Interview with Tracy Thomas, Winner of the 2013 EC100!

Darren: First of all, congratulations on winning the 100 Mile Endurance Challenge with time of 19 hours 19 minutes! You took first place overall this year and now have the women’s course record!!

Tracy: And, it looks like I’ll get to KEEP the record since the course is changing next year! Guess you will have to put an asterisk by it!

Tracy getting started.  Already near the front of the pack!

Tracy getting started. Already near the front of the pack!

Darren: OK. So, there are so many events out there. Why did you select the EC100?

Tracy: First of all, I was shocked when I first saw that there was a “Road 100” as most 100-Milers are off-road due to the complexities of closing roads, etc., and this intrigued me! I wondered what it would be like to run through the streets at night AND, ever since I was a toddler, I always LOVED to see all the ‘big city lights’ at night, so the thought of seeing them as I ran this race was right up my alley. Not only that, but half the race is along the ocean—it doesn’t get much better than THAT!

Secondly, I have been a Personal Trainer and Running Coach for years. The epidemic of obesity has saddened me and, moreover, seeing overweight children is really disheartening. They just don’t stand a fighting chance for any kind of healthy adulthood unless they are educated about the ‘need to move’ and the need to adopt a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating habits. The fact that the 100 Mile Club® is behind this race and that the proceeds go back to this club made it a ‘no brainer’ for me to choose to run this race. The 100 Mile Club® has helped thousands and thousands of children to become active and understand the importance of exercise and ALL the benefits that exercise has to offer them. In addition to the benefits of keeping a healthy weight, many of these kids benefit from their experience with the 100 Mile Club® when they learn how exercise and their success with exercise makes them feel empowered. Some of them would NEVER feel empowered if it weren’t for THIS experience!!

Tracy and Sally Lachman (her pacer) at the 25-mile station.

Tracy and Sally Lachman (her pacer) at the 25-mile station.

Darren: Tell me about the course. What do you like the most about the course? Are there any parts of the course that you wish you could change? What’s the hardest part of this event from the perspective of the course?

Tracy: As I said above, I liked the chance to run this course so I could experience the ‘big city lights’ at night as well as the fact that half of it is along the coast. One concern that someone might have with a “road race” of this size is that you might have to deal with a lot of stopping at stoplights, etc. Well, this is of little concern in this race because much of it is run on river beds and bike paths along the ocean. Obviously, if you could eliminate ALL of the stop lights, that would be an improvement, but then you’d miss out on getting to experience some of what CA city life is all about. I think this course is almost as perfect as it can get for a 100-mile road race! I think the only thing that would improve this race is eliminating the short section on PCH out of Long Beach and into/through Wilmington. The only reason I say this is because it is a bit difficult to navigate for crew people who are on bikes. My pacer (on foot) and I had no problems navigating this, but it’s tough for folks on bicycles. That said, I see no way to remove this part of the course, and it is such a short part of the race anyway. It just adds to the experience and gives the race more ‘flavor.’

Tracy gets "worked on" by Dr. Phil at the 50-mile station.

Tracy gets “worked on” by Dr. Phil at the 50-mile station.

Darren: There’s a fundraising component to this event. Was it hard to meet the minimum $100 requirement?

Tracy: Not at all! I was a lazy fundraiser last year because I had already tapped out all my friends and family for another fundraiser race that I had done, so that year, all I did was post my link to Facebook a few times and said that my goal was $200. In no time, I had that much and a little more. This year, I knew that this was going to be the last 100-mile race that I was going to run (I wanted to start focusing more on other things in life that were important to me and I was missing out on them due to all the training it takes to prepare for 100-milers). Thus, I wanted to really add meaning to this race, run it in honor of others, and do some ‘societal good,’ so I set my fundraising goal at $10,000 and started posting my link every few days on Facebook. Or, every time someone would donate via my link on Facebook, I would publicly thank them on my Facebook page and also add the link to my fundraising page again. Sometimes this meant that I was posting my link to my Facebook page several times a day.

I found out that the trick to getting people to want to donate more to my cause was for ME to want to raise more money! Sounds strange and simple, and it is. When my goal was only $200, people made $5 and $10 donations. When I stated that I wanted to raise $10,000, I still got some of those $5 and $10 donations, but most of my donations were $100 or more. Also, my goal to add meaning to my race and raise as much money for the 100 Mile Club® resonated with others and many of my friends shared my link several times on their Facebook page for me. One person (my pacer, Sally Lachman, who would be running the last 50 miles of the race with me) even physically sent out 40 letters to her friends and family members and raised nearly $800 toward my goal. I didn’t mail out ANY letters. I used Facebook and email. Although I did not meet my goal of $10,000. I raised over $6,400 and it wasn’t hard at all.

Tracy still "thumbs up" after a brief stop at the 75-mile station.

Tracy still “thumbs up” after a brief stop at the 75-mile station.

Darren: This is a crewed event (you must have pacer at night). How important is crew for this event? Did you have any trouble finding volunteers to help you?

