Sally is a professional ultrarunner for Nike currently living in Bend, OR. She’s a fan favorite in the sport and one of the most requested guests for the podcast, so it was great to chat. Sally is just coming off a win at the legendary Badwater 135 — one of the toughest ultramarathons in the world. We go deep on the story of Sally’s preparation for the race, what she learned from her first attempt in 2018, and how she navigated low moments on race day to achieve a 10-year dream to win the race. This one is packed full of great insights and lessons!
Dylan Bowman: Hey everybody, what is up? How is it going? I hope you're having an awesome week welcome to the pillars podcast and another really great episode that I'm very excited to share with you. Of course, I am your host still in Bowman. And this week I am joined by one of the most requested guests in podcast history. And also this year's Badwater champion. That's right. The incredibly inspiring and impressive Sally McRae is in the building for her first appearance on the show. We recorded this episode a couple of weeks ago, and of course we focused the bulk of our discussion on bad water, but we also used that race and Sally's experience there to talk about more philosophical aspects of our sport. As you'll hear, even though Sally was victorious, it didn't come easy. It was far from perfect. And she does a great job of distilling the lessons that she learned into words that you all can learn from and get inspired by as well.
Dylan Bowman: We talk about the power of being grateful of being courageous. We talk about dealing with adversity on the fly during the course of the race, we talk about Sally's experience with motherhood and how important it is to share her journey with her children and her family as well. We talk about chasing our dreams over a long period of time and many, many other things. Sally is so great. Her energy is infectious. She's so great at storytelling. She's super inspiring. I think you guys are gonna really enjoy this conversation and before we get to it, I just wanna say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart, to those of you who responded to my call for support. In last week's episode, I received a ton of really cool messages from many of you from people who have taken similar leaps of faith in their own professional lives.
Dylan Bowman: And it gives me a ton of confidence in the direction that I've chosen in my life. And for those of you who did subscribe to the app or sign up to support us on Patreon, thank you. Thank you so much. It means the world and we will do our best to live up to your support in everything that we do finally stick around to the end of this episode, where I'm gonna talk just very briefly about what you can expect from us over at UT M B. We're flying out to Europe this week. I can't wait. I need the trip and I'm gonna be doing a lot of fun things. So stick around to the end where I'm gonna talk a little bit about what you can expect from us over there during UT M B week, but without further delay, please welcome the 20, 21 bad water champion, Sally McCray, Sally McCray. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you. You so much for joining. How are you today?
Sally McRae: I'm doing great. Dylan. Thanks so much for having me on I'm so excited just to chat with you. I mean, I'm a massive fan of you. I've been a huge fan of you since I started old running, and I know that you and I have always kind of been, always doing the same races in the same spaces, but, um, I can't, I can't thank you enough just for what you've done, uh, for the sport. You are a continuous, like friendly face to everybody and so positive and just pushing the boundaries like in every way. And, um, it's such an honor to, to be on your show. So thank you. Cool,
Dylan Bowman: Sally. That's so nice of you to say and yeah, I mean, it's been a long time coming. I wanted to have you on for a long time. You're one of the most requested guests out there, and obviously you have a, a really unique and impactful voice in our sport as well. And so I'm really happy that we can connect and talk all about your recent victorious run at the bad water. 1 35, which of course was what about two weeks ago now?
Sally McRae: Oh my gosh. It was eight days ago. Eight
Dylan Bowman: Days ago. Okay. Yeah. See, my, my brain is still sort of in a post race time war as well. I know.
Sally McRae: So your, your race was just a few. You finished just mine was two weeks
Dylan Bowman: Ago. Yeah, mine was two weeks ago. So yeah, yours was the following Monday, I guess. So,
Sally McRae: Yes. Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: Anyway, I guess, uh, let's just kind of start by, uh, how are you feeling eight days removed from the bad water, 1 35. We'll go more into sort of like the training and the ultimate race execution, but I know you're just sort of like coming off a little post race vacation too.
Sally McRae: You know, I, I definitely, I think being a mom, um, it's a lot harder to, to like just lock into like complete rest and just reflect on everything. Um, so I am still like mentally digesting all of it and, and, you know, Dylan, like, you know, you finish your race and you, you know, finishing on the podium for you. There's a lot of people that, um, especially like sponsors and, and people that want your time and that energy. And so, you know, I'm still learning how to juggle all of that. And, um, but I'd say for the most part, I, I do have these moments, especially having Sarah Tara out there, photograph everything. When she sent me the gallery, I started crying. Yes. Um, you know, it was my hope that she would really focus on the crew. Um, I said, you know, don't focus so much, like on, on pictures of me, like, I really want you to capture the beauty of this race.
Sally McRae: And it really is. It's, it's the team it's, it's this, this team that has, has really given themselves in such a selfless way to help me achieve this. And so when I looked at those pictures, I think that's when it, it really like started hitting me. And that's when I started sharing, um, physically, I I'm like for the most part, I'm fine. I thought that by the time I hit probably like mile a hundred that I had had had, uh, injured my Achilles. So, yeah. Um, and I haven't been injured in a very long time, so I think it took me like three days post race is when I finally stopped limping. And then I realized, okay, it was probably just a stress reaction. Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: I was gonna, I was gonna ask you about that later. Yeah. Uh, just because, you know, having been a long time follow of yours of course, like, you've always been a great advocate of getting in the gym and doing the strength training and stuff, but it's also, uh, yeah, I was a little bit surprised to see you get back in the gym and start throwing iron around again. So, so soon after, after bad water, I've barely gotten off the couch since hard rock and you're already back in the gym. So like, I, I guess I'm curious about that. Like as somebody who's sort of a long time trainer and yeah. Knows a lot about, you know, the benefits of strength training and, um, specifically as it applies to, to ultra running, I mean, in, in a period of sort of acute healing and recovery from bad water, what are the, what are the benefits of getting back in the gym so soon?
Sally McRae: Yeah. So, so I'd say the first, like, obviously the first four days I did nothing. I did everyth, you know, what, what we would all do lay on the couch, ate tons of cheeseburgers and donuts and all that good stuff. Um, it was all just recovery methods. So I was like doing cryotherapy and doing the Norma tech boots, everything. Um, but I will say I, I had the privilege, um, opportunity a little over a decade ago to work in a sports PT office. And I, I kind of ran like their running department of it. So I, I put on like these running biomechanic clinics. And, um, I do like these, these classes where injured athletes would come to me and, um, you know, with the help of a sports PT. And what I learned there was that anytime an athlete comes in and they're injured, the PT always gives 'em strength exercises, mm-hmm
Sally McRae: And I always thought that was really interesting. And some of the sports, um, PTs and the best sports medicine doctors are gonna tell you that, you know, the best way to heal isn't just to, to sit around and do nothing, you have to mobilize to some degree. And so what I like to do is I, I will spend the first few days in the gym doing all body exercises and super lightweights is a way to assess what's weak, what's in mobile and what's off balance. Mm. And so it's like, I spend the whole time in front of the mirror and I can kind of see like, oh, whoa, like I'm weak on this side or that side. And it's a lot, lot of slower movements. Like, I, I wouldn't say that I'm like dynamic and powerful and strong, but it's a really great way for me to see, like what, what became weak in that race and what really like tore me down.
Sally McRae: And I immediately like start building it back up. So in the same way you would tackle an injury, um, or just do preventative care. That's how I begin back into the, um, into the gym, um, to yesterday. And today was the first time I, I really started hitting the weights hard, but it's all upper body. And that just feels good for me to do, like, you know, I, and it, and I'm not, um, doing like CrossFit style stuff where it's like super giant weight with the barbells or anything like that. But I do like heavier dumbbells and, and, um, just try to focus on head to toe strength and really give my body a break from pounding and getting that heart rate up too high, but just focusing on another area of my life. And I think that, you know, after you doing hard rock, I mean, you, you probably noticed the areas in your body that were a little bit weaker toward the end, or as you're getting up that final climb, you can feel like your hips and your lower back and things like that, I think is ultra runners, mountain runners.
Sally McRae: Um, I've always believed that it's, it's an area that we sometimes overlook, like totally, we have to endure it. Isn't that, I mean, we all have to run fast, but we have to endure for a very long time in, in ways that, that there isn't a lot of documentation. Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's brilliant. I, I figure we just stay on the subject for a little while longer. Obviously I wanna go, go into a lot about bad water and maybe we can talk a little bit about how maybe strength training impacted, you know, your preparation for bad water specifically, but the whole strength training concept. Isn't something that I've spent a ton of time talking about on the podcast, uh, but has been something that has made a huge difference in my career, especially recently as I've sort of moved into my mid thirties as well, when a time in life, when I think it's really important to emphasize developing strength or keeping strength, uh, really as you age and, uh, you know, wanna maintain, um, high capacity as an athlete. I actually had my PT. Who's really more like a strength coach, Matt wall. Who's, uh, a brilliant, brilliant guy.
