Alicia Shay Pre-2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview

After finishing fourth at last year’s Transvulcania Ultramarathon, Alicia Shay is back again. In this interview, Alicia talks about how race went last year, what she’d like to do a little different this year, and the health issues she’s been dealing with.

Be sure to read our women’s preview to see who else is racing. Also, follow our live coverage on race day!

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Alicia Shay Pre-2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at the very southern tip of the island of La Palma. It’s about two-and-a-half days before the start of the 2016 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. I’m with Alicia Shay. Good morning.

Alicia Shay: Good morning.

iRunFar: How are you?

Shay: I’m doing great. I’m just really happy to be back on the island and give this race another swing.

iRunFar: Yeah, you were here a year ago. You finished as the top American just a couple minutes off the podium. Take us back to what you were feeling a year ago at this time.

Shay: I was pretty nervous. I’d heard of tall tales of Transvulcania and how hard the course was from my American friends. Any time I tried to get specific race information, everybody just said, “Oh, it’s so hard. It’s so rocky. It’s just so hard.” What does that mean?

iRunFar: “What do you mean, really? I need some specifics.”

Shay: Give me some frame of reference. Is it like this area of the U.S. or like this area of the Rocky Mountains? I just couldn’t get an idea or a grasp of what the course was like and didn’t have much time to see all of the course when I got here. I was just feeling a lot of trepidation and respect for the course. About this time last year I was pretty nervous.

iRunFar: Looking back to last year and how your race went, you had a really strong day, but I think you said last year you struggled on the downhill. I saw you at the very end of the downhill and it looked like you were struggling a little bit.

Shay: I was.

iRunFar: Looking back at your assessment of last year, did you feel good up until the long downhill? How was the race for you?

Shay: I did. I never really felt great. I just didn’t. It wasn’t a good feeling day, but I didn’t feel horrible. I felt in control the whole time… most of the race. I think I really fumbled on a lot of different sections. I wasn’t necessarily in race mode. I was kind of like, I need to make sure I can make it from the start line to the finish line.

iRunFar: Survival mode.

Shay: Yeah, I was really just kind of fumbling around with it. I think I ran the uphill too conservatively. Like a lot of people, I ran out of water in the middle section of the course.

iRunFar: Up high?

Shay: Up high. They had taken out an aid station, and I didn’t know that. So I wasn’t prepared to not have that, so I had no fluids and I stopped eating during that section because if you can’t drink it’s hard to eat. People were just falling apart around me, stopping and vomiting. It was just a mess on that middle section. I was just in the mode of looking for the aid station forever, for miles. “Where is the aid station? Where’s water?” I was just trying to keep myself going. By the time I got to the top, I was just focused on refueling, rehydrating. The downhill felt really comfortable…

iRunFar: [large machine stops behind camera] I’m having a lot of trouble with my interviews. I keep having loud things going past them. Yesterday a man walked up with a leaf blower 10 feet behind the camera. I’m sorry. Go on.

Shay: I was so depleted by that point that I was really focused on rehydrating and refueling. When I got started with the downhill, I thought, This is kind of like running down steep downhills in Flagstaff, Arizona. This is comfortable. Then it just kept going and going.

iRunFar: For 8,000 feet.

Shay: Yeah, and the sections that really threw me off were when we went from soft trail to the harder pavement or cobblestone sections, the really steep pitches. I started hurting in places I never hurt just because I hadn’t run downhills that long ever in my life. I started tip-toeing. I was just like Bambi just fumbling down those last pitches. I think when I saw you, you said, “Only 1,000 more!” I’m like, “Oh, 1,000 feet. I can do this!” Then I got to the top of the vertical k, I was like, “Oh…”

iRunFar: “Oh, no! She meant 1,000 meters!”

Shay: I really, really lost a lot of ground on that section. I lost a lot of ground just being dehydrated and not really fueling and just being in survival mode. On the uphill section, I was taking sand and rocks out of my shoes and stopping for it. So just like stuff that… coming back now, I have that insight and hopefully can do those things a lot differently so that I’m not fumbling.

iRunFar: What it sounds like is that it was a bunch of small things that added up.

