dailymiler of the week: Christie

Every few weeks we pick one inspiring dailymiler to be featured on the blog. This gives us a chance to learn the stories of members of the dailymile community. Check out past dailymiler’s of the week or nominate a dailymiler for a future post!

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super excited to write about Christie. She has continued to inspire me ever since that day when one of us accepted the other’s friend request. Christie is a runner from Boise, Idaho. If you’ve had the pleasure of following her posts on dailymile you would know that she runs in some pretty beautiful places. You would also take note that though she looks like such a sweetie, she’s a running BEAST.

Christie began running in early 2008 after 10 years of inactivity. Like many runners, the initial lightbulb went off when she realized she was unhappy with her weight. With her marathoner mother as a model for inspiration she set her sights on a 5km and began training with a Couch to 5km program, not really sure if it was going to be a fruitful endeavor. Of course, I wouldn’t be writing about Christie if things hadn’t gone well.

Post PR marathon with running buds

In just 2 years she went from a size 14 to a size 4 and ran her first marathon in October 2009. For many runners it seems to begin with a desire to lose weight and look better but many among us quickly realize that running gives us so much more: confidence, strength, vitality and a love for life. If Christie may have lacked any of these things before she began running, she certainly isn’t wonting for them now. 3 months post-marathon she embarked on her first 50km – a fat-ass style race, which means no support, no frills, no coddling. While she didn’t complete the ultra-marathon that day – or as Christie would say: “I only made it 7 hours and 23.33 miles that day.” Yes. Only – but it was at this race that she would meet folks with which she would build lasting friendships.

40 mile birthday run

Christie and run buds on her recent 40 mile birthday run

In April 2010, she completed her first 50km marking the day she became an ultrarunner. Since then she hasn’t stopped. When asked how many ultras she’s run she remarks: “I have lost track of the number”. Naturally the next step for an ultrarunning Christie was to move up to a 50 miler. So she did a solo 50 mile run, accompanied by running bud Ryan A., just to see if she could. 50 miles in weather some runners would promptly turn away from to head to the treadmill or indoor track: wind, hail, and rain on all trails for 50 MILES. Christie turned 40 this year and just for fun she ran 40 miles to celebrate. She has also run a 100 mile race and she hopes to BQ in 2013.

Suffice to say, she’s one tough cookie. But what makes someone decide to run a solo 50 miles, to run countless ultras and wake up before dawn to get in runs that last for hours on the trails? She does all that while being a wife and mother to 5 kids! She’s also a race director of Final Kick Events. I wanted to find out how she does it.

Why do you run ultras?
I do ultras and marathons to push my limits, to see what I’m capable of.
When I’m running ultras the environment and the people are very different than a road race. Ultra runners tend to be very open-hearted – even willing to stop in the middle of their own races to offer you food or some company or help. I had a man stop in the middle of his 50 mile race at the Buffalo Run in Utah this past March to help cut the toes out of my running shoes that had become too tight during the 25+ hours I’d already been running on my 100 mile journey. He tried to help me by fixing my very blistered feet and offering encouragement. Things like that happen often in an ultra. The runners treat one another like family. I also love the challenge of climbing up and down really technical trails in the mountains, seeing the wildlife, taking some of the most beautiful sunrise and sunset pictures of my life and enjoying the solitude and scenery while I’m running.

What’s the toughest race you’ve done?
The toughest race I’ve done is a tie between Pocatello 50 Miler and Big Horn 50. Both are races I was pulled at for not being fast enough. Big Horn 50 of 2011 was my first “official” dnf at an ultra. I made it about 32 miles before they pulled me on a time cut off at the Dry Fork aid station. The course is amazing, I loved all the mud and the water crossings, the gorgeous fields of flowers, the canyons and the bacon at the Cow Camp aid station – but I was just not fast enough on the climbs to make that cut off that day. While training again for Big Horn 2012, I raced the Pocatello 50 two weeks before the race in hopes that it would be an excellent training run to prepare me to finally get my finish at Big Horn. Unfortunately, though I made the offical two cut offs in that race, I was pulled at mile 48 for being the last runner, which really bummed me out. I think that was a hard hurdle mentally to overcome when I towed the line at Big Horn again in June. I again missed the Dry Fork cut off, though this time by only 2 minutes instead of the half an hour I’d missed it by the year before.