Dylan Bowman: I had him on the podcast a while ago, but, uh, we now have a, like a training group here in Portland who get together and we all, you know, throw the iron around playing and bang as they say. But I wondered if, yeah, maybe, maybe, uh, since you've sort of like been sort of, I guess, exhibiting this or encouraging people to sort of, uh, emphasize this in their own training just generally, and, and not as it relates to recovery from hard rock, how do you implement the strength training into your routine? Like how often are you getting into the gym and, uh, maybe any sort of more general pieces of advice on the strength training front before we start diving into the bad water?
Sally McRae: Yeah, for sure. I, I love talking about this and we can even do a whole separate pod on it.
Dylan Bowman: We should, that's what we should do,
Sally McRae: Dude. And I'll, this will be the preview
Dylan Bowman: No, I didn't.
Sally McRae: Okay. Um, but,
Dylan Bowman: But I was a, I was a team sport athlete, like I was a lacrosse player and oh,
Sally McRae: You were
Dylan Bowman: Okay. And we did, we did some like weight training, but I was, you know, you, you develop like a lot of athleticism and stuff. Yes. That I think you start to lose as you specialize and running. And that's one of the reasons why I really love the strength training thing, cuz it makes me feel like an athlete again.
Sally McRae: Yeah. And there's a lot of old school thinking out there though, too, you know, I've, I've surrounded myself with coaches. And um, when I started getting coaching certifications about a decade ago, it was really awesome to be in a room full of coaches and hear their thoughts on it. And you would hear, you know, some would be like, heck no, I will never put a dumbbell on my runners hands. Like we, we do not do that. And then others that were just like, no, we do core like definitely doing in the body movements. And then you have another school of, of coaches are like, oh, I think there is something to be said about like deadlifting I think these athletes need to be deadlifting, you know, so I, it it's exciting as it pertains to running in general, but I think there's something to be said even more so for ultra runners.
Sally McRae: So my, my go to, and um, just generally speaking again, we can expand on this later, but I am in the gym most days of the week, but the, uh, just like running there is a purpose for each workout. So I don't just go in and just like try to lift heavy every single day. Um, you know, Monday, which is typically, you know, the, the global, you know, recovery day for a lot of athletes, if you're working on a typical schedule that day is spent, um, you know, I could start 30 minutes just on a mat, 30 minutes of, you know, ankle mobility and rolling around on a foam roller. I do, um, P I have like a matte Pilates routine that I do. I've been doing Pilates for almost 20 years. Um, and that is that stemmed from some back issues that I have a lot.
Sally McRae: I have a lot of skeletal and, um, issues in my back. And so that saved me and has protected and strengthened my back. So I'll do that. And then I'll kind of move into like a dumbbell area. And typically when I'm with dumbbells, I'm on one foot, a lot running is one foot like you're balancing on one foot every single time. Um, it's also a form of plyometrics. And so I think plyometrics for athletes is really important. So I'll also go over to the turf in the gym and I'll, you know, I'm jumping on boxes sometimes with weight sometimes with not, um, but because our bodies are so like they're ever changing and they're so like diverse and, you know, Dylan, depending on what race you're training for, you know, that there's certain areas that need to be a little bit stronger at certain times.
Sally McRae: Like I'm in a train differently. Like, well, I don't road race typically. Like I don't do marathon, stuff like that, but my, my training would be different if I wanted to go hard for a half marathon, what I'm doing in the gym is gonna compliment that when I do a mountain race, like U T M B, you know, that that's a lot harder gym, heavier weight training, um, in the gym, you know, I'm getting the weight vests out and I'm getting on the stair mill and then I'm doing heavy lifting with the legs. Yeah. Um, so really it's being specific to, um, to what, what your goal is, have a purpose every single day. And then, you know, as much as people don't like to admit it, the majority of what I'm doing is very like unsexy exercises. Yeah. I know that you look at Instagram and you look at CrossFitters and everything they do is like, whoa, man.
Sally McRae: Like, this is totally rad. Like they look amazing, but you know, I'll tell you what, like deadlifting is like, I believe like one of the number one weight exercises that every single person should be doing a hundred percent, like regardless of what kind of athletic endeavor you're in, or just like an everyday person and also the beauty of the human body. And this is for every single person listening. I love that we are made to be able to grow muscle, even if we're 90 years old. Like, I think that's the most fascinating thing yeah. About the human is, you know, you hear people like I'm, my knees are breaking down, I'm getting old, my back's hurting. It's like, but do you know, you can still build muscle. Like you can go and get stronger until the day you die. Like that's amazing.
Dylan Bowman: And a lot of the, the reason for that breakdown is a lack of strength as we age too. So, you know, Absolut sort of absolutely, yeah. Is a, can be a vicious cycle if we do lose track of that part of our athletic life. And I love the, the, just the philosophy of it always having a purpose and doing a lot of things on one foot, that's basically been what I've done because my, my major injuries in my career have both been ankle injuries. Yes. And I think those have both been a result of a lack of discipline and a lack of strength. So anyway, that was a fun way to start. Just, uh, go deep on the weight training and yeah. Maybe we should, uh, devote an entire episode to, uh, yeah, that'd be fine talking about that more, but let's spend time talking about the bad water because of course that's what I think most people want to hear from you about, and you've done an amazing job sort of telling the story on your Instagram.
Dylan Bowman: And I figured it would be really fun to kind of talk about it with you here in audio format too, and help you tell the story that way. And, uh, I guess we should start just by, I guess, putting on the table that this was a 10 year dream for you. Like, this is something that you've been thinking about for a long time, much in the same way that hard rock was a 10 year dream for me. So maybe talk a little bit about sort of when bad water came on your radar and sort of when, uh, that sort of emotional connection or when that, that goal sort of became ingrained in your brain a decade ago. Mm-hmm
Sally McRae: So I went through waves. Like I wanna do this. I wanna, I wanna win this race. It was something I, of course I'd never shared with anybody before, as I was just brand new, getting into ultra running. But then I learned how expensive it was. I learned that the registration fee was $1,500 and I had issue with that and I was like, oh, it must be nice that like people with that much money can get in. And then I learned that you have to your crew, you need to pay for your crew, all of them there. And, and it isn't like a, the, the setting is very remote. And so the one hotel where the start line is, is it's expensive and the food is expensive and then you have to rent a van and all the supplies. And there's very particular gear that you have to have for your crew.
Sally McRae: It just, I knew, um, that there was no way I would ever, ever be able to justify that to my family, to do a race like that. So I actually completely like crossed off my list almost kind of in a bitter way. I was like, I'm never doing that. That race is dumb. Like people are dumb that do that. Like that was kind of like my immature go to. Sure. And, um, 2014 I had the chance to crew and pace, my buddy, Josh and I fell in love with it again and kind of like thought about it. And then just as the years progressed, I never really felt like it was a good timing. You know, sometimes I feel like there's, there's things we dream about and we can be working toward them. So in a, in a way I was always working toward it by building up my cuz you have to run certain races to even be able to do this race.
Sally McRae: So I was like, I was building up the resumes, building up my fitness, but I had never really, um, you know, put in for the application. And not only that, you know, when I first turned pro in the sport, you know, not, it's not like you make a ton of money.
Sally McRae: I didn't, I didn't come from money growing up and it comes from a lot. So for me, like any little thing, like that was just like such a, such a big deal that I, I don't
Dylan Bowman: See. Well, what a great attitude to have. I mean, yeah, it is that feeling of gratitude to just be there that ultimately I think helps us to yeah. Actually enjoy the experience and hopefully get the most out of ourselves and deal with the tough times. And,
Sally McRae: Uh, yes. Yeah, absolutely.