Tracy: Having a pacer/protector/safety person at night during this event is crucial for safety’s sake. I have run many trail 100s with no pacer and no crew and am quite independent. This race, however, goes along the LA River Bike Trail and through some city areas at night that are quite busy and traffic-laden. It’s much easier for a runner to enjoy the race and these areas at night when you have a buddy with you and you feel safe. No matter if you are running through a “good area” or a “bad area” of a city—in a race or on a training run—if you have to run at night, it is always much safer to have someone with you. I applaud the race director for establishing this pacer requirement and sticking to it.

Not only is it much safer to have someone with you at night, they also help to keep you from getting lost and can provide motivation when you need it most or distract you from some discomforts you might have during the race. In fact, I can safely and pretty accurately tell you that my crew and, more specifically my pacers, helped me shave at least an hour and probably more accurately 1.5 to 2 hours off of my time had I been solo. Having them (Sally and Bev) there by my side made me want to do as well as I could for them. Their encouragement and entertaining interactions kept me upbeat and optimistic throughout the night. Had I been solo, I would have focused more on my fatigue instead of on how well I wanted to do and how well THEY wanted me to do. So, not only was my race time faster with the pacers, it was MUCH more pleasant with them there! They (pacers/crew) are your safety net in many ways. Their importance is unquestionable.

I did have some problems finding crew the first year I ran this race, but this last year I had no problem finding a person to run with me the last 50, one to ride a bike along the last 50 and a couple who drove a truck around to about 12 different points on the course during the last 50 miles.

Tracy at the finish with Kara Lubin, founder of 100 Mile Club®.

Tracy at the finish with Kara Lubin, founder of 100 Mile Club®.

Darren: Knowing the course beforehand must be important. How did you learn the course? How important was this to your success?

Tracy: First off, I’d like to commend the race organizers for the superb job that they do of marking the course! This is not an easy job and the course is always well marked. Nevertheless, we runners aren’t always focused on the markings and might miss some and get off course. Furthermore, there are often people out on these race courses who aren’t a part of the race and who get enjoyment out of removing course markings knowing it will send runners off course.

For these reasons, I can’t stress enough the importance of KNOWING THE COURSE ahead of time!!! I have lived in this area for years and run a good portion of this course on my daily and weekly training runs. I do know parts of the course like the back of my hand. However, there are parts of this course that are tricky and if some of the markings get taken down or you don’t happen to look where the markings are, you could get off course and add some extra, unwanted miles to your race. A pacer can help you to find markers and it is great to have them as a “second pair of eyes,” but many pacers don’t always know the course as well as they should, so YOU need to be personally responsible for knowing the course ahead of time.

I was sure to study the online maps of the course thoroughly the first year I ran the race because I had other plans that conflicted with EVERY training run that year. I sat at my computer and studied where all the turns were. I also printed out the maps for my pacer and crew and sent them the online links ahead of time and told them how important it would be for them to KNOW THE COURSE so that I could rely on them to help me make my way through the course at night. This did not prevent me from ‘starting to get lost’ though. At one point, early in the race, I would have gone astray (a marker had been removed) had it not been for another runner behind me who told me where to go. Later on, in the night, I was quite worried in a few areas because I wasn’t sure of the course. While I didn’t get lost, not having done the training runs and not knowing perfectly the latter parts of the course resulted in MUCH added stress and worry—NOT something one needs at night when one is fatigued!!

This year, my pacer ran several of the training runs that the race director scheduled with me and we even went off course on one of those—DURING THE DAY AND WHEN WE WEREN’T TIRED—so this really shows you why you should take advantage of the training runs that are scheduled/provided for your convenience! We carried a map of the course with us for the training runs, but this is not something you want to have to do during the race. Reading maps wastes valuable time and energy.

Because I knew the course well this year and so did my pacers, I never had to worry at any point about where I needed to go. It made the race so much more enjoyable and I wasted less time because I didn’t have to refer to my maps during the night to figure out where to go.

Tracy not only won the race, but she also raised the most money for the 100 Mile Club®.  She holds the coveted quilt at the finish line.

Tracy not only won the race, but she also raised the most money for the 100 Mile Club®. She holds the coveted quilt at the finish line.

Darren: Do you have any further advice for someone who wants to run the EC100?

Tracy: The only thing I would add is the importance of proper training and being consistent with getting in the long runs. This is a fantastic race, put on for a GREAT CAUSE, facilitated by some of the friendliest, most generous people you’d ever want to meet—people who genuinely care about your successful finish and safe travels!! Being physically and mentally prepared makes this journey safe and enjoyable for everyone involved.

Darren: Do you plan to run the EC100 next year?

Tracy: While I do not plan to run EC100 this year or any other 100-miler, the addition of the NEW 50-Mile event is enticing. I am considering running the 50-Mile event, but I would really like to give back to this race and it’s runners by helping with training runs and by being a pacer/crew for someone in need. I’ve been given so much help through my many years of running ultra-endurance events and now it’s my time to give back and ‘pay it forward.’ I’ve derived so much pleasure from this race, it’s organizers, and also the staff at the 100 Mile Club®, that I would really like to ‘return the favor’ by helping them in any way that I can.

Darren: Thanks Tracy

Tracy: You’re welcome!

All photos courtesy of Dave Schulman Photography. Photos can be purchased here.

Posted in Blog
One comment on “Interview with Tracy Thomas, Winner of the 2013 EC100!
  1. Rosemary Thomas says:

    What a great article. Thanks

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