Two years ago, Stephanie Howe made her ultrarunning debut at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile where she finished a strong third. Having not raced seriously since winning the UROC 100k last September, Stephanie will kick off her 2014 ultra racing season at Lake Sonoma this weekend. In the following interview, Stephanie talks about what her off-season looked like, what changes she’s made to her training, and how her running-applicable dissertation is turning out.
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Stephanie Howe Pre-2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Stephanie Howe before the 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. How are you doing, Stephanie?
Stephanie Howe: Good. Good.
iRunFar: It’s time to start the ultra season.
Howe: Yes, it is. This will be quite the race.
iRunFar: You did have one tune-up this year. You were supposed to run Way Too Cool…
Howe: Chuckanut 50k.
iRunFar: Chuckanut, I’m sorry, but you were a little sick.
Howe: Yeah, I got sick, so I went down to Phoenix, Arizona, and ran the Mesquite [Canyon] 50k.
iRunFar: How did that go?
Howe: It was great. It was hot and a shock to the system. I hadn’t raced since September, so it was kind of like, “Whoooo, welcome back to racing.” But it was good. I had a good race.
iRunFar: That was only a week after a Nordic ski race?
Howe: Yeah, I did a Nordic ski race the week before and it was 18 degrees [Fahrenheit] at the start, and it was cold. It was a race up in Bend. Then I flew down to Phoenix and it was 85 degrees. So that was quite the temperature difference.
iRunFar: These days there doesn’t seem like there’s a break in the ultra season. There are people racing TNF 50 in December, and they’re racing Sean O’Brien the first of February. On the other hand, you didn’t race from September until a tune-up in March and this is your first…
Howe: Yeah, this is my first real race back. I learned I can’t do that. I can’t race all year around. It’s hard to be on top for 12 months out of the year. A lot of people… you want to do it because there are so many opportunities to race. But I think it’s really important to say, Okay, these are my key races and this is my downtime. I’ve been injured in the past a few times and I think part of that was that I just tried to do too much. So this year, I took it really easy in the winter. I’m starting to get back into shape. It’s a little bit difficult to be ready to race right now, but I don’t know, you’ve got to start somewhere.
iRunFar: What did your winter training look like? Did you do some running or were you mostly doing skiing?
Howe: I wanted to mostly ski, but we had really crappy snow in January and it was perfect trail running; so it was killing me. I tried to get on my Nordic skis a little bit. I did some cross training. Honestly, I just did a lot of yoga. I ran a little bit, but I tried not to push the volume and just have it go be an hour fun run. I was busy, so it was a little bit easier to not run.
iRunFar: So you’re working on your dissertation?
Howe: Yes, I was working on my dissertation and I just finished data collection, so that was a big load off my chest. It was pretty stressful there for a couple months, but I’m feeling better.
iRunFar: Is your dissertation applicable to running?
Howe: It is. I measured appetite hormones in female runners before and after two intensive exercises. I’m looking at how appetite changes after you run. Kind of what we found—preliminary results—the higher the intensity, the more suppression we have. It makes sense; we’re not hungry after we do intervals.
iRunFar: You’re probably not going to be all that hungry at the finish line tomorrow.
Howe: No, although I do eat pretty well after races. It was funny—my favorite thing to eat after a race is a burrito, and there’s a race in Bend that they get catered by this taco shop. I finished the race and I got this big huge burrito and I’m sitting there mowing down. This lady says, “Man, you sure can eat!” I’m like, “Well, I’m hungry.”
iRunFar: You should be happy tomorrow. There are no burritos but there are tamales, Mateo’s Tamales.
Howe: Tamales! Yes, I remember. I’ve done this race once and that was a good finish-line bonus.
iRunFar: You did run this race two years ago. It was your first 50 mile. Were you second or third?
Howe: I was third.
iRunFar: Yeah, really good result there.
Howe: It was good. I learned a lot during that race. I hope to run a little faster this year. There were some times I thought I was moving backwards that first time. Hopefully I’ve learned.
iRunFar: There is a lot of talent in the women’s field tomorrow, but I don’t think there’s a clear favorite. It’s a very exciting race with people with different talents. Somebody like you who does have some more mountain experience, Emily Harrison who is really fast…
Howe: Yeah, I try not to look too much at who’s racing and get all caught up in that because it can drive me crazy. I looked at preview list earlier this week and thought, Wow, top 10 would be great. Like I said, I’m kind of just getting back into shape, so I’m just going to go out there and run my race which is hard when there are that may talented women. It’s also exciting. I do feel like I have no idea who is going to win. I have some ideas, but there are so many people with different strengths.
iRunFar: To jump back a little bit, we were talking about your off-season and how you really changed that up and went away from running, you also reworked your in-season training a lot. What do you envision that looking like this year?
Howe: Yes. Well, right now I’m not running much. I’m running 50 miles/week with a lot of cross training in there. So I’ve kind of looked at my training schedule as, Okay, you need to get three runs in this week; these are the important quality runs. Then I’m not trying to increase both the volume and the intensity because for me that’s a recipe for injury. So going into the next few months, I’m running Western States, so that’s a big jump for me. I need to pick up the volume. I think I’m going to try to do a lot longer runs but kind of scale back the intensity a little bit just so I can stay healthy.
iRunFar: Awesome. Have a good real break-out into your season here tomorrow.
Howe: Thanks. I’m excited and nervous.
iRunFar: Enjoy. Good luck.
Howe: Thank you.