Dylan Bowman: So like I know, uh, there's, I've never been to the race myself and you and I have sort of been in the sport about the same amount of time sort of came up in the same generation. Uh, but I know that there's like a, like a community and a special kind of like vibe around the race. Like there's people who go to bad water every year. So sort of like hard rock honestly. And that there's yes. Yeah. Sort of like a core group of mm-hmm
Sally McRae: Okay. Yeah. I'd, I'd say that it wasn't in 2014, when I went to crew pace, um, everyone like Josh is a mountain runner, our whole crew. It was, it was call him Billy, like we're all trail athletes and, and, you know, Dylan, how friendly and just like welcoming and just warm, like you go to these races and everyone's just like, bro, do like you, we welcome everyone. It's just like, you're stoked that everyone is there. We don't really care if your front backpack, like it's a party. And, um, yeah, the respect is just there. I think when we, I got there in 2014, I was like, holy crap, this is intense. Like everyone's like with their crew and they kind of stay with their crew. And, and then you just got this feeling of like, are we going to war? Like, what is,
Sally McRae: What is going on? Like, it was a really, really intense weekend for me. I, but then I, I came to learn too that there's over 20 countries represented. And so like a lot of people, like most of people, like not everyone spoke the same language. And so, you know, people are just kind of sticking to their crew and like doing their own thing. And then the race happens and then it's the field spread out so much, but it isn't until the, like the awards ceremony, which they make a really big deal out of at the end that you really are able to like settle in with people and talk. But I think that most of the athletes that go, um, you know, what I gather is there's just, I, you kind of understand that you're getting into something that is gonna be painful and challenging.
Sally McRae: And also something you've invested so much into everyone is invested so much financially. And in, in training, like nobody shows up and is like, oh, I wish I would've trained harder. Like, like, yeah, nobody like, and that's kind of weird too, because sometimes you do show up at races and you're like, yeah, my, uh, training wasn't really what it was, but I'm still gonna run the a hundred miles, like, but like, this is, it's just, there's like this intense feeling and it's a little bit different than what I had experienced in trail races in 2018. It was awesome cuz there's actually several char athletes that I, that I knew there and on the crew. So mm-hmm,
Sally McRae: Like the, just the veterans that are always there. Um, I've always been so amazed by that, you know, that these athletes are able to come every single year, the support that they get. Um, and for some of them that's like, that's just their thing. So they work really hard to be there and they save up for it and that's, that's what they love. You know, they don't take the vacation in Hawaii, they go to bad water
Sally McRae: And I just think that, um, to run through this gnarly barren, hot desert to be at the lowest lowest point and then to end in like, in my opinion, one most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. Yeah. Um, if you've never, I mean, no, you have Dylan, you did some incredible mountain adventures up in the east Eastern Sierra. Yeah. I mean it it's, it, the pictures don't do justice. They don't yeah. The, the sound of silence and the beauty that you experience you're up there is just it. I have chills just think about it. It is just so majestic. And so for me, like I was pulled to it in, in two ways as a mountain runner, I was pulled to that, like running through this desert, to this mountain that I love. And that then the place where I feel most at home, this, this range that has my heart.
Sally McRae: Um, but also the parallel of life. And, you know, I think that starting at the lowest point in, you know, this low, low point, I'm like, that's like starting at the middle of your life. Like yes. You know, for many of us, not the beginning of your life, but like there's that time in your life that low, that like dark place. And then you have to get through all of this crap, like yeah. And it's just suffering and, and, and challenging. And it's just dismal. And it's like, the reality is, is that every single person at some point in their life hits that. And you just don't know when it's gonna be. And I, I feel like to then have to climb up this mountain to get to this amazing, beautiful place. Like, I, it was just something so beautiful about that. Totally. And I just, um, yeah, it's like an artistry. I think it's like
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Symbolic of the human experience,
Sally McRae: Isn't it? Yeah. It's just, it's just amazing.
Dylan Bowman: Wow. Beautifully said, Sally, thank you so much for that. That was so, so cool. So you've alluded to a couple of times now that you ran in 2018 as well. So this was your second running of the bad water. Yeah. Uh, maybe give us the, the brief synopsis of that or, or maybe more importantly kind of like what were the key learnings from the 2018 race mm-hmm
Sally McRae: Yeah, the, the biggest things were, um, mindset, uh, nutrition and electrolytes. I think the, the, the unique situation with nutrition electrolytes out there, you know, having been in this sport for so long, like we know we need to get electrolytes and calories in. Um, however, the humbling part of this race is that because it is in a, an ecosystem that is not common
Dylan Bowman: I wasn't expecting this.
Sally McRae: Yeah, no everyone's coming out. Like, like they, I'm not kidding. You feel like people are going to war and everyone, and you almost feel like you have to like, pretend like what you're hot. Oh, I'm not hot. Like, it's just like
Dylan Bowman: This weird.
Sally McRae: So everyone is like, they just look like bulldogs ready to tackle anything. So I just remember standing at the start line and thinking, well, the sun's not out. Like the sun isn't beating down on me. It's 111. It isn't that bad. Um, and I took off, I, I went, I was very confident in my training. I was very fit. I knew it could run fast. Um, I had a couple goals in mind and paces that I wanted to keep. And I was more focused on that than accepting the environment that I was in. Like, I didn't give the environment in that moment respect. I was like, I didn't understand that in 111 heat, I probably should have like eased into it and taken in three times as many electrolytes that I did. Because by the time I got to maybe mile 30, um, my adductors started to seize like in the most horrific way.
Sally McRae: And they, then they just continued and, and for the entire race. Yeah. So it just made the running motion difficult. Didn't matter how strong I was. Like, I couldn't do, I was so far behind in that point. So we just moved slower. Um, and I, I kind of had a bad attitude too, because I had this thought in my mind, I was like, dude, I trained so freaking hard. Like I should not be moving this slowly. Mm-hmm
Sally McRae: She's fine. Just put ice on her. Like it's not a big deal. Like the, so it was just like chaos too. It was chaos with, we've never seen Sally like this before. And I was just like this lump moving through the desert. Sure. And I think that, um, having had that experience, but yet was still able to finish. Like I still got to, I, I found a way and that's a big part of ultra running. Like you don't, you don't throw a fit about something going wrong. You find a way. Yeah. Like you find a solution, you figure it out. Um, unless you, of course are harming yourself and there wasn't harm. I was doing, I was just pissed that my muscles are cramping and I didn't, I couldn't get anything in my body to move well. So now coming back this year, um, I, I will say I was even at the very beginning of my training was just, I had a little bit of fear, not like the paralyzing kind of fear, but way more like the respectful fear.
Sally McRae: Yes. Where I knew I was like, I, this is gonna hurt. I know it's gonna be hard. I know there's not anything I can do to be perfectly prepared for it. This, this is why people keep coming back to races. Yeah. Because even if you finish at the top, you know, that you could have done something better, there's something you can always work on or there's another area of, of improvement or there's, that's what pushes you to what can be possible for next time. So, yeah. Um, yeah, definitely entered this, this round with a lot more respect and humility than you did the first time.
Dylan Bowman: Uh, so just, I, I, and I, I don't think you're really on Strava at all. So I was curious if you wanted to, I'd love to
Sally McRae: Yeah, didn't happen. I actually didn't even win bad water cuz I didn't, I didn't even post my race
Dylan Bowman: Yeah, exactly. But, uh, yeah, I'd love to, I'd love to sort of whatever you're willing to share on the training front. Oh, for sure. Uh, you know, and you can be as specific or nonspecific as you want, but just like oh,
Sally McRae: Ask away honestly. Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Well just, you know, tell, tell us what, what do you think you did really well? I mean, obviously specificity is a really important thing in all, you know, competitive, uh, and, and specifically endurance applications. And, uh, you were very specific in your training going out to the desert, running on the course a number of times. So yeah. Any, uh, particular things from that training block that you think you did really well and, and things that you think influenced what was ultimately a victorious, uh, experience at this year's bad water.
Sally McRae: Yeah. And I'm, I'm just gonna preface it with saying I was a little bit more specific in sharing. I think I, I, especially being so far into my career at this point. Um, one thing that I I have really desired to do is just to be, uh, I, I would love to be a resource to people. So if anyone that's listening is, is training for an, a ultra or something that's like this, or if you dream of running bad water one day, um, one of the things that I, I found that I was getting messages from people is, you know, it's, it's so great that as a pro you're letting us see what you're doing and you're being honest. Um, and I, I understand both sides. I know why pros don't share very much. I know why they will stay secret. Um, you know, as, as athletes competing a high level, so much of what we do is we have to protect our mental game.
Sally McRae: You have to, you have to stay focused. You can't let the noise in all the time. You can't let everyone say whatever they want and speak into what you're doing and judge you. And when they have no idea what your day and day is, um, is like, and so, you know, and then there's the other, there's the competitive side of it. We don't always share because we're like, I don't want someone else doing the same thing, cuz I know the great advantage. This is gonna give me, I know what kind of this, when I do this training, what it does to my body. And um, but I, I think over the years and just looking back on my life, man, there's been so many people that have freely helped me. Um, you know, and there was many years growing up. Uh, I didn't have a ton growing up, but I, you know, my mom always told me like, you, you just gotta work harder.
