Anna Mae Flynn ran a consistent race before finishing strong to win the 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. In the following interview, Anna Mae talks about how her race went, how she was able to train through a very snowy Colorado winter, and what’s next on her race calendar and whether that will include the Western States 100.
For more on how the race played out, read our Lake Sonoma 50 results article.
Anna Mae Flynn, 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar and I’m here with Anna Mae Flynn after her win at the 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. Holy moly, Anna Mae.
Anna Mae Flynn: Holy moly is right! [laughs]
iRunFar: What a finish!
Flynn: What a finish. Well, I was going to finish. I live in Marble, Colorado–everybody should know where that is [smiles].
iRunFar: It’s outside of Carbondale.
Flynn: It’s outside of a town that’s outside of a town. Nobody lives there but me. I’ve been training in the snow, and the last half mile of the race was all in mud, so I just decided to rage. It wasn’t snow, so I decided, “I’m gonna’ do this.” I saw Curtis, Abby Mitchell’s husband, and we’re Colorado neighbors. He gave me one of those pep talks. I was totally stoked to be second. I saw him half a mile out or less, maybe 400 meters, like a sprint around a track or something. He basically was like, “You got this, go get it.” He said it so that I could hear it, but [YiOu Wang] couldn’t. He was almost walking with me and talking and he got me amped. I was like, “You’re right.” When I passed YiOu, I was like “I’m sorry! I wanted you to hat trick.”
iRunFar: Did you similarly kick the previous time that you ran here?
Flynn: Yes! It’s a thing! A sprint finish. I basically just jog until I get there, and then I race. Now it’s time to hurt. It’s time to go. Then I finish, and I’m like, “Oh, I feel great. Maybe we should go do some more.” No, I did not feel that great. I was good [with being done running].
iRunFar: Considering I asked you if I could interview you 10 feet over there and you said, “Can we do it here?”
Flynn: Yeah, can we do it here, wherever I am?
iRunFar: So, how did the rest of the race go for you? Because you were up there for a long time, running up toward the front.
Flynn: Yeah, I mean, coming back to where I live, I was celebrating being out in the grass. It was green, there was singletrack. I was just going! Then I looked at my watch and was like, “Ooh, we’re going 7:30 per mile pace, like way under course-record pace.” It was fast. But I was having a good time and I was hanging out with Addie Bracy for the majority of the time and we just connected, talking about training. We were just hanging out, it was nice. It wasn’t competitive. She even asked me about Golden Ticket status and what I was planning about. I was like, “Um, [mimes looking at her watch and shrugging her shoulders], no. I’m just like out here. I want to feel good. I want to celebrate, because I haven’t raced in a long time. I just want to have fun and have a good performance.
iRunFar: And you did.
Flynn: Yeah, so that’s what I did.
iRunFar: So, looking at 2017, you sort of ran a normal calendar of ultramarathons–not too many, but still a fair number. Last year, did you run any besides Transvulcania?
Flynn: I did, and I was going to say something on iRunFar’s pre-race preview but I was like, whatever.
iRunFar: No, I always want more information!
Flynn: I did the GoPro Games and, then, I did Zermat Marathon and I got third there in August. Then, I was going to do The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships, but that was cancelled so I ended up doing the World Vertical Ski Mountaineering Championships. With skis uphill. But then snow came to Colorado. I was like, “Hmm, I’m going to ski now.”
iRunFar: I was going to ask you about that. You ran really well here, obviously. It’s been a ridiculous winter in Colorado. How do you get prepared to run in those conditions?
Flynn: I don’t know. To be honest, I think I’ve found a really good balance between… the reason I didn’t race as much last year is because I had just moved to Colorado from Tahoe[, California]. There’s more opportunity to do the winter thing where you go down to Auburn or to Reno and run. Living in Marble, Colorado, you’re running on snow.
iRunFar: You can run along the road on the Frying Pan.
Flynn: But just barely. It’s basically been snowpack. I decided I would get time on my feet: “I’m just gonna run.” A 17-mile run–I always run 17-mile runs and I don’t know why, it’s not like 15 or 20–would take three hours or three-and-a-half hours, so I was definitely out there and on my feet. I would do 50 miles of that kind of training, plus ski mountaineering.
iRunFar: Were you doing ski mountaineering pretty intensely?
