Less than a year after coming to trail running, American Addie Bracy will get to take on the classic Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon this Sunday. In the following interview, Addie talks about how she came to transition from the track to trails, how her first year in trail running has gone, and what she’s expecting at Zegama.
Addie Bracy Pre-2017 Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Addie Bracy before the 2017 Zegama Marathon. How are you, Addie?
Addie Bracy: Good. Good, yeah, excited to be here.
iRunFar: This is your first time at Zegama. Have you gotten to check out the course at all or the area?
Bracy: I jogged about the first 10 minutes of the course, and I think I mentioned to you that it felt pretty runnable which made me more scared for the actual race because I think up top it’s got to be pretty challenging.
iRunFar: You’re pretty new to trail racing.
Bracy: Very new, yes.
iRunFar: You have a long history with track and field and marathons. Earlier in your running career, did you run on the trails at all?
Bracy: Where I grew up in North Carolina, my house actually backed up to some mountain biking trails. It’s not like this. It’s not climbing mountains, but I did thousands of miles on those trails where it’s pretty technical footing, jumping logs and roots, and stuff like that. I never thought of it as trail running, but I did train on that to a degree for many years before I switched over.
iRunFar: Now you live in Boulder, [Colorado] and did you incorporate trail running naturally?
Bracy: No, it’s kind of interesting how it worked out. I love the mountains, and I love running on the trails, but training for track, it didn’t correlate. So I kind of found myself always taking the time during my two-week breaks in the winter and the summer to do a few runs on the trails, and then it would be like, Okay, see you next time my break comes up. It’s interesting that I’ve kind of come full circle to the thing I actually enjoy doing the most. I turned out to be decently competitive about it, so that’s been fun.
iRunFar: You ran competitively in college and post-collegiately in the marathon, 10k, and steeplechase, and then last year happened. What was last year like for you?
Bracy: I always said I would keep running until I felt like I wasn’t improving or I wasn’t getting better. It didn’t make sense to me to stop as long as I was getting better every year. It wasn’t about trying to make it my career. It wasn’t about necessarily making teams, although those were always goals—or making the Trials or making USA’s. Those were all goals, but every year I got better for 19 years or something. Then I went two years where I didn’t get better at anything. The marathon, I didn’t get better. The steeple, I didn’t get better… or the 10k. In my mind I felt like, well, maybe I didn’t run the times I had the potential to run, I felt like I’d kind of maxed out what I could do on the track. Continuing to race after two years of not getting better, I felt myself kind of losing my love for it and not wanting to be there and not wanting to train, and I didn’t want that to happen. I see myself staying in the sport for a long time. I’m a coach. I felt like it was in my best interest to get out. I ran my first trail race—one of my teammates encouraged me to do the U.S. [Mountain Running] Champs in New Hampshire—and I think I prepared for two or three weeks and just did it for fun. Ever since then, it’s just felt like that. Every race I’ve come to, I’ve probably been very unprepared for because I just wanted to make it fun and not stressful.
iRunFar: Did you sort of hit a bottom with the track experience?
Bracy: Yeah, I think so. I think… it’s a testament to the U.S. It’s getting so competitive there. I felt like I was having to work harder and harder and harder to just stay where I was and meanwhile the line is getting moved every year. It’s great to watch, but I didn’t see the purpose in it. Yeah, I think I wasn’t loving it. At the end of the day, that’s why I wanted to do it. If I wasn’t loving it, then there was no point.
iRunFar: Then somebody recommended you do the U.S. Mountain Running Championships?
Bracy: Yes, I was trying to make the [U.S. Olympic] Track Trials last July, and when I said I wasn’t going to do it, Matt Daniels—he’s another teammate of mine—was going out to the race. And there’s plenty of people in Boulder that run trails who said, “You’re in shape. Do you just want to do one or two workouts and come with us?” I said, “Okay.” Yeah, it worked out well.
iRunFar: Yeah, you won that.
Bracy: I did win,
iRunFar: Was that your first national championship?
Bracy: Yes, it was.
iRunFar: On three weeks’ notice. That must have felt really good.
Bracy: Yeah, it did. It kind of justified some of the work I’d been doing. I was working really hard. That made me feel like the last couple of years weren’t in vain. They were serving a purpose. I just didn’t realize it at the time.
iRunFar: Then you’ve done a few more trail races since. You ran World [Mountain Running] Championships. How did that go?
Bracy: It went well. The U.S. team placed third and got bronze by a couple points. It was a really close race. I didn’t feel like my race was as strong as it should have been. I actually kind of attribute that to letting my nerves get in the way. I’ve since backed off. I’m doing this for fun. And since I’ve done that, I’ve had more success coming back to these trail races. I try not to put pressure on myself. When I don’t do that, I tend to run pretty well.
iRunFar: In November, you did your first trail marathon and won Moab Trail Marathon and another US[ATF National] Championships.
Bracy: Yeah, that was fun. It was a really fun course and a fun race.
iRunFar: That’s very different from the mountain-running course you did. The Moab Trail Marathon course is quite technical in parts. How did you find that?
