Addie Bracy battled at the front throughout the 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile on her way to finishing third. In the following interview, Addie talks about how her race went, how she nearly retired from running before jumping into ultramarathons last year, and how she enjoys the less black-and-white nature of trail performances as opposed to as on the road or track.
For more on how the race played out, read our Lake Sonoma 50 results article.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Addie Bracy after her third-place finish at the 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. How are you, Addie?
Addie Bracy: Good. A little sore and tired, but good.
iRunFar: You have a little…
Bracy: Yeah, limping a little bit.
iRunFar: But you assured me that is race fatigue rather than some sort of…
Bracy: Yeah. What I would assume after a race like that.
iRunFar: Nice. Jump right into, it seemed like a race that, Camille [Herron] went off the front for a little bit, but other than that it was dynamic in that front, you and Anna Mae [Flynn] and YiOu [Wang] were really close for a really long time.
Bracy: Yeah. Anna Mae and I started talking, honestly, early. Probably around six or seven miles. We were like let’s just work together. We have the same goal here. We weren’t totally sure what was going on up front, but we had to kind of make a judgement call and like hang back a little bit. It was perfect, because we would kind of feel good at different points. So I would feel good and gap her a little bit and then she would feel good and gap me a little bit, but I think we were always encouraging each other and helping each other out when it was, I think we hit the last aid station, I can’t remember what it was called, but it’s like 4.7 miles to go.
iRunFar: Island View. Yeah.
Bracy: Yeah, Island View. We were like, this went perfectly as planned. I think as long as nothing bad happened in the last four miles, we got it in the bag. She just felt great and took off.
iRunFar: But you felt pretty good?
iRunFar: No? [laughs]
Bracy: No. I think, I felt, I don’t know if it was dehydration or what, but I was getting kind of some muscle spasms.
Bracy: So I didn’t know how far back the next person was, because I had heard that Kelly [Wolf] was still pretty close to Anna Mae when Anna Mae caught me again, so I was kind of worried to go with Anna Mae and was like, oh man, if I get like a charlie horse or something and can’t finish the last four miles I’m going to be so mad at myself.
iRunFar: So it was kind of like…
Bracy: Taking it easy.
iRunFar: Running within yourself.
iRunFar: Maybe reserving a little something if you needed to.
Bracy: If I had to, yeah.
iRunFar: So does that suggest that your goal was to run your way into the Western States 100?
Bracy: That was my goal, yeah. I had some back-up plans, but I want to be there, and it’s an amazing field, and I’m sure just an awesome opportunity so.
iRunFar: So you’re taking your Golden Ticket.
Bracy: Yeah. Yeah.
iRunFar: The plan all along.
iRunFar: So I want to back up a little bit. Last year, I mean like 2017, you went from a road and track background to jumping all in to trail racing. Going to the Zegama [Aizkorri Marathon], all that sort of thing.
iRunFar: And then last year you jumped into ultramarathon racing. You’re like, I’m going to make this my year, right?
Bracy: Kind of. I think at the time I was, I don’t want to say I was thinking about retirement, but I’ve been doing this for a long time. You know, I ran in college and then ran after college so it’s been, I don’t know, over 20 years of training pretty hard. So I did my first 50 miler last March, Behind the Rocks 50 Mile, and it went pretty well so it was kind of just, it feels good right now. I’m older so I don’t feel like I’m super rushing it. I’ve done a lot of mileage in my life. And an opportunity like Western States, you don’t know if you’re going to get another chance, so wanting to take the chance and see what happens. And I don’t know how many years I have left. I hope it’s several but if it’s not, I want to check some boxes off.
iRunFar: Yeah. And was last year about checking some of those boxes or was it to explore the sport a little bit?
Bracy: A little bit to explore. Yeah. I think my strengths as an athlete in the past, you know, I don’t really get injured and can handle a lot of volume so I wanted to just kind of test with the 50 miler and it went really well, and did a 100k and it went really well, and did Leadville Trail 100 Mile and it did not go well.
Bracy: So it kind of set me back.
iRunFar: Your second finish was not what you would have hoped for.
Bracy: Yeah. But it was good. You know, it was kind of humbling, and I think I have a new respect for the distances, and I learned a lot. I learned a lot today. And it’s just, it’s cool to learn every time but also to know every race experience is going to be different. And I like that challenge.
iRunFar: So what have you learned over this past year and change going into like a Western States?
Bracy: I mean, honestly just respecting the distance. I think 100 miles is a long way. I think Leadville I went in a little bit arrogant, not to the competition, but just the ultras…
iRunFar: To yourself.
Bracy: They had come really easy to me. I had never had any issues. I had never had stomach issues. So.
iRunFar: And that changed?
