After a huge early 2019 in racing and a quieter second half of the year, Addie Bracy says she’s fitter than she has been in a while and mentally ready for the 2019 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. In the following interview, Addie talks about the learning process of how much ultramarathon racing is enough racing, how she’s drawn to TNF 50’s high level of competition, and how she’s prepared for racing in the Marin Headlands’s unique conditions.
Addie Bracy Pre-2019 TNF 50 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m here with Addie Bracy. It’s the day before The North Face Endurance Championships and we’re in the Marin Headlands.
Addie Bracy: Yeah, it’s awesome. So beautiful.
iRunFar: We’re both Colorado transplantees for the weekend. We were just talking about how coming to San Fransisco puts moisture in your skin and makes your hair feel different.
Bracy: Totally. I don’t normally think of San Francisco as being humid, but it feels like it now and it’s nice.
iRunFar: It feels like it today. So, what brings you to race The North Face 50?
Bracy: Like lots of people, I was supposed to race last year. I was really excited for it, it was a competitive field as well. I feel like when it got cancelled, maybe Lake Sonoma turned into The North Face 2.0 with the competition. I had a really fun race there. I realized that having those deep, competitive fields brings out the best in me. We’re kind of pushing each other. I was excited to get back in that scenario. There’s definitely a big group of women that’s going to be pushing each other, and that’s how you run fast.
iRunFar: Talking about remix 2.0 [at Lake Sonoma back in April], it was an incredible race between you and YiOu Wang and Anna Mae Flynn earlier this year. You all finished within 2 or 2.5 minutes of each other in a 50-mile race.
Bracy: Yeah, I think I was talking to Bryon Powell after that when I said I think that was the hardest I’ve ever raced for that long. Coming into the last mile, it was still a matter of “Who knows what’s going to happen?” I think I had kind of fallen off at that point, but, yeah, we were switching leads for the entire race. It was interesting – challenging in some ways, but so much fun.
iRunFar: You must want to do it again.
Bracy: Yeah! I think there’s a lot of people that have the same kind of thought in mind. I can definitely see a big pack kind of pushing each other up front. That’s how I see it playing out.
iRunFar: That’s so fun to me about women’s trail ultrarunning: These competitive races where you actually get pack running happening for a while.
Bracy: For sure. There’s even nice conversations going on. At certain points, we’re definitely battling each other but there’s still some support. Anna Mae and I were encouraging each other at Lake Sonoma with two miles to go. YiOu and Anna Mae were there to greet me when I finished and to give me a hug. It’s one of the only sports were you can go out there and beat the crap out of each other for seven hours and then be friends as soon as you cross the finish line.
iRunFar: It’s still beating the crap out of each other… but with love and affection.
Bracy: Yeah, the mutual intention of just pushing each other to do their best performance.
iRunFar: Which is actually the true definition of competition, when you’re working with each other instead of against each other.
Bracy: Definitely, yeah.
iRunFar: So, I wanted to ask you about your 2019 in racing. Watching the sport, I was often like, “Oh, wow, Addie’s racing again this weekend. Oh, wow, Addie’s racing again this weekend!” Then I decided to add it up. Between the start of the year and Western States, you raced like 300 miles.
Bracy: Oh! I hadn’t done the math on that. It’s good to know.
iRunFar: Yeah, 290-something miles your raced in the first six months of the year. For you, it’s been a little quieter since then. Can you give me your thoughts on your year in ultrarunning?
Bracy: For sure. I’ve been running for a long time – decades. But last year was my first time racing ultras. I think I’ve always been kind of known for racing a lot, but I realize that doesn’t really fly at ultra distances. I think I learned that the hard way a bit. I don’t get injured, so there was no injury, but I think it was just an emotional/mental piece where I just didn’t feel like training hard over the summer.
I think it had to do with how a lot of the racing early on was by necessity because I was trying to get a golden ticket. I was chasing that at Bandera and Sonoma. Then there was obviously the build-up to Western. Like I said, I wasn’t injured; there wasn’t anything physically wrong. Mentally, though, I needed a break and that’s never happened to me in two decades, so I listened to it. I think it paid off. I’ve felt really good this fall. I like to race a lot, but with ultras I’m learning that I need to pick and choose and be smart about it.
iRunFar: That’s a tricky thing for people to figure out. When you’re uninjured, but you’re tired and you just don’t feel the love for running. How did you listen to your body and get through that time?
Bracy: I mean, my career and by background is in sports psychology, and I think that helps because I’m able to step out and see.
iRunFar: You study yourself?
Bracy: Exactly. I recognize, “Those are XYZ symptoms of burnout, let’s not go there.” I think I can be a little bit logical in that scenario. More than anything, anytime I feel something like that popping up in that scenario for the first time, for me, that was all the more reason to listen to it. I hadn’t done the math [on how many miles I raced], but I was asking a lot of my body for the whole year. I kept signing up for races in hopes that it would spark my motivation, but it just wouldn’t. So, I ended up taking a big break that I think I kind of needed. I’ve felt really great this cycle for this. It’s hard to recognize in the moment, like you said – it’s hard to pull the plug and step back, but I think that usually you feel better once you do.
iRunFar: The courses for races like Sonoma and The North Face 50 are pretty particular. It’s non-technical terrain that’s never flat, always rolling, arrhythmic. I find that in the mountains west in Colorado, it’s kind of hard to mimic that terrain because we have a lot of sustained climbs and lots of technical trails. How have you trained in particular for this race?
Bracy: Yeah, I think you’re right. Looking at the course map, I was surprised to see how much elevation gain there is. I was like, “Where? There’s no big hills.”
iRunFar: How does it add up to all this elevation?
Bracy: Exactly. It’s small hills. In Colorado, you might knock it all out on an eight-mile climb and then turn and bomb for eight miles. It’s very different. I did a lot of dirt road running, versus the trails. It ended up being good because there’s been so much snow that the trails have been pretty out of commission for the last few weeks anyway, so I think the dirt roads served well for this course. I would actually pick a five- or six-mile section and just run back and forth to try and mimic the transitions as much as possible because it’s not a standard part of my training.
iRunFar: You had to try and get used to the arrhythmic feeling.
Bracy: Yeah, you never get into a groove.
iRunFar: So, Lake Sonoma was quite a trifecta for you and YiOu and Anna Mae. You came out of that battle in third. I guess maybe you’re coming into this race with higher goals, higher expectations. Or is it a matter of, “If I run as well as I did that day, I’ll be happy with myself”? Where’s your head?
Bracy: I think both. I mean, I’m probably fitter than I have been in a long time. Last year I was in grad school, so I was training, but it wasn’t important. Since graduating in June, I’ve had a lot more time to prioritize training. I think that’s paid off. But I could pick five, six, or seven women on the start line who could win tomorrow.
iRunFar: And that’s in addition to you, YiOu, and Anna Mae.
Bracy: Yes, that’s right. Of course, I think I have a shot. I’ll put my hat in it. But I have no illusions that it will be easy or a sure thing. I think at Lake Sonoma, I put the best race together that I could on that day and that was good for third. It would have been awesome if it was first, but there’s nowhere where I could look back and see something I could do differently. If that’s the same case tomorrow and I come fifth, then that’s what my day was. I’m definitely ready to throw down the best effort that I have and see where that puts me.
iRunFar: Control the variables you can control [and accept the result]. Right on and good luck to you.
Bracy: Thank you.
iRunFar: Have a fun adventure through the Marin Headlands.
Bracy: Yes, I’m excited about it. Thanks!