|War Hammer 100 Winner|
Tell us a little about yourself not necessarily related to running: age, where born, education, area you live in, etc…..
I’m a 49-year-old mother of 3. I was born in Morgantown, WV but have lived most of my life in east Tennessee, currently residing in Elizabethton, TN. I graduated with a BSN in 1991 and have been employed at the local VA Hospital for the past 28 years.
What is your profession?
I am a registered nurse working in Utilization Management, so I basically review charts all day and work with physicians to determine appropriate levels of care.
How did you start running and what prompted you to do so?
My good friend, Angelina, and I decided to sign up to walk a 10K that was held locally to raise money for a faith based homeless program. There was a 2-hour cutoff and we felt confident we could walk it that fast. We ended up jogging a bit just to fit in and I could hardly move the next 2 days. I kept thinking about the amazing ladies we saw that ran the whole thing and figured if they could do it, I could to. The 10K was in March. In May, my 16-year-old daughter, who played soccer and ran track, asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day. I asked her to take me to a local park and run a mile with me. I had to stop and walk 3 times, but knew I could do it. Angelina and I started running together and 2 weeks later, we ran a mile without stopping to walk. I felt like a champion and just kept going further and further. After a couple of years running on the roads, I hooked up with a local trail group. Most of them were doing ultras and I could not wrap my brain around that craziness. It took several months of persuading and a bit of pure trickery to get me out for a long run but I have been hooked ever since. Those “crazies” are now my closest friends both on the trails and off.
|Michelle Finishing 120 miles w/her daughter at 2016 Holston River Endurance Challenge|
Did you participate in any other sports over the years?
I played recreational soccer until I was a teenager and rode hunter/jumpers in local horse shows until I was an adult. I enjoyed both activities but lacked the talent to excel at either.
Did you run in grade school, High School or College?
|2017 Yamacraw 50k|
So we get an idea of where you have been with running can you share your PR’s for: 5K, 10K marathon and any other distance you may have run in the past.
- 5k-21:07 (2016)
- 10K- 45:47 (2015)
- Half Marathon- 1:42:41 (2018)
- Marathon- 3:38:00 (2015)
- 50K- 4:57 (2015)
- 50m-9:54 (2016)
- 100k- 15:08 (2017)
- 100m-22:12 (2017)
- 12h- 55 miles (2016)
- 36h-124.5 miles (2017)
- 48h- 152 miles (2017)
You just ran in the, and won the women’s race, inaugural War Hammer 100 – how was the race, heard it was a great race but a tough one?
It was more challenging than I anticipated. No 100 miler is easy, but based on the elevation profile and course description, I had underestimated this course. It was a very wet course with puddles every few feet. These were puddles that you either had to go off trail to avoid, or plunge through. They varied in depth to ankle deep to thigh deep and you never knew how deep until you stepped in. It had several miles of road sections and the heat made those miles just brutal. There was one section that we were told to expect bushwhacking. I got turned around in this section and ended up with very scratched up legs and one rattlesnake encounter. The race ended with a never-ending climb up an ATV trail. I was exhausted by the time I made it to the top of that. I was so happy to see a vacant chair at the finish line. My arms were shaking trying to hold up the large war hammer which was the first place trophy.
|After the War Hammer 100|
I am relatively new to the fixed time races and this was my first Kentucky timed race so I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as the conditions. The people were so friendly and the course was a nice mix of grass, trail, and asphalt/ concrete. There was a water crossing which felt amazing every 3 miles since the race was in August. I was hoping to get at least 11 loops. On loop number 10, I started having leg cramps. I had to walk quite a bit of that loop and thought I might be done, but I started feeling better and was able to get 13 loops. I am looking very forward to running this race again in August.
Any suggests for anyone looking to start running Ultras?
Remove the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. With dedication and smart training, you can accomplish anything you want to accomplish. You must get outside of your comfort zone and push your limits to truly see what you are capable of. There are highs and lows during ultras, just like there is in life. Enjoy the highs and know that the lows will not last forever. Just keep pushing forward and it will get better.
I am doing my first 100 at Tunnel Hill this year any advice?
Start slower than you feel like you should. I am a very conservative starter. I am slow to warm up before I feel like I can really run. This has served me well in long distances. I see so many people pass me early in races and I must remind myself that we each need to run our own race. Sometimes these fast people stay ahead of me but many times I pass them late in the race and I am thankful that I saved myself. There is nothing that can compare to the last 15-20 miles in a 100 mile race. Tell yourself that dropping is not an option. The Good Lord willing, the next several hours will pass whether you finish or not, and you would certainly rather look back at these hours with a sense of accomplishment rather than regret. Pain is only temporary.
|2018 Hellbender W/Rick Gray|
What is your most memorable race or races and share a little about at least one of them?