Bracy: Oh yeah. I think I puked for like seven hours. So I think just learning there are no guarantees and anything goes in a 100 miler. So we already kind of talked a little bit about it, but just being ready for anything.
iRunFar: So does that mean, are you going to change any of your preparation before Western States different from your Leadville prep?
Bracy: Probably. Leadville, you know the challenge there is the altitude.
iRunFar: For sure.
Bracy: So we trained a lot up there. I’m lucky to live nearby. I’m in grad school so I had the whole summer off, so in terms of scheduling it worked really well. So Western for me will probably be a lot about the heat. I come from North Carolina where it’s really hot and humid, but since moving to Colorado and that dry heat I’ve gotten kind of wimpy so I need to toughen myself back up a little bit.
iRunFar: Find some real hot days and run midday when you can.
Bracy: Yep, exactly.
iRunFar: Do you have any races between now and then?
Bracy: Probably not. Maybe. I’m signed up for Quad Rock 50 Mile just because I love that race.
Bracy: It’s local. Corey’s trying to talk me out of doing it. If I did it, it would be as a nice long training run.
iRunFar: Well, with your background, and being honest about yourself, are you the type of person who can go do a race and run at 90%?
iRunFar: No. [laughs]
Bracy: I think I ran into that mistake. I did Never Summer 100k. Clare Gallagher was in the race. I really wanted to win. That was three weeks before Leadville and I think I ran too hard that day, so.
Bracy: Should learn from my mistakes probably.
iRunFar: Do you think that hitting the trails, has it reenergized your running or your life more generally?
Bracy: Oh, 100%. Yeah. I think when I ran my first mountain race, I started kind of the short-distance mountain races, I was ready to retire. I had missed the Olympic Trials, which I had qualified for when I was four years younger, and less experienced, and was just over it. But the trails are awesome, and the people are so awesome and the community is awesome. And I don’t feel, you know a day like today, there’s a lot on the line kind of, but someone wants to work with you. That doesn’t happen a lot on the track and on the road.
Bracy: So just having the camaraderie, it’s just been really awesome.
iRunFar: How about life wise?
iRunFar: Has that reflected back on life?
Bracy: Yeah. It’s just fun. You know, it’s not stressful to me. I make it a point to not make training super stressful. It’s just a better way of life. I just really enjoy it.
iRunFar: So you say you’re in grad school.
iRunFar: Has it changed, was it at some point the track training and the road training, was that a burden and a stress and all that? Has that made the rest of your schooling and whatnot easier?
Bracy: Yeah. Well I wasn’t in school when I was running track and stuff, so honestly, we were talking, I was on Spring Break for the last two weeks, so I trained really hard for this race for the last three weeks really.
Bracy: Well it wasn’t that I wasn’t running but I was full-time grad student and internships. It’s made that challenging, but the roads and track, it’s super black and white. You’re getting faster or you’re not getting faster. But these races, I don’t really think that much about pace or numbers. I think about competing and throwing down my best effort, and I try to race as hard as I can every time I race. And you’re not constantly comparing yourself.
iRunFar: So it may edit those shades of gray, make it almost easier to not be so self-judgmental?
Bracy: Right. Kind of finding yourself.
iRunFar: I remember talking to you before Zegama 2017 and you were like, you improved for 19-straight years or something, and then there were two years where you didn’t, and you were like…
Bracy: Yeah, what’s the point?
iRunFar: What’s the point.
Bracy: Everyone else is getting faster.
iRunFar: Here you might not improve, but you can come back, run Sonoma next year, be 15 minutes slower, and win.
iRunFar: Or have a performance that you’re really proud of.
Bracy: Yeah. For sure. And I mean, I always say you’re racing the day, the conditions, the trail, the terrain more than the other people.
Bracy: It doesn’t mean you’re not going after it but yeah, the conditions change every year so it’s really hard to kind of get caught in this mindset of, “I didn’t run fast enough.”
iRunFar: Well recognizing that it’s so subjective, how would you rank this against your other ultra performances? Because you can look at yourself, and you know.
Bracy: Right. I think that is the hardest I’ve pushed myself in an ultra so far, with the exception of Leadville probably. But you know we were racing from like mile one, and that’s a long day to be racing the whole time.
iRunFar: For sure.
Bracy: So like you said there was a lot of back and forth, and some of my other ultras haven’t gone that way. So seven-and-a-half hours is a long time to be like, in the zone racing people.
iRunFar: Nice. Well congratulations and have a great training block before Western States.
Bracy: Awesome, thanks.
iRunFar: Thank you.
The second article in a two-part series about the hip-hinge position for efficient running.