Pro track-and-field and road runner Renee Metivier is crossing over to give trail ultrarunning a shot. In this interview, the 2:27 marathoner talks about her history with running, how she was exposed to the sport of trail running, her experiences with trail racing so far, and how she’s strategically approaching her ultramarathon debut at the 2017 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships.
Renee Metivier Pre-2017 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Renee Metivier. It’s the day before the 2017 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. Hello, Renee. It’s nice to meet you.
Renee Metivier: Nice to meet you, too.
iRunFar: This is actually my second time seeing you race. I was actually out volunteering on the Moab Trail Marathon course a couple weeks ago, but yeah, our first time meeting.
Metivier: Oh. Yeah, that was a fun race, so don’t be a stranger.
iRunFar: Now we’re not. You’re a late entrant into this race. I think you signed up over the weekend or at the beginning of the week?
Metivier: I sent an email at the end of last week, so officially entered over the weekend. Then it got announced early this week… just getting all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted confirming that, yes, I’m doing this. I did my first trail hill workout Sunday. I’m so ready.
iRunFar: Super prepped.
Metivier: Super prepped.
iRunFar: Yours is not an unfamiliar name for those who follow the track-and-field and road-running scene, but you are an unfamiliar name in trail running. Can you introduce yourself and your running background to the trail running community?
Metivier: Whew. Okay. This is a big question. I started running professionally in 2005 after I won NCAAs for the University of Colorado. My background is in the 5k to the marathon and the marathon more in this last four years. Previously, I even went down to the mile. That one is not so much fun anymore.
iRunFar: That one is a special kind of hurting.
Metivier: It is a special kind of hurting. I think all runners have that drive for that pain and that suffering. I’ve been around for awhile—since 2005 I’ve been running professionally in mostly track and roads—but I debuted on the trails just a year ago, and it’s a new challenge for me. It’s really fun and exciting. Keeping running as your profession alive, it’s finding ways to keep it exciting and fun. I think that’s for anyone in the world. This is exciting to me, but I’m super nervous. I’m super nervous.
iRunFar: Well, you can’t sugarcoat 50 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. There’s no sugarcoating that.
Metivier: No, there’s not. I just went onto vert calculator for the first time on Sunday. Oh, I only did that much?
iRunFar: But to be fair, you did race the Moab Trail Marathon. On paper it looks like it’s kind of a flat race, but it all adds up to something like 5,500 feet of climbing and 26 miles. So you’ve basically done half the vert and half the distance you’re going to see tomorrow.
Metivier: Yeah, and I ran the wrong way, so I actually ran almost 29 miles. So, I feel more prepared and less prepared. If I hadn’t have done that race, I’d say I’m definitely not prepared. I went through a lot of mental things in that race. Going the wrong way when I was 12 minutes ahead at mile 12 was very frustrating for me. It was a very technical section, so I added a lot of time. But I kept my head together and I rallied. I finished pretty strong. I was able to run two hours the next day feeling fine and even finishing quick on the road the last five miles, so I feel like my mental capacity is there. I don’t know what’s going to happen at five, six, seven hours. That was my longest time on my feet ever two weeks ago at four hours. So, I have a healthy fear of it, but I’m also excited about the potential outcome.
iRunFar: You live in Bend, Oregon, and you own Recharge Sport, so you do have a fair amount of exposure to the trail and ultra scene there, and I understand there’s been a little peer pressure to have a go at this race?
Metivier: I think almost every day. I have Ian Sharman, Max King, Mario Mendoza, Stephanie Howe [Violett], Jeff Browning… the list goes on. I mean, they’ve been working on me for years. “That half marathon sounds really nice.” Then I did this marathon which was also a last-minute decision. I’ve been pushing my way there. I’m the queen of that kind of thing.
iRunFar: Jumping in?
Metivier: Yeah, my first two national titles were all jumping in last minute… actually, almost all of them are.
iRunFar: What could go wrong here?