What’s a typical training day like?
A typical training day for me begins when my alarm goes off at 4:20 am. I always lay my running clothes out the night before a run so that I don’t really have to think much before I head out. I dress, eat breakfast and then I usually drive to a trail head or the Boise Greenbelt to meet my running partners. I have a couple friends who join me for runs and I hate to let them down, so I never no-show a run! This accountability has really helped all of us in the past year, especially that we’ve been running more together. On a weekday, it’s common for us to run anywhere from 6 – 12 miles before the sun has even risen.

Downhill at the Wild Idaho 50km

Getting up super early has made it possible for me to keep my average weekly mileage close to 45-50 miles most weeks while still being able to get home in time to shower and dress and get breakfast for my 5 kids who are usually just waking up when I am starting the morning chores and breakfast. I have a teaching degree and also home school all five of my kids ages 5 – 13, so getting my runs in early is the only way I can balance my family needs and my training needs best. I tend to run 3-4 times during the week and do a long run on the weekends when my husband is home and those can be anywhere from 15 – 50 miles depending on what kind of race I’m preparing for. Most of the time I like to do at least 20.

How do you fuel your runs?
As for fueling during a run or a race, this has been an area of constant learning and fine tuning for me. In my first two ultras where I had stomach problems, I ended up spending more time wishing for a bathroom or racing off to the bushes than I did running it seemed, so I had to learn to eat things that wouldn’t upset my stomach. I found out that it was what I was eating in the day or two before the race or long run that most affected me, so now I am much more careful about not eating heavy foods like greasy pizza, lasagna or any red meat. My stomach does better if I eat pastas, breads, salads and drink plenty of water to flush the system in the 24 hours before a race now.

Christie after finishing the Buffalo Run 100 miler

During a regular weekday run of 10 miles or so, I don’t eat anything at all since I am starting right after a simple breakfast and that tends to sustain me. Longer runs, I like to eat a little bit every half an hour or so – like adding logs to a burning fire to keep it going. I will eat a bite or two of a peanut butter sandwich, or a bite of a granola bar, a few salty chips, some trail mix, or a banana and sip from my hydration pack or hand bottles along the way. I usually just run with water, but at ultras I will drink Coke for caffeine and easily digestible calories at the aid stations and sip broth in the really long events for the sodium. I also take an S Cap every hour during comfortable temperatures and 2 per hour when it’s really hot and I’m sweating more. This seems to work pretty well for me.

I also eat mint chocolate GUs during long training runs and races and they also work very well and taste like a melted Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie which is fun!

What tips can you give other busy running parents?
I think the best tips I can give to other busy parents who are having a hard time fitting in their training and balancing their family life is this: If you want something badly enough, you will be able to find a way to make it all work!

Christie and her 5 kids

When I first started, I actually felt so guilty leaving my kids that I would either load up the then 3 and 5 year old in the double stroller, put the baby in a sling or backpack on and then have my 7 and 8 year olds walk with me as I went on my 30 min workouts. Other times I would wait until they were all tucked in and my husband was home and then I’d run loops around my block in the dark so I wasn’t far if any of them needed me. It wasn’t easy! But I kept at it and I felt it was worth it! Nowadays it usually means I am sacrificing sleep a few mornings a week and never letting myself make an excuse when the weather is bad or when I just don’t “feel” like running.

The end result has been that I really feel I’m a better Mom, now that I’m a healthy weight and getting some regular exercise and that I’m more patient with them during the day and have more energy to keep up with them in a game of tag which is fun! I hope I am being a good example and that they will grow up and find physical activities that bring them as much personal satisfaction and joy as running had done for me!

Weirdest thing you’ve encountered on a run?
The weirdest thing I’ve encountered on a trail was a naked hippy running from his little tent to a natural hot springs during the Orcas Island 50k in 2011. I’ve also ran with free roaming buffaloes at the Antelope Island Buffalo Run. It’s not uncommon to be running in the Boise Foothills near Lucky Peak and encounter whole herds of deer and elk, which are also pretty cool to see!