Every race has memories and most of those memories are positive. Ultrarunners seem to have amnesia when it comes to the bad stuff, or we would not keep signing up. One of my favorite races is in North Carolina called Quest for the Crest. It’s a 50K and I’ve run it all 4 times, using the term “run” loosely. It’s a very challenging course in both steepness and technicality. Sean Blanton, the RD, had told us before the race that evacuating us due to injury would be very complicated and expensive, so not to drop unless it is a very serious injury. I started having severe foot pain with 8 miles to go. I kept thinking about his words and kept plugging along with tears. Once I finished, I told my friends that I thought I broke my foot. My friend Rick, who subscribes to the “run through injury” philosophy, assured me that it wasn’t broken. I tried hard to keep running through the pain but it was only getting worse. I went to the doctor 10 days later and confirmed the fracture. I run Quest with a vengeance since then.
Another fun memory was Promise Land 50k, a David Horton race in Virginia. I had taken a bad fall and was cramping whenever I tried to get back up. A young man offered to help me up but I assured him I would be fine and he needed to go on. I finally got back up and ended up catching up with him several miles later. He was very relieved to see me and we ran a few miles together. He said, “I bet you were really something back in your day.”. I had to explain that I was rather new to the sport and this was “my day”. I always laugh when I think about that comment.
Do you have a favorite workout you do?
I enjoy all my workouts, except while I am doing them. I do not cross train so my workouts are either running or core workouts. I love running hills and I’m learning to embrace speedwork. I enjoy a tough lunge workout that I learned from Lee Conner and that has helped me with my climbing. I don’t keep a super strict training schedule. I try to incorporate speed work, a long run, and hills weekly and a good core workout at least 3 days a week.
How about a favorite route you like to run?
As far as trail runs, I love them all. I am fortunate to live near the AT and love to run with my friends there. My favorite section is Cross Mountain to Watauga Dam Road (16 miles), of course stopping at Vandeventer Shelter to take in the beautiful view. When it comes to training on the road, I have a route I call “The Mighty Hill Run” which is a 10-mile loop with 5 huge hills.
What is your favorite distance to run and race?
I really enjoy all races and distances. My favorite distance would be a 50 miler or 100K. It’s long enough that my conservative start doesn’t impact my overall time too much and short enough to not have to enter the pain cave that is inevitable in a 100 miler.
Do you have any long-range plans?
I hope to remain healthy enough to continue to run and race for several more years. My long-range plans include traveling west and exploring parts of the country I’ve never seen. My first destination would be Glacier National park in Montana and I’d also love to run the Wonderland Trail in Washington. As far as races, I’d like to run at least 7 more Hellgate 100k’s for a total of 10 and run Vol State in 2019.
What do you like best about living and running in KY?
I love Kentucky! I have family in Bardstown and have always enjoyed staying with them there or at their lake house in Elizabethtown. The people are very friendly and supportive at races and some areas are absolutely breathtaking. I’ve run the Yamacraw 50K and No Business 100m in Kentucky and the rock formations are just stunning.
What do you struggle with most with regards to running?
|After 72 miles on the AT w/Lianne Jennings, Rick Gray & Michael Sefanon|
I struggle with balancing family, church, work, and running. There are so many things I want to experience and there never seems to be enough time.
What do you see as a trend in running?
I am seeing more and more fixed time events pop up which I really enjoy. As boring as running a mile loop repeatedly for many hours sounds, it’s more like a party with some exercise. I enjoy my solitude during long trail races but I also enjoy changing it up with these loop courses where you can pretty much socialize the whole time. Logistically, the short loop courses are much easier to plan for.
If you had one, well maybe two or three, things to say those that are running to encourage them what would it be?
- Listen to your body. I don’t wear a watch and I don’t use strict training plans. I try to run based on how I feel.
- I encourage people to try new things regarding types of races and distances. You never know what you can do unless you try.
- Do not let a bad training run or a bad race discourage you. Analyze what went wrong and tweak your training to work on those areas.
|Bluegrass Half Marathon 2017|
You run/race in shirts that say “Race for Wandell” - what is the story behind the shirt?
I run every race in a Team Wandell shirt. Josh Wandell is a young man in his 30’s that was my daughter’s elementary school principal. He was an amazing athlete and was training for his first marathon when he was diagnosed with ALS. With the help of Ainsley’s Angels, we borrowed a cart and pushed him in his first marathon, Tobacco Road, in 2016. He caught the bug and was able to purchase his own cart. He was pushed in over 30 races in 2017. In March, the Guinness World Record for pushing an adult was broken by our team member Jeff Vance for the half marathon at the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach. The guys have gotten so fast that it is rare that I can keep up with the team anymore but I always race in my Team Wandell shirt and draw strength from Josh. His motto is “Faith Over Fear” and his inspirational verse is Joshua 1:9 “ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Josh Wandell's website)
Any closing comments?
Thank you for the opportunity to tell you about myself. I hope I am able to inspire others to accomplish things they never imagined possible. I absolutely love what I do and challenge all runners to embrace each step. We are very blessed to be able to do what we do.