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Posted by Mallory Brooks, Questions / Intro by Marla Miller on August 26, 2016
How did you celebrate your last birthday? Maybe you decided to treat yourself and sleep in late. Eat a big breakfast, take it easy and relax. Maybe you went out with friends and had a nice big dinner complete with drinks and dessert. Mallory Brooks, Co-Founder of Spectrum Trail Racing, decided to do something special for her birthday recently. She even had some champagne, but only after running 56 miles of the 93 mile Wonderland Trail in Mt. Ranier National Park. The journey took her nearly 24 hours covering thousands of feet in elevation gain (the total 93 mile loop has over 22,000 ft). Read more about her trip and some of the upcoming events from Spectrum Trail Racing.
1. So you recently ran Mt. Ranier - what prompted the trip and who did you run with?
I have been enamored of the Wonderland Trail since learning about it during the brief period my husband and I live in the Pacific Northwest. It's been on my radar for some time now, so when my birthday rolled around, Jason encouraged me to be selfish and plan a trip up there. I wasn't thrilled about running it alone, but I wasn't sure I could convince anyone to do this crazy thing with me. Allison Macsas would be an ideal partner, I thought, but she seems to perpetually be between training for the Olympic marathon trials or managing her company, Rogue Expeditions, which takes runners on amazing trips across the world. Fortunately for me, she is a "yes" person who craves adventure and new challenges (and doesn't fear a packed schedule), so we made a very tentative plan to go check out the Wonderland Trail together. The date we chose for this excursion was just three weeks after the Canadian Death Race, and I wasn't sure how my legs would feel. I held off buying a ticket until about a week before, when Allison confirmed she was still in. And so, we found ourselves at the Longmire trailhead a week later. Ready to just go play in the mountains!
2. Did you scout a specific route and stick to it or did you give yourself different options? How did you estimate the time that it would take you to complete?
Our goal was to scout 56 of the 93 miles that make up the Wonderland Trail. We started at Longmire and finished at Sunrise, where Allison's super supportive boyfriend, Gabe, was waiting for us...with champagne!
We based our projected finish time of 18-20 hours off of the current FKT times, which range from 15-20 min per mile paces. That may seem slow to the weekend warrior that pounds pavement at a comfy 10 min/mile, but keep in mind that this trail has around 22,000 feet of vertical gain. So, while you may be flying downhill, you're moving at 2 mph (30 min/mile) on the climbs. And it seems like you're perpetually climbing!
3. How far did you run? Did you run multiple days (with maybe camping overnight)?
We ran 56 miles, which was our goal. We camped the night before and hit the trail at sunrise. After the champagne and a 90 minute drive back to camp, we almost saw the sun rise again.
4. What does one (you) bring with them on a run around Mt. Ranier? What do you wear (layers)?
We both ran in a dry-wick shirt, shorts, high socks, and Skechers Ultra shoes. It was important that we run with a light pack, but once you add together all of the items that seem to individually weigh nothing, you have a 10 pound bag on your back. We wanted to be self-supported for this trial run, since that's how we will be doing the full thing next year. So, we each packed at least a liter of water, clothes (a hooded rain jacket, long sleeves, gloves, hat, extra socks), water pump/filter, food (about 3,000 calories), first aid gear, bear spray (I know, heavy and unnecessary, but it was comforting to know it was there), maps, and of course, GPS watches, GoPros and iPhones for full documentation.
5. Do you feel you had adequate supplies for the adventure and what would you do differently next time, if anything?
For the true attempt, we may leave the bear spray at home. And might ditch the GoPro to lighten the load. Other than that, I wouldn't change a thing about how we packed.
6. You recently competed in the Canadian Death race. What would you say the biggest differences are in running on your own vs. running in a race, not mentioning the obvious of not actually competing against others?
