Kelly Wolf will make her Lake Sonoma 50 Mile debut this weekend. In the following interview, Kelly talks about her outstanding 2018 season, what she learned along the way, and how she thinks she’ll fare on the faster Lake Sonoma course.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kelly Wolf before the 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. How are you, Kelly?
Kelly Wolf: Hi! I’m doing great, thanks.
iRunFar: It’s awfully nice here. Are you ready for a beautiful weekend?
Wolf: It’s super-nice weather. I actually think it’s a little chilly. I’m in a sweatshirt and pants. I’m coming from Phoenix[, Arizona]. I think it’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit [35 degrees Celsius] there right now. I’ve gotten a little soft since I moved there from Telluride, Colorado. I skipped winter this year.
iRunFar: You’ve dealt with some real winters before. You’d probably be like me: short sleeves and everything if you had come here directly from Colorado.
Wolf: Exactly. I definitely got soft I’ve noticed in the last couple of months.
iRunFar: Well, at least you’ll be ready for the relative heat this weekend.
Wolf: I think so.
iRunFar: You had an amazing 2018: winning at Tarawera 100k and Lavaredo Ultra Trail, a good run at Transvulcania. Now that a little time has passed, how do you think that your season went?
Wolf: I’m super psyched about how last year went. I can’t complain at all. I kind of set up that year by picking two Ultra-Trail World Tour races because they take your top-two scores for your overall ranking for that. When I was picking them out, I was thinking, “Wow, that would of course be amazing if I just won both of these.” So I did the best that I could do and, sure enough, that happened. I had great races, great experiences last year. I also learned a lot. Lavaredo’s my longest race to date [at 120 kilometers] so that was a goal, too: pushing up the distance and doing a night start. It added some more factors.
iRunFar: How did you find it?
Wolf: I wanted to do Lavaredo in particular because going from 100k to 120k and with the amount of vertical in that race, I thought it would be a good assessment race. I wanted to see how I liked it and if I wanted to continue going up in distance, to think about 100 miles. Or, if it went poorly, then maybe I would think the opposite way.
Wolf: I mean, it was the hardest race, the hardest experience I’ve ever had. It went well enough, so I guess I have to say that we can keep going up in distance at some point.
iRunFar: Are you here to try and get a spot into the Western States 100? Or are you here to race Lake Sonoma in and of itself?
Wolf: I’m here to race Lake Sonoma. I’m really excited about this race–I’ve never done it before. It’s also a really different style of race than the races I’ve previously done. I’m excited and interested in the different type of course and just seeing how I do here. I’m also really drawn to the competitive factor of this race. A lot of these women I’ve never raced before. Last year, I did a local 50k maybe twice or something but didn’t really race in the U.S. I definitely wanted to get a competitive one in the U.S..
iRunFar: How do you think you’ll fare on a course like this? It is faster and more runnable than most of the races you’ve done.
Wolf: I’m excited to see how I can do. I’ve had a lot of good weeks strung together since the year started, I think. Pretty consistent training and also having moved out of Telluride since Christmas basically, I’ve been in Phoenix since then and I’ve been able to train on faster terrain and not snowy terrain, obviously. I haven’t been out there yet to see the course. It will be a different style for me. We’ll see.
iRunFar: This is going to be a competitive race. Maybe the most competitive you’ve run? No, you did the CCC.
Wolf: I feel that I’ve done some competitive races, but the field is very deep this weekend. I think in that sense this will be the most competitive race I’ve done.
iRunFar: Totally. So, you were in Colorado for a while and now you’re in Arizona. Was that a permanent move? Or is that seasonal, or in flux?
Wolf: It’s not permanent. Right now it’s seasonal. I am planning to be back in Telluride this summer because I can’t think of any better place to be in summer than in Telluride. I’ll be back there this summer for mountain running and coaching more gymnastics. I thought I was going to make a move earlier in the year to another Arizona town a little more north. That hasn’t happened yet, but it might still be in the cards. Now that the year is going, and traveling for more races is coming up, we’ll see if and when that happens. Phoenix is a good base for now, until it gets pretty hot, which is soon. So, yeah, in flux.
iRunFar: You ran Ultra-Trail Cape Town in December and haven’t really raced since then. I mean, you did a 20k. Did you take some time off? How have things gone since then?
Wolf: I was pretty disappointed with how Cape Town went. I was fourth. I was hoping to do a bit better. I injured my knee last summer. I was a little too impatient and jumped into training a little too fast getting into that race, I think. Training was a little inconsistent, I guess. By the time the race came, I was banged up. I had to taper really hard to hope that my niggles would go away. It wasn’t the race I had hoped for. I was a little disappointed and so I decided to take the rest of December off. That was the longest running break I’ve had since I started running. So, I pretty much took December off.
Since the start of this year, I’ve been getting back in the groove. Training has been going really well and I’m just being really patient about racing. I haven’t jumped into a race. I was really interested in doing the Black Canyon 60k, but Jason Koop wouldn’t let me. But it’s okay. Patience is good. I’ve got a lot on the calendar for this summer, so I’m good with it. I’m just going to push the season back a little bit and I’m really happy with the weeks of base training.
iRunFar: So, in 2018 you probably did more miles of racing than the rest of your life combined. By a good bit. You did a lot of racing last year and you’re relatively new to the sport. Did you learn a lot last year? Are there any key takeaways?
Wolf: Yeah, I learned a lot from every race. Let’s see. Is there something you want to know?
iRunFar: No, I just wondered if there was anything from your season, whether it was in training or racing, if you’ve changed your perspective? Were there some failures where you said, “I don’t want to do that again this year”?
Wolf: I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from racing is just that ultras are long and, honestly, anything can happen. I’ve had a couple of races where–and this isn’t the ideal scenario at all–I’ve just started out so, so horribly crappy. I’m feeling like trash, throw me in the running trash can for this race because I should not be out here. Then, if you just stick with it and, I don’t know, staying out there and staying positive, knowing things will at least get a little bit better, maybe because they just can’t get any worse.
iRunFar: That reminds me of the phrase that I heard back in the day when I started ultrarunning, it never always gets worse.
Wolf: It never always gets worse. Exactly! Things can always turn around. That’s how I would describe my Transvulcania Ultramarathon race last year.
iRunFar: Have you found a pattern? Is there a point in the race where you’re more likely to not feel good? Is it early in the race? Or is it just hit or miss?
Wolf: Sometimes, maybe it takes like three hours for my legs to shake out or something. Maybe it’s just like the pre-race anxiety that I don’t deal with sometimes and then I feel locked up and it takes a little bit to shake out or something. I think the biggest takeaway is just that ultras aren’t over until they’re over. You don’t know what’s happening ahead of you or behind you. As long as you keep moving forward, it can turn out pretty well.
iRunFar: Nice! Good luck on Saturday, and I hope it goes well from start to finish.
Wolf: Thanks so much, I appreciate it.
The second article in a two-part series about the hip-hinge position for efficient running.