After finishing sixth here last year, this weekend is Kristina Pattison’s second effort at The Rut 50k. In the following interview, Kristina talks about her background with endurance sport, how she is drawn to more technical mountain races, and why her home of Missoula, Montana breeds such strong trail runners.
Be sure to check out our in-depth preview to see who else is racing.
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Kristina Pattison Pre-2015 The Rut 50k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here in Big Sky, Montana, a little bit before the 2015 The Rut 50k. I’m with currently Montanan Kristina Pattison. Hi. Happy Friday.
Kristina Pattison: Hi. Thanks.
iRunFar: How are you doing?
Pattison: I’m doing well, thank you.
iRunFar: Awesome. This is your second time racing The Rut. What brings you back?
Pattison: The course.
iRunFar: The course—okay, there are some pretty special parts about this course. What do you like about it?
Pattison: The parts that are probably the hardest.
iRunFar: The parts that are probably going to hurt the most.
Pattison: Yeah, definitely, this course has those exposed ridgelines up Headwaters and climbing up to that top of Lone Peak is pretty special and unique to this race especially in the U.S. Skyrunner Series. You don’t get as much of that exposure, I don’t think, in any other races. I feel like that’s a really unique part of this one and makes it really tough. It’s also pretty breathtaking up there.
iRunFar: Breathtaking from the scenery viewpoint and from the altitude standpoint.
Pattison: Good point. Both.
iRunFar: This is our first time interviewing you which I’m pretty excited about.
Pattison: Yeah, thank you.
iRunFar: I’d like to hear some background about you. I don’t know you too well, and I’m not sure how much the iRunFar community knows about you. Tell us about your background as an endurance athlete.
Pattison: Well, it didn’t start very long ago. I worked wildland fire for 10 years, so I think that’s where I got the majority of my base and endurance.
iRunFar: Along with some mental toughness?
Pattison: Yeah, and a little bit of pain tolerance. Then I ended up just a couple years ago, a few years ago, I think it as 2011, I did my first 50 miler with a friend, just kind of peer pressure.
iRunFar: That was Le Grizz 50 Mile, right, which is just classic Montana ultramarathoning?
Pattison: Yes, fried chicken at the finish line.
iRunFar: Yes, and what are the potato wedges called? Jo-jos!
Pattison: So great. And it’s just like a horse trough of jo-jos at the finish line with a pickup truck and a couple of cones and Pat Caffrey with his Pabst. It’s awesome. So then I decided to do it again the next year…
iRunFar: So you did it on a whim?
Pattison: Yeah, just on a whim. I wasn’t running very much back then. I was working in fire, so we didn’t do a lot of running in the summer. It was a fall race. The next year I just figured I might do a little better because I’d done it once. I did a little better, put in for Western States, and got drawn on my first time which was kind of a huge surprise.
iRunFar: I know about that at Hardrock this year.
Pattison: Oh, yeah.
iRunFar: Yeah, I got picked on my first ticket, too.
Pattison: It’s mind blowing, but it’s really exciting, so I decided just to go for it. I did a couple races for practice and did my first 100 a few months later. So it was kind of a fast introduction, but it was just so exciting. That race, Le Grizz, is so laid back and it’s such a great atmosphere and so Montana. So I just fell in love with that community. Now this is obviously very different from that, kind of a polar opposite. Then I got drawn more to races that have a little bit more gain and loss. I just like those a little better and they’re a little more challenging. I think they play to my strengths probably a little bit more just for steep ascents and whatnot. So then I ended up doing The Rut last year which was the best race I’ve ever done, and so I had to come back.
iRunFar: That turned out pretty well. You turned up sixth place among a hugely stacked international field. International Skyrunning dropped in all their big athletes, and you got sixth place.
Pattison: It was awesome. Yeah. It was really… I was so surprised. I was just hoping maybe top 10 or top 15 and I thought probably top 20. So when I got sixth, I was pretty excited. It was fun. It’s a great course. So then I did some more Skyrunning this year which was great. I’m glad to be back, and I’m hoping to at least beat my time from last year. That’s my main goal.
iRunFar: We also saw you race at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon this spring where you did really well, too. Another top-10 finish within a stacked international field. It’s not a fluke, Kristina.
Pattison: Thank you! I know I’ve been pretty sure it is, actually. It’s been sixth place after sixth place. It’s where I like to be right there… right behind the… No, Transvulcania, that’s a crazy race with the heat and we’re not from that atmosphere at all in Montana and that’s still early season for us. So it was a little mind blowing, but, again, being in that international field, it was really exciting to see all those racers and line up by them. That’s thousands of people, and that start line is such a different feel.
iRunFar: You’re going to have to correct me if I’m wrong, but that was your first international race, and most people when go abroad in their first international race, they receive their ass handed to them. You didn’t. You kept your ass firmly in place and did well. To what do you attribute that?
