Seems like ultra-running and endurance OCR attract the same athletes. But who are they really? What does it take to tackle the Barkley like Amelia Boone or the Vol State like Rob Greer? I caught up with my friend Kate Sidoli-Crane to find out what makes her tick through races like the Infinitus 88K.
- What is your secret to winning races?
I promise you, I have learned everything I know is by making mistakes and learning from them.
The Secret to winning an Ultra is patience, discipline, and self-confidence. These are long races, often times you might see people start out really fast, be sure to stay in your own discipline. It’s tempting to get caught up in the excitement at the start of the race, but trust in your training, and run your own race. Believe in your strengths and remind yourself every step of the way. Even if you have to drop back and let a few people pass you, IT’S OK! It’s better in the grand scheme than to try and maintain a speed that may hurt you in the end. There is plenty of time to make up ground, rather than risk burning yourself out too early in the race. Your own self-confidence can carry you further than you could ever imagine. know what you’re good at, exploit it, and feed off of it.
Also, an important element is not putting pressure on myself, where I feel like I need to win. I started this journey many years ago for fun and enjoyment, and it’s very important for me to preserve that. I would never want to take the fun out of racing. These can be the most fun and challenging adventures, and I feel blessed to have these experiences in my life.
- What are your training methods and prep for a race like Palmerton?
I would concentrate on weighted runs alternating use of a ruck, #50lb wreck bag, and sometimes even just adding a weighted vest to normal runs is very helpful to acclimate your cardio to some of the climbs.
Besides the regular strength training, I have also incorporated some other methods like a mile of lunges, or if you really want some fun times, 1 mile of burpees (which was approximately 760 burpees).
The strategy behind these methods more revolves around the mental aspect rather than physical. It’s about getting uncomfortable, and getting through these ominous tasks rather than the physical ability to do 760 burpees or lunge for a mile.
- What is your race strategy? Do you walk the hills and run in the flats and downhill?
At the beginning of every season, I’ll choose my ‘A’ races that I would like to do well in, then build my schedule around those races. Using other races for the majority of my training.
I usually set a plan in my mind based either what I know of the course or previous experience. For example, I always look to see how far apart aid stations are placed and use them as a gauge for how long I think I can run before I will need to stop.
For hills, I will try and run the early hills (if possible), then plan on walking as needed further into the race to preserve energy & muscle endurance.
Downhills always depend on the terrain, they can be deceptively tricky. I will go as fast as possible, but if its technical, or slippery I would rather err on the side of caution, and find other ways to make up time.
- How do you train differently for endurance races vs. shorter races?
Most of my training for the past few years has revolved around endurance racing. With longer races, I have worked mostly on maintaining a decent pace for long periods of time.
Whereas, shorter races, require you have to practice more speed work.
The key to both is training your body to recovery very quickly.
- What are your pre-race meals, hydration plans, and during the race what do you eat and drink? What are your supplements?
Pre-race meals a few days before are the same things I normally eat; like chicken, with vegetables, eggs and brown rice or sweet potatoes. I may just increase the frequency of meals.
On race mornings, I always eat the same breakfast, 2 packets of plain oatmeal, banana, and coconut water with amino acids.
During races, I use mostly Hammer Nutrition products, specifically the gels, and use Heed or Perpetuem in my soft flasks, and plain water in my bladder in my vest.
At aid stations, what works best for me is generally electrolytes, potatoes, bananas, PB&J, and oranges.
Post-race, I immediately drink Hammer Recoverite, to aid in muscle recovery, and use Tissue Rejuvenator for the weeks following, to aid in maintenance and repair as well.
- Who is your trainer and who else have you used in the past? Compare and contrast their methods relative to your success.
In the past, I began participating in training and weekly classes with Chad Mason from ABF Mudrun, which quickly became my home for years. Unfortunately, ABF no longer offers training, but it will always hold a special place in my heart of gratitude. That was the foundation of the skills & core values of extremely hard work that I needed to embrace to start racing in a more competitive manner. I have always been mainly focused on being a hybrid athlete, I didn’t want to be just good at running or obstacles…..I wanted to be able to hold my own in any race, event, or challenge.
I don’t have one trainer right now, I mostly work out in small group training environments using a few different programs. I prefer to take advantage of different styles and perspectives on training to enhance the benefits for myself.
And interestingly enough, I have never had a run coach, so whatever good or bad habits I have developed are all on me. Everything I have learned about running has come from my own experiences and instinct.
- What other training plans and trainers do you consult and what are you looking for?
I don’t use any specific training plans, more often I am looking for people/groups to train with, just to go out and have some fun, run in the mountains, or go enjoy the outdoors.
- Who or what is your competition and why?
I am always my biggest competitor, I never stop trying to push my own limits. My success and failures lie solely within myself.
- You won first at the Vernon Beast last year then disappeared from OCR and went into ultra-running? Why the change?
I called this my involuntary retirement from OCR. In 2017, I fractured my shoulder, tore my labrum, and separated my collarbone. In order to maintain my sanity, I looked for other events during my healing process. Also, at the same time, one of my friends and fellow mountain goats moved on from OCR and began doing more endurance events…. so it was almost perfect timing. We just continued on and found different events to participate in. I have the same amount of passion for endurance racing as I did for OCR, if not more.
- Who do you look up to in OCR and running?
I really don’t have one individual, it’s more about the support system of people around me that that I look to for guidance and appreciate. They have truly helped me more than I could ever express, they have given me an immeasurable amount of love, support, and loyalty. We are all fighting our own internal demons or battles, whether in life, work, school, racing, etc…we have all been there…. we have all wanted to quit, but you just have to keep moving forward. The support system you build around you helps you hang in there during the lows, and remind you that the grind will be worth it in the end.
