Emily Harrison continues to show just how good of an ultrarunner she is. Her latest resume entry? A win at the 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. Here are her post-race thoughts on what went best for her today, what it was like racing in this strong women’s field, and what’s next for her.
For more on the race, including our other interviews, check out our 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile results article.
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Emily Harrison, 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan here with iRunFar, and I’m with the winner of the 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. I’m here with Emily Harrison. Congratulations.
Emily Harrison: Thanks, Meghan.
iRunFar: How are you doing? How are you feeling?
Harrison: Pretty well. The energy levels are good. My legs are pretty sore now. Walking up here was interesting.
iRunFar: Having to get up out of the chair that first time.
Harrison: Oh yeah. That was rough. I was like, I guess I should move now.
iRunFar: You ran a pretty phenomenal course record today. It was 21-plus minutes. Did you go out after the course record? Was that what you were hungry for?
Harrison: Today, actually, it was kind of a nice bonus. I really just wanted to go out and compete today. I haven’t lined up against a lot of these women, and I just wanted to see how I stacked up over a course that I haven’t run anything of that style before. So there were new challenges all around.
iRunFar: From our perspective, from the outside looking in, you were with the other girls for probably the first third of the race. You were kind of leapfrogging back and forth. Then you sort of broke away and I don’t think you saw any of them again. Talk about the early miles running with these girls that are new faces. I’m sure you’ve been reading about them on the Internet, but it’s your first time spending time with them.
Harrison: Me, Stephanie [Howe], and Jodee [Adams-Moore] got together on the road and then we hit the trail together. Stephanie was kind of chatting, so we talked some those first several miles and kept it pretty light. She’s run the course before, so I figured if anything she knew what was going on out there. We changed leads, the three of us, we kind of switched around during those miles. Eventually, someone stopped at an aid station and I just kind of found a rhythm and just went with it.
iRunFar: Do you think that was more you staying solid and picking up the pace or them lapsing backward a bit? Do you know?
Harrison: I’m not sure. I felt like I was maintaining and just trying to run steady. I don’t know, because before that in the downhills they’d kind of gap me a little bit and I’d catch up on the climbs. So we were flip-flopping that way. I think that section I found a rhythm on what was a little bit, I wouldn’t say flat, but not quite so drastic up and down and I was able just to move. So I’m not really sure. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
iRunFar: When I watch you race, you have a fairly focused expression. You kind of have this focal point a little bit in front of you. You don’t have a super determined or drastic look on your face, but it’s definitely not like a Rory Bosio smiling and frolicking. You kind of get after it. Has that sort of always been your style?
Harrison: Yeah, it has been. Just lining up these big meets that you’re vying for a championship for, I think I’ve just gotten in that mentality. I was always competitive, too. When I line up, I line up to compete well and to run well. So I just kind of get that very focused mindset. Yeah, that’s the game face.
iRunFar: Talk about this course a little bit. You’ve been at ultras for about 18 months now. You’ve had some experience with the flatter, more runnable side of ultras. You had your taste of the hill country with Western States last year. But this is your first time really nailing a course with a lot of vertical—more than 10,000 feet today. Talk about how that went down for you.
Harrison: It went well. Coming in today, I knew nutrition was going to be really important for me because I’ve tended to bonk in a lot of my ultras. I think I don’t eat enough. So today it was going in, Okay, I have to take care of myself early. I have to get in the calories and make sure I’m staying hydrated to finish this out strong. I think that worked out pretty well. The climbs felt strong for the most part. It was good for me to practice the descents today, too, because that was kind of hard for me at Western.
iRunFar: Watching how things went with you three girls at the end, you never really broke away. This field was just so competitive, there were girls breathing—maybe you didn’t know it—but there were girls breathing down your throat that if you took a misstep today, they were ready to pounce. Was it on your mind or were you just trying to stay focused on your own race?
Harrison: I was just trying to stay within my own comfort zone and my own rhythm and what I knew I could probably handle. But I also knew that if I messed up hard or if I died hard that they would be right there to pick up the pieces. So it keeps you motivated. I was definitely thinking about it. I didn’t really know how close they were or weren’t, but just knowing they were back there you’ve got to keep pushing through.
iRunFar: So you’re learning about running on these pretty mountainous courses. Are you finding strengths? Are you finding weaknesses? Where are you finding your strengths to be?
Harrison: The climbs are, I think, one of my strengths. Late in the race it still gets hard and I’m still ugghhh, struggling.
iRunFar: They seem to get steeper.
Harrison: Exactly. How is this bunny hill all of a sudden a mountain? I think throughout that’s probably one of my strengths. The downhill running is something I’m still working on trying to perfect. I’m not good at letting go and freefalling necessarily. I tend to be a little bit more timid and, you know, putting on the brakes.
iRunFar: A little self-preservation style?
Harrison: Yeah, if I don’t have to fall, I’d rather not fall.
iRunFar: Well, you are turning your sights to Western States which has a whole bunch of downhill in it. You finished, I believe seventh there last year. Are you looking to really get after those downhills, perfect your style, and maybe finish a little higher this year?
Harrison: Yes. I’d like to finish higher. That would be ideal.
iRunFar: So between now and then, what’s on your plate training-wise to bring out the downhill-er in you?
Harrison: I’m not entirely sure. I’m sure Ian [Torrence] will piece together something. I’m sure we’ll spend a lot of time on trails also. I’ll be back at [Western States] Training Camp this year so we can spend some more time on the course which I think will be good. We started doing our Elden climbs and descents after Caumsett [50k], so that should be good. In Flagstaff, you can have five miles of straight downhill running on dirt road—that might help hopefully.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you once more on your win and course record today.
iRunFar: We look forward to seeing you at Western States in a couple months.
Harrison: I know. It’s going to be here before we know it.
iRunFar: Bonus question for you. Flagstaff—is it becoming the new Boulder, Colorado?
Harrison: I don’t know, maybe. We’re getting some people trickling in this year, so we’ll see what happens.
iRunFar: Fast people trickling in!
iRunFar: It’s not just everybody coming. It’s the fast people.
Harrison: It’s the fast people. Yeah, you can just call anyone and say, “Hey, you wanna go for a run?”
iRunFar: And get hammered.
Harrison: Exactly. You’ve got to pick and choose what days you run with people because you don’t want to be running hard every day.
iRunFar: Cool. Congrats again.
Harrison: Thank you.