Sally McRae: You know, I had wanted to be a gymnast for a long time. And um, and I would always complain, well, the rich kids get to do gymnastics. And she said, well, you can work hard and pay for your own gymnastics. And I did, you know, when I was 12 years old, I started paying for my own gymnastics lessons. And so I've always kind of aspired to that idea of like step in and help people when you can, um, share the journey. Don't overlook the idea of, of hard work. Um, but there, there are people out there that don't have the resources that are dying to learn to know that are curious and genuinely mean. Well, and so when you share that with people, it's just amazing. Um, the community that was kind of created around the people that were following my training and then following the race and then following the race journals, um, it is like I've made friends and the, the, that community has just really touched my heart and kind of convicted me to be like, you know, I, I do need to share a little bit more because so many people are like, I went and tried that or I went and do that.
Sally McRae: Thank you so much. And so, um, for everyone listening, I just, I want you to know, I, I hope to be an open book to you and a resource whenever I can. And, um, you know, it's okay if some of the pros don't wanna share, there's always good reason, but, uh, when they do eat it up, but, um, you know, sharing what, what I did, I, I think, uh, was partly because I'm so in love with this race. And I think a lot of times in the ultra community, it is kind of, it comes off as like a weird race or people. Why would you do that? I, um, I remember an, when racing was coaching me, she even said, that's a dumb race. You should never do that race. And like,
Sally McRae: And I was like, but I I'm com like I love it. And I just really wanna show the beauty of it. It's so beautiful. Um, so you know, a lot of my training this, this year in comparison to 2018, I decided to focus a little bit more on, um, tempo and intervals and a lot of, a lot more like hill repeats. Um, and I would then at very specific times, I would, I kind of picked out like certain big weeks where it was kind of like a hell week for me, where it was like fast running and then long running, or I'd like do like a 20 mile, 20 mile like interval workout. And then I would go do hill repeats up and down Mount Whitney portal for like 20 miles or something like that stuff. That was just like, I know by every account, um, had, had I not been trained for so many years in this sport and was healthy.
Sally McRae: I could probably maybe like injure myself, but yeah. Um, but I did do diligence for a long time. I, I built up my body really strong through COVID, um, all aerobic and strength training. So I never got burnt out. I loved running during that time. I made sure that I was mentally strong so that when I hit 2021 and it was time to train for bad water, I knew, okay, I'm gonna take this, you know, the bigger aerobic capacity, the more intense workouts you can put out, you know, this Dylan. Yeah. So, um, I knew that I was capable of just kind of doing a little bit more so. And I, I, my trade is actually, I was a sprinter in high school. I did all the short stuff. I love short explosive stuff. Um, I was a soccer player, so I really, really love like 60 seconds on 60 seconds off. Yeah. Um, you know, I know as ultra energy tend to do longer stuff, I did a ton of that. Like I was constantly just doing surges and just really trying to improve my speed. Huh. Um, at that time Josh Cox reached out to me, it was like, Hey, you wanna jump in with Des, as she tries to set the world's best.
Dylan Bowman: I was like, I forgot you were there.
Dylan Bowman: Is the, the last half marathon or so the 135 mile course. So yeah. We'll get to that. Well, yeah, it's really cool. And yeah, I think, yeah, for those who do have the opportunity to yeah. Train very specifically for the races that they've signed up for, obviously it pays dividends as you, uh, displayed at bad water. And I loved all your photos of like the, whatever death valley visitor center, when it was 125 degrees and you're going out for a run midday. I was just like, wow. Like,
Sally McRae: And that was on my wedding anniversary. And my husband was out there crewing me. Yeah. I was like, okay. Yeah, this is marriage
Sally McRae: Yeah. Yeah. That is. And for people listening, don't go and do that by yourself. I mean, unless you're gonna do like half mile out and backs, but, um, yeah. Well,
Dylan Bowman: Before we sort of get into the race itself this year, you mentioned, you know, what you focused on in COVID and obviously, I don't think you had raced in what a year and a half before, uh, bad water. So yeah. Talk a little bit more about sort of like yeah. What you worked on during COVID. And did you feel, what was the balance between rustiness and freshness? Uh, when you, by the time you, you stepped on the start line, was that something you were thinking about, about, you know, getting those competitive juices flowing again after such a long break?
Sally McRae: Yeah, for sure. Um, COVID was, you know, I I've loved training my entire life. I haven't really taken a break from that. It's just been a natural love of mine. I love being in the gym. Um, I love being out in nature, so I've always made sure, especially when I knew I was like, all right, I'm I just kind of chose, I'm not gonna do races in 2020. I did do the backyard ultra that that was fun with Maggie and partnering were like, let's all do it. You know, the, the virtual one. Oh, okay.
Dylan Bowman: Okay.
Sally McRae: You know, like the, it was like online. Yeah. It was online. And so I, you know, I ran a hundred miles there. I think I, even for fun, like I did 160 mile a week, like a few weeks later, like, but it wasn't, it was just all really easy running it wasn't like, um, and I think even doing stuff like that, it just really confirmed. Like I just, I love that ability and opportunity to run, but then I also knew as I was doing those really big ballies I'm like, ah, this is not like a, a sustainable, um, thing to do, but not only that I have to see this opportunity as a way to, to refocus some other things in my life. So that's when we moved, uh that's we moved it to bend and we started renovating our house. Yeah. Um, and, and that was all self-taught stuff.
Sally McRae: And I was very focused on my kids. Um, like just wellness during that time, you know, it's kind of a tough time to be a, a teenager, um, with all of that and all the changes. And so, you know, my goal was I'm gonna stay fit injury free and strong. I'm gonna run, but I didn't do a lot of workouts. Yeah. So I would like do fart licks, which is, is just fun. Like, oh, I'm gonna like pick up the pace for a couple minutes, but it was, it was nothing ever like, you know, focus like tempo workouts or anything like that every now and then I would do like little hill repeats, like 10, 20 seconds just to, for fun. But, um, so I spent pretty much that whole year in bend, renovating the house, just, you know, focusing on, on keeping the running, um, strong in other ways. But it was interesting because I felt like all my sponsors, um, I think all of us athletes felt this. Like they still wanted a lot from us. Right? Yeah. They wanted us to be present. They wanted us to be doing stuff outside and, um, talking about their products. And, and so I still felt very connected to the community in that way. Um, but I did have this wonderful mental break from the build up to a race. You just, yeah. That, that energy that goes to it.
Dylan Bowman: And what a great time to take a break too, when you know, you, you move in the family and you're renovating your house and stuff, I guess. Good timing in, in some ways.
Sally McRae: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. It was really good. So, yeah, that was, that was kind of what 20, what, 2020, the, the focus was
Dylan Bowman: Sweet. Well, let's talk about the race itself. You, uh, have done an awesome job sort of creating this kind of like episodic race report on Instagram and as luck would have it, it felt what felt like your, uh, the conclusion, uh, or the, yeah. The last post of what has been an awesome way to sort of document and share your journey was posted, uh, what, 30 minutes ago or so, right
Sally McRae: Before we
Dylan Bowman: Got on the phone here and I figured, I mean, did the, the poster just like filled with great lessons and life advice and sort of metaphors for dealing with adversity in our personal lives and relationships and all these things. And so I, that's why I was so sort of inspired to kind of have you on the podcast. And I figured we just kind of like tick through some of these lessons as, as a way of sort of telling the story absolutely. Of your 20, 21 bad water. And, uh, I wanted to, to sort of start with, I like the first post, basically, it's like something to the effect of when you see somebody win a race, like bad water, you assume that everything went right and like, oh my gosh, wrong. No, it was not like there was a lot of problems, but, and you sort of mentioned this earlier that, you know, you were ready for the problems, right. And there's this theme of you not being afraid. So maybe talk about that lack of fear and the psychology that you had to be ready to deal with, the adversity that you encountered in the 2021 Badwater.
Sally McRae: Yeah. Well, I I'll, I'll kind of that, that's like one of my favorite topics, it actually gave me chills just talking about it because it is something that, um, I battled with fear in different areas throughout my life. Um, and I feel like that there comes a point, um, you know, where we just have to choose whether or not it's, we're gonna let it control us. So, and I, I said it earlier, there's the fear that paralyzes you from moving from doing, from believing. Um, and then there's the fear, the fear that, that keeps you respectful and humble. So it's, it's kind of like when you, you know, you're going up into mountain and you see in that lightning storm come in and it's like, you're not afraid of getting hit by lightning in that moment. But like the respect you have for it is what tells you, we should probably descend them mountain right now.