Shay: Totally added up. By the time I hit the bottom of the descent, I felt so strong. Once I could run on normal ground, I was just hammering so hard to the finish line. I was really disappointed that I was two minutes back.

iRunFar: Just outside the podium.

Shay: Yeah, because I felt great. I could keep running as long as you give me ground that’s not at 14% grade. So I was pretty disappointed, but I learned a lot. It was the first long trail race that I’d done like that. I really took a lot away from it that I hope I can continue to use moving forward.

iRunFar: Yeah. Since your obvious success here last year, you’ve gone on quite a health journey. You haven’t been able to run regularly. Can you talk a little bit about what’s going on?

Shay: After I left Transvulcania last year, I was feeling really fit and excited to keep racing through December. Not too long after getting home, I got really sick and then just kept getting more sick and more sick. I tried to run through it and push through it and do the whole typical runner thing—being tough and riding it out. I started having some weird, scary symptoms while out on runs. I eventually found out I had a cardiomyopathy from a virus I had, so a viral cardiomyopathy. The symptoms I was having was because the ejection fraction of my heart would drop down below what’s normal levels. So I just didn’t even feel like I had my own body. I was feeling like I was stopped in my tracks and had to back off for several months.

iRunFar: So it was a several-month period of time where you couldn’t run at all or couldn’t train?

Shay: I didn’t run for several months. Then I started jogging around November or December. I started skiing is how I kind of entered back into activity.

iRunFar: You found you could do that okay?

Shay: I could do that okay. It was really hard at first. I felt pretty weak. I was still having some symptoms. But since I was on skis and I didn’t have a Garmin on and I didn’t know my pace per mile, I just kind of did it at my own pace. If I felt bad, I’d go really slow. When I say skiing, I was uphill skiing and ski mountaineering. I was more patient with my physical abilities in that realm than I would be with running, so I did that and then started running one or two times per week and just kind of waited until I got the green light from my doctor. I was okay to be active as long as I kept a low intensity. I kind of stuck to that guideline until March. I got pretty strong skiing. I felt good when I got back into running but still not totally myself. I had a lot of days where I was just super weak, like this deep fatigue of fitness. I just had to keep doing what my body would give me.

iRunFar: Stay patient.

Shay: Yeah, back off when I felt bad. When I had a good day, which wasn’t very frequent at first but increased in frequency…

iRunFar: Use it—use the good day when you had it and respect the bad days.

Shay: Yes, exactly. At the same time, my boyfriend, Chris [Vargo] was having some health issues, so we kind of nursed each other back to health and went through a lot of the frustrations and ups and downs together. When we started back to running, we were good to kind of keep each other in check. “If you’re feeling this way, then stop,” and had no issue with that. Even once we started feeling really good and finally were able to get into a true training block for this race, we still had days when we drove to the Grand Canyon and jogged to the rim and were like, “We can’t do it today.”

iRunFar: “Today is not the day.”

Shay: And we’d turn around and drive home. That took a lot, too, but it helped to have each other to reinforce that.

iRunFar: You’ve had a very small training block putting this together. We saw you run at the Moab Red Hot 33k in February, and then you ran the Crown King Scramble about a month ago.

Shay: It was a month ago, yes.

iRunFar: Tiny little block—what have you been able to cram in there?

Shay: Actually, quite a bit. So when I saw you at Moab, that was one of my first runs. It was my first long run.

iRunFar: “Hey, let’s try this.”

Shay: I went to support somebody else, Chris’s brother. Then we were there… I’m going to run today anyway, so what the heck, may as well race. Then after that, I needed a couple weeks before getting back into normal training. So once we started our first week of training, we went to the Canyon and did a run and, “Well, that wasn’t miserable.” Then I had a ladies group that I was coaching that I had to lead them on an 18-mile run two days later. I did that, and I was like, “Oh, I just did two long runs in a week!”

iRunFar: “Hey, something’s happening!”