Metivier: Lots can go wrong. I have a healthy fear. When I debuted in a marathon, I remember standing on that starting line going, What am I doing here? These girls have run 140 miles, and I don’t do anything that hard or long. I run hard, but not that long. I remember just feeling those nerves. But then I just let it go and I started and said, “You know what? I know I’m ready.” I don’t care what they’ve done or they’ve done. I know my fitness. I ran my own race. I’m hoping to try and run my own race in this race. I don’t quite what that is going to be, but I’m going to try and be not stupid. That’s my plan. I’m not going to lead. Well, I’m going to try not to.
iRunFar: “I’m going to be not stupid.” I understand you and Ida Nilsson have raced together back in the collegiate days.
Metivier: Yes, I actually saw her on the list, and I’m so excited to see her. I’m the most scared of her because of that, though. She’s who I’ve raced. I haven’t raced any of the other girls really, but I know her. We raced in college. She has speed like me. She ran the mile back in the day. I was like, Oh, look! It’s exciting! I know she’s a kicker. I know she won last year, and she won going fast the last five miles. I did some research.
iRunFar: She did. She closed extraordinarily well last year.
Metivier: I don’t know if I have that kind of ability at the end of 50 miles, but I’m going to be following her pretty closely.
iRunFar: That’s my question for you. You’ve run a half marathon on trails; you’ve run a marathon on trails. Now you’re sort of doubling the distance and not quite doubling the time on the Moab [Trail] Marathon, but how will you strategically take out tomorrow? It’s unknown territory, but you are going to be surrounded by at last one woman you’ve competed with in the past.
Metivier: Yeah, she’s the only one I’m familiar with, but it’s also been since 2005. A lot have changed, and she’s definitely more familiar with trails. This is a hard question for me because I still don’t know. I think I’m going to have to find out when I start. I don’t quite know how to pace myself with hills yet.
iRunFar: “Attack! Attack!”
Metivier: No, I have that problem. Exactly what you just said is my problem. I’m a very strong climber. I am. I found out in my first trail race. Ladia [Albertson-Junkans] came up to me after, “You need to do the mountain champs.” “Let’s start… baby steps.” Of course, then look at me here. Baby steps are definitely not my thing. Technical downhills aren’t my strength. Downhills are if they’re not technical. It just depends on the course.
iRunFar: You’ll see a bit of both tomorrow—a few little rocky, steeper descents and then some stuff you can really open up on.
Metivier: Opening up on them is my favorite thing to do as I found this last month. I’ve been playing a lot more on the trails, like going to Smith Rock, which is gorgeous in Bend, and playing more on them. I’ve really embraced the downhills for the first time in my life. It’s, I think, a strength now as long as it’s not too technical.
iRunFar: “Take out some of the rocks before tomorrow, would you?”
Metivier: Yeah, everybody out there start grabbing them. I think I’m just going to have to really see. I really have no idea. My normal M.O. is to build a big lead and then hang on. I don’t think that’s going to work tomorrow. I don’t think that’s going to work. It is new territory completely. Part of me wants to just sit, but then I’m running someone else’s race and not running my own pace. That might not be good for me because I’m stronger in some areas and not as strong in others. I’m going to have to go out there and just relax and kind of figure out male or female who is closest to me ability-wise. I’m going to have “RELAX” written in all caps down both of my arms. “DO NOT TAKE OFF.”
iRunFar: On your forehead, “TELL ME TO RELAX.”
Metivier: “CHEER! CHEER!” Relax, that’s a great word for me. “Relax, don’t do it…” Sorry.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you out there tomorrow. We will look forward to seeing your ultramarathon debut.
Metivier: Thank you. Yay! Thank you!
iRunFar: Although if you already ran 29 miles at Moab…
Metivier: Close! I actually thought, Can I call this an ultra? I actually thought this at the end. Can I call this that?