Sally McRae: It's not because I'm a wimp and I'm not tough enough. It's because I respect the fact that if I keep going, I'm gonna get hit by lightning, you know, but we're gonna go back up again. So I think that, um, you know, I, I, uh, I'd say I had this really, really hard conversation with my mom. That was like a big turning point in my life. It was right before, um, she passed, it was like weeks before she passed away. And, and she was kind of concerned for me because I hadn't cried, uh, this whole time that she was really sick. And I just, I, I told myself, like, I need to stay hard. I need to stay tough. Like, I'm the tough one in the family. I had four siblings and I was like, I'm gonna, like, I want her to know, like, I can handle this.
Sally McRae: I can handle this, can handle this. But I, but that time in my life too, I was like a straight a student. I was the captain of my soccer team. I was honor roll student. I was president of, of ASB. Like I had every accolade you can think of because I live my life in a way that I felt like if I was good enough, that good things would always happen to me. And I point blank told my mom, I was like, there's no way that you, I like honor deathbed. I was like, you're not going, like, there's no possible way. Like that just can't happen. Like, that's not the way life's supposed to go. Like, I've, I've done so good. Like, I've, I've done everything I was supposed to do as a daughter. There's no way that you're leaving me now. You know, I'm 17.
Sally McRae: Like you're a part of every one of my dreams. And I think that I had this mindset that if I tried really hard and I appeared to be strong, that I deserved all good things in life. And that just wasn't true. And my mom, um, was very, you know, specific. And she said to me, when I'm, when I'm gone, Sally, don't be bitter. I want you to still go after the things that you love and do the things that you, you dream to do. And it, it will be hard, but I don't ever want you to give up. And it was, she'd always, she'd always said this to me growing up, just be Sally. Cuz I always, I didn't always, I kind of struggled with myself as a little kid, like wanting to be who I wanted to be. And so I've taken the, that conversation with me through so much in my life and I've had to relearn it over and over again.
Sally McRae: And I think in 2018, that was a very humbling lesson for me because I stood on that start line and I literally told myself, I'm like, there's no way that anybody trained harder than I did. Like I trained so freaking hard. Like I, I know I'm gonna do amazing at this race.
Sally McRae: And just that lesson was like, I just have to humble myself and realize that, uh, you know, when people have said this, I know they totally mean well, and we kind of all take it in certain ways. People are like, you deserve that. I'm like, but I, I didn't like, yeah, a win I don't ever deserve to win. I don't deserve, you know certain things just because I tried hard because you know, you think of other people in the world and other situations, um, you know, where things don't pan out. Yeah. So I just started to understand through these years of my life, that there is, there's so much, um, to be said about giving yourself grace in every season and giving others grace in every season. But it, what we also have to do is to be okay, and to be courageous enough, to realize that you're gonna step out and it could be the most perfect day ever.
Sally McRae: And it could be the most horrible day ever, but who you are, needs to not change. Yeah. And so whether I get to the finish line or I DNF, there's two things that are the same about both of those and that's that lessons can be learned and that both of those allow us to, to grow and, and to learn. So I think that was the, um, you know, at, at the start line, uh, at the night before I started this race, I actually, uh, Eddie and I, we were, we were chatting in, in the hotel room and I just started crying. Cause I was just like, I, everything in my heart, like I love this race so much. Like I dreamed, I've literally dreamed of this race. Mm-hmm
Dylan Bowman: Don't have to be afraid of it.
Sally McRae: Yeah. You don't have to be afraid of it. And this is very more of a parallel in life because, you know, obviously we sign up for these races. These are supposed to be, um, gifts and opportunities for us to display our athletic prowess. Right. Uh, you know, opportunities to adventure and make these memories. So it isn't, you know, necessarily like talking, I'm not going to war, but, um, but I think that I, I definitely love to find those parallels in life too. I, I weave those into everything that I do because I think it's just the, uh, just a part of, of who I am. And so having that conversation the night before was, was really, really powerful. Um,
Dylan Bowman: So were you carrying a sense of, of gratitude and just an excitement for the opportunity at the start line this year?
Sally McRae: Oh, far more than I, I think I, I ever thought I would, I think also coming outta COVID, I don't know if you felt this in your first RA race back too, is just, um, yeah. That whole feel of like picking up your bib number
Dylan Bowman: So as, uh, I sort of referenced earlier, it wasn't easy this year, even though you won the race, it wasn't easy. It wasn't necessarily glamorous. It was
Sally McRae: Hard, fun. Yeah. We, we had some surprises
Dylan Bowman: Um, but you've sort of like you talk also in one of your posts about this, this concept of, or this maybe philosophy that you have about being courageous, not hard. Yeah. And being able to accept what you're going through and to continue on in spite of what was probably a challenging situation. I, I would hope I was hoping you would expand on that philosophy of courageousness. Yeah. Over
Sally McRae: Being hard, being, being hard. Yeah. And I know that's a, a popular phrase, staying hard or, um, you know, no pain, no gain and, um, toughen up and, um, you know, there, and those have been around for a really long time that, that idea of, of how tough are you and what can you withstand? And, um, how strong are you that, that measure? I think being a coach and being in the running community for so long, um, I kind of feel like that there, there's also this, this fine line when you talk to people who they drop out of a race and they say, well, it just wasn't my day. Um, you know, I just, I don't think I, I, I'm not made for this or I just, you know, they really then start to go into this mental breakdown, this, this beating up, um, and almost shocked sometimes shocked that I wasn't expecting that.
Sally McRae: And this is just, I, I can't do this or this isn't for me. And I, I it's special people that can handle that. I think, um, there was a, a time in my life where I actually was really bitter, angry person. Mm-hmm
Sally McRae: And I was just mean, and I, I would, I was like eight years old and I'd just go and wa on kids at school and as a soccer player, like I was vicious. Like I would take people out all the time. And if people had the soccer ball, they'd kick it in my, you know, I'd run straight into it. And so I was always just like a, you know, that idea of, I I'm, I can endure anything. I I'm, I'm tougher than anybody. No one can affect me. Um, words, like if anyone ever tried to say anything to hurt me, like, I was very, uh, I fire back, but then just be like, you can't, you know, I don't care what you say. And I know that idea of, of staying hard and it's it, it's, uh, it's, it's kind of a hard way to live your life and it, you can get through a lot, uh, and that's for sure you can definitely endure a lot that way, but I don't think it's an honest way to live life.
Sally McRae: And I think we can be strong. We can be courageous, we can be brave. Um, but I wanna feel the life that I'm in. I wanna feel everything that's for me. Um, I think that when I finally came to a season of just complete brokenness and needed to forgive people and, and realize that my being angry at people that had hurt me was making me into a bitter hard person. When I finally gave all that away, it was like, I felt like I could be free to have joy, to have love and compassion. And that's really when I, I started traveling around the world and, um, my husband and I, we did a lot of work in orphanages and, and poverished areas in, in other countries. And what I realized was that all that pain and all this experience that I had been through, like, I was able to connect with so many people who had been through similar things, but I had to be vulnerable enough to feel that I had to be vulnerable enough to like put myself out there.
Sally McRae: Yeah. So I think as it relates to running and hitting those like rough patches, it isn't, you know, for me, like when I started like really, really like, feeling like the ache and the pain in this race and understanding, oh my gosh, this is what we're gonna have for the rest of the race I needed to, to feel it, it wasn't like, come on jumping up Sally, cuz it wa it wasn't about being tough. I know I'm strong. And I wanted to get to that finish line. I wanted to win this race. Um, but I had to understand too, that it was just that thing. It was, you know, your intestines suck right now. Um, but we have a way a race to win. And so it was just being brave in the situation not being numb to it. Yeah. And I think there's a lot of power behind that.
Sally McRae: I think there's, um, I think that is more powerful than being numb to it, feeling it and then giving hope to people around you that like, yeah, it sucks, but it's not gonna last forever. Yeah. Like I don't have those things right now, but I was able to get through it because in all of my training, I reminded myself, Hey, there's a likelihood that your hamstrings are gonna go out on you. There's a likelihood that you be vomiting the whole time. And so who are you gonna be in that? How are you gonna operate in that? And I would talk up to myself in training all the time. And there were times that Eddie came out into the desert with me and I would do things purposely to put myself in uncomfortable situation. So we did this super hard push up Mount Whitney. I, I ran up from lo pine up to the portal and then I ran hard down.
Sally McRae: So I completely trashed my legs. We ate a huge meal and then we drove straight out backwards into death valley. And I had to do a long run as he followed me. And I just dry heaved the entire time. Like I was just so sick. Yeah. My belly was full. My legs were screaming and it was great practice because I realized, I was like, okay, what am I gonna tell myself in this? What am I, how am I gonna operate? Like what are like, I can still do this. Yeah. And so, um, yeah, it's just choosing to be brave in the face of it and not try to, I love it.
