Athlete Interview: Raina R/Small Town Runner

Hi!  Around a week and a half ago, a Twitter friend of mine finished her first 50K.  I was glad to encourage and pray for her during her training and on race day.  Below is a Q & A interview with Raina of smalltownrunner.com from shortly after her completion of this milestone event.  Enjoy!

Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith: What race did you do?  Why did you pick it?

Raina R./Small Town Runner: I ran the McKenzie River Trail Run 50K, (MRTR).  I chose it because it is close to home and it looked like an "easy" race for a first time ultra. If an ultra can be "easy"...

Brad: Yeah...right!  How did it go?  What went well?  What did you learn?  What would you do differently?

Raina:  This race went really well for me. I had no idea if my body was healed or not from an injury, so I ran very conservatively to begin with.  Early on I found a woman walking all the uphills.  She seemed like she might be experienced, so I got in behind her and started talking to her.  It seems this "walking the beginning through the sharp lava" got her some good race times, (5- 5.5 hours) the last 3 times, so I stayed with her! Then she fell on the lava and her race changed instantly. We had to part ways at the first aid station so she could get bandaged up, which takes maybe 10-15 minutes.

A Collage of Raina's first 50K race!
Later on in the race, I could tell my hip was going to be OK, so I began to run more of the uphills, but I still kept the whole first 16 miles pretty conservative.

I mostly survived on gels, water and Gu Brew. I drank early on, which I think is very important. The only solids I took were at the mile 16 aid station, when I ate some salt and vinegar chips (Lays Stackers), and watermelon slices I had in my drop bag.  I didn't realize I was getting sloshy until I finished, so next time I'll try to eat a bar early.

Brad: Watermelon is great!  I love watermelon on long runs!  What other struggles did you have?  How did you get through them?

Raina: My foot was a little sore from a mysterious injury months ago, so at that same 16 mile aid station I put in a pair of arch supports. They felt better for my feet, but lifted me up and made me a little unstable. Then I turned my ankle, to the outside, and felt it sharp in my foot where it's been hurting... I think I know how I got hurt 11 weeks ago now!  Eventually it calmed down and I was able to start running faster for the last 15 miles.

Brad:  Ouch!  That couldn't have been easy to run on for 15 miles.  How about something more positive: what was your favorite moment of the race?

Raina:  My favorite moment of the race? I don't have one particular. However, the Coke at the last aid station was absolutely fantastic!!! Caffeine and sugar could not have come at a better time.

Brad: Yeah, sometimes Coke and M&M's are a great snack to partake of at the last aid station for a little boost to the finish line.  I used both this past weekend around mile 22+ of my trail marathon.  On a different note, what do you think is the connection between suffering and endurance like we often experience in long distance running?  Do we learn anything from these experiences that can help lead to joy in life?

Raina: I did a fair amount of praying while I ran. I find that prayer helps me to disconnect from thinking about any suffering while running, but also running helps me to focus and pray.  (I wouldn't call either "suffering" though...)

As I got closer to the end, I had more trouble praying because all I could think about was trying to see the finish line.  There were specific people I had on a list based on blog comments, Google+ comments and e-mails, plus personal concerns that I was praying for.

The connection between suffering and endurance?  God promises that this life will not be easy. It IS suffering, but there is a sweet reward for putting up with all of it!  I suppose a race is a really really good reminder of that promise.  But I don't think you have to run races to identify with the endurance theme and Glory of His Grace.

Brad:  For sure.  The race of life can be hard enough at times for many of us.  Anything else about the race?

Raina:  I trained very little for this race, except the long run. God saw me through it!

Brad: Cool!  What's next?

Raina:  I'm already looking at another race!  I'm not sure if I'll do one, both, or either...but I'm looking at a trail half marathon in 2 weeks and another, much harder, 50K in early November if it doesn't fill up. Thanks for interviewing me!

Brad:  You're welcome.  And thanks to you Raina for taking the time out to share your thoughts and reflections on what sounds like a great race experience!

I'll hope to have more of these types of interviews with other runners, so if you are interested, please let me know!  I will also be posting a couple of more race reviews  in the next week or so from my own experiences at this years The North Face Endurance Challenge Series - Wisconsin.

Make sure to check out Raina's own race review and more pictures too at smalltownrunner.com