Anna Mae Flynn took third in her first 50-mile race at the 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, and earned a Western States 100 Golden Ticket in doing so. In this interview, Anna Mae talks about some of the training she did ahead of Lake Sonoma, how she decided she wanted to move up from shorter-distance trail races, and if her summer racing plans include Western States.
For the full story on how the race went down, check out our results article.
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Anna Mae Flynn Post-2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at the finish line of the 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. I’m with women’s third-place finisher, Anna Mae Flynn. I’m just meeting you for the first time in the last couple minutes, but congratulations on your podium today. How are you feeling?
Anna Mae Flynn: Thank you. I’m feeling pretty good.
iRunFar: Your race was a fun one to watch. You kind of moved up into things as the race went on. Walk me through it from your inside view.
Flynn: Sure. I guess I’ll talk about three things. There are a lot of reasons why I performed as well as I did. First, this year, Salomon has been really great and they provide me with a coach. Peter Fain, he’s a coach up in Tahoe. He’s been training me this year, so I actually have a planned training schedule which is very new to me. I’ve been able to get proper workouts and all the stuff that comes with preparing for a race. Normally I’m not as structured. He also kind of gave me insight into what splits to expect and to go out slow and be conservative and hang with the chase pack and just kept saying, “Be bouncy. Feel like you’re having fun out there. Don’t be aggressive. If someone makes a move, they probably won’t since it’s a 50 miler as opposed to 50k’s where people actually do that.”
iRunFar: Do make moves.
Flynn: Yeah. So I just kind of relaxed which was Peter’s plan for me. It worked out really well. The second thing was it was kind of a coincidence or a random occurrence was Josh Arthur was supposed to race today and he ended up not racing. I met him at the Spoon spaghetti pre-race thing and he was like, “I’m not racing. Do you have anyone who’s crewing you?” “No, should I? I wasn’t planning on it.” He was like, “I can crew you.” So when we went back to the Salomon house and kind of like talked about the race course, he’s so knowledgeable with all the races he’s done. He crewed me today, and it worked really well because I’ve never really had a successful race in terms of nutrition. I always… I don’t eat or I forget to eat or I don’t drink enough water or salt tabs. Something goes wrong. Every time I came into an aid station, I knew he was going to be there. “Give me that. Drop it.” He was very like… and then get out. I wasn’t hanging out or talking to people. That was great. The third thing was… this is kind of hard to explain because I haven’t thought about it or had too much time to think about it. I feel like I didn’t race. I ran. I was just out running. So the pain was different. In a 50k… I guess I can talk about Way Too Cool because I did that a couple weeks ago, but from the minute the gun goes off, it’s like, “Go.” You’re running 7:00 pace for as long as you can, or that’s the feeling. If you’re going up or down a hill, you’re running 7:00 or 6:30 pace perceived effort. So, today, I felt like I was just going out for a long run with my good girlfriends. That was just amazing to be out there with Kaci [Lickteig] and be out there with all those girls and be in awe of everything they’ve accomplished. The overall experience of racing with that high caliber of females… and the aid stations—everybody was so supportive—so I got the whole feel of an ultra race which was what I was coming here to do. Yeah, that was what I was coming here to do was just to come here, finish strong, and accomplish a 50 miler.
iRunFar: This was your first 50-mile finish. You’ve thought about racing at The North Face, but it sounds like it just wasn’t the right time for you. Prior to that, you’d basically spend 2015 doing some 50k’s and some shorter distances and U.S. Skyrunning distances.
Flynn: Yeah, I did the vertical k’s. In the Sky-racing series, there’s a vertical k on Friday and then a 50k and a 25k on the same day. So then I just did the VK and the 25k or 50k, sorry. I just did that to kind of be able to run longer distances. I really like vert. I like running up hills. I kind of worked toward my strengths. This year I’m just focusing more on my downhill because that’s one of my weaknesses that I’ve learned. Now it’s kind of all coming together here because it had a little bit of everything with the ups and the downs. It was fun. I feel like… I think the reason I did so well was all the training I put in and knowing my strengths were my uphills and then working on my downhills. I really felt like today that I wasn’t losing ground because of my downhill, and that was really amazing for me because… there was a little bit of a gap sometimes and I’d be like, “No, it’s happening again,” and I’d actually be like moving, “Okay, I’ve got this. I’ve got this.”
iRunFar: You participated in the Skyrunning series, and a race like Lake Sonoma is structurally a lot different. This race has a bunch of vertical but it’s runnable vertical in many places. How did you sort of change your training and your mental approach to convert from shorter, steeper stuff from last summer to training for this?
