San Diego, California-based Angela Shartel lines up at this weekend’s Sean O’Brien 50 Mile. In the following interview, Angela talks about her course-record win at the 2013 Angeles Crest 100, her ultrarunning strengths, and what drew her into ultrarunning from the road running scene.
Angela Shartel Pre-2014 Sean O’Brien 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Angela Shartel before the 2014 Sean O’Brien 50 Mile. How are you doing, Angela?
Angela Shartel: I’m doing well. How about you?
iRunFar: Alright. You had a quick trip up from San Diego today.
Shartel: We did—about a 2.5-hour drive.
iRunFar: You’ve raced all over, especially all over California. You have raced even in this area—Leona Divide, Ray Miller. You’ve had good success here.
Shartel: Yeah, it was a good run and a great course.
iRunFar: In 2012 you were around fourth and fifth at those two races, correct?
Shartel: I’m going to take your word for it.
iRunFar: Alright. So you’ve had success in this sort of terrain. Is it similar to what you train on down in San Diego?
Shartel: Leona Divide and Ray Miller were. When we came out to preview the Sean O’Brien course, it’s a lot more fire road than what we train on, but beautiful views and great climbing. We do a lot of that in our local mountains.
iRunFar: Maybe a little faster terrain than you’re used to; but you’re definitely used to the climbing.
Shartel: Definitely. Used to the climbing.
iRunFar: When I think of you, I think of a lot of strength. You do awesome at 100 milers as well. Is this sort of different going to a faster 50? There’s still a lot of climb, but…
Shartel: 100 milers are definitely my love and I think where my greatest strengths lie. I enjoy 50 milers. It’s different. The course is set up different; it’s faster than my strengths are.
iRunFar: You have had great success. Two years ago you were second at the Angeles Crest 100; you won last year and broke Suzanna Bon’s record. You had a pretty good run last year.
Shartel: I did. I had a lot of trying races. I experienced a lot of difficulties in Ray Miller, Leona Divide, and Angeles Crest in 2012. So it’s been nice to sort of learn about my running and learn what my strengths are and play to my strengths and heal my body. Here in California, it’s a blessing and a curse that we can run all year. We take full advantage of that and sometimes to our own detriment.
iRunFar: So what did you find your strengths were?
Shartel: Climbing—definitely climbing; I like technical. The more variables, the better I seem to come out.
iRunFar: Throw in a little heat—you wouldn’t mind that.
Shartel: Heat, rain, mud, technical, rocky, climbing—I prefer those courses.
iRunFar: So the perfect day in Malibu might not be…
Shartel: It’s not ideal for me, but…
iRunFar: But you’ll have fun out there.
Shartel: But you know what? It’s all running. I love running.
iRunFar: Speaking of which, how long have you been running?
Shartel: I’ve been running eight years—three years on the roads and then I’m coming into my fifth year in ultras.
iRunFar: What drew you into ultras?
Shartel: Lack of fanfare.
iRunFar: Here you are.
Shartel: Right… ironically. I didn’t like the roads. I didn’t like all of the stimulation and cheering crowds. A friend introduced me to the trails and it just became like the place I always wanted to be. I fell in love relatively quickly—about a two-week span. She told me to give it a month because the first time I went into our local trails, I was cursing the rocks and I couldn’t get a rhythm. I didn’t enjoy it at all. But then once you learn to embrace all of those different elements then it really became enjoyable for me, and I found myself escaping and appreciating everything the mountains had to offer. I haven’t been back to the road.
iRunFar: There is still a relative amount of fanfare at a race like this, you still have a lot of alone time out there… or just with one runner…
Shartel: You do. You do. Absolutely. Even with all of the cheering at the aid stations, it’s not like cheering all along the course. There’s time to get lost within yourself, and that’s what I like. I like the struggles and finding out what you’re made of and adapting.
iRunFar: Do you like a little bit of cheering at the aid stations? Is that a pick-me-up for you, or do you just want to get out of there?
Shartel: I appreciate it. I’m definitely thankful for all the volunteers and their tireless efforts. I love seeing the enthusiasm and I love being on that end of that when I’m not racing. Definitely I enjoy seeing them and their friendly faces cheering especially if you’ve had a particularly rough patch; they do lift you up and give you the extra energy and push that you may need for the next section.
iRunFar: You have a really good group of people to give you a lift on a regular basis. The San Diego running community—I know a bunch of the members down there—has a really good crew. How has that played into your love of the sport?
Shartel: It’s developed my love of the sport. I think that I own most if not all of my running knowledge and ability to them sharing. I was very fortunate. My first 50 miler, I came up on Tracy Moore. He was the one who first reached out to me, “Hey, how are you doing? Have you ever done this before?” I was thinking, Okay, mental note: fall behind him because you might be a little fast right now. Afterwards we started talking and he connected me with Scott Mills, Tom Nielson, and Ben Hian. Those are my mentors in the sport. I look up to them and cherish their friendships. I’m humbled as a runner to see what they’ve done.
iRunFar: Me, too, literally Scotty and Tommy are two people I’d put there as my own personal (mentors) when I was back in Virginia.
Shartel: They’ve been kind to share all of their knowledge with me and help me with the highs and the lows. They’ve been a critical part of my running.
iRunFar: Tomorrow is a big day. It’s a competitive race. You’re out there. Do you have any goals in particular?
Shartel: As far as time or place? I’d like to finish respectably. Other than that, there is a lot of competition and I don’t really know what the day is going to bring. I don’t know what the weather is going to bring. My plan is to basically go out there and run. Run. Take the highs and lows with as much grace as I can. Take it easy on the downhills; they’re not my strength. Push the uphills. Hope everything turns out good.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there. It was great talking to you.
Shartel: Thank you. It was great talking to you, too.