Dylan Bowman: Ignore it. I love it. I think the adversity we face in life can harden us when, but really it should soften us. You know, it should make us, should make us more compassionate. It should make us more flexible. It should make us be able to pause and breathe in the face of difficulty and challenge. And I love the way that you sort of encapsulate it by, or yeah, just sort of like explain the detriments of being hard, quote unquote hard in a society that oftentimes celebrates that, you know, being, being hard, being tough is, is a, is a value, but being hard and building walls around you and yeah, sh shutting, you know, bearing emotions and just sort of gritting through everything isn't necessarily a productive, uh, use of our, of our time and energy. But anyway, it's, uh, it's beautiful. So I think, uh, you know, to, to be a little bit more specific about the, the challenges of this race, of course covering 135 miles through 110, 120 degree heat is, is really hard in itself. And it seems like you had some nutritional issues. And I think, you know, you sort of did a great job, uh, also explaining the attitude and the, uh, I guess sort of like psychological strategy that you had of dealing with that of like, you know, instead of saying, you know, why, why me it's like, how am I gonna deal with this? So, so talk a little bit about the challenges that you dealt with specifically during the race, uh, and how you dealt with them in real time.
Sally McRae: Yeah. The, we were all kind of struck by, uh, the, everyone in our wave by the wind. Um, I'm, I'm not sure if you've been out in the desert, the wind and the desert can be pretty merciless and sometimes you don't know where, which direction it's coming in. And Eddie and I, when we had gone out there a couple times, um, twice when we were running from the start line, it was at my back and I was like, yeah, man, like, this is the second time. I hope if it's windy and it's like pushing to me, like, this is amazing. And it was always coming from the same direction. Well, when we arrived, um, at the start line on race night, it was coming from every direction. It was really like a, it was stormy, it was like this swirling wind. And actually the few days before when we were out there, um, it was like thunder and lightning.
Sally McRae: Um, it wasn't like hard rain or anything. I think it would rain for like 20 minutes or something like that. And then it made it really humid. So it was just like, everyone was like, dude, what is this weather? Because just a week before, it was like a hundred and twenty eight, a hundred thirty degrees out there. And we were all expecting like this super extreme heat again at the start line. Um, and it, it was hot. I think it was 108 or 109 at the start line. So it was still hot. But what is important to know about when, and especially for people listening, is that it, it can severely dehydrate you very fast. Mm-hmm
Sally McRae: So your body is working harder to move through the wind, especially if you're dead set on trying to keep a certain pace. Um, you know, you're, you're just working harder in every element. So as soon as I hit the white line, um, I told myself just immediately, like, you know what, we're, I'm just gonna lean like gently into the wind. That's what I kept telling myself. I'm like, I'm gonna lean into it. Um, I told my crew to give me, I have these clear glasses. So I threw those on, over, over my eyes to kind of protect that way. And then we increased, um, all of my hydration and my electrolytes, like right away. So, which was really good, cuz I, I felt amazing. Um, moving, like my legs felt strong. I felt very hydrated. Like the heat was fine and just sucked because we were all running so much slower.
Sally McRae: Like it was, you know, it was a lot slower than I had wanted to, but I knew, um, at, at the pace at which that wind was moving, I was like, it'd be stupid to try to push right here, especially in the beginning. Um, so when I, when I, my uh, intestines first started cramping up, I was like, what the heck? But the thing was is like the day or two before the race, I did have some intestinal problems, but th that's not uncommon before a race. Like a lot of times I just feel like, oh my body's, it knows it's race time. Like, yeah. And it's just been so long since I race and I've talked to so many other athletes, I dunno if you're this way too, but your body's just kind of like prepping, it's like cleaning yourself out. It knows like something intense is coming up.
Sally McRae: Yeah. It's like a weird psychological thing. And so I attributed that and I had said something to Eddie, like, yeah, it's kind of weird. Like I, I don't know. And then like I had had a super bad headache too. And I was like, what the heck? And I know post race, a few people had said, you know, that maybe that it was the food like that they had eaten. Um, cause other people kind of experience some similar stuff. Hmm. So I don't, I generally don't know what it was because I was still able to eat so I would lose everything. Yeah. So starting at mile 14, I would lose it all. But then I was like, just so bent on getting it back in. So we were loading like yeah. Loading as quickly as possible. And I just kind of had to go into that mental space of, you know, it, you know, I can't let it get me worked up because it is almost impossible to be on top of calories in the ultra.
Sally McRae: Like you can eat as much as you want. Your body's still burning through. 'em so fast. So now I was losing 'em at a rapid rate and I just had to stay focused on the fact, well, I'm losing 'em, but I'm still getting in. I'm losing getting him in. There's gotta be some that's staying. So it just was so quick. It just continued. So then about mile, um, 20, I said we have to change my nutrition strategy because my system's just angry mm-hmm
Sally McRae: So we just, we just kind of made that part of like the crew strategy. Yeah. It was like, all right, Sally needs a Biffy bag. Okay. Here we go. We just lost all our calories loader up again. And instead of kind of taking it as, oh my gosh, this isn't just my day. Like this sucks, like, yeah, I was uncomfortable. It doesn't feel good if you've ever run before and had like, had the runs, like, you know, how terrible and cramping that feels, but you take care of it and, and you move on. So, um, it wasn't an organ issue. I wasn't like endangering myself. It was just, I was just,
Dylan Bowman: It's just an extra, an extra difficulty to have to
Sally McRae: Figure out. And I got upset too, because we, my crew, I had said, listen, we have to move so fast. Like I had a time goal. Um, I, I finished that was, I know I won, but like, that was not the time that I was shooting for. Yeah. It was way slower than I had anticipated what I trained for and what I knew I could do
Dylan Bowman: Well, but what a great lesson that is, you know, I mean like tough conditions, windy day stomach problems, but yeah. I mean, you still ran five hours faster than you did last time. Yeah. And you know that, you know, that you can do better and you just, you still won the damn race and you dealt, dealt with everything that came up and you navigated all the challenges and you covered 135 God miles all the way up to the Whitney portal. I
Sally McRae: Mean, right.
Dylan Bowman: It's it's beautiful. Yeah.
Sally McRae: Yeah. And that is, that is the lesson. It's like, I, I think I even said that in one of my posts, it's like, yeah, I'm weak, but I'm stronger than I was last time. Yeah. And I think that, that is, that is really what kind of pulled me along is like I knew I was hitting paces better. I ran the entire way Uptown's pass, which is a 17 mile climb, 5,000 foot totally exposed area that I, I was, I walked almost every step of that, you know? Um, the first time I did it, so I had to, I had to count and pull on these little things that were like, okay, no, you're, you're okay. You're moving along. It isn't where you wanna be, but it is better. Yeah. Um, you know, trying to celebrate any, any little way that I could
Dylan Bowman: So in, uh, one of your posts, you also describe when you learned that you were in the lead and because of the, the wave nature of,
Sally McRae: Oh, wave
Dylan Bowman: Bad water, it's sort of like confusing to try and
Sally McRae: Figure out it's so confusing. Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: But it seems like for a minute. Yeah, sure. Please go ahead. Cuz I was actually gonna, I was actually gonna ask. Yeah. Just cuz like I don't really understand it just like the whole wave start nature of the race and how they determine which people are gonna be and which waves and how that impacts the experience of the runner. And is it an advantage
Sally McRae: For some people it's an advantage. Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: So talk about it.
Sally McRae: There's such an advantage that my first year I asked Chris Kosman I was like, like I want the best possible situation for me to finish this race. Like I wanna run fast. I wanna win. Like, can I be in the eight, 8:00 PM wave? And he was like, are you kidding me? No. He's like, if you're going for the podium, you're going in 11:00 PM. I was like, I don't understand that like every road race, every marathon that there is like an elite wave that starts up in the front and then there's, you know, and, and I'm just like, why, why can't we do that? What's so bad about the people that are like really trying to get on that podium. Why do you make a start at 11? And the thing is, is that starting at eight for one, um, those people aren't looking to go to bed at eight o'clock like, like, so they're not starting tired.
Sally McRae: Yeah. They then get three extra hours of nighttime running Uhhuh, the nine 30 wave, same thing. They get an hour and a half of nighttime running. And the thing about this race is the heat exposure Uhhuh. When that sun comes up and it is just beating on you and I hit towns pass right. As the sun is coming up in both years. So to know that the waves in front of me have, have been able to climb that in the dark or maybe I've already passed them by them. That's the thing too. You don't even know who you're passing or what wave is this person from my wave or did I at mile 20? Am I passing someone from the 8:00 PM wave? I don't know. Um, but I even, you know, in my mind I was like, well then let us start at six. Like let us, like, I'll go at any time. Like let us start in a way that, that would at least allow us to have the best possible situation, but 11:00 PM. I mean, I don't know what athlete training for a race stays up till 11:00 PM. Like when you're in hardcore training, like you're trying to sleep, like your body's like rhythm is like, so you're getting to the start line, sleep deprived. Yeah. And then you also have the least amount of dark hours. You have you
Dylan Bowman: Theoretically cooler hours.