Flynn: Not intensely, but, for me, it was about kind of getting your legs under you. Kind of like the Euro style. I’m trying to find that balance, because it works for them and I know it’s possible. The adaptation has taken a while and I think I’ve finally found that balance. Skiing in the backcountry–for all those out there listening–it’s really frickin’ hard. Running is hard. I joke about this with my partner, Paul, because he’s like “Yeah, woo! Let’s shred!” And I’m like “Oh!” Because your quads burn off. I’m like, “If I can get this down, then I can jump in any race, and when my legs start hurting, then I know.”
iRunFar: You’re used to the intense pain. Ultrarunning tends to be pretty low-key. The pain feels like slow boil. This downhill skiing is full-on.
Flynn: Full-on, and you have to be really strong. I think that was my weakness. I had some turnover and some speed. I jumped into a couple of 50ks and had some luck with just redlining and whatever. I noticed that even at Transvulcania, when we got to the 50k mark and we started going down the descent, I was like, “Oh, my poor quads!”
iRunFar: That’s also like an 8,000-vertical-foot descent.
Flynn: Yeah, but if you want to master something like that–and I love being in the mountains–it was clear that [I had to say to myself], “All right, you know this is what it’s going to take. This is my passion. I love being in the mountains.”
iRunFar: And that’s what it is for you? It’s about being in the mountains, whether it’s running or skiing? Does one come before the other?
Flynn: Mountains are everything. I love running, especially running in the Rockies. It’s super ideal. But unfortunately, consequently, there’s snow.
iRunFar: So maybe you’re a runner first, but you really, really enjoy skiing.
Flynn: I really enjoy skiing, but skiing is still [looks into the camera] REALLY HARD.
iRunFar: I can only imagine. I see the people doing it and I’m just like, “You’re insane.”
Flynn: Comparatively, this race compared to a long day touring on skis… skiing is so much harder. So much harder. Like Power of Four or get into one of those ski-mountaineering races, and you’ll understand.
iRunFar: Okay, duly noted [shakes his head].
Flynn: Maybe if you get the adaptation, you’ll be fine. I’m just saying, for me….
iRunFar: So, are you going back home and skiing, or do you have any running races coming up?
Flynn: I will probably start transitioning to running, but the spring corn is ready to be harvested with my ski training, so I’ll probably be doing the same combo. I’ll be on the team for the Trail World Championships in Portugal. I’ll be doing that first week in June and then what I had on the calendar and I was stoked about is I got into Sierre-Zinal, so I confirmed that, and then I have OCC 55k [of the UTMB family of races].
iRunFar: Sierre-Zinal–it will be really fun to see you race that because of your speed and your adeptness in the mountains.
Flynn: I would prefer to transition with the spring and then get my legs under me. I haven’t done that many speed workouts and that many trail runs. That’s what I’m psyched on, but I’m considering the Golden Ticket as well.
iRunFar: You’re psyched on Sierre-Zinal.
Flynn: When I got the confirmation after typing, “Would you guys let me in?” and they responded, “Well, first we have to look at your ITRA score.” I was looking my score up and nerding out. “Do you think that’s good enough?” I was asking Paul. We’re in Marble, sitting on the couch and he’s like, “Will you stop bugging me about that?”
iRunFar: You’re the best runner in Marble right now.
Flynn: “Don’t worry, you’re going to get in. Who else in Marble is going to compete with you right now?” Yeah, when I found out I got in I was like, “Woo! Stoked!” Versus Golden Ticket stoke, which is like [makes a face of uncertainty].
iRunFar: You have the opportunity, so you’re considering it?
Flynn: Yeah, but I’m not like, “STOKED!!!” I’m just like, “Meh.”
iRunFar: Okay, that says a lot. You’ve got to follow what your passions are at the time. There’s plenty of time to do other distances and other races and see…
Flynn: Yeah, but it is a big snow year and I’ve been doing a lot of strength work. It’s like…
iRunFar: So, if there was a year to do it. But you also have to be ready to run 100 miles in two months.
Flynn: So you’re saying I have a chance. Can I bring my skis for the first 20 miles?
iRunFar: I’m pretty sure that’s not in the rules, but if your shoes look like skis…. Well, congratulations Anna Mae. Nice work.
Flynn: Thank you. All right!