Shay: That’s a lot better than normal. After that, we just kind of started really focusing on long runs and made that the priority of our week. We started doing two long runs (per week) in the Grand Canyon so we could get a lot of climbing in and a lot of long descending in. Then we’d come back again a few days later and do it again on tired legs. We just both really responded well to that and felt a big fitness boost right away. We did as much of that as we could. I raced Crown King which is a 30-mile uphill race, so that was a good prep for the first section.

iRunFar: Super-good prep, yeah.

Shay: So, it hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been a decent amount of volume and longer runs within the training block. It’s a little different than I prepared last year, but I think it might be better preparation for the steep running here.

iRunFar: It sounds like it might have been just enough to give you that mental confidence boost of, Yeah, enough happened that I feel good about it.

Shay: Yes, absolutely. Running in the canyon is a big boost if you can just get through it and not have to hike your way out and if you can actually run the whole thing. I think that tool is something that probably gives me more confidence than anything because it’s hard running. There’s no easy way out of that place.

iRunFar: Best of luck to you. It’s great to hear that your heart is healthy. Yeah, we’ll see you out there this weekend.

Shay: Thank you. I’m excited for it.

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com’s Senior Editor, the author of ‘Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,’ and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world’s wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 38 comments

  1. Emerson Thoreau

    I hope Ms. Shay takes a hard look at health over race times — the fact that both she and her boyfriend are having “weird, scary symptoms” speaks to overtraining and/or more serious health issues.

    1. Alicia Shay

      Thanks for the input Emerson! What I shared was a small piece of a much longer story. I was having some pretty scary symptoms related to viral cardiomyopathy which tends to resolve in 6 months (give or take). So it was not related to overtraining but a virus. It is possible to recover and return to normal activities once the heart recovers from the sickness. Thankfully I have great cardiologists to guide my care and recovery and let me know when it was appropriate to resume running and racing. I did take several months away from running but not that I am healthy I don’t see any need to live in fear and not race. That you for your concern but I will rely on cardiologists recommendation based on testing over someone else’s two cents.

  2. hillrunner50

    My opinion is not going to be very popular, but I invite discussion because it should be discussed. This interview highlights the epidemic that is plaguing high level ultrarunners and regular runners alike. I’ve been around mountain and ultra running for many years now, and I’ve seen this exact scenario play out over and over and over, and it NEVER ends well. Talented young runners such as Alicia have a few good years while overtraining and overracing. They win some races and do spectacular times, set CR’s, get sponsorships, write blogs, receive kudos from publications and fanboys and keep jamming out monster seasons with little to no true plan for racing well and staying healthy. They don’t pick one or two good ‘A’ races per year and peak to perform at them, and they don’t take a long rest period every year and maintain a long and healthy running career. Instead they go out and jam out hard run after hard run after hard run, all year round. Eventually they get inexplicable ‘mystery symptoms’, are knocked out for a period of time, recover, DO BETTER (for a short time), and then more ‘mystery symptoms’ come back. They go to doctors, get some sort of diagnosis, keep training and racing and then BAM. Their running career is over. They committed the cardinal endurance sport sin: they traded health for short-lived glory. Alicia Shay, like many other runners, has a very serious problem that neither she nor anyone else will own up to, and current and aspiring runners need to learn from them. Fanboys will slam me for saying what I’m saying, but before that happens, take a step back and really THINK about it. Take a look at those who precede her such as Alberto Salazar, Geoff Roes, Kyle Skaggs, Mike Wolfe, and many many others in the same exact boat as them and explain to me in detail how I’m wrong.

    1. AG

      Hasn’t Alicia been racing at a very high level since high school? For her a few good years has been going on for a really long time.