Flynn: Basically, what I did was over the winter, I did a lot of snowshoe running. I used that on my days off from workouts. What I would do is run on the road for the first time ever. It was quite the change. I don’t mean this to sound bad, but just running up a peak in snowshoes—that intensity of your heartrate being through the roof and feeling like you’re going to fall over—versus running on the road and, “Oh, I’m running 7:00 pace. I just ran 20 miles on the road and it took me two-and-a-half hours and I ran 7:00 pace.” Everyone’s like, “Good job!” “But I just ran up this awesome peak…”
iRunFar: “I want to tell you about this awesome mountain I was on.”
Flynn: “I ran 20:00 pace up it and no one cared.” I don’t know. I just think I did a lot more workouts, and that’s part of Peter’s plan. I did some track workouts starting in January, which I also did last year as well. I have a little bit of speed under me just because of cross country in college. I know how that feels. I know what it’s like to train that way. I ran probably five or six 20-mile long runs at a 7:00 pace and threw in some tempos.
iRunFar: Helped you make it through the rollers and flat parts of this course.
Flynn: Yeah, we don’t have hills like this in Tahoe. They’re more just like straight up and straight down type stuff. I have been doing just recently the past two weeks—a real quick get this in—reps on a 20% grade fire road. I’d just run up 60 seconds—this was the last workout I did—run up 60 seconds, run down 60 seconds. It’s not the same thing, but it’s as close as I could get.
iRunFar: Practice. So probably a question many people want to know is, having finished third today behind second place, Kaci Lickteig, who already has her entrance into Western States, you get a Golden Ticket.
Flynn: I know. I found out as soon as I finished. Everybody wanted to tell me. I was like, “Oh, my gosh.”
iRunFar: Stepping up from running the shorter trail distances to 50 miles is kind of a big deal. Making the leap to 100 miles is… I don’t know if it’s exponential, but it’s not just doubling distance.
iRunFar: What are you thinking about when it comes to the Golden Ticket right now?
Flynn: Right now? So, before the race, it was definite 120% NO. I didn’t even feel like… I was like, “Even if I did…” Everyone says, “You might…” “No way. It’s 50 miles.” I didn’t have that much faith in myself, I guess. Then as the race continued, I just didn’t even think about it. It is very valuable and so many people work so hard to get to this point. I feel privileged, and I understand the gravity of it all.
iRunFar: But it’s still 100 miles.
Flynn: It’s still 100 miles. I watched it last year for the first time. I want to fall in love with a race, and I did for the most part. I still was just like, “Whoa.” But I talked to Kaci a little bit afterward. I respect her and I value her and her opinion. We spoke for a little while. I went from 100% NO to 50% Maybe to like… yeah…?
iRunFar: Oh, yeah?
Flynn: Yeah. Right now, I haven’t talked to my coach yet…
iRunFar: Trending toward…?
Flynn: Trending toward the yes because… as much as I loved the 50-mile experience, maybe next year something could happen. There are so many variables that could happen in a qualifier. I might as well take the opportunity and do that, and then maybe go back to 50k’s and Sky racing next year.
iRunFar: Okay. #SeeyouinSquaw?
iRunFar: Maybe, kinda’, qualify with a couple more adjectives see you in Squaw?
Flynn: Yeah, I’m going to say… I have a… I guess I could announce it now, but I was waiting to see… because I really thought I would be broken and wrecked. I’m racing Transvulcania in a month because that was actually my “A race.”
Flynn: This was kind of a finish thing. Yeah, so I kind of have to reorganize my schedule because I was kind of going to Sky racing for the year. I know Salomon is really stoked, so I’m going to have to sit down and think about it, but I’m going to say I’m trending, yes, see you in Squaw. Trending toward see you in Squaw yes, maybe, definitely maybe.
iRunFar: Kinda’, sorta’, we’ll see.