Ambassador Feature: Desiree Marek

 

Ambassador, Desiree Marek, has had an incredible journey. When her brother started running to combat health and weight issues, she joined along for her first big run ever - 10 miles. Fast forward ten years, our ambassador is now training for Run Rabbit Run, a 100 mile race that starts straight up Mount Werner. The course leaders boast - About 8 miles paved, about 86 miles of trails and the rest rough jeep roads. Figure about 101.7 miles, 20,391 ft. ascent and 20,391 ft. descent. So what took her from 10 miles to 100? How does she stay on top of training? Read on to learn more about Desiree.

How did you get started in running?

Ten years ago, my older brother began running to combat health and weight issues, and he invited me to run with him one Saturday. Despite never having run more than a mile, I joined him for a 10-mile run to show my support. At the time, it was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I loved it. I was so sore that night that I cried in my sleep. The next morning, I got up and ran again.

 

What inspired you to start running ultras?

I ran my first 50k before I ran my first marathon. My older brother and his training partner invited me to run the Hagg Lake 50km with them. I had no idea how far 50km was and I had only run on a trail a few times, but I thought "Why not?" I ran the entire race, step for step, with my brother. I didn't know anyone in the trail community. It was not a strong race for me and I had no idea what I was doing, but I was so taken aback by the camaraderie of the runners, the support from the volunteers, and the challenge of navigating a trail and problem solving with my body. My love for ultra running was born at that race.

 

What is your go-to gear for long runs?

For long mountain runs, I always carry a few go-to necessities: Salomon ADV Skin 12 pack, Sawyer water filter, Patagonia Houdini jacket, Mountain Hardware gloves, Petzl Tikka RXP headlamp, and Goal Zero battery charger.

What does a typical training week look like?

My training weeks vary depending on what I'm training for and how close I am to a race. When I'm building up to an event, I typically run three consecutive 85-95-mile weeks with a mix of road and trail, single workouts and doubles, and then have a cutback week before building again.

Tell us about your September race, what are you excited for? Any course elements you are nervous about?

In September, I'm running the Run Rabbit Run 100-miler. I'm really excited to see the aspens and fall colors or Steamboat Springs and run with good friends. Colorado is such a beautiful place in the fall, and the trail running community there is incredible. As someone with severe asthma, I've always had issues running at high altitude, so I know that will be a challenge for me at this race. I've also been working through some health issues this summer related to my lungs and heart that have been challenging, scary, and unnerving. This will be my first 100 since these issues were identified, so I'm nervous, but I'm cautiously optimistic.

What do you do for nutrition?

I fuel almost entirely on Skout protein bars and Huma gels, using Nuun for hydration. In the later miles of a 100-mile race, I try to rely on substantive food for nutrition (sandwiches, potatoes, fruit, vegan meat substitutes, and, of course, Pringles).

What sort of cross-training do you do most? What works well for you?

At least 2-3 times a week, I do a series of prehab strengthening exercises with therabands. I also do yoga and rock climb. I find that yoga is the most effective in promoting balance and core strength, but it's also one of the hardest things for me to do because It's difficult for me to slow down and be still. In that respect, it's good mental training too.

How do you balance work, life and training?

I think that balancing work, life, and training is the biggest challenge for every athlete. I work 40-50 hours a week, so I've found that, for me, the key is scheduling everything and sticking to that schedule. On days when I have two or three workouts, I get up and do my longest workout before work. Then, I normally look for breaks between meetings to squeeze in second and third workouts. When I plan out my training and work commitments for the week, I schedule in time with my family and friends the same way I schedule everything else. Sometimes plans change, meetings are rescheduled, and I don't always get everything accomplished in a week that I planned, but that's where adaptability comes into play. 

What advice do you have for someone that wants to start running ultras?

Be patient and don't get caught up in everyone else's goals. Take time to learn from the people around you; they have a lot to teach if you open yourself up to their knowledge. I would not be the person or athlete I am today without having had the privilege of learning from the experiences of so many athletes that came before me.

If we were in your hometown, where could we find you?

If we were in my hometown, you'd find me at The Ironhorse Pub, my favorite bar in college and grad school.