    2. Alicia Shay

      Hi! I have actually been racing at a high level since high school. I have also taken several yeas off from the sport. I raced once last year, mostly skied and then was completely inactive. This year I have skied leisurely for three months and then have been running for two… so unfortunately I do not fit your stereotype of overtraining and racing. I got sick with a virus that effected my heart and I was trying to be transparent about the issue. This can happen with certain viruses and it is an issue that needs to diagnosed, monitored and most of the time treated with simple rest and recovery. So that is what I did. I actually have never fit your stereotype and I sure hope that I never do! I run because I love it. I am definitely not pushing for races, media, sponsors, etc. Just a girl that simply loves to run and LOVES to run in the mountains… so please don’t put me into your box of an overtrained and over marketed runner. Best wishes in your running journey!

      1. hillrunner50

        Alicia, I appreciate your politeness. I do admit to putting you in the box of overtrained athletes, and I certainly didn’t intend to offend. OTS is a bugger because it is hard to study. Any information about it is purely anecdotal and the condition can’t be created in a controlled environment in order to be studied thoroughly. It affects athletes in different ways. However having read about and having known many athletes that have done ultras and ironman distance triathlons and who have burned out to the point that they couldn’t run a step, many of them have done the same things. They get sick with a mystery illness and go to doctor for a diagnosis of some sort. Some go to multiple doctors. Many doctors don’t find anything wrong with them. Some diagnose them with a condition based on results. Whether the condition is a reality or not the athlete runs with it. The athlete takes a lot of time off. Well, a lot of time off equates to huge gains in performance when they return. Look at any athlete who has done that, and that is the case (Alberto Salazar victory at Comrades for example). If an athlete were smart and if he wanted to improve over time and remain healthy he would pick one or two big races and train up for them. He wouldn’t schedule 5 -8 ULTRAS in his season. I’m not trying to antagonize and it’s absolutely not personal. In regards to the comment about racing at a high level since high school, I should have been more clear. I am referring to running ultramarathons only, not 5ks, 10ks etc. Ultra racing is a whole different animal as far as the how the endocrine system is affected in comparison to shorter events.

          1. Hilrunner50

            Wasn’t trying to be an asshole Mr. Vargo. My comments don’t represent those of a troll. Rather, perhaps you should look at your insulting comment to me, whom you don’t know, and reflect upon whether or not your comment is indeed representative of what a true troll actually says. Tell me what I am saying isn’t true and prove to me that I am wrong, rather than hurling oafish insults. I realize she is your girlfriend and you have this need to defend her, but let’s get real. Both of you are chronic overtrainers who compromise your health for glory. If I were your coach I’d chew your butt out and ask you what the heck you are doing. But that’s ok, you’ll be another flash in the pan like Roes and many others, and I will keep on doing my mediocre running, but at least I will be smart enough to have my health and not have to take off 15 months at a time and wonder where things went wrong.

          2. hillrunner50

            Also, I mean to say congratulations on your Crown King CR. Amazing performance, and your performance today was also solid. I think Emerson Thoreau’s comment below regarding Maffetone should be heeded, however, before you dismiss my point so rudely. Maffetone is usually spot on.

            1. Vargo

              Yeah, I don’t know you because you’re hiding behind a fake name. Also, YOU don’t know Alicia or ANYTHING she went through last year, so just keep your thoughts to yourself. Go rip on people who aren’t racing anymore. I’m standing up for Alicia because you categorized her issue amongst others who have completely different issues. If you know me, I have no problem being rude wher rudeness is due.

            2. Hilrunner50

              I’m not ripping on her. If I bring up a sensitive issue, it is not my fault if someone takes it personally. It’s not a personal attack. You are right that I may have been unfair in categorizing her without knowing her, but if you’re going to post things publicly, including training, then expect some questioning. Just about every single athlete I have seen on comment boards who was questioned about their training/racing when bad things had happened has reacted defensively. In addition, they had quite a lot of fans who also reacted defensively.

      2. hillrunner50

        I meant to add as well that it’s not just about racing. I looked you up on ultrasignup and you look like you’ve been doing 2-3 races per year, which is smart. However I don’t know anything about your training and intensity of the training, and your recovery or lack of recovery after your racing. Those can have a huge impact on one’s health as well. I knew guys that didn’t race. They just did a lot of hard running and epic long training and blew themselves out.

