Welcome to our first official Trail WhippAss interview. I am taking my new title as Executive Director for News, Reporting and Badassery for Trail WhippAss very seriously. So for this first post I needed a serious bad ass to grill with a lot of questions. NO BRAINER. Michele Yates. I can do an introduction about how old she is, where she grew up and what races she has done but you can find most of that on ultrasignup and google the rest.
I have never interviewed anyone before so I turned to my fellow WhippAsses to find out what burning questions they had for Michele. They hit me with some great stuff. Here is what they wanted to know:
Dylan: I want to know what type of training do you do, like what is a typical week in the months leading up to a big race? I want to know what you plan on doing after the baby... any big goals? And I know you have had some injury before with your IT band and such and I want to know what you do in regards to strength training, stretching to stay healthy.
- My training consists of quality over quantity. I can reach up to 100 miles a week but that is even rare. Typically I train around 80 miles. I do tempo runs 3x a week and Interval workouts 3x a week. Hills and a longer hilly trail run are included and/or some long hikes. I also strength train full body with core work 3x a week. Flexibility is included although I do slack on that sometimes.
- I’ve got some big goals post baby Yates. In the next few years I am going for the World Record at the 100mile, which will hopefully be done on a trail too so the American Trail record, I’d like to win Western States and set the course record there, Comrades, as well as RRR 100 and The North Face Challenge again. Schedule permitting- run the ****Colorado 200.
- ITBS- I trusted a shoe that I shouldn’t have for some pavement pounding last year and wound up with bad ITBS. Instead of the conservative approach with it, I went after it aggressively. This included some serious pain in itself. Deep tissue massage, self massage with a Lacrosse ball, ice baths, ice cups several times a day, recovery boots..and of course stretching. Seeing the chiro on a regular basis helps too. I also ran/walked. I didn’t just do cardio cross training- it’s not what my body needed or wanted. So I’d go out and run slowly for a minute. Stop stretch, make it a few more minutes. Stop stretch. A very frustrating injury but I was able to get over it within a few months and of course was sure not to wear in appropriate shoes for my over pronation.
- I use the holistic approach to stay healthy and train. Running/cross training, strength training, and nutrition. All are important to get the most out of yourself.
Paul K: When are you going to hit the track for 24hr or 48hr?
- No plans for that just yet, but Maggie, Sky and Yoshiko just made it appetizing
Yoshiko: Typical dinner at a night before the ultra (100m).
- Margherita Chicken Pasta- Quinoa noodles, chicken breast, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, olive oil and light seasonings. Gluten/Dairy free cookie for dessert.
Charles K: Favorite running route/location.
- The Colorado Mountains- more specifically- I love the Twin Lakes area in between Leadville and Buena Vista. Steamboat Springs area is pretty rad too, but I ALWAYS run into wildlife, especially bears there.
Ferdinand G: Imho, you don't learn much from good races...so questions are: what was your worst race? your biggest bonk? why did it happen, what didyou do to get out of the dark hole, and what did you learn about it (and yourself)?
- I still learn a lot before I race. I do my homework so to speak….I ask those who have experience a lot of questions, I research, I plan, and hopefully execute. Although, that doesn’t always happen. My worst race was when I attempted my first 100 miler (only after do one 50 mile).. which happened to be one of the most challenging- Run Rabbit Run 100 2012. The problem there wasn’t just my problem, out of 52 elites, only 15 finished because the rest of us got lost so many times for myself, I was up over 15 miles extra before I even hit the 48mile mark and according to the aid station guy- I would never make the cutoff so “I should just quit.” If he wasn’t there, I would have kept going and wish I would have..turns out they made soft cutoffs thereafter due to the poor course markings. Despite that, because of getting lost, I frequently ran out of food and hydration. I don’t even think bonk was the right word. My crew questioned whether or not I should stop before I went trucking off up the mountain again. I was slurring my speech, and as my best friend put it “ I’ve never seen you that bad even when we’ve been hammered!” Things I learned with that race and that DNF- eat a lot. Always take extras. Make sure you are racing a course that you know, or get to know it, or be sure the RD’s have it marked well. Take lots of clothes change outs, things get wet and cold in the mountains. Hills make you really hungry so eat as much as you possibly can. I did get extremely cold there, so I put on extra trash bags and filled my water bottles with hot chicken broth. I learned not to listen to SOME aid station volunteers. If it’s not cut off time there and they aren’t stopping you officially, keep going. ..you never know what could happen in an ultra.
