Three years ago, Magdalena Boulet began her ultrarunning career here at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships, and this year she took second place for the second time. In the following interview, Magda talks about how UTMB seemed to both hinder and help her at this race, what is so meaningful about the San Francisco Bay Area trail running community, and which race she is targeting first in 2017.
Read our TNF 50 results article to find out what else happened at this year’s race!
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Magdalena Boulet Post-2016 The North Face EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here at the finish line of the 2016 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. I’m with women’s second-place finisher, Magda Boulet.
Magda Boulet: Hi.
iRunFar: Hi. How are you?
Boulet: I’m great! Today was a good day for me.
iRunFar: You just ran 100 miles a couple months ago. Today was a fast 50 miler. Talk about polar opposites.
Boulet: It took me about 25 miles to warm up.
iRunFar: That’s like a 100 miler.
Boulet: Right. It felt like the pace was a little bit fast for what my legs were able to handle for the first part. It was a little out of my comfort zone. But by mile 25, once we got to Stinson, I was like, Oh, I feel good now. I’m warmed up. I remember this.
iRunFar: “Let’s roll! I have to run fast!”
Boulet: Now I have to move.
iRunFar: Talk about how the race went down. Early on in the dark, there were some course changes this year.
Boulet: We missed out on the really scenic part of the course. We didn’t do the Pirates Cove. That is one of my favorite parts in this race, but luckily for me, I get to come out here and run it as much as I want, so I’m sorry to everyone who lives out of town that you didn’t get a chance to run that. We had quite the sunrise this morning. It was spectacular. We didn’t go down Pirates Cove, but we stayed on the ridge overlooking the Headlands. It was spectacular. We stayed as a group. Megan Kimmel was there and Ida Nilsson was there. The three of us were running, and then a couple other women were pushing the pace all the way to Miwok, to the climb, and then down to Tennessee Valley.
iRunFar: It seemed to me looking at you in the first half of the race, you were like, “Whoo, whoo,” and a little bit like “What’s going on?” The second half of the race it was like “Magda is back.” You looked like you. Did you feel like you had your wheels under you? I don’t know the right way to say it.
Boulet: Actually, I did not. Coming into this race, I knew I was a little bit undertrained. I took some time off. I totally respected that. I also knew I had the endurance behind me. Some of the big runs that I’ve done starting with UTMB and in between, I just didn’t have the turnover. It’s not something that I practiced leading up to this race. I knew that. I was aware of that. I was just waiting when and where it would kick in. Really, half way through the race, I did feel like I was a little bit out of it for the first part. Then something clicked once we got to Stinson and we started to climb and then going through Muir Woods. Once we got to Stinson Beach, I started to feel really good. I ran pretty much… I ran that climb which was probably the first time. Even when I won it two years ago I powerhiked. I literally took maybe five steps of powerhiking up that hill. That’s a good sign.
iRunFar: That might tell you something about the leg strength development that you’ve achieved through UTMB and training for it.
Boulet: It’s a learning lesson. I think if I do this double again…
iRunFar: Oh, really? Should we talk about that?
Boulet: UTMB and North Face, I definitely need to work on more turnover.
iRunFar: The women’s podium race was so dynamic throughout the day. Talk about that. For the first half of the race, you were kind of Steady Eddy around third place. Then tell me what happened after that.
Boulet: I think once we got to… we passed Pan Toll and got on Matt Davis, and right at the turnaround, Ruth Croft passed me or caught up to me. Then she put a nice gap on me. I think by the time we got to Stinson Beach, she had at least 90 seconds on me. I think that remained between one and two minutes all the way to Muir Woods. I ran within myself. I wanted to make sure that I got to the finish line. I took a spill last year, and it was a very bittersweet DNF for me. I struggled. Do I just limp in and finish, or do I just walk away and deal with the emotional part? I really wanted to run within myself. It wasn’t until we got out of Muir Woods that I caught up to her. It wasn’t until almost the bottom of the Muir Beach that I caught up to Megan. She was struggling with a calf injury or just tightness. Megan and I always get coffee the morning after the race…
iRunFar: What are you going to talk about tomorrow?
Boulet: It’s what we do every year. It’s going to be our third year. We talk about the race a little bit, about how the year went. It’s why I love this sport so much.
iRunFar: I think I know one of the questions she’s going to ask you tomorrow because when she came across the finish line today she said, “I have enough points for CCC!”
Boulet: Right. I think she’s going to do great on that course.
iRunFar: The end of the race, you pass Ruth and come back into second place. By then, Ida has created a bit of a gap in front of you. Where was your mindset in the last two climbs out of Muir and out of Tennessee? Was it looking ahead or looking behind?
Boulet: Definitely ahead. I said, it’s two climbs. I had four minutes. Anything can happen. Anything can happen. I was in fourth place and part of me half way through the race said, Is top five as good as it’s going to get today? If that’s what it is, that’s what it is. It’s a long race. Anything can happen. That last part from Muir Beach, they’re big climbs. She was very strong. I never made up any ground. We kind of stayed, I think, about four minutes apart. I felt like I was making an effort of trying to catch her. She was definitely stronger today.
iRunFar: You have quite a relationship with this race. In your few years of ultrarunning, every single year you come here.
Boulet: I can’t stay home. Most of my friends were on the sideline. I was running going, That’s so nice. Maybe I should come and cheer someone on. But I love to race!
iRunFar: That brings me to my next question. Everywhere I was today, people announced your presence 50 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, if they could see. You’re becoming kind of the queen of San Francisco Bay trail running community. There’s so much vibrant energy for you wherever you go.
Boulet: Oh, thank you. I love my running community.
iRunFar: Can you feel that?
Boulet: I can totally feel it. I gave a lot of high fives today.
iRunFar: Did that slow you down at all?
Boulet: From kids to grown-ups. No, I mean, that’s why I love running ultra races. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a lot of fun.
iRunFar: My last question. It’s December, end of season for some, but it’s now the beginning of your next year’s season. What’s happening now?
Boulet: I feel like I came to this race a little bit undertrained, but it’s setting me up really nicely for 2017. I feel good. I walked away from the race a little bit sore, but not as sore as maybe I have been in the past which is great. That helps. Tarawera is my first race of 2017.
iRunFar: Going to the land down under.
Boulet: I’ve never been to New Zealand. I’m super excited. I know it’s such a great race. I’ve heard such wonderful, wonderful reviews from all of the athletes. The race director is super nice as well. It’s a Hoka sponsored race this year. It’s going to be a great…
iRunFar: There’s been talk about you also going back to UTMB next year. Is this going to be a year you compete in the Ultra-Trail World Tour? What are you thinking?
Boulet: I think it would make sense. I still have to figure out the rules because it has changed and how you score points—the annual versus the three years. Priority is on picking the races I feel most suit me the best and provide an opportunity to challenge me. I like to do races that put me outside of my comfort zone. That is always the priority and then see how that fits into the series. But I know that Tarawera is on that, so is UTMB, and so is Western States. Does anyone know if I got in? I applied for the lottery.
iRunFar: I haven’t looked at the Western States lottery. “Did I get into the race or not?”
Boulet: Did I get in? Does anyone know?
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your second-place finish today.
Boulet: Thank you, Meghan.
iRunFar: We will see you in 2017.
Boulet: Whoohoo! Thank you.