At mid-race, no one would have picked Larisa Dannis to finish on the podium of this year’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships since she was still outside the top 10, but that’s just what she did. In the following interview, Larisa talks about her long road back from a broken leg at this time last year, how starting easy allowed her to move into podium position late, and her hopes of racing her way into the 2016 Western States 100.
For more on how the race played out, you can read our TNF 50 results article.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Larisa Dannis Post-2015 The North Face EC 50-Mile Championships Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Larisa Dannis after her third-place finish at the 2015 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships. Nice work out there!
Larisa Dannis: Thank you!
iRunFar: The last time we talked around a race, you had a broken leg.
Dannis: That’s correct.
iRunFar: Doha, Qatar, November of last year—you didn’t know it. It’s been a really rough last year and change.
Dannis: It has. It’s been a pretty wild year, I guess, to say the least. The first half of the year I was just focused on recovering. I broke it at Doha. It was a full fracture. Then I stressed the original fracture site doing something non-running related which is somewhat embarrassing. So it was a long road back. I’m just so thankful to be healthy and running strong again.
iRunFar: You had some false starts along the way, too.
Dannis: No, not so much. My first race back was Mount Washington, and it was to get back in the game and to run up a mountain that I love. I had a good result there. I actually had a decent string of ultrarunning. My first ultra back was a 50k, a local one here in the Marin Headlands. I ended up winning it overall which is really fun. Then I went out to Waldo and placed top 10 and was the first woman. That’s a crazy course. I loved that race. It was really nice. It had a good flow to it. Then I was second at UROC behind Magda [Boulet], and then this race came up. I’ve always wanted to run The North Face but it’s just never worked or I had a cast on my leg. I was like, This is a good opportunity this year because I’m actually at my peak right now because I didn’t race the first half of the year, so I had a lot of time to build up and train.
iRunFar: It really paid off.
Dannis: It did. And you were smart out there today. A lot of the people went out—both men’s and women’s—but the women’s field went out really fast.
Dannis: That was my goal. Firstly, as you know, I never have any expectations going into any race. I wanted to be consistent just stay happy and positive and really, I wanted to be able to run a lot of the climbs at the end of the race that I love so much, especially that Marincello climb—the last climb on this course—I run it three to four times per week. I was like, I want to feel strong in that section. When I did, it was really pretty special.
iRunFar: You caught Ruth Croft on that climb to move into the third spot?
Dannis: I did, which was unexpected. I didn’t really know where I was in the field. There were so many women who went out really fast. I’m just going to do my own thing like I always do. Unfortunately my heart-rate monitor was all screwed up, but I’ve been working more on pacing by feel, so it wasn’t too bad. I was like, Okay, my heart-rate monitor is a little wacky, but what pace feels good to me right now?
iRunFar: You were chasing down Ellie [Greenwood] kinda’?
Dannis: I wasn’t chasing down anybody. I was just doing my thing.
iRunFar: Okay, but you were closing the distance between you and Ellie.
Dannis: Unexpectedly, that’s the thing. I started passing other women coming down towards Stinson. Then from Stinson to Cardiac and Cardiac back to Tennessee Valley, that’s when I really started to move up in the field. I was just running my own race, and it was just a very natural thing. It was also special, too, because it was really a treat to meet so many women that I talk to online and I follow their running and they’re huge inspirations to me. I’d run past them and we’d run together for a bit, and it was special just to make those connections.
iRunFar: Sounds like a pretty all around great Saturday.
Dannis: It was an awesome Saturday. Any Saturday that involves a ton of running and a ton of time with friends from the running community is a special one indeed. As I told you, I’m just beyond thankful to be healthy.
iRunFar: To preserve that health are you taking a break soon after this race or just keep going?
Dannis: It’s either going to be after this race or after Bandera. My big goal is I’d love to get back to Western States.
iRunFar: That could work—keep running for another month and use this fitness.
Dannis: Exactly. It’s a matter of deciding whether I want to go for it really early next year or if I want to take a break now and then wait until February or March to go for that Golden Ticket race. I’m not saying I’ll get it, but I’m the kind of girl who likes to try.
iRunFar: It’s the perfect segue. It’s the end of the year. It’s the last race of the season. Bandera is on your schedule and hopefully Western States. Anything else in the works for next year?
Dannis: No, I was really just focusing on this one for now. I need to figure it out. I’m kind of spontaneous with my racing. I sign up for things somewhat last minute. My big goal for next year is I really want to get back to Western States.
iRunFar: Have you checked the lottery results? I haven’t.
Dannis: I have not, and we don’t have cell coverage here. While I was running, I was told by my friends I did not get in.
iRunFar: I assumed that somebody would have found a way to get anybody word.
Dannis: I was hopefully with my 3% chance, but sometimes you just have to…
iRunFar: Sometimes you’ve got to circumvent chance and work your way in, right?
Dannis: Exactly. Now I have a new adventure ahead and some work.
iRunFar: Great race, and see you soon.
Dannis: Thank you so much.