Rachael Anderson: Ultrarunner Taking on Vol State 500km

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I have gotten to meet some really great runners from around the world, all of whom inspire me in different ways. This is Rachael Anderson. She will be taking on Vol State 500km…for a second time.

I met Rachael when we both showed up to run with Bangkok Runners in Khao Mai Keow, Thailand. This awesome group would organize meet ups to run in the jungle occasionally, because we liked to torture ourselves with heat and humidity, in good company of course.

Neither one of us is in Thailand anymore, but I have been following her running and it is most impressive. Check out what she has to say:

1. What is your everyday occupation?

I’m a high school calculus teacher at an international school in Pakistan.

2. How many ultras have you done? What was your favorite or most memorable?

I’ve actually only done three races that qualify as ultras – two 50km races and the 2017 Last Annual Vol State (LAVS) 500km race. I’ve also done the Camino de Santiago – a 500 mile hike across Spain – twice.

My favorite race has to be LAVS just because of the sheer difficultly of the undertaking and the camaraderie I experienced during and after the race. When you’re put in a situation like that with other people, you quickly become a family.

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3. What is your next big race you have been training for?

I’ve spent the past 10 months training for the 2018 LAVS, which will be held from July 12-22. The course starts in Dorena Landing, Missouri and ends in Castle Rock, Georgia, crossing the state of Tennessee.

4. Where do you live and does it impact training?

I live in Pakistan, so I’m limited to my compound when it comes to training. Luckily, I have access to a nice weight room, a 25m pool, a 400m track, and a 1km loop around the school. My training is largely solitary and I have to work hard to keep up my motivation.  I rely on podcasts and audiobooks to keep my mind occupied on long runs.

Another issue with training in Pakistan is the heat. The temperature in Karachi, where I live, is above 80 degrees for the majority of the year and can get up to 120 degrees in the summer. This isn’t a dry heat either. Due to our proximity to the Indian Ocean, it is quite humid throughout the year. This makes training brutal, but I know that it will be worth it when I’m running through Tennessee in the middle of the summer.

5. How do you prepare for a 500 kilometer (314 mile) unaided race?

This is really a difficult question, and I think the answer heavily depends on the person. A lot of my fellow runners do back to back runs on the weekend. So, perhaps 30 miles on Saturday and another 20 miles on Sunday. This is a fairly typical staple of ultra training but, under the direction of my coach, I did something a bit different this year.

My training generally consists of 9-10 workouts spread over six days, with one rest day per week. These include swimming, cycling (I use an indoor trainer and Zwift), weightlifting, and running (15-20 miles a week). My entire training plan has been built around heart rate zones, in order to improve my endurance and aerobic capacity. I also do journey runs/walks when I’m outside of Pakistan. For these, I take a small pack with a bit of food and water, and then just head out on 20 or 30 mile walk to the next town. It gets me comfortable with navigation, walking next to traffic, and dealing with unforeseen issues like a lack of water (because I dropped a bottle without realizing it).

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6. What are your expectations of Vol State?

Last year I finished in 7 days, 18 hours by mainly walking and getting 6-8 hours of sleep each night in a hotel. This year, I hope to finish in under 6 days by sleeping less and running more.

 7. How long do you expect recovery to take?

After last year’s race, I was able to run again within a few days, although it took about 3 weeks for me to feel 100% again. I expect this year to be about the same in terms of recovery.

8. Do you have any pre-race routines or advice to offer runners considering doing an ultra?

The biggest piece of advice I have is to understand that there is no one way to do an ultra and that a linear progression through race distances is largely unnecessary. I get asked often about how many half marathons and marathons I did before I started running ultras. The answer is none. In fact, the first marathon I did was this year, which is a solid 5 years after I ran my first ultramarathon. This goes for training as well. What works for other people may not work for you – it’s a learning process. So, have fun, talk to other ultrarunners, and figure out what does work for you.

9. The big runner question–why do you do ultras of this magnitude?

Running 500km was the first time in my life where I felt like I had been stripped down to my core both emotionally and physically and actually got a glimpse of who I really was. It was both terrifying and exhilarating and, now that I’ve seen it, I have an unquenchable desire to figure out just how far I can push myself.

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Rachael also has a UMDF page that she has been updating. This page is for collecting donations that go directly to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation and help to fund much needed research into these illnesses.

Consider donating to United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation

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