        1. SageCanaday

          As someone who came up through the NCAA DI track and xc programs (but also ran marathons in college) at a lower level than Alicia, I think that that background actually helps put all distance running training/racing in perspective. The amount of “burn-out” and injury and eating disorders and high level competition you see racing 5km-10km at NCAA DI college is very very high and it makes you more cautious when you move up in distance to marathons/ultras. You learn about periodization more and know that 100-miles a week is crazy…150mpw is insane. You learn to take your easy days really easy. Doing back to back long runs is out of the question. (I for one still don’t do that). Overrated. As is vert.

          So I wouldn’t lump Alicia into that category with hurting the endocrine system…I think she has a very well rounded approach (but I also don’t ‘know the details of her training…only her background in distance running). With “burn out” I think you have to look at other factors as well….mental attitudes towards the sport/stress, diet/nutrition and not just heavy training/racing.

          1. Emerson Thoreau

            The proof will be not in the results — Phil Maffetone rightly observes that athletes’ best performances often come in an overtraining mode because the parasympathetic system is so jacked-up. Rather, the evidence lies in one’s health over the long term. I am hoping Hillrunner has it wrong too, but hope that his comments are not dismissed; they appear neither mal-intended nor uninformed (e.g. it appears Ms. Shay followed a recent hard 4.5 hour race with an 86 mile and then 100 mile week with intensity).

            1. Alicia Shay

              Yes, that is called training! You have to prepare for an event. I had not raced since May last year and took several months off from running this summer, fall, winter. So a 2 month block of training is appropriated for a Ultra Sky Race in which I want to be competitive. Any aspiring elite athlete must train hard with proper periods of rest and recovery- basketball, football, cycling, running….any high level sport. Some overdo it, most do not. It’s crazy that from one interview someone (and not a doctor) can think that they have nailed my health issue. It is possible for athletes to just get sick sometimes without it being directly related to ignorant and irrational training. I’m glad Phil Maffetone can diagnose my condition. I’ll let my cardiologists know that it was not viral cardiomyopathy (which has never been linked to overtraining in any medical published journal) but rather from my 1x year.

            2. SageCanaday

              Emerson (and I love your writing!), but you state:

              “Phil Maffetone rightly observes that athletes’ best performances often come in an overtraining mode because the parasympathetic system is so jacked-up.”

              I disagree with that. I believe that if you overtrain…you don’t race well (and you’re not healthy). You don’t race well in overtraining mode…actually racing poorly is usually a really good indicator of overtraining in my opinion. As well as inconsistent race performances. I think that idea from Maffetone doesn’t make any sense at all in that regard. And Phil also believes that a sub 1:50 marathon is “very possible” and that one should butter and raw eggs in their coffee as a good health practice…but I digress…

              I’m glad the “overtraining/ burnout “discussion is being brought up here..as it needs to be…and people are free to comment/judge of course. But again I don’t think Alicia falls in this category at all (esp considering her very consistent, high level performances over 15 years of very competitive running and her diagnosed viral cardiomyopathy).

              Go Alicia!

  3. John McAlister

    Congrats to Alicia and Chris on their strong races today.

    Why do some people feel they have the right to give unsolicited advice or, even worse, to criticize and judge runners they don’t even know personally? iRunfar readers would be better served seeking out Alicia’s wisdom instead of giving her unsolicited coaching advice.

    1. Hilrunner50

      So you are saying that everyone should be only congratulatory, and NOBODY should bring up an issue that plagues amazingly talented runners like them? I am most certainly not judging. It is nothing personal. If someone takes offense to it, that is his or her problem. All I am saying is state facts and prove me wrong. This is a comment section, so that is what we do. We comment. A lot of up and coming runners look up to elites and emulate them, so yeah I have an issue with seeing young and amazing talent do stupid things and sacrifice their health. I sincerely hope that I am wrong, but like I’ve said, I’ve seen it so many times with those I know and those I don’t know. Let’s see what happens in the next several years, and then you can tell me either I was right or I am full of it.

