Olympic marathoner Magdalena Boulet began her ultrarunning career a year ago here at the The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships, and since then her success with the sport has blossomed. In the following interview, Magda talks about what she’s learned in the last year, if she thinks she’ll stick with trail ultrarunning in 2015, and what inspired her most as she runs and races.
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Magdalena Boulet Pre-2014 TNF EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Magdalena Boulet ahead of the 2014 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. Hey!
Magdalena Boulet: Hey! Thanks, Meghan.
iRunFar: How are you?
Boulet: I’m great, excited, really excited.
iRunFar: Maybe a little bit nervous?
Boulet: Oh, absolutely. It started about this week. It really hit home that it’s happening. I know what’s coming this time around.
iRunFar: You know what’s coming.
Boulet: I know what’s coming.
iRunFar: Last year at this time you were two days out from your first ever ultramarathon. Now a year later you have five or six ultras under your belt?
Boulet: I have a couple of 50k’s, this is going to be my third 50 miler, and one 72k.
iRunFar: One 72k—Les Templiers in France.
Boulet: In France.
iRunFar: You come into this race a whole different woman. Last year you were second place and about and about 10 minutes back of Michele Yates, but you’re a whole different racer this year. What’s it like having a year’s worth of perspective?
Boulet: I think I have a little bit more confidence in just the distance itself. I know that coming to Muir Beach and coming up the hill, this is not going to be my first step crossing 40 miles. Leading up to last year’s race, my longest run was about 35 miles. Honestly, once I hit mile 40, it was such unknown territory. I didn’t know how I was going to feel a few miles later, and I still had 10 miles to go. It was really unpredictable just the way I felt. Now I know I can do it and that my body can do it. That is huge.
iRunFar: You also know about the pain, too.
Boulet: Yes, and I definitely know what’s coming. It’s kind of like doing your first marathon as well. I remember stepping from a 5k to a marathon. I never did a 10k. Everyone can tell you what it’s going to be like, but you have to do it yourself. Same with a 50 miler—no one can really prepare you for how you’re going to feel. The training is one thing, unless you run 50 miles in training, but I know it’s going to be uncomfortable at times. I know it’s going to be tough, but I’m prepared mentally.
iRunFar: Ready to work and ready to suffer.
Boulet: Definitely ready for it, yes.
iRunFar: You’ve had quite a year since we saw you race your first ultra here. You went on and ran Way Too Cool and won that, Cayuga Trails and won that. You ran the USATF 50k Trail National Championships and came in second there. Third at Les Templiers this fall. What did I miss?
Boulet: Boston Marathon.
iRunFar: The Boston Marathon?
Boulet: Yeah, I did the Boston Marathon.
iRunFar: Any other sub-ultra distance racing?
Boulet: No, I think that’s it.
iRunFar: We last saw you race a month-and-a-half-ago at Les Templiers in France. How has your body recovered from that given that you ran a lot of ultras this last year?
Boulet: The recovery has been amazing. I’m still really surprised how well I recover from a trail race, even a distance such as 50 miles. I can get back to training the following day or two days later. I might not do any quality workouts soon after, but I’m up and running which is pretty amazing. Usually after a road marathon I would not be able to run for at least three days, and if I did I would probably cause more damage than good. I knew that it wasn’t a really smart thing and taking time off was the best thing for my body. Here, I can get back and I can put one foot in front of the other and do some easy running and not feel like I’m doing any damage to my body. It’s been good. I’ve been bouncing back from those races pretty quickly.
iRunFar: That was going to be my next question—a year of doing totally different racing than what you were used to, your body has held up? No injuries to speak of?
Boulet: No injuries whatsoever.
iRunFar: That’s great.
Boulet: I keep telling myself that 2014 is a transition year and I’m learning and I’m still in learning stages. I’m being super smart about not overdoing and getting too eager and ahead of myself. I’m starting to gain some confidence now, even with my body being able to do back-to-back runs. Yeah, so hopefully next year I can take a little bit more risks.
iRunFar: Confidence goes a long way in this sport, doesn’t it?
Boulet: Yes, definitely. I think toeing the line healthy…
iRunFar: I think that train wants to be part of our interview.
Boulet: You know, I’m pretty used to it. It happens every hour here.
iRunFar: Sorry. Confidence.
