This article is part 2 of a series “Ultra Challenge: Day In The Life Of An Ultra Pro”, curated by our very own Freetrailer, Cody Jett.
In this series, Cody meets with the pros of our sport to learn more about how they train, fuel, race and generally approach the sport. He then copies their daily routine to show us what it’s like.
Don’t miss part 1 with Adam Peterman, Western States 2022 Champion!
Ultra Challenge: Day In The Life Of An Ultra Pro
with Katie Asmuth
By Cody Jett
“Run when it’s fun, walk when it’s not”
As kids we often have those dreams of hitting the game winning home run, throwing the game winning touchdown, or shooting the game winning shot. As adults, it’s now crossing the finish line of some of the most touted races. But not all of us discover this dream later in life and then have the desire and determination to go out and completely dominate one of the most sought out 100 milers in the United States, TWICE (Western States 100)…. all while being a nurse practitioner on the front lines of a pandemic and an incredible mom of two!
Today, I will be lacing up and taking on the Ultra Challenge: Day In The Life Of An Ultra Pro Katie Asmuth.
Katie Asmuth is as legit as an ultra-runner comes, from her success on the trails to the passion and stoke she brings to the trail community! Katie’s grit is off the charts. Who else can say they captured a golden ticket with a tampon in her nose (story for another day) and conquered Western States, finishing as one of the top ten females. Katie’s quick success as a “late bloomer” (her words, not mine) in the sport makes us all wonder what exactly makes her one of the best runners in our sport- is it her nutrition, her running workouts, her favorite gear, her mom strength, or just the talent she was born with. Well today is the day to find out, as I copy all that and more as I set out on a run of my own.
The morning starts with Katie’s go-to breakfast. I feel like I am a mad scientist in the lab! I rapidly whip up a bowl combining three cereals, topped with hemp seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, and sprouted mixed seeds; I wash it down with chocolate protein powder with powdered greens. I slowly wave goodbye to my coffee, as the morning did not call for it (I might have cried a little).
Before I make my way to the trail head, I analyze Katie’s workout one last time: a 3-mile easy warm-up, followed by 10/8/6/4/2 minute hill repeats, and ending with a 3 mile easy cooldown. This workout calls for 15-degree hill grade. Full disclosure: I had to bust out the old google search on this one (thank goodness for Strava). While Mammoth, CA might have these types of hills in abundance, in Pennsylvania, they are a diamond in the rough. Not to mention, if I’m being honest, I have always been the type of runner, see a hill, run a hill, you did hills; you deserve ice cream! But in keeping with my commitment, I am determined to carry out hills a little differently today- Katie style.
We are officially in the dog days of summer, so I know my hydration game needs to be on point. I thoroughly check my vest one last time, confirming I loaded up with plenty of water, fluid electrolyte mix, and Spring Awesome Sauce gels! I secure my nose breathing strip. Dorky? Absolutely. Functional? For sure. (I can’t argue benefits with a 2-time finishers of Western States). I head for the trail knowing today is going to be a challenge.
The first 3 miles go by swiftly. The local trail is crowded with bikers, runners, and dog walkers. My insecurities jump in, and I start to feel like everyone on the trail is staring at me. I can just picture them wondering “what’s up with this dude’s nose” or maybe they just secretly know I am about to pass out on the trails while busting out hill repeats during a heat wave. More likely, they probably weren’t thinking about me at all, and it was just all in my head. One benefit of running like a Pro Ultra runner, is that it is pushing me out of my comfort zone and allowing me to experiment with a new approach, such as breathing nose strips.
I eventually reach the base of the hill, resolve to give it everything I have, and I get to it. I find myself struggling to achieve the first ascent (10 minutes hard effort). The rain from the night before left the hill muddy. And, coming from mainly road running in the past, climbing is still a challenge for me. With a full steam up the hill, I keep repeating in my head one of Katie’s mantras “Light and Flow”.
After the 2nd time ascending and descending the hill; fellow runners and hikers start to recognize my task at hand. The next time I pass them, I am met with cheers: “you got this,” “you’re almost at the top,” and the ever motivating “here he is again!” One thing you can always say about the trail/hiking community is that they are supportive. I love this community.
After my last hill repeat, I venture back onto the easier trail to bust out my last 3 easy miles.
While my legs are tired, these last 3 miles feel like a reward. I end up tagging along with a fellow trail runner and his pup; sharing anecdotes about the trails with a fellow runner sure does make those last few miles fly by. I eventually make it back to my car, drenched in sweat, legs barking like a dog, with 9.15 hard miles under my belt. I chug my Fluid Vanilla Cinnamon recovery drink, use multiple towels to dry off and drive home sipping on water.
Driving home, I reflect on this hill session. On one hand, it absolutely kicked my butt! But on the other, it reaffirmed something I have slowly been learning: to become a better runner, you sometimes need to do the workouts you despise. In this case, I needed to jump into the footsteps of a Pro Runner and learn what it means to give hills repeats everything you got! Does that mean I love hills now? Let me put it this way: if hill repeats were a superhero, they would be Loki; not 100% sure if they are a hero or villain at times; but they do play a critical role in helping the good guys succeed. In short, Loki is a jerk and often makes people cry, just like hills.
Once home I hurry into the kitchen to snack on some toast, almond butter, and honey. I sit on the kitchen floor snacking, while my dog Poppy licks the sweaty goodness off me. I know a shower would feel wonderful but devouring a sandwich while receiving some puppy love is just as good, if not better.
After a quick bath to clean up and relax the muscles, I have some much-needed family time. Like Katie, we both have 2 children, and, as many of you know, kids don’t really care if you just crushed a run and want to nap. They just want to know if the daddy jungle gym is open and to see how high daddy push them on the swing.
Lunch is eventful and full of laughs. My girls point out that this lunch might be the healthiest lunch I have ever cooked (eggs, greens, toast with avocado). As I try to keep up with my girls’ stories about their own mornings, I realize that I am really enjoying this meal change up.
The rest of the afternoon flies by. Soon the grill is fired up and burgers are being prepped. As my older daughter likes to say, “smells like grilling weather” (she has spent WAY too much time with me during the pandemic), and there is no better way to recover from a hard effort then enjoying a nice cheeseburger with well-cooked sweet potato fries.
As the day comes to an end, I enjoy my first ever mochi experience (like a little ball of deliciousness) and much needed protein shake. As my wife and daughters pull me in the wagon around the neighborhood (joking- but a guy can dream), I reflect on the eventful day and on the dedication, it takes to be a pro. If exploring the life of Katie has taught me one thing, it is if you have a passion and a goal, go all-in and enjoy the journey.
The day is officially over and, with that, the end of my second Ultra Challenge: A Day In The Life Of An Ultra Pro. Now onto the next adventure and next Ultra Pro- Coree Woltering!