You’re a race director too. How does being a runner help you to be a good RD? And which is harder, being a race director or a runner?
I am a race director of Final Kick Events. We’ve created and directed four events so far: the Lake Lowell Marathon – a race around the perimeter of an entire lake, Ste Chapelle St Patrick’s Day Run – which is a fun holiday 5k/10k at a local winery where we serve green beer at the finish party, The Bruneau Beast – a crazy, awesome race over some of the biggest sand dunes in the world and The Idaho Wine Run – a marathon, half, 5k and 10k through wine country with plenty of wine sampling and music at the finish party! We’re already developing more races for the local area, with our next one coming up December 29th called The Hot Chocolate Run, which will be a fun, family-friendly 5k with seasonal music and piping hot chocolate and lots of whipped cream and toppings and chocolate chip cookies in custom mugs at the finish party! It should be fun! We have over 180 people already signed up and we still have about 6 weeks to go before the race!Bruneau sand dunes

I really do believe that our race company has benefited by me being a runner. My husband handles the web site designs, the permits and the sponsors and the business side of things and I love weighing in on what the runners’ needs are for a beautiful, safe course, for excellent aid station workers and foods and for a really fun time at the finish party! I always enjoy walking around before and after the races and getting to know the runners and seeing the joy they have in completing one of our races! It makes me really happy to share my love of running with the community I was raised in!

I’d say being a race director is harder (for me) than being a runner. There are so many things that can go wrong, there are so many details to manage and so many people to please that I usually don’t relax until the event is over and we’ve taken down the finish line and cleaned up and are finally driving away. As a runner, my nerves always are erased as soon as the gun sounds and I start racing! I’d say my appreciation has increased significantly for other race directors and the service they provide in a well-marked course, in acquiring great volunteers, in each and every detail that I benefit from when I am a racer now. I always try to personally thank the RD’s when I participate now that I know how challenging it can be to pull it all off!

Do you have a running dream? A race you’d like to do, or a trail you’d like to conquer someday?
Besides earning a BQ, another running dream I have is to run the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim one day – running from one side to the other and then back again. It’s not an official race, but it’s a common dream among ultra runners and I think it would be a pretty amazing experience! My long-term ultra goals are also to run a 50 miler in under 11 hours and to run a 100 sub 24, though that one is likely to be the most difficult for me to obtain… but would be insanely exciting to achieve!!

Favorite post long-run snack?
My favorite post long-run snack is chocolate milk with a cheese stick and a banana! Mmmmm! After an ultra I often crave a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke too!

Do folks ever call you crazy? What’s your response to them?
People often call me crazy and have a hard time understanding why I do what I do. I usually just smile and tell them that if they don’t understand, they probably never will. The other runners – my running partners and my closest friends do get it. They are like my “tribe” and I am satisfied that at least some people do understand my obsession, my passion, my joy! I know my family members don’t always understand it, but they love me and support my dreams and for those who have me close to their heart — that is good enough for me. To the naysayers, I just walk away. Life is too short to allow anyone to bring you down!

What role has dailymile played in your running life?
I owe a huge debt to dailymile! It’s been a wonderful place to go and not only record my workouts, but more importantly to socialize with others who are so much like me! These truly are more members of my “tribe!” And, it’s impacted more than my online life. In fact, half of the running partners I have now — in fact, my dearest friends – are people I met on dailymile! I cannot imagine my life without the close friendships I’ve developed here. It’s really a wonderful place to bring like-minded people together for encouragement, motivation and friendship!

A big thanks to Christie who took the time to answer my questions and for sharing a little bit of herself with the dailymile community.

For more on Christie check out her dailymile profile or her blog at marathonmama.net


About Steph

A used-to-be-un-athletic-wannabe-ultra-runner-running-coach-history-lover-turned-science-nerd-student from Montreal, Canada. She runs to wake her brain up for the day, to keep sane and to keep Zoe (her dog) happy. After 4 marathon and 2 ultras in two years, she has decided to spend the rest of 2012 and 2013 building speed and working toward a faster 5km. But she won't forget her desire to run a 100 miler someday! When she's not running or having her brain eaten by school she's writing, reading or singing in her garden. She dreams of one day having a farm with chickens that she will love and never eat.
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