Magdalena Boulet took second at her first ultra, The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships, back in 2013. Last year, she returned and won the race. This year, she’ll be back to run the race for the third time. In the following interview, Magda talks about her long season, making sure she has a spark going into this race, and her ongoing relationship with the road marathon.
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Magdalena Boulet Pre-2015 The North Face EC 50-Mile Championships Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Magdalena Boulet before the 2015 The North Face 50-Mile Championships. How are you?
Magdalena Boulet: I’m great!
iRunFar: The last time we chatted, you’d just won the Western States 100.
Boulet: That was awhile ago.
iRunFar: That was awhile ago. What have you been up to since then?
Boulet: Well, I took a little bit of downtime after Western States. I went to UTMB and did the CCC 100k and finished second there. I was totally inspired by the terrain and challenges.
iRunFar: It was probably something very different from anything you’d done before.
Boulet: Mont Blanc was something else. I would love to go back and explore some of the trails—very different, very different.
iRunFar: How did you find the terrain? There’s some running in the race but it’s also quite mountainous.
Boulet: I felt unprepared. I think you really have to find some specific training for that race, something that I definitely was lacking for that. I had a total blast. It was beautiful.
iRunFar: You finished second there?
Boulet: I finished second. Then I went back to UROC and did 100k there with another [day on] hot Auburn trail. That was at the end of September.
iRunFar: What have you been up to since then?
Boulet: Since then? I have taken a little time. I really needed some rest after UROC. My body deserved a break. I really enjoyed it for a couple of weeks. That was middle of October that I started back up. Yeah, by November I was really excited and ready to start training again.
iRunFar: So it’s a little bit different than last year where you had Les Templiers, a great run there a month before The North Face, and kept rolling with your season.
Boulet: Very different. Very different.
iRunFar: You had a lot of racing miles in your legs through September.
Boulet: I look back and in my second year of ultrarunning I did four 100k’s, a 100 miler, two 50k’s, and a 50 miler. It’s been busy.
iRunFar: So coming off the professional marathon scene where maybe running two or three marathons in a year is it, how did you decide or come to running so many races?
Boulet: I think leading up to Western States, I was so afraid I didn’t have enough experience that I wanted to get different races under my belt going into that race. Then I just got addicted. More is better. I like to race.
iRunFar: At the end of September were you thinking more is better?
Boulet: No. No, I was thinking it’s time to put my feet up and just chill a bit. I really did not want to finish the year going into The North Face and not be excited to go out the door. That’s something that I wanted to prevent. I’m in it for the long haul. I like running to be a part of my daily routine. It’s what gets me through a day.
iRunFar: Had it been the middle of November and that spark or excitement hadn’t come back, would you have considered not racing The North Face 50?
Boulet: Definitely. That was on the table. It’s something I considered. I said, “Hey, if I start back up and don’t feel great or am not too excited or I feel like I need a longer break, I gave myself permission to do that.” I think 2016 is right around the corner and there are some great races I’d love to show up to and be fit in and be competitive. North Face is a local race, and it’s really hard not to show up, and it’s really competitive, so it was a big decision.
iRunFar: As we sit here, you’ve been an ultrarunner less than two years, and you’re going into your third North Face 50. Is this race special to you in more ways than it being local and competitive?
Boulet: It is. The fact that it is local—it’s not just because here, but I just spend time on these trails. They’re some of my favorite trails that I love spending miles on. It’s also a high-caliber race where a lot of great people show up to. It’s an opportunity to race against some amazing women. It has it all. It has great prize money. It’s a cool package. It’s got the trails, competition, good atmosphere… it’s an easy race to spectate for my family. It’s fun. There’s a great party afterwards.
iRunFar: It’s a few days before the race, and we’re sitting in Gu World Headquarters. You develop product here. Anything that’s just come off the product research and development line, or anything right around the corner?
Boulet: We always play around with new flavors. We have two new flavors that are coming out soon—cucumber-mint in the Gu Energy line, and we also have chocolate-coconut in the Roctane Energy Gel. Then we’re definitely playing around with the black tea drink that I tested at Western States.
iRunFar: What’s that all about? I haven’t heard of this one.
Boulet: I tested the flavor and that formulation at Western States, and it went really well. We’ve been field testing it with a lot of athletes since then. Everyone just seems to love it because it’s just a different option for an athlete. We have lemon-lime; we have tropical fruit; we have grape.
iRunFar: Which are standard and have been through sports drink products for years.
Boulet: Absolutely. They’re fruity. If you’re craving something—especially for 19 hours, I drank all my nutrition—it’s nice to have something that is not fruity.
iRunFar: Is that the same thought with the cucumber-mint because that’s an odd flavor?
Boulet: Correct. Right?
iRunFar: But people thought about that when peanut-butter gel started coming down the line.
Boulet: Correct. On a very hot summer day when you’re racing, it definitely satisfies that craving. We do have lemon-lime flavors; we have lemonade; we have the citrus-y flavors that are perfect under hot conditions. Cucumber-mint is a bit refreshing. It has that hint of mint which wakes you up a little bit. It’s a good option. I think it’s going to serve a nice need for an athlete especially in hot and humid conditions.
iRunFar: Back in August, I was at the Outdoor Retailer show and there’s a new solid food product.
Boulet: Yeah, we’ve been field testing it as well with our athletes. We have both a waffle and a bar that we’ve been working with. The waffle has branched amino acids that we included… essential amino acids that we include in our gels and in our drinks. We’ve been playing around with different formulations of the bar.
iRunFar: I haven’t tried the waffle yet, but the bar is pretty tasty.
Boulet: I’ve got some new samples for you, too.
iRunFar: Thank you so much, Magda. It was great seeing you. See you out there on the trails in Marin.
Boulet: Thank you. See you in Marin.
iRunFar: A bonus question for you, Magda. The Olympic [Marathon] Trials are coming around only a few weeks out.
Boulet: Eleven weeks out… who’s counting?
iRunFar: Do you feel yourself itching for that? Why did you leave the marathon and do you ever feel…?
Boulet: It’s an excellent question. The reason why I did my first trail race was because I needed a change. I needed to step away from the marathon training and the routine that I’d done for so many years. The Olympic Trials happen once every four years. I qualified in Boston two years ago when Meb won the race which was very, very special. I still think that I made the qualifier because when he went by me I just got really excited and really trudged in the last two miles to the finish line and just got right under the qualifying time. So thanks to Meb. It’s a race that only happens every four years. There are only so many women that toe the line. It’s very special. It’s also good to mix things up. As an athlete, I really like a balanced approach to training. This is going to give me the opportunity to focus more on faster turnover and just the workouts that I know will benefit me in the long run. It’s really easy as an ultramarathoner to get into the habit of just running your favorite trails and just doing a lot of vertical. Any given day if you give me an option, where is the next peak? I want to get to the top of it. I know that it’s important to incorporate the turnover work.
iRunFar: So having the trials is a nice motivator.
Boulet: It’s a nice excuse to get back to the work that I know is necessary to continue to be able to be a part of something special.
iRunFar: Thank you.