Boulet: Yes, confidence. It’s going to go by. They usually go really slow here by the office. Yes, but confidence goes a long way. You just don’t want to question your training, you don’t want to question your ability to… whether you’ve done the right preparation, and also you don’t want to question whether you’re healthy or not. I think toeing the line in one piece is huge. It definitely gives a lot of confidence.
iRunFar: Given what you’ve done with your racing this past year, what’s one of the key new pieces of knowledge you’ve acquired that you’re going into this race that you didn’t have last year?
Boulet: I think my training itself. I can now say that I have done very specific preparation for the race. Last year I was just having so much fun trying new things. My training was not geared toward the 50 miler. I wanted to do well, but my goal last year was to run a road mile and a trail 50 mile within three months and do well at those two things. I was bouncing kind of all over and having fun. Right now, this year, it’s really more about the preparation for ultras. That is something that I’m taking to this race—more specificity.
iRunFar: You finished second last year. You have trained more specifically. You have a year of ultras under your belt. Are you hungry to win? Is that what you’re here for?
Boulet: I definitely want to be on the podium. Every year you look at this race and even with Michele [Yates] not being here this year—by the way, she just had a baby…
iRunFar: Congratulations, Michele!
Boulet: Congratulations, Michele!
iRunFar: Literally yesterday.
Boulet: Yesterday. We’ve been waiting for her to announce the birth of her daughter.
iRunFar: Probably the most athletic infant on the planet right now, little Maya?
Boulet: Yes. Maya. Even with Michele not being here this year, the field is stacked. We’ve got some new kids on the block coming in as hungry as I was last year. Then we have some veterans coming back that are probably eyeing this race as the race of the season as well. No shortage of great competition whatsoever. It’s not like I’m going to toe the line and walk away with a win. I have to be on and I have to have a good day. I have to deliver in order to win. I definitely want to get on the podium. I’m looking forward to challenging myself and the field.
iRunFar: Last year your strategy, whether it was intentional or not, you were a bit back early on, maybe fifth place or something like that as late as 12 or 15 miles in the race. You gradually moved up until you were just behind Michele in the latter 10 to 15 miles of the race. Are you strategically approaching the race differently this year? Are you going to wait and see what happens on Saturday morning? What’s your plan?
Boulet: Last year was definitely not intentional. I keep kind of laughing about it. I had some technical issues with a headlamp, being very new to running in the dark, I wasn’t confident running on the downhills and my headlamp was dropping on my nose. I was just so worried about the little things that I got dropped on the first steep downhill which was on the first six-mile loop. I got separated. I would like to be in the lead pack earlier in the game versus playing catch up—that’s my goal—and kind of see how the race unfolds and see how I feel. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I do like to run smart and within my means. I will listen to my body and make sure I don’t get ahead of myself in spite of what happens in the race. I’m hoping that I’m fit enough to be in the lead pack a lot earlier than last year.
iRunFar: So perhaps taking a slightly more active approach early on?
Boulet: Yes, and not be afraid of running in the dark with a headlamp.
iRunFar: You’ve got it strapped on really tight this time?
Boulet: Yes. I have a friend who made a middle strap for me which is great because it just kept bouncing off my forehead to my nose. I couldn’t see, so I was running really cautious. “How come I can’t see anything and everyone can see?” Experience—I got it done.
iRunFar: You’ve got a year of that under your belt now.
Boulet: I’ve got a few runs under my belt that required a headlamp.
iRunFar: Last question for you. The ultra community is a pretty special one. The women’s ultra community on top of that, we’re smaller than the men’s community but we’re all a pretty tight group of women out here. You’ve probably met some great characters in the last year. Who are you looking forward to spending a little time with on the trail this weekend?
Boulet: I was really looking forward to spending some time with Anna [Frost]. We ran a little bit last year, but I think she’s out of the race with a kidney infection due to dehydration. Yeah, gotta’ drink water.
iRunFar: Bummer. Get well soon, Anna.
Boulet: Yes, get well soon. I was really looking forward because I don’t know her very well, but she’s really super inspirational and such a great role model in this community. I’ve got some old friends that are coming out. Alicia Shay is coming out and doing her first 50 miler. I’m really looking forward to spending some time with her. Yiou [Wang] who is running here as well. Megan Kimmel and I spent a lot of miles last year running together on this course. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to sharing these trails. They’re beautiful and I’m sure we’re going to have a great time out there.
iRunFar: Cool. Well, best of luck to you this weekend. We’ll see you out there.
Boulet: Thank you. We’ll see you out there! Thanks