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Ultra Running Rundown

Think you could run 100 miles in one shot? Champion ultra runner Anita Ortiz fills us in on how she does it. Plus, a break down of the most intense ultra races this fall.

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It’s ultra running season. The Leadville 100 and Where’s Waldo 100k took place last weekend, the Wasatch 100, Cascade Crest 100, and Grand Teton 100 are all coming up, and, right now, teams of two are traversing Colorado in the TransRockies Run.

Anita Ortiz, winner of last year’s Western States 100k, gave us the rundown on training schedules, dawn patrol workouts, and why she thinks steak plays a role in her success.

What is your training schedule like?
I’ll usually get up in the early morning, 3:30ish, and run for a couple of hours Then, mid day I get in a stair machine workout and in the evening I’ll go out for another couple hours. I aim for about five hours a day. You have to give up your sleep, or your lunch. I gave up TV in the evening so I can go out and train. I try to be home when the kids are awake; family has to come first. I think everyone is really different, it depends on what your body can handle.

3:30 a.m. sounds rough. What keeps you motivated?
I love to train, which certainly makes it whole lot easier. People do long races for a variety of reasons, but I don’t think I could do it if I didn’t love it. I know I probably wouldn’t do as well. When I’m cranky about it I tell myself, “this was your choice.”

What about your diet? How does that impact you?
Because I run so often I can’t eat huge meals because I never know when my next chance to run will be. I try to eat healthy. I used to be a sugar addict, but once I started eating healthier I didn’t crave it as much. I’m a big fan of steak, I usually eat a lot of red meat. I don’t take a lot of supplements except for iron, because I’ve had a bout with bad anemia.

When I’m racing I only eat gels. During Western States I ate 39 gels, but my stomach is solid, I’ve never been sick during a race.

What are your favorite races?
I love Western States the most, if I have to pick only one race to run I’d pick Western but if I got two, Pikes Peak marathon would be in, too. In the early spring I like the Moab Red Hot 50k. It’s a good test to see where you are beginning of spring and how much you’ve lost through the winter. And I absolutely love the Vail half marathon. It’s shorter but hard.

Any tips for runners thinking about taking on ultras?
The number one thing is to build a good solid base of a lot of running before you start worrying about speed. Do it slowly so you don’t hurt yourself. Stay off roads as much as possible because trails are more forgiving. I think everyone should give it a try. Once you’ve done one long race you’ll be hooked forever. I did my first ultra, White River, only four years ago, then the next year I did two, every year after that I’ve added more in.

What’s your plan for next year? (Ortiz is out right now, recovering from a knee injury)
I swore I’d never do Badwater, because it’s on road and hot, but that’s my next one, I’m always looking for the next challenge. I like to be challenged, I like to feel pain and I like to feel sore after.