Sally McRae: Cooler hours. Yeah. Yeah. Without that sun on you. Um, and so yeah, you, you start a little bit more fatigued. Uh, and so,
Dylan Bowman: But like are the women that you're racing all in the same wave?
Sally McRae: Like yeah. So someone, so in 2018, a girl from the second wave beat me. Ah, and so it doesn't matter what wave you're in. So here's the thing too. 8, 9 30 and 11. We all have to get to mile 50 in the same time. Okay.
Sally McRae: So eight o'clock wave gets three more hours, nine 30 gets an hour and a half extra and then 11:00 PM. We get, we get it's a 10 hour cutoff. So it, whoever isn't there, you're just, you know, you timed out. Yeah. You're timed out. So, um, but as far as needing waves because of the national park and wanting to spread people out and because crew cars follow you, they do have to, to spread it out. Um, so it is what it is, but it is more of a, a back and forth ban with, with me and Chris. I'm always like, just lemme go, come on, lemme go in the earlier ways. Yeah. And he's like, no. So I don't, I don't think that'll ever change, but you know, I've, I, uh, I didn't realize that the girl ahead of me, um, was from the nine 30 wave I thought from the, earlier from my wave. And so apparently I was in first place since mile like 48. Okay. But I didn't,
Dylan Bowman: But you didn't know until what, like mile a hundred
Sally McRae: Mile 90th, the checkpoint
Dylan Bowman: Mild nineties. It's one of those things where in real time, it's probably so annoying that you're like, you have no idea where, where you are in the field, but in hindsight it probably, yeah. It helped you to push a little bit more.
Sally McRae: It did. I was. So I was hunting. I was constantly hunting. And I told the guys that when we got up to the top of the, of the 17 mile climb at towns pass, I told con I was like, I need to just, I need to descend by myself. Yeah. Um, I love descending, but I knew it was gonna be extremely painful. It was steep pavement descent for 10 miles does not feel good. So, um, and then we were entering into the hottest part of the race. So I said, just let, let me chill. I need to just kind of go to my place right now. Um, but I thought about that. I thought about having so fixated on like, I need to catch this girl. Um, but I did in a very like playful way when they told me it was the girl from the second wave, I was like, oh, okay. How far ahead is she, like, we better pass her. We will bury her that she got to be in the nine 30 way.
Dylan Bowman: It's, it's funny at, uh, at hard rock, you know, you cross mineral Creek and then you have the last three miles into Silverton. And I was like, ready to be done at this point. And, and harmony was there at the road crossing. And I was like, am I safe? Like, is Ryan behind me? Like, do I need
Sally McRae: You relax? And
Dylan Bowman: I was like, do I need to worry about this? And she's like, no, like you gotta keep going. And like last I heard, he was just right behind you. I was like, God,
Sally McRae: Was she
Dylan Bowman: Lying? Yeah, she was totally lying. Yes.
Sally McRae: I love it. And it keeps you motivated, right?
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. Hundred percent
Sally McRae: Strong. Absolutely.
Dylan Bowman: Those are probably my best miles of the whole ACE
Sally McRae: Actually. Right.
Dylan Bowman: So I want to talk a little bit about the psychology of learning that you were in first place, because it seems like that's what really put wind back in your sales, after dealing with these nutritional issues and just generally going through the heat of the day and having a really hard race. Um, and you know, you're talking about how sort of like at sunset, you're like, you know, thank you for letting me be here. Like this is my dream I'm winning. Yeah. Like, oh my gosh, this is everything I've dreamed about. So kind of talk about that psychology. And then I guess we can just kind of fast forward to what it felt like to achieve this, this dream that you've had for 10 years. Like, what was it like to cross the finish line as the bad water
Sally McRae: Champion champion?
Sally McRae: And that's when that they said, you know, as a girl from another wave, you're actually an hour and a half or an hour and 10 minutes ahead of her. But, um, I think that, you know, I, I actually didn't come out of a, of my low point. Um, I kind of spent some time in a low point. I, again, Sheed my crew away at that. Uh, Sarah Atari is like the, the sweetest person ever was behind me, pacing me and trying to be like encouraging and things like that. And my, um, two big toes were hurting really, really bad. And so I stopped and we were trying to put some Mo skin on him and I just looked at all of 'em. I was like, listen, my Achilles. I think I did send me my Achilles. Um, I dreamed of getting to this point in death valley, cause I had spent so many miles on that, like running hard.
Sally McRae: Like I knew how I wanted to run it and because my Achilles wasn't cooperating, I wasn't able to move the way I wanted to. And then my toes were hurting and I, at this point, all I was able to get in was coconut water. I was super grumpy. And so I just said, you guys don't talk to me. I'm gonna go to a really quiet place right now. I need you to just, just drive, check in on me though. Like, obviously I'll need a refill of a bottle, but just kind of let me go. But it was amazing cuz yeah. That's when the sun started setting and I was, you know, I was, I was really happy about being in the first, but I was also just like, man, I just feel like so beaten up and I still have 45 miles I have to cover.
Sally McRae: And um, so I just started praying. I mean that's like kind of like my go to, I just kind of fell into that. Like I, I go I'm, I'm weak. Like I don't feel like amazing and powerful and you know, but I'm here and I'm moving, I'm moving forward. And um, and that's just when I fell into gratitude, I think that's probably the best place to go when, when I turn inward and I start complaining is just kind of like, okay, now, now I need to be grateful for something mm-hmm
Sally McRae: I mean the guys in the crew van were just like in shock. They're like, holy crap, like you're moving so well. And, and I knew it wasn't in anything of just like myself. It wasn't like I had like this like inner power. I was just like, I feel like it was, it was gratitude and just realizing I needed to be grateful in the pain. Like I needed just to embrace it and realize like I can walk in pain or I can run in pain. Like I just need to choose one mm-hmm
Sally McRae: My first year doing Western states was one of 'em. I was actually ninth place until I was at the top aro 0.0 a mile from the finish. Um, and then I got passed and that's why I was 10th place in that race. Yeah. And it happened another time and another race, I got caught four miles before a finish, but I, we battled and I, I ended up winning, but I have always, since then always had like this fear that a girl's gonna pop out of like the bushes or out of the darkness and be like, hi. And so the whole, that end of the race, I, there was a little bit of anxiety and um, I was like, do you guys know, like, when's the next person behind me? They're like, dude, Sally, the next girl is hours behind you. And I was like, I don't know, like you don't know that, like, I didn't even know I was in first for so long.
Sally McRae: How did you come behind me? So it was, it, there was some anxiety and some anxious struggle where I'm like trying to run as best I can. And then it was like, I'm just crumbling to like under the, the physical ache and wondering, okay, did I rip my Achilles? Like, should I be really be pushing this hard and Uhhuh? Um, you know, but then once we got to loan pine, uh, the guys had reception, so they could see who's checking in, uh, on loan pine. So we ran the first two miles up. Um, and it was, that was, uh,
Dylan Bowman: And from loan point loan pine, you just have the 12 mile ascent all the way up
Sally McRae: To, yeah. It was just a 12 mile, that 5,000 foot.
Dylan Bowman: And so there, you're in your element, you're like, oh, I'm getting back in the
Sally McRae: Mountains,
Dylan Bowman: Running towards Mount.
Sally McRae: Whitney's basically
Dylan Bowman: A big magnet.
Sally McRae: Right? Did you?
Dylan Bowman: No, never, never at night, but uh, yeah, it was spectacular. I did go up this summer.
Sally McRae: Yeah. It's uh, it's, it's so beautiful. It's so incredible. Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. So, so what was it like to win the race? I mean, to, to realize this decade long goal and to have your husband a great crew, a bunch of people who love you to be there, to enjoy it with you, talk about what that felt like.
Sally McRae: Yeah. I mean, like I said earlier, I don't, I don't think there is ever a time in the race or even in training where I, I felt like, Hey, I, I deserve this, you know, for as hard as I've dreamed and as hard as I worked, um, I, I just, I really felt like that was a gift. I, I can't say that enough. I mean, it was a gift to be able to have such an incredible crew that's right. You know, Colin, Sarah, Dave, and Eddie, they were amazing. Um, and what they had to put up with me, grumpy Sally irritable, Sally weird like dizzy, Sally. I mean, it was just, um, and, and they got along so well, they had so much fun. I mean, every time one of them would pace me, they'd come out and be like, this is the best crew ever.