- Any chance you’ll go up against Amelia or Faye?
Probably not in OCR, but it would be super fun to see them on an Ultra course. They are amazing athletes, and I have the utmost respect for them and what they have accomplished.
- What do you consider your greatest achievement so far and what is the Holy Grail you are after?
In June 2018, I ran the Infinitus 88K in Vermont, I was nervous going into it because I don’t get a lot of opportunities to train for elevation (living in South Jersey is only good for sand! lol), so I was relying mostly on strength training and very fearful I would come up short.
I placed 1st in Female with a time of 11:10 and 2nd Overall, but I wasn’t done yet…..
The very following weekend, I was signed up for the North Face Massachusetts 50 miler. My goal was to complete back-to-back 50-mile races. Per North Face spokesman Dean Karnazes, it is the most challenging course in the series. I ran North Face MA in 2017, and it was a very difficult and technical course, so I knew, this was going to test me mentally and physically. I ended up exceeding my own expectations and placing in the Top 10 female at #8 with a time of 11:26.
I don’t have a particular holy grail. In reality, I would just want to continue on my own racing adventures and experience new things, beautiful places, push limits and achieve what seems impossible at times.
- What are your thoughts on the weekenders who just show up without adequate training, perhaps to do a big race just as a bucket list?
I love the weekenders, I think it’s great for people to get out there and enjoy themselves. Not everyone has the same goals, expectations, or the time to dedicate to training as much as they would like.
I encourage everyone to get out there and experience the joys of racing. It’s exceptional to overcome the challenges with friends and loved ones and build those bonds, even if you’re racing by yourself and meeting new people along the way.
- How would your plans and preps change as you age? Any difference between male and female?
I really don’t see a difference between male and female, I think it’s all on an individual basis rather than gender.
Nothing has really changed as far as plans or prep on the front end, the biggest change for me is the recovery after races. Years ago, I would return to my normal workout routine the next day, with little or no recovery time.
Currently, I still continue with my workouts the following day after a race, but now I allow more of a grace period before I return to strenuous activity, more specifically strength training.
You learn from your mistakes, and early on this race season, I went right into strength training after a particularly difficult race. Well, my turned out my muscles were too fatigued to lift properly and I ended up causing a minor injury to my lower back, that nagged me and took a while to heal. I considered that a fair warning.
- Women’s’ times and performance are pretty much on par with men’s in OCR. What are your thoughts on how the race can or should be modified to make things equal or kept separate?
There is no need to change or modify the current standards. There will always be a disparity between the men and women just based on genetics, and I don’t see anything wrong with it.
- What attracted you to ultra-running?
Ultrarunning was a gradual process for me. I began working my way up to longer distances, and more challenging events. From there I felt like I had the potential to accomplish more each time. With an open mind, growing self-confidence, and a few bad ideas from friends, you never know what you will get talked into to.
- What is your dream race? What destination races would you like to compete in anywhere in the world and why?
I haven’t decided where I want to go from here in regards to distance. The longest race I have done to date is 62 miles. If I want to continue on, and compete in longer distances, I will need to seek some guidance and advice on training and race strategies. I feel like my current race style right now would need some modification to allow for better time, energy and nutritional management.
In 2019, I would like to venture out west and get the opportunity to experience the beautiful scenery
In 2020, I am hoping to be selected in the lottery for the Georgia Death Race.
- Do you train solo, team, partner, other, depends? Why?
I mostly train solo, just based on my own availability and limitations.
Working out and training for me is an important social aspect of my life, I do always look forward to training with my local groups of friends, or getting together with my Ultra friends for some training and debauchery in the mountains.
- How many miles and hours per week do you devote to training? How do you taper? How do you recover after training and after a race?
I train up to 3-4 hours a day 7 days a week. In the morning and after work. I use a wide variety of methods because I think diversity plays a large role in my success, and it keeps me entertained, whether it’s strength training, cardio, running, rucking, spinning, kickboxing, or functional fitness training.
I do long runs once per week, depending on where I am running determines the mileage. If I’m running trails, I could run up to 30 miles, but if I am running roads I max at 16 miles. Not a huge fan of road miles, too much impact on the body.
The week of my races, I begin to taper. My schedule Mon-Weds will normally remain the same, but just modifying workouts with more body weight exercises, and modified lighter weights.
- What makes you uncomfortable in training and racing?
I have issues with cold weather racing. I have a rather advanced case of Renault’s Disease in both of my hands. It is a vascular disease that affects the arteries that supply blood to your skin. The blood vessels narrow in cold temperatures, which can be very painful or cause numbness. It can mimic the symptoms of severe frostbite. Once, it sets in, not only is it very painful, I lose the functionality of my hands. For example; I can’t tie my shoes, open a simple gel packet, get a nutrition bar, etc…. it’s a very helpless feeling knowing if I need anything I have to find someone to help me.
- How do you defeat the mental demons?
So mental demons are much more powerful than any physical ailment I have ever experienced. The absolute best way to defeat them is to concentrate on the positive things during races. More often than not, people will be consumed with the difficult parts, don’t obsess about it. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to fixate on the positive; like when you get to the top and catch your breath and feel good again, remind yourself about those moments. When you are struggling, take a sip of water, eat something, regroup…get your life together. It won’t last, it will pass and you will be ok.
Those demons are looking for any way to infiltrate your thoughts and convince you to quit…..don’t give them that opportunity. My favorite pastime is also to talk to the volunteers, runners, photographers, spectators, anyone.
Smile, laugh, talk…these simple tactics help keep your mind off of the negative space.