      1. Alicia Shay

        I’m so glad you could diagnose me Hillrunner50 (?). I’ll let my whole team of medical professionals know that they were totally wrong.

  4. Meghan Hicks

    Hi all,

    We’ve been absent from moderating this conversation due to working hard to cover a race in a remote location with poor internet access.

    I find this conversation unfortunate and I’m hoping it can be turned in an a more appropriate direction. Fundamentally, I believe that a conversation about overtraining is an important one to have and to continue having in our sport–it is something we have very little data about in trail and ultra-trail running, and it’s becoming prevalent. However, I find directing the conversation at Alicia as a result of this interview–which includes a small glimpse into her life, training, and health issues–inappropriate. None of us here can possibly have enough information to make such an assessment. I would love to continue hosting a conversation on iRunFar about overtraining issues, but I would like to make the conversation more general and not aimed at Alicia specifically.

    Finally, personal insults and attacks aren’t permitted in the comments section of iRunFar as per our comment policy. Kindly refrain from that on here.

    Thanks, everyone.

    1. hillrunner50

      HI Meghan,
      I apologize for offending. It wasn’t my intent, and I most certainly didn’t intend to direct anything personal toward Alicia herself, as I am sure she is a very kind and well-liked person. After further reflection, perhaps my timing and placement of my opinion wasn’t very good, and would be better served in a thread that addresses this topic directly. I will add no more to this discussion out of respect to Alicia and iRunfar. I think a future article on this topic, however, would be very beneficial for the ultrarunning community and perhaps educate us all more and help us to be better and healthy runners.

      1. Meghan Hicks

        hillrunner50,

        I agree on your final point. We’ll try to make that happen sooner than later. I do think it’s an important conversation that we need to keep having. :) Thanks for the reply.

  5. Downhillrunner50

    At the end of the day, so what if elite runners chronically overtrain and don’t end up running for the rest of their lives?? I for one, do not plan on running another 20 years. I plan to find new hobbies as I grow through life. There is more to life than running. Everyone’s goals and aspirations are not the same. Does top money and awards reward the longest (most number of years) running ultramarathoners? Not usually. They typically reward the hardest workers the most. Often, you can only work that hard for so long before the candle goes out. Enjoy it while you can, embrace the sufferfests that will last a lifetime, work your butt off, and celebrate with everyone at the end of the day. Go put your heart and soul into what you do. Don’t leave it to chance and ride off into the sunset with your head held high for the foot you put forward.

    1. Emerson Thoreau

      Downhillrunner50, you make an interesting argument. However, consider these flaws: First, you dismiss, by omission, the acute and chronic damage overtraining causes to the body (and by literal extension, the mind). To answer your rhetorical “so what?” question: because overtraining can cause acute and lasting damage. Second, your “enjoy it while you can” argument is a non sequitur: instead of bolstering your contentions, it supports Hillrunner50’s thesis that these athletes drastically shorten their careers. Third, your argument ignores the question “what is overtraining?” and conflates “hard work” and “putting your heart in it” with “wasted, damaging work.” Last, but certainly not least, your argument overlooks these athletes’ often heard mantra that they run for the pure joy of it — for intrinsic reasons; if true, and it certainly appears to be true, this fact would cause such a runner to value a strategy that would allow her or him to obtain great results and be running into their 50s and 60s. Overall, I would posit that, if employed, your approach will shorten careers and kill results at the very least, and on a more sinister level is dangerous and misguided for many athletes who end up chronically broken. In sum, one has a much better chance to “celebrate with everyone at the end of the day” by training smart. Of course, everyone knows someone whose grandfather “smoked two packs a day and pounded whiskey and lived to 95”; so too there will be athletes who break every rule and luck out. The odds, however, favor the wise. On a separate note, congrats to Ms. Shay on an awesome performance last weekend. I do not believe it confirms or belies my opinions, but it is certainly praise-worthy. Bravo!