Juliette C: what are some things you do to dig out of a mental low during racing?
- Whenever I go into a race, I go as prepared as possible, but with the realistic approach that SOMETHING(S) are going to go wrong. It’s not going to feel good all the time. It’s going to hurt like hell at a certain point, but don’t start unless you are going to finish (obviously there are some medical purposed you should adhere too at times). So when a low does come, I just remind myself of some of the lows in the past where typically it’s just that I need to eat more, just keep going one foot in front of the other, and I WILL get through it. Patience is not my best suit, but again, in an ultra you never know what could happen, who is going to drop, etc… so just keep going as slow and painful as that may be.
Julia L: What questions to ask/factors to consider in choosing a coach.
- 1. What experience do they have (events, distances, how long etc)? 2. What education do they have or type of certifications? 3. Do they have athlete references they’ve coached that you can contact with questions? 4. What is their coaching approach ( high volume, low volume, phases)? 5. What is included in their coaching (some coaches charge extra for communication believe it or not!) 6. What is the program pricing and does it include revisions if your schedule changes for certain reasons?
Ryan S: Do you giggle inside when you pass all the boys?
- If I know I’m passing them for good and they aren’t going to come back up on me, then I get just as excited as if I were passing a lady! I have to look at the men as competition too, otherwise I will never reach my lofty goals.
Yeah, you didn't think I would turn this entire interview over to the WhippAss crew?!?! Hush up, my turn!
Our past experiences, how we dealt with them and the choices we made shape who we are. Are there any past life experiences that come to mind that brought you to where you are today?
- Absolutely! I think the way I was raised plays a huge part. I grew up on a farm in Northern Michigan where my family taught me then and continues to still hunt, fish, live and work the land today. Throughout life, my family and I have struggled financially- so obviously trying to make a living off being a professional runner was frowned upon by some of my close friends and a few family members. And yet, I put my trust in the Lord, endured the hardships and feel so blessed to have “made it,” and have come out on top. I always remember those times (and how they can happen again) when I’m out racing. This is part of my continuous drive to succeed whether it be in training or in racing. I also have some regrets that I don’t’ care to get into too much detail about. I try not to let them haunt me, but I’ve experienced how empty life can be when you are living it like an idiot.
What were you like as a child?
- A little chunky ;), but active and mostly a tom boy. I hung out a lot with my brother and his friends. When I played solo, I would steal my sisters barbie dolls, chop off their hair, stick them in the grain pile in the barn, climb to the top and parachute my GI Joes down! Being the youngest and bullied a lot, it made me independent and tough.
What do you think about when you are training and racing other than training and racing? Seriously, hit me with your random thoughts. It can be anything weird or random that has popped into your head, like a snowman made of cotton candy or swimming in a ball pit with cute babies or being hugged my 1,000 bunny rabbits at once. You know? Stuff like that!
- Training- I’m thinking about the next race I have coming up, why I am training hard, and if I can push even harder. I do a lot of mental imagery, I envision me reaching my goals on that course, and how happy I will be. When I am racing, same thing- thinking about achieving my goals and what to eat next. BESIDES for those, I don’t really “disassociate.” Or try not too, because it’s then that I lose focus. Sometimes however, I do think about what else I have to do that day, what needs to be done, and how I am going to organize my schedule to fit it all in- sorry, no crazy fuzzy bunny thoughts.
So winning big races is obviously epic and gratifying (and you have won many) but what are some of your most memorable training runs and why?
- Training runs- the ones I love the most are those with my husband and 2 dogs Bo and Zoey. I love the weekends we can go camping, hiking, and trail running- always up in the Colorado Rockies. I also love those few shake out miles with a good buddy the day or two before a race. Those are typically the moments we take for granted because we obviously have the race on our minds!
Now name your biggest accomplishments thus far: Brag away PLEASE!
- Qualifying for the Olympic Trials marathon 2x on my own self-coached. Coming back and killing the RRR 100 course and “proving to myself as well as others that I can do it.” Being a 4x National Trail Champion at different distances, and earning UROY (Ultra Runner of the Year) 2013! ..and Getting runner up at the Mountain Trail Champs and going to the World Champs.