Races and individual FKT attempts feel very different. A race is about camaraderie and feeling the energy of running with a pack of people with the same goal. You get to implement strategy and really focus on running fast, knowing the next aid station isn't far away. For me, the demand of racing is more physical than it is mental. Un-supported ultra runs prove to be more mentally challenging for me. I have to exercise extreme focus and control. I constantly check in with all my moving parts, making sure to mend the cracks before they become full-blown leaks. And most importantly, I learn to be comfortable with whatever happens. Because at the end of the day, whether racing or not, I'm out on the trail in my happy place.
7. What is recovery like after a big trail run in the mountains? Do you rest for an average amount of time after? Are there tricks for quicker recovery that you can share?
Recovery is a complex thing. And right now, it's a field that is quickly evolving. I'm always ready to try the next thing (legal, of course), but I'm also happy to stick with what I know works, which is staying hydrated (beer counts), consuming high-quality, anti-inflammatory foods (beets, greens, berries), and cooling my heels in compression boots. But let's be real, I have a 4 year old wild-child that doesn't know the term "recovery". So, I work chasing him around into every stage of the training and recovery process!
8. With the colder temperatures is the trail running season going to die down a bit or are there a lot more races planned? Given that you live in Austin, Texas is the running more year round than in the more northern states?
As the temps get cooler, we start our racing season. I believe in and understand the benefits of heat training, but I absolutely do not agree with racing in extreme heat. Race directors need to be smart and putting your athletes in those situations is dangerous. Spectrum Trail Racing hosts races through the fall, winter, and spring because that's our favorite time of year to run! During the summer, you'll find us climbing mountains or competing in races further north. It's the best time of year to get out of Texas and explore what other people are doing in the racing community. We don't always want to be hosting the races, we enjoy competing too! And we learn a ton that helps us to be better race directors, in doing so!
9. Your company, Spectrum Trail, has at least one race coming up soon in West Texas - Sky Island. Awesome name for a race - how did you come up with it/does it have a particular meaning? What is unique about this course as opposed to others that you have done?
The term, "sky island", describes an isolated mountain range, surrounded by a radically different lowland. And that's exactly what the Davis Mountains are! We are beyond thrilled to be the first trail race at this State Park. The course has stunning views and provides a challenging elevation profile. The nearby attractions aren't shabby, either, with the McDonald Observatory Star Party, Marfa, and Balmorea Springs.
10. Are you getting a lot of entries for Sky Island?
The race cap is 150, and with a month to go, we are at about 75-80% full.
11. In what ways to do you try to reach runners to inform them about upcoming races?
We use flyers and social media, but Spectrum has an extremely small marketing budget, as in, a few hundred dollars a year. One reason is that we want to keep race fees as low as possible. The other is that I think it's hard to convey how amazing these races are a 3" x 3" print ad. We rely on our past racers to spread the word, and it seems to be working very well.
12. Will Spectrum Trail be putting on any races in the winter months?
Absolutely! We have a November double marathon, marathon, half, and 10k at Muleshoe Bend (called Wonderland). We also have a really unique, fun race (called The Circus) in December. It's a 12 hour solo or relay race with an unrivaled start/finish vibe. And in January, we will be adding a new race (called Goodwater) that is a single/double marathon around Lake Georgetown!
13. What is your favorite part about being a race director?
That's easy: watching people cross the finish line and seeing that sense of accomplishment wash over them. Second favorite thing is tearing down the course the day after the race. Many race directors just get someone else to do it. For me, it's a time when all the dust has settled and I'm able to reflect on all the amazing things that happened out on the course the day before.
14. Does your son know he's a runner yet? In all seriousness, does he talk about it with seeing both you and Jason run and put on races?
Our son Paxton likes to call himself a Marathon Kid. In fact, he eats his broccoli because, according to him, that's what a Marathon Kid does! Which is funny to me, because we regularly tell him that he can't eat the cookies and chips laying around the house because they are for the racers' aid stations. I don't know if he will become a runner. Right now, he loves to ask questions and do anything we are doing, so I think it's probably in his future.