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Nathan athlete Emily Harrison, 27, of Flagstaff, Arizona, is a newbie to ultrarunning ... well, sort of. She burst onto the scene with an impressive second-place finish at the iconic JFK 50-Mile Endurance Run (the oldest ultramarathon in the United States). And, out of the handful of ultra marathon races she's completed since then, she's finished either first or second in all but one of them-a seventh-place finish at her first 100-miler, the Western States Endurance Run (WS100).
To put it in perspective: To even finish in the top 10 at WS100 is impressive as the race is arguably the most competitive 100-miler in the country. And, it's known for being unbelievably challenging due to the heat (temps are supposed to reach the mid 90s this year), the net elevation loss (even through the race has 19,000+ feet of elevation gain), and, it's hard to get into. If you don't earn a spot through the race's lottery, you usually can only get in through your finish place at one of the highly competitive Montrail Ultra Cup trail ultramarathon events scattered throughout the year. Can you guess how Emily got in her first year and again this year? Yep, you guessed it ... the latter.
Now that you know all of this, it should come as no surprise that Emily is a favorite at this year's WS100, which will take place next weekend in California (the course takes runners from the start in Squaw Valley over to Auburn). During a busy week of running and travel just a couple weeks out from the event, she took a few minutes to answer some questions about her training, WS100, and her hydration and fueling plan for race day.
Whether you're an ultrarunner or not, we guarantee you that Emily's advice will help you during your next big athletic event. Because, let's face it, proper hydration is crucial to athletic success.
What has your training been like leading up to WS100?
I look at Lake Sonoma 50 Mile-my first trail ultra this year-as the kickoff to Western States-specific training. (Editor's Note: She won the race in course-record time.) I had a week or two around Western States Training Camp (Memorial Day Weekend) that allowed me to spend a lot of time on my feet. Other than that, my goal has been to line up race day healthy and confident.
You're clearly a favorite at this year's race. How do you feel about your race-day plan and the competition?
As usual, this year's race is going to be very competitive. I feel much more prepared, though, having completed the race last year and having gained more ultra experience throughout the past year. (Editor's Note: Emily finished 7th at last year's WS100 in a time of 20:28.)That being said, there are still a lot of factors to contend with over 100 miles and I still consider myself new at the distance.
Everyone always talks about the hot canyon sections. What is your hydration and fueling plan to get through this section?
If you've done a good job of hydrating and fueling up to this point, you just have to maintain your plan. For me personally, it's tricky to take in a lot on the long downhill sections so I have to be extra-aware of the passage of time. It's a balancing act of making time, but not putting yourself in a deficit because of the higher temperatures and humidity in the canyons. Take advantage of any water sources to cool off.
What about hydration and nutrition for the overall race? 100 miles is a long race. How do you properly fuel and hydrate for such an event?
Start fueling and hydrating within the first hour of the race. And, remember, it's easy to forget about this early on because of all the excitement, but taking care of yourself should be your number one priority in order to get to the finish line. Also, be flexible and adaptable to your potentially changing needs over the day and night.
What Nathan system(s) will you be wearing on race day?
Definitely the Firecatcher.
Why is proper hydration and nutrition so important during a race like WS100?
Any marathon and ultramarathon require proper hydration and nutrition to have a successful day, but WS100 you especially have to at the top of your game because there's always another runner ready to pick up the pieces if you falter. (Editor's note: Read, WS100 is perhaps the country's most competitive 100-mile event.)
Any special food or drinks your crew will have on hand for you?
Maltodextrin, Cliff Shot Blocks and Succeed S Caps.
If you could give a WS100 newbie ONE piece of hydration or fueling advice, what would it be?
Fuel and hydrate early and often. This will pay off in the later miles of the race.
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