Canadian Anne-Marie Madden took fourth in her debut 50 miler at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships last year, and she’s back to race again. In our first interview with Anne-Marie, she talks about her history in sports, what she’s learned in the last year of racing trails, and her strategy for this weekend.
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Anne-Marie Madden Pre-2015 The North Face EC 50-Mile Championships Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Anne-Marie Madden the day before the 2015 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships. Hi, how are you?
Anne-Marie Madden: Hi. I’m great, thanks.
iRunFar: This is my first time interviewing you. It’s my first time meeting you as well.
Madden: It’s great to meet you. I’ve heard great things about you from Ellie [Greenwood] and everyone else. I love following all your updates and tweets for all the races. It’s super helpful.
iRunFar: Stalking races!
Madden: Yeah, it’s good.
iRunFar: We got to know you for the first time last year when you raced at this race. That was sort of your introduction to high level ultra racing. It was your first 50 miler, too, if I remember?
iRunFar: What was that like for you coming from the road scene and converting to the core of the ultra scene?
Madden: Yeah, I think… I felt very comfortable with the trail. I’ve always run and done lots of trail races, but I certainly had never run that distance, and I guess I picked a fairly competitive race to decide to do that. But it was nice. It’s the same time zone. It’s not that far to travel. Last year was just a really consistent year. Everything just sort of felt good and flowed pretty well. I had a lot of races I was pretty happy with. It felt a little bit like, It might just be a cherry on top and let’s give it a try at the end of the season. I’d started to just burn out maybe a couple weeks before the race. Everything was starting to break down. I got kind of sick and was feeling some injuries, but I think the taper was enough to hold it together. I came in feeling a bit tired but happy to give it a go and knowing I’d had a fair bit of training and racing that year already. I was hoping it would be enough to get me through.
iRunFar: It was a big cherry on top. You were fourth in a really competitive field.
Madden: Yeah, I think coming into it I didn’t really have any idea placing-wise. I just wanted to feel like I had a reasonable race and that I wasn’t totally off pace by the end of it. I didn’t want to fade too much. I did a little bit but then I recovered again. I think it’s what happens in ultras. There are ups and downs. The downs weren’t that bad, and overall, it was a pretty good experience. It obviously has me coming back for more.
iRunFar: Yeah, you’re back for more. I want to ask you… before we talk about this year’s race, I want to ask you a little bit about your history with running. Prior to coming into trail racing, mostly in 2014, before that you were mostly exclusively road running, is that right?
Madden: No, I think I’d always… I used to be a triathlete, and I lived in Victoria. We lived in a cabin in the woods basically. Our back yard was just a massive trail network and park.
iRunFar: You’ve been a trail runner for awhile.
Madden: Yeah, I think when I first started running it was on trail when I was in high school. I was too nervous to join the high-school cross-country team or anything. I figured I would not be able to keep up. I truly thought I couldn’t do it, so I’d run with my friends. One of my good friends, Johanna, and I would just always find little running adventures. That was what we liked to do. Yeah, I’ve always done most of my run training on trail, but I was not a skilled enough mountain biker… if I’d had my choice in triathlon, I for sure would have rather done all the off-road stuff, but I’d probably have numerous broken bones at this point.
iRunFar: No teeth…
Madden: Yeah, I stuck to the road because I could ride on the road reasonably well. Then I sort of transitioned out of triathlon. It was too much time.
iRunFar: The three disciplines?
Madden: Yeah, so I just kind of went back to what I liked.
iRunFar: Back to the core of running?
Madden: Yeah, it’s great. Sometimes I miss some parts of multi-sport, but for the most part, running has always been my favorite. It’s easier to fit into your life. Traveling to races now, I am so grateful I’m not wheeling a bike bag through the airport and having to see if you can bargain to pay less for your bike. Yeah, it’s everything about it is just easier.
iRunFar: Now you’re back at The North Face 50 Mile… [passerby brief conversation]… So it’s a year later and you’re a year wiser—or maybe stupider to come back again, just teasing—what brings you back to this race? What sort of unfinished business or similar experiences do you want to find this time?
Madden: This year as opposed to 2014 has really been up and down. I feel like I’ve been sick more of the year than I’ve been healthy. I’ve had some injuries. Apart from maybe one of Gary Robbins’s races that I just do every year and I’ve done it for four years now (I PBed on that course), apart from a few races like that where I thought, Okay, things clicked again, it definitely feels like there’s more that I want to get out of the season. It would be really nice to have a race that goes well. With the competition this year, I think placing probably wouldn’t be the way to gauge that, it would be just to have a good race. Last year I was very careful. I went out very cautiously. In retrospect, I don’t think I need to go slower, but I wouldn’t try and go faster this year. The goal would be to start out like last year but just maintain that pace long.
iRunFar: Hopefully maintain longer.
Madden: Only a few minor things sort of didn’t go according to plan last year but nothing catastrophic or major. I wouldn’t really expect that… it’s not like I went off course last year and say, “If I stay on course this year I’ll go an hour faster.” I definitely would like to run 7:xx and just feel like it was a fairly consistent day and I didn’t botch anything too badly.
iRunFar: According to social media, you’ve been doing some training with Ellie Greenwood who is pretty experienced in the ultra realm at this point. Have you been trying to glean some smarts and glean some things from her?
Madden: Yeah, I think we’re pretty much entirely opposite runners. Ellie just gets stronger the longer she goes. I think I probably am faster if you were to make us run 5k or something, but we’re just very… whether it’s the training or how we’re wired physiologically, we’re kind of opposites in that. I love climbing, and Ellie loves descending. So even in our training runs on the uphills, she’s like, “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I know you want to go faster.” Then on the downhills, I’m working hard to try and keep up with her. So it’s hard when someone isn’t… when their race strategy… she’s nailed how to run for her capabilities. You can certainly learn so much from friends who have that much experience, but I think if I were to follow her exact strategy…
iRunFar: It would not be the right thing for you.
Madden: It wouldn’t work. So you just have to draw on your own experience. For sure, people have some tips or key points, and that’s always helpful and much appreciated. Yeah, you can never follow someone else’s recipe and think you’re going to bake the same cake.
iRunFar: Great metaphor there. Best of luck to you this weekend. We’ll see you out there.
Madden: Thank you. Thanks.