Bracy: Every single race I’ve come into, I’ve literally said, “I don’t know what to expect.” Every time it’s proved true. At least once in each race I’ve stopped and would be like, “What is this? This is insane to me.” Moab was definitely that. There were parts where I thought I’d made a wrong turn, and there was no way this was the actual course. Then I’d see a white dot, and oh, I guess this is the course. It doesn’t seem safe. Doing the obstacle course over the last 5k where you’re climbing ropes and stuff, I think I stopped and had a soda at one point. I’m just going to stop and have a coke real quick because this is crazy. It’s fun. It keeps it light and keeps it somewhat low pressure because you can’t prepare when you have no idea what’s going to be out here.
iRunFar: You did the Fourmidable 50k in February. How was stepping up to the ultra distance?
Bracy: Yes. I think I rushed it a little bit. I felt pretty fit going into that, and I felt really good through about 22 miles. I think I ran significantly faster through the marathon than I did in Moab, but I did not do a good job fueling. I did not do a good job of taking it easy early on. It was a learning experience, but I crashed and burned bad and walked most of the last 5k. It was good to learn that, but I think I rushed the ultra distance.
iRunFar: This is technically a marathon, but the time runs more like a 50k. So are you changing your strategy up for that?
Bracy: I’ll be honest with you. When I registered for this race, I didn’t really do my research and thought, Oh, I’m pretty good at the marathon distance. This will be cool. Then I saw the course records and thought, Oh, man, this is going to be interesting. So I’m definitely going to try and take it easy the first bit and play it safe and try and do a good job fueling. I think that’s huge in these long races and something I’ve struggled with a little bit. We’ll see.
iRunFar: Are you the sort of personality that can sit back in a race?
Bracy: I think so. I’m learning in these long races that you kind of have to. It’s been helpful for me to key off of some people who are veterans in it and learn a little bit because at the end of the day, I really don’t know what I’m doing. I’d rather people I’m racing not know that, but it’s true. I’m kind of making it up as I go. I train alone, so I don’t see people that do it until I’m in races. So it’s helpful for me to kind of watch a little bit.
iRunFar: Is there anybody you’re going to key on in the early going to play it safe?
Bracy: I don’t know a lot of the foreigners yet. I do know Megan [Kimmel], and I know she’s kind of a rock star in the trail world. I ran with her in Moab. We ran together a little bit, and we chatted a little. I watched her on the descents because she’s really good at those, and I’m not as good at those. I think she seems to run smart, and I’ve raced her before. So I think that could be someone…
iRunFar: You’re somewhat comparable, so the first half of the course that could be…
Bracy: Yeah, maybe. Just kind of a familiar face if nothing else.
iRunFar: Have you changed up your training much since you’ve shifted from track training to the trails?
Bracy: Yeah, I do still quite a bit of faster training, probably more than most trail runners. I think my inkling is that the reason I have had some success is because I’ve stayed pretty fit. I still do track workouts. I still do fast workouts with some of my teammates that race on the track, but I would say for this race, I have done more on the trails than I’ve done before just knowing it was going to be very long and very technical. Luckily we haven’t had a lot of snow recently, so I’ve been able to get up on some of the technical trails above Boulder. There are a lot of really technical trails there. I’ve spent a lot more time on those knowing how technical this was going to be.
iRunFar: Do you feel you’re progressing in that regard?
Bracy: I do. I wish I had a few more weeks, but I think with this being one of the first races, everyone is kind of in that boat. It would be nice to have one more month of training.
iRunFar: But you don’t feel like a fish out of water on the technical stuff?
Bracy: No, I mean I say that having never seen what I’m going to run, so I hope not. I think the trails in Boulder are pretty technical from what I’ve heard, and I’ve just tried to spend a lot of time on those and think, It can’t be much worse than this. So if I can get comfortable on these, I’m probably going to be okay wherever I go.
iRunFar: How are you going to feel with this race? I think you have a pretty full schedule coming up in the next couple weeks.
Bracy: I do. I’m rethinking it a little bit. I think I kind of bit off more than I could chew. I’m flying straight back to Boston[, Massachusetts] to run the U.S. [Mountain Running] Champs in New Hampshire. That’s been hard, too, because I had to make sure I was prepared for both races, and they’re very different. I think I’m in the best place I could be to be pretty prepared for tomorrow and pretty prepared for New Hampshire.
iRunFar: You’re committed to both.
Bracy: I’m committed to both. Yeah, we’ll see how it works out. I’m hoping it translates well to put myself in there and see what happens.
iRunFar: What are you most excited about for tomorrow?
Bracy: Just a new experience. I’ve traveled and raced abroad many times before, but with the exception of worlds, always on the track. There’s something really cool about racing on a track in the middle of Finland, but it’s not quite the same as coming somewhere and seeing something totally different. I’ve tried to take time to step back and say, “This is really cool.” It’s going to be hard tomorrow, but I’d never run these mountains otherwise. I love the challenge of starting down here and looking up and running to the top of a peak. Getting to do that in Spain is going to be pretty cool.
iRunFar: Have you heard anything about the fans?
Bracy: I have. I’ve heard this race is pretty unique and pretty special. It seems like this town really gets into it, so I’m excited for that.
iRunFar: It could literally be the same number of fans you’d see in a big European track meet but along the side of a mountain.
Bracy: That’s what I’ve heard which is different than in the U.S. because I could run 31 miles and we don’t really see anyone for 10 to 12 miles.
iRunFar: Moab Trail Marathon, you see people at aid stations.
Bracy: Right, that’s it, that have been camping out the whole night. It will be cool. I’m excited for it.
iRunFar: Best of luck, Addie. Nice to meet you.
Bracy: You too.