Stephanie Howe is an absolute sensation at 50-mile and shorter-distance trail racing. Last weekend, she finished her first 100k by taking second at the 2013 Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k. In the following interview, Stephanie talked about her physical tribulations before and during the race, how she got her nutrition right, and whether or not she’ll indulge herself in some good, post-race recovery.
Stephanie Howe Post-2013 UROC 100k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here Stephanie Howe after the 2013 UROC. You were second yesterday. Great race, Stephanie.
Stephanie Howe: Thanks.
iRF: You were on the fence.
Howe: I was.
iRF: You weren’t even on the fence.
Howe: I cancelled my trip originally and then changed my mind.
iRF: Why did you cancel your trip?
Howe: I hurt my foot on a run the Friday before. I guess it was a week before the race. It was just really sore and I wasn’t sure that running 100k would be good for it. I went to my doctor and they were kind of like, “Eh, you might not want to do that.” So I cancelled my plane ticket. Then it started to feel better; I thought it was just tendonitis. So I booked a plane ticket on Thursday night and came out here.
iRF: And when you came out here you still weren’t sure?
Howe: I still wasn’t sure. I just wanted to wait until the last minute and just make sure everything was fine. I’ve been injured too many times this year, and I just didn’t want to do that to myself this again. So I just waited until Friday night and decided I was good to go.
iRF: You got out there and your foot felt alright?
Howe: My foot felt pretty good. I couldn’t descend like I wanted to because I was babying it a little bit, but climbing felt great and it’s no worse than it was when I started.
iRF: We actually got a report during the race before Frisco—Michele Yates came over and told one of our reporters that you were injured up on the trail.
Howe: So I didn’t lace my shoe all the way up because the tendonitis was on the top part of my foot, so just keeping that lace a little further down kind of prevented it from rubbing. It was fine for the tendonitis but my ankle kept rolling. So I rolled it really bad when I was with Michele and I was crying and walking and she said, “Oh, I’ll send someone up.” I kind of walked it off and then kept going. I kept rolling it. I did it three or four more times. Then I decided just to re-lace my shoe, and then I didn’t have a problem.
iRF: After your initial injury, did you think you might have to drop?
Howe: I thought about it, but I was so determined to finish this race. I dropped out of a 100k at Bandera, so the 100k has kind of been that nemesis. I haven’t done one. I wanted to do one. I thought about it, but I really just wanted to keep going.
iRF: This was your first 100k finish. Congratulations.
Howe: It was. Thank you.
iRF: Any unique challenges about the distance?
Howe: It was long. That was the biggest challenge for me is just running that long, time-wise. My body was kind of done at eight hours which is like 50 miles. Usually those are like eight hours or somewhere in the ballpark. I was like, Oh, I have three more hours of running. I guess that was the only thing that was really tough for me. I fueled really well which was great. Usually I have stomach issues, but I didn’t have anything yesterday.
iRF: Could the cool weather have helped out?
Howe: I think that probably helped. I’ve been trying some different things and I think I finally nailed what works for me.
iRF: If you don’t mind sharing, what worked for you?
Howe: Well, it’s just a gel flask—I actually got this from Jeff Browning—with CarboPro and four gels and a little water. You can get 400 or 500 calories in there. So I just did that. It’s easier to get down than gels. Then I switched over to a little solid food later on.
iRF: How many calories do you eat in an hour?
Howe: About 300 to 400. I was trying to get 500 but I just couldn’t get it all down.
iRF: You were aiming for 500 calories an hour?
Howe: Yeah, more or less. I didn’t get that many.
iRF: Wow. That’s pretty incredible.
[Editor’s Note: Stephanie contacted us after this interview to clarify. She meant 500 calories every two hours.]
Howe: Well, I studied sports nutrition so I kind of know what you’re supposed to get. I try to practice what I preach.
iRF: Fluid-wise, were you drinking straight water?
Howe: Straight water. It actually—this was another challenge. I had a Camelback with a hose and it froze. Actually, I have to thank Mike Wardian because he gave me a bottle, a handheld bottle, and let me carry it. There was another runner on the course who gave me a swig of water because it was frozen for 14 miles. That would have been a long patch to go without any water.
iRF: It’s nice to have the camaraderie of the sport come through.
Howe: Yeah, I know. It was so great. Everyone in the ultra world is so nice.
iRF: You did have a race out there. Tell us a little bit about what went down with you and Emelie [Forsberg].
Howe: First of all, I think the prime should have been to the second climb because that was way harder than the first one. I could see her for most of the first couple, 10 to 15 miles. Then Michele Yates and I were running together and we caught her at that second climb. I have this grade that I can run really well and that was that grade. So I just kind of took off. I’m not sure but I got a pretty good gap there. I just felt great going uphill. So that was pretty cool. Then we hit the top and it was a side hill. It was a side with my bad foot. I just was not liking life at that point. I felt great for that first part and was ahead of Emelie. She passed me at the bike path on the pavement.
iRF: So you weren’t feeling super speedy there?
Howe: That hurt my foot so I was just not going to push it there.
iRF: It was a sort of conscious decision to hold back there.
Howe: Conscious and I really couldn’t go too much faster. I wanted to get through the race, so I wasn’t going to push it at that point.
iRF: So Emelie gets the lead on you there. You were getting updates on splits. Did you think you were going to be able to come back on her a little?
Howe: I thought maybe I could on the uphill climb because I was doing pretty well, but any downhill I just was kind of babying the foot. I couldn’t descend how I wanted to because I’d be pretty careful where I was stepping. At that point, I wanted to finish and I wanted no one to catch me. I didn’t think I could actually catch her towards the end. She’s strong.
iRF: I assume you’ll be coming back to The North Face 50.
Howe: Yes, that will be my next race.
iRF: As will Emelie. So you’ll have another chance to race her there.
Howe: Yeah, she’s gotten me twice now.
iRF: What do you have between the two races?
Howe: Nothing. Recovery.
Howe: I like to race a lot and kind of pick bigger races, so I’m not going to do anything in between.
iRF: What’s your focus on training going to be between now and then?
Howe: Right now I’m going to take some time off actually. I just feel like I need it. Then I’ll just gear up to run a fast 50 miler. I’ll get some time out on the trails. I’ll get a little speedwork. TNF 50 is hilly but it’s runnable.
iRF: Congratulations on your great run in your first 100k.
Howe: Thank you. I’m excited. I’m excited to have run that far.
iRF: Bonus question. There was a lot of snow out there. You have a skiing background.
Howe: Yes, I actually don’t mind snow. In Bend[, Oregon] we get a lot of snow too and we still go out on the trails. It was kind of normal for me. I didn’t mind it.
iRF: Hopefully you have some more dry trails before the snow really flies, but it’s coming.
Howe: Yes, I know.