Sally McRae: Like they just were having the time of their lives and, and none of them slept like it was just like, they were in it 100% with me. And mm-hmm
Sally McRae: And those people are gold. And I think that that just made me appreciate and all I've known all of them for so long. I've known Sarah for like 10 years and Colin and Dave for over a decade and Eddie, since I was 18. And yeah, I just was like, man, I just, I'm so grateful to have amazing people in my life that are crazy enough to believe that I can do this. Yeah. And to support me in that. So I'm, I'm still digesting all of it. I'm still thinking about all the pieces of it. And I don't know about you, what you felt like after hard rock this dream. Um, that was finally realized, but I, you know, I, I think it's like, it, it's so important to remember that the races are like checkpoints, you know, like there's so many races that we do in our life.
Sally McRae: There's so many races ahead. Um, and I think it's a, a race is such a beautiful way to just kind of check in with yourself and, and ask, like, what did you learn? Like, how could you grow? Like what could you do different? And I, I think, you know, the next morning, that's what I was thinking, oh man, if I didn't have diarrhea for a hundred miles, like, look how much faster I could have run that. Or if like my Achilles, wasn't like, you know, strain, like I could've brought them mountain faster. Like I could've done this or that. Or, or even if it isn't bad water again, like, wow, like what, what am I capable of doing? Like, what is, what's the next thing out there? And, um, you know, I, I think that's a, a fun way to live life and, and totally, you know, and anything that had to do with my studies with this race, even so many of the studies on heat training and fueling endurance athletes, it's like, most of that stuff was done on athletes in 60, 90 minute increments. And so I think, you know, all of us out there at Badwater, it's like, we're these little science experiments just showing people like, look what humans can do.
Sally McRae: And so I, I would take them out onto the trails with me. I wouldn't call it running. It was called adventuring and we'd look for lizards and deer and we'd jump in the streams and things like that. So they actually have grown up on the trails with me and, um, Mackenzie especially really grew to love it. And, and she's the little runner herself. My son is he, my son is actually more like me than McKenzie is like me. He's a ball sport player. That's just how I was too. I thought running was boring. And like, you know, I needed a ball at my feet type thing, but they both love sports. And, and we're, our, our little family of four is very close. Um, even now my husband and I just talk, we think that, you know, our kids being 13 and 15 now, we would think that they'd wanna spend more time away from us.
Sally McRae: But, um, they love to be around us. We do a lot together and we have a lot of really good conversations and whenever I race, they are so excited for me. Um, there is video that was, that was posted that people continually comment on, but it's my kids embracing me after the finish line and my daughter coming up and saying, mommy, I'm so proud of you. I'm gonna start crying. I'm so proud of you and Isaiah just giving me this big hug and saying the same thing and just you did it. It's amazing. And, um, you know, in this whole week, like my recovery, they're just like, mom, like you work so hard mom. And they just, they were there that entire time. I, I, a lot of people didn't know this either, but they actually went out to the desert with me when it was the hottest, uh, it was 123 or something like that.
Sally McRae: It was our anniversary, but we took them with us and they would play in the pool and they'd go up to the general store and gets Slurpees. And me and Eddie were out on the course running. Yeah. It was just like this family affair. But my, my desire was I wanted them to feel the heat. I wanted 'em to see what we were doing, um, is kinda like our move to bend. Like I grew up using my hands. I used to go to work with my dad and he used to replace toilets and floors and paint everything. And, and I learned so much from that. And so when we moved to Ben and we were renovating, I was like, I want you to do it too. Like, I want you to experience all these hand on things. And so I think when, when this race, like, I, they saw how hard I trained for it. They knew everything that I was doing. And we'd talk about it all the time. Um, they've always been so, so supportive and they're still at, they still actually think that I'm kind of cool. So, um, I'm savoring in that. Cause I think I probably only have a few more weeks. How
Dylan Bowman: Could that, how they not, they're
Sally McRae: The most
Dylan Bowman: Bad water champion come on. They probably bragging about you at school, but it's, it's great, Sally. I, I mean, just to have the opportunity to sort of set that example and, and to show your kids what you're able to achieve in life and to, you know, make them understand that the sky's the limit and that if they set their mind to something it's doable. And I think, uh, it's a wonderful thing to, to share with, with your kids. And I'm sure they'll benefit as a result as they grow into their own, uh, amazing lives. So
Sally McRae: Anyway, thank you.
Dylan Bowman: Well, congratulations, Sally, it's great to, to chat about all this stuff with you. Let's close by just sort of, uh, talking about the future. What what's next for, for Sally McRay it sounds like you might be working on a book. Is that right? Are you ready writing
Sally McRae: The book? I have been for a long time. I just paused it. Yeah. Uh, for a little bit, but, um, yeah, that's, uh, been a long, long time dream of mine. So I'm finishing that up and, um, praying that I'll be out around the holidays. So I'll keep you posted on that.
Dylan Bowman: Great. Yeah. We'll have you back on, we'll do a little, uh,
Sally McRae: Little thank you. Book plug. Okay.
Dylan Bowman: You're doing TDS
Dylan Bowman: My gosh.
Sally McRae: Well, yeah, yes, maybe. Yes. I've I, uh,
Dylan Bowman: And run rabbit run. I mean, those races are only separated by like three weeks or something. And you're you eight days removed from Badwater.
Sally McRae: I know, I know. Wow. That's a whole nother podcast right there, I
Dylan Bowman: Guess. So
Sally McRae: It's still, I'm still assessing myself though. I think mentally, physically, and, uh, the demands of that. Um, but it would, the TDS one was with the ultra, with the ultra trail world tour. Mm. Um, so I'm like their athlete for that race. And so, um, yeah, I might defer it to next year. We'll see. I, I, I go back and forth. Aren't you going over there
Dylan Bowman: Though? I'm I'm going over there. I'm not racing. I'm oh,
Sally McRae: I thought you were. I was like, what are you talking about? Heart rock
Sally McRae: Yeah.
Dylan Bowman: If you, if you, uh,
Sally McRae: If I end up,
Dylan Bowman: You decide against it, we can drive around and watch other people suffer.
Sally McRae: Okay. That might be awesome.
Dylan Bowman: Talk, get inspiration
Sally McRae: Off record about that. Cause I like my dream is to one day live in the Italian Alps. Like I can't get enough. I've missed it so much. I know you, me too, too. Me too. I've gone every year just cuz I love it. I usually don't do races like over and over and over again, but I it's like my excuse to go to Europe and hang out with my friends. So same.
Dylan Bowman: Yeah. I go, no matter what, if I can, you know, COVID allowing, I'm going to UT M B every year, whether I race or not.
Sally McRae: Oh, so amazing. It's it's truly like no other event.
Dylan Bowman: Well, yeah, don't think too much about what's next. I think you should spend at least a few more days
Sally McRae: Donuts
Dylan Bowman: And basking in the glory of the bad water victory. And you can cross those other bridges when, when you come to them. But
Sally McRae: Keep absolutely
Dylan Bowman: Pushing through and being courageous and um, it's uh, yeah, you're, you're always so good at, at sharing those, those more profound lessons that come from our sport. So thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
Sally McRae: Thank
Dylan Bowman: You guys. Think I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you so much to Sally for coming on and sharing her story with us. Obviously Sally is one of the most popular runners in the sport for good reason. So if you don't already go follow Sally on Instagram, where she has a huge and engaged following, who benefit greatly from her ability to story, tell and share every aspect of her journey as an athlete and as a mom and as a human being. And if you like the episode, let her know, send her a DM, let her know it resonated with you. I'm sure she would love to hear before we sign off. I just wanted to let you all know. As I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, I am leaving for Europe this week for the UT M B festivities. And I just wanted to give you an update on what you can expect from us.
Dylan Bowman: I just got my marching orders from the race a few days ago, and it seems like I will be on the microphone for a huge amount of time over the course of the week, commentating during at least OCC CCC and U T M B. And it is my hope that we can make these races, the courses, the athletes a little bit more approachable, understandable, and hopefully more entertaining for you all the viewers. So if you're not totally sick of my voice already, please make sure you tune into the English channel of UT M B TV, where I will be for a significant part of race week. Uh, my partner Ryan is coming to so we will likely be putting up podcasts and video content during the course of the week on the pillars channels as well. Keep an eye out on my social on the pillars. Social we'll make sure to share relevant links. As soon as we have them, I can't wait for the trip. I feel like I need it. And I can't wait to watch all these awesome races go down, but that's it for this week. Thanks everyone for listening, especially all the way to the end. Really appreciate you all talk to you soon. Love you. Bye.