can talk about it and use it now. For anyone who hasn’t tried it, it’s great. It’s a savory flavor. It’s made out of sweet potato puree. There’s a pizza and a sweet potato flavor, and they are delicious.
iRunFar: I’ve had the pizza and I love it. I’ve had both, but the pizza…
Howe: It’s when the last thing you want is a sweet gel, it’s like this savory goodness.
iRunFar: I couldn’t imagine trying that out at Western States when it’s 100-something degrees.
Howe: Yeah, I used it early on and then later. During the middle of the day I had some tough fueling which was mainly Sprite. I couldn’t get much down.
iRunFar: A tougher question: Clif wine or Wilson Winery wine?
Howe: Well, we’re at the Wilson Winery, so I will say this is one of my favorite wineries in Healdsburg.
iRunFar: Pretty good. Enjoy.