The U.S.’s Abby Mitchell has made the trip overseas to run the Vibram Hong Kong 100k this weekend. In our first interview with her, Abby talks about her running history, how she’s always run trails, what’s gone right for her at the 50-mile distance, and what’s gone wrong in races much longer than 50 miles.
Abby Mitchell Pre-2019 Vibram Hong Kong 100k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Abby Mitchell before the 2019 Vibram Hong Kong 100k. How are you, Abby?
Abby Mitchell: Doing well. How are you?
iRunFar: Nice. It’s nice to meet you.
Mitchell: Yeah, you, too.
iRunFar: This is our first time chatting. I’d love to hear some about your history with running. When did you start? What kind of events?
Mitchell: Yeah, absolutely. I did my first trail race when I was in fifth grade and ran competitively through high school and college. I did a few road marathons after school, but I really started diving into the sport more seriously when I moved to Boulder, Colorado, a few years ago. I just kind of knew I really wanted to dive into sport more seriously, and I really moved to Boulder largely for that reason and for the community around the sport.
iRunFar: So you’ve been running for awhile, but you’ve been trail running as long as you’ve been running.
Mitchell: Yeah, exactly. I ran cross country mainly, so not as many trail races growing up, but there were not as many opportunities for that. I really got into it when I was living in California. I knew I wanted to live in a place where there was a whole community around this and be surrounded by peers that are into it, too.
iRunFar: You did cross country in high school and at university as well?
Mitchell: Yeah, I ran at a little D-III liberal arts school in college—Wheaton College.
iRunFar: I’m a D-III runner as well.
iRunFar: What events did you run on the track? I assume you did that as well?
Mitchell: Yeah, I was an 800-meter runner actually. Yeah, I loved that race. It’s a painful one. I’m still not sure what’s harder.
iRunFar: It’s funny because people think the longer you go the harder it is, but I swear, the 800 is the most painful race I’ve ever done.
Mitchell: I know. It’s brutal.
iRunFar: Just going along for 100k-105k, no problem. At the 50-mile distance you’ve had a couple really good races. You had a seventh at The North Face 50 Mile two years ago and a sixth at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile last year. How have you dialed that distance in?
Mitchell: That’s a good question. I guess… I don’t know. I think it’s a nice blend of the strengths I naturally have. It’s felt like a good distance for me to really dial in nutrition and all of that, but it’s not so long that it’s… I’ve had some issues in some of the longer distances. It’s just a sweet spot for me.
iRunFar: That’s my next question. You’ve run 125k and up at least three times and missed your mark on all of them. Is there a common theme among them? You’ve run the Leadville Trail 100 Mile twice and didn’t hit the results you want and Transgrancanaria.
Mitchell: Yeah, for sure. I’ve been dealing with some lung issues that I’m trying to figure out actually with those longer distances, but I’m super proud that I gutted it out to those finishes in those races. When I first started getting into ultras, I think my third ultra I did, I wanted to go for the JMT FKT. I’ve always had really big goals, and I’ve always loved to just dive right into it. So with Leadville and TGC, I’ve loved setting big, scary goals and throwing myself in the mix and seeing what happens. It’s maybe not the most moderate approach being only a couple years in the sport, but I’ve really learned a lot from those. It’s been really valuable.
iRunFar: So here is 100k and not an easy one but not the slowest either. Where do you think that fits between the 50 miles and the really long stuff you’ve done?
Mitchell: Yeah, we’ll see, right? I certainly hope it goes well. I’m hoping to take the confidence I have from the 50-mile races I’ve done so far and the gutting it out and grit I’ve learned from some of the longer ones and piece it all together.
iRunFar: So, the two 50 miles you had the great success at—Lake Sonoma and TNF—are two bigger ones and are known as really runnable courses. They’re hilly, obviously, but have you gotten some good training on climbing stuff because there is some really steep terrain on this course.
Mitchell: For sure, yeah. I’ve tried to catch as much of that at home in Boulder as much as I can. We’ve had some pretty dry trails this winter, so it’s been good to be getting some laps in on Green and Bear and all of our steep peaks around us and trying to weave that in with some flatter and faster stuff because this course has a bit of it all.
iRunFar: Totally. There’s some fast paved road terrain early in this race.
Mitchell: Yeah, it will be interesting to watch how it all plays out.
iRunFar: I think it’s a race where there’s a lot of accordion-style running where if someone is really good at the flat and fast–we just saw Jasmin Nunige run by… like, super speedy—and maybe on the climbs, Ekaterina Mityaeva.
Mitchell: I know. It will be interesting. I wish I could be spectating at the same time I’m running.
iRunFar: Is there anything you’re looking forward to most this weekend?
Mitchell: Well, we have a big group of Adidas teammates here, so I’m super excited to be with all them. We’re all coming from six countries, so it’s super cool to all be gathering here in Hong Kong. I’m excited to spend some time with them. My coach, Jason Koop, is here, too, so it’s nice to have all different forms of community somehow gathering here in the middle of Asia.
iRunFar: Best of luck, and enjoy your race this weekend.
Mitchell: Thanks so much. I appreciate it.