Pattison: Thank you. That’s a really good question. I don’t know. I honestly went out pretty conservatively. I tried to hold back as much as I could because that first climb you gain, what, 6,000 feet of climb. I just sort of kept within myself and try to enjoy the views and atmosphere. Really, my main goal for that race was just to enjoy that course. And that island is amazing, so I just tried to focus on that rather than focus on the competition. I think I ended up staying in sixth place almost the whole time. I think that Landie [Grayling] got hurt, which was unfortunate, and that was it. I was in sixth, and I just kind of stayed there. I honestly, I don’t know. It was a weird race.
iRunFar: I’m going to be totally honest here. When I saw you inside the top 10 early, I was like, It’s going to get really hot, and I know that you’re coming off Montana winter…
Pattison: Thanks for the hand, Meghan… a lot of faith right here.
iRunFar: I thought, I wonder if she’s been sitting in a sauna. She seems to have a lot of confidence in herself right now. How did you deal with the heat that day?
Pattison: The heat, not very well. There’s actually that 10-mile section where you’re just low on water, and I was hurting bad there. I don’t think I recovered much from that one. I did do my best to train in a lot of layers, and I got a lot of advice from my coach, Ellie [Greenwood] who was trying to give me some tips on how to train for heat early in the season. I did actually sit in a sauna. Mike Foote or somebody else was going over there and said, “What else are you going to do? Try the sauna.” So I tried that, and I do think it helped. I can honestly say that you would need to be in that environment a little bit more prior to that race to really do well there.
iRunFar: It’s really hot, but there’s also humidity at certain altitudes because you’re really close to the ocean.
Pattison: Absolutely, and you do go up to 8,500 feet. In Missoula, we’re at 3,500 feet, so there were all these elements that I’d never encountered. I went into it, “I’ll just see what happens.” I really did manage to get lucky. It was a really beautiful, beautiful island with great people. The people there are amazing.
iRunFar: Super into the race.
Pattison: Which is like here, too. This is one of the closest things you have to kind of that international atmosphere where there are a lot of people out on the course cheering and cow bells and it’s really fun. This is a special race. I love it.
iRunFar: I want to end by asking you about that vibe. So we’re in the middle of Montana right now. It’s a pretty beautiful Friday evening. You’re Missoulian. Montana seems to breed tough runners and especially right now. There are some fast runners coming out of Missoula. What’s in the water there?
Pattison: I don’t know. Apparently I’m not getting it.
iRunFar: We’ll see on Sunday.
Pattison: I need to find that water and get me some of that. Yeah, like Seth [Swanson] last week at UTMB and Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe, it is just an amazing atmosphere. I think those guys are a really special group of runners, and they give back to the community a lot. I think that gives us all a little bit of a boost in a way because they do their best to answer all our stupid questions and… honestly, I’ve asked them some dumb questions. They’re always very kind and generous with their knowledge. I think that breeds a great community in our town which is really special. I think that is what it is. I think that they particularly train together, and I think they feed off each other. They have to because they are all just so top level. It’s pretty impressive.
iRunFar: To me, we’re just getting past the point of coincidence now. There are just too many fast people coming out of Missoula.
Pattison: I know. Do you think that’s because of the trails?
iRunFar: Is it a good altitude, like a little bit of altitude but not a lot, so you can stay fast? Is it diversity of trails?
Pattison: Yeah, it could be that. We don’t have the really technical stuff like the UTMB course or Mont Blanc 80k. That type of Chamonix technical we don’t have. We don’t have the high-elevation stuff like this very close, so we are at a disadvantage in those ways. But there’s a lot of trails that gain quite a bit of elevation in a short period of time that people do reps on and that kind of thing. Then there’s a lot of ground to cover in just very runnable, buffed-out trails. There is a variety. We have a lot of mountains, so people kind of get better at that just out-and-back in the wilderness where you kind of have to fend for yourself and be on your… you know how that is. You know. There’s grizzlies and there are all these different things, so I think you’re right that there are some pretty tough people in Montana. So maybe we’re powered by shame. We have to live up to that. Yeah, it’s a really great group.
iRunFar: Awesome. Best of luck to you out there this weekend. We look forward to seeing you go up and down the mountains a couple times.
Pattison: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks so much, Meghan.