Mandy Ortiz won the junior division of the World Mountain Running Championships in 2013 and took fourth last year. This weekend, she’s running in the senior division of the US Mountain Running Championships (USMRC) for the first time. In the following interview, Mandy talks about how she balances collegiate running with mountain running, where her strengths and weakness lay in mountain running, and what she’s thinking going into her first USMRC as a senior.
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Mandy Ortiz Pre-2015 US Mountain Running Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Mandy Ortiz before the 2015 US Mountain Running Championships. How are you, Mandy?
Mandy Ortiz: Good.
iRunFar: Are you excited to be here in Bend?
Ortiz: I’m really excited.
iRunFar: You just raced last weekend up at the NACAC Championships for mountain running and had a good run there, yeah?
Ortiz: Yeah, that was a really great race. It was an awesome experience to get to run with the senior women.
iRunFar: Is that your first race at the national-championships/international-championships level as a senior?
Ortiz: Yeah, I’ve only done junior races before, so it was kind of different.
iRunFar: How so?
Ortiz: Just the level of competition obviously is higher. There’s a larger… in the juniors, there are a few girls that are a really high level, but in the senior races, the whole group is higher. So, it’s just a different kind of race for me.
iRunFar: How did it play out? Did you race more conservatively since there was more depth, or how did it affect your actual strategy for performance?
Ortiz: The race was longer. The other races I’ve done were 4k. This one was 11k. I started out pretty conservatively because I was a little nervous about the length, and then I just built as the race went on.
iRunFar: Did you move up in the ranks as that happened?
Ortiz: Definitely. I started out probably mid-pack and ended third, so that was good.
iRunFar: Pretty solid running. I didn’t look too much at the other teams, but the American team was quite solid, very strong runners with a lot of experience.
iRunFar: You’ve also raced the junior world championships including winning two years ago and second last year, correct?
Ortiz: No, I was fourth last year.
iRunFar: Sorry. Those are pretty good showings. Did you enjoy those races?
Ortiz: Yeah, those were a lot of fun and also just really great experiences.
iRunFar: You’ve run both the uphill/downhill courses as well as the uphill only. Do you feel you’re stronger in one of those?
Ortiz: I think overall uphill is my strong suit, but I think I’ve been working on downhills a lot, too. I wouldn’t really say I’m way stronger at one or the other.
iRunFar: The North American championships were up and down as well?
iRunFar: You must feel pretty strong about your fitness right now?
Ortiz: Yeah, I’m confident.
iRunFar: Last year you ran your first season as a University of Colorado runner. What’s it like when all the rest of your teammates are probably doing base training for cross country and you’re out here racing? Did you have to get approval or how does that work?
Ortiz: I talked to my coaches about it and made sure that they’re okay with that. I train a lot or a few times a week with the girls on my team, but I also try to do trail runs which normally I’m on my own for those. I think it’s really important that I’m not just getting the speed from the cross-country runs but also the hill runs.
iRunFar: Do you enjoy that?
Ortiz: I like the hill runs a lot more, so yeah.
iRunFar: How did you get into this whole running thing?
Ortiz: My mom was the one who initially got me to go to cross-country practice with my older sister. Then I fell in love with it actually because of trail running. I just kind of progressed I guess.
iRunFar: Kept with it?
iRunFar: Cross country and track might not be as much of your thing as mountain running, but what do you get out of those for your mountain running?
Ortiz: I think they really help with speed obviously. That’s one thing I definitely know I need to work on myself, so that kind of helps me. Also just having the competition between teammates and other collegiate girls just helps me as a competitor.
iRunFar: Do you stay in Boulder over the summer?
Ortiz: Yeah, this summer I’ve been in Boulder taking classes, so I’ve been living in Boulder.
iRunFar: When you’re home over the holidays do you get to go with your mom and your sister?
Ortiz: Yeah, we usually go on a few runs altogether which is really fun.
iRunFar: Your sister runs for Williams?
Ortiz: She did. She just graduated.
iRunFar: It’s quite the running family you have there. I’m guessing your mom provides a little inspiration for you?
Ortiz: Definitely. She’s kind of my role model for all of this.
iRunFar: She probably has some good pointers, too, because she’s run on a bunch of US Mountain Running Championships and worlds teams.
Ortiz: Yeah, she definitely has a lot of advice that helps me.
iRunFar: For the race this weekend, it’s an 8k race versus some really strong competition. Are you looking with an eye toward running worlds again or is that even an option with the cross-country season?
Ortiz: That would definitely be a huge thing for me if I had that, but I’m kind of trying to look at this weekend as an experience just to get to run with, as you said, really competitive senior women. I know that it’s probably a long shot for me to make the team, but I think it will be great to get to race them and see what it’s all about.
iRunFar: You’ll be learning from some of the best out there. The women’s field is one of the best women’s fields regardless of distance that I’ve ever had the chance to see, and you’re part of it. You’re part of that mix on behalf of your great runs on the mountain-running scene. Best of luck out there, Mandy, and learn something this weekend.
Ortiz: Thank you. Thanks.