Describe your worst date. And on a positive note describe your best date (We don't need ALL the details). ;)
- Uhg! When I still lived in Las Vegas, I accepted a date with a cyclist. From the moment we met at the restaurant I felt soooo uncomfortable- Why?... because my arms where 2x the size of his!.. Usually being one for the more beafy guys, I thought I should at least give other athletes a chance, ummmm NOPE, not for me. I’m only 5’2” but with an athletic build and I DO NOT like feeling bigger than the man.
- Best date- Hiking with the future hubby on the trails in Frisco CO..and of course having him understand that I was no light weight when it came to eating- Burger, Fries and Beer where on the menu! …as well as some dessert. ;)
Is there a defining moment, an AH-HA moment in your life, where you knew running was what you were meant to be doing or has it always just been a part of you?
- When I was younger, I would tell everyone I was going to be a professional athlete. I didn’t know if it would be soccer, running, or triathlons…but I was determined. I actually played a few years of college soccer and pursued that avenue for a bit, but quickly realized I was meant to run just a few short years later when I transferred to UNLV to run cross country and track for them.
Who in the sport of ultra running do you look up to?
- All the “greats” before me. Ann Trason would be one, there are some more modern men like Rob Krar that blow my mind too-
Do you have any non running related muses? If so, who or what?
- I love to dance, I’m artistic, and have passion for all the arts.
I know you are religious. (Is that the right word or would you use a different word?). What role does that play in your ultra running if any. Has this always been a part of your life or something you came to later on?
- Spiritual is always a good one. I am without a doubt Christian- not perfect my any means, but I try to live a fuller life by the Lord. It plays a huge role in running (and everything else) because I truly believe he is the one that has given me my talents, gifts, and the wisdom on how to use them. A lot of people pray they will get through their race, I pray every day to just get through the training for the race! It helps. He helps. He also helps relieve the stress of my screw ups, has been there for me more than once medically, and now with baby Yates due any second, I don’t’ see how one can’t believe when educating themselves about the magnificent wonders that take place inside a women’s body for child birth!
What's on you iPod right now?
- Wow..a lot! I like all types of music. So every genre pretty much. Pop, Christian, Country, Hip-Hop, Electric, Blue Grass, Dance, Rock..yea the list goes on. Basically, if it’s a good song, it doesn’t matter the genre, it’s on there! Favorite song of all time: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band- Fishin in the dark!
If I told you, you HAD to move out of Colorado, what state would you move to?
- I’d cry.. but then I would pony up and make my way over to Utah or up to Montana probably. Both are similar in the terrain I love, have 4 seasons (although Montana being a bit chillier), and both have some farmland.
Ummm...So speaking of Colorado, tell me more about this CO 200!
- CO 200 will be a race to challenge the parts you never knew you had. Don't hate on Wyatt and Charles for the rules about no trekking poles - that's this ladies decision! And get your trigger finger ready in January, because with the ranger capping us at only 100 runner, there will most likely be some competition before you step out on the trails!!!!
My last question, Michele. What is this?
Conclusion....Because you always have to have a conclusion. And like I said before, this is my first interview. So I googled "how to conclude an interview essay." Option one was to let Michele's last words be the conclusion. Well, that last word was "Gremlin". So we move on to option two which is describe what happened at the end of the interview. This being the age of the internet, "and then Michele emailed me some baby pics" isn't much of a conclusion either, we go to option three. I sum it all up. I like option three...Except now I have to sum up an incredibly passionate, talented, driven and ballsy lady all in a few sentences. Well, there! I can continue with more adoring adjectives that further illustrate Michele's zeal for ultra running and her obvious hunger for some big records but you read the article. I'll end with a prediction in the spirit of "Go Big or Go Home." What you have seen from Michele in the past is the mere tip of the iceberg. What she has accomplished so far is more than some accomplish in a lifetime. For Michele that's just the beginning. Championships, chasing world records, co-race directing a 200 miler, coaching and giving birth to a child is a lot of stuff for one person. But what have we learned from this interview?? Well, that's just how Michele Yates rolls.
Michele Yates is sponsored by: Ultimate Direction, GU Energy, Simply Choices, Icespike, Zeal Optics, Barnes Chiropractic, Goal Zero.