      1. SageCanaday

        Yes, bravo to Alicia’s performance!
        Not sure how these comment boards are monitored nowadays with the login/names, but it appears that earlier someone by the name of “Emerson Thoreau” stated:

        “The proof will be not in the results — Phil Maffetone rightly observes that athletes’ best performances often come in an overtraining mode because the parasympathetic system is so jacked-up.”

        I would question that statement (as well as other things Maffetone says…esp on diet).

        Also of note is that there is a “hillrunner50” and a “Hilrunner50” (which may or may not be the same individual). Troll comments or not Alicia was unfairly judged above. It’s not the critic who counts…

        As a veteran of the LetsRun.com message boards I have observed how people hiding behind their keyboards and posting under anonymous pseudo names come off overly critical and judgmental….more so than if they actually posted under their real name. But as the real Emerson said:
        “People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”

        Now in your comment above, we can say that one runs for health and to find flow. But individuals obviously run for many different reasons. College education. Sponsorship. A personal best ;Money; A coping mechanism; Out of instinct; To escape; To lose weight. etc. Whether one wants to “run for life” or have a “competitive career” of 2 years or 10 years is their personal choice. Whether one wants to continue to run marathons-ultras in their 60s and 70s or not… a personal choice.

        But as Thoreau would say: “…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

        Some may run reckless and train like crazy if they want…as Neil Young would say: “It’s better to burn-out than to fade away.” That’s not my personal choice (I for one want to be a life long runner), but I respect that mentality. It’s not always a black and white choice and running/racing/training means different things to those in the community. Some of my NCAA teammates (4 flat milers), low 29-min 10km runners etc. quit running altogether after college due to injuries or mental “burnout”..and to get a high paying job/put food on the table (or go to Harvard law school)…but they have those memories and they did what they could with the bodies and opportunities they had. I respect that.

        As Bryon already pointed out the topic of overtraining (very important!) as already been covered on this website with some very informative articles and discussion. When we look at health issues seen from other ultra runners and regressions in performance consider also diet and mental attitudes/personalties and not just the actual running/physical workload.

        1. hillrunner50

          Sage, after further reflection, I agree with you. I admit that I judged Alicia too harshly and it was unfair, and for that I apologize. Sometimes I allow my opinion to go a little too far. I am quite opinionated on this topic because I hate seeing people wreck themselves and suffer from terrible health issues. I know I can come off as too critical. I’ve seen it too many times with those whom I know and most of the time they regret doing it, wish they had done things differently, and wish they could run and be active still. I don’t hesitate to tell newbies to watch themselves when they sign up for 10 races per year and jack their bodies up with heavy training and little rest, but perhaps I should just mind my own business and say nothing because who knows what reasons they are doing it for.

          1. SageCanaday

            No worries! It is a topic that brings out a lot of passion and you’re right that it is very important to bring up. Honestly it scares me quite a bit personally as well. If awareness from bringing up the topic of overtraining on here helps many others enjoy the sport more (and for as long as they want), and allows them to be healthier, then of course I’m all for it!

            Cheers,
            Sage

        2. Emerson Thoreau

          Sage: Bravo to you for looking up Thoreau and Emerson quotes. I return to Walden and Self-Reliance often, so to speak. To your comments: there is little you said that anyone could disagree with — you stated basic axioms: people train for all sorts of reasons; some people overtrain, some do not; personal choice is good; hard work is to be respected; overtraining encompasses more than just overrunning (e.g. diet, sleep, stress), etc. My post simply responded to the “so what?” question broached by the previous poster, principally because I have witnessed first-hand the carnage of overtraining syndrome and do not wish it on anyone. At the same time, I pose no objection to anyone exercising their free-will to train any way they want, whether or not they endeavor to understand the effect it may ultimately have on their health. Free will is good (Neal Peart shout-out). For many, however, the unexamined life is not worth living (apologies to Socrates).

  6. Alicia Shay

    Thank you Bryon and Meghan for your incredible coverage of the sport. I always appreciate your hard work and perspective.

    Sage, thank you for always being approachable and offer your insight and expertise. Also, heck of race on Saturday!

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