#031 – Ultrarunning opens up a new world of running. It tests your body and mind but allows you to explore the world in a different way. In this episode, Taylor Lucey will share her running journey and experiences as she discovered ultrarunning.
- Journey from high school track to ultrarunning
- Experience as an ultrarunner
- Benefits of having a running partner
- Advice for running longer distances
Taylor lives in Portland, Oregon, where she spends her free time hiking, camping, and trail running. She loves to run any and all trail distances and is currently training for the Teanaway Country 100-mile trail race. She works as a Research Fellow on forest ecosystem models for climate policy development.
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Richard Conner 0:00
Welcome to Episode 31. Today we have an interesting conversation with an ultra runner Taylor Lucey, who will share her experience about how she got into running, what led her to ultra running at her experiences and adventure along the way. Hope you enjoy. Here’s what you can look forward to on this episode of Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast.
Taylor Lucey 0:22
Having the freedom to design my own runs and and get into that headspace where I just feel like I’m going on an adventure out in the woods was very, very appealing and it’s still something that I feel today. And I mean, I would say it was, it wasn’t until after so after college, I ended up moving to California and then ended up moving to Alaska after that after about a year in California. And that was where I trained for my first 50k and it was I think it was shortly after reading, Born to Run and thinking, Okay, well maybe I could do these longer distances. Maybe this isn’t impossible, because I just thought it sounded crazy. I thought a marathon when I was thinking when someone told me they ran a marathon sounded like, oh, maybe I’ll do that once in my life. I never imagined I would do it regularly.
Welcome to Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast. Whether you are new to running or seasoned. Get tips in the inspiration that you need to achieve your health and fitness goals. Now, here’s your host Richard Conner.
Richard Conner 1:33
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast. I am here with today’s guest Taylor, Lucey Taylor lives in Portland, Oregon, where she spends her free time hiking, camping and trail running. She loves to run any and all trail distances, and is currently training for the Teanaway Country 100 mile trail race. She works as a research fellow on forest ecosystem models for climate policy development. So I’m excited to have Taylor here with us today and share her journey as a runner, and talk to us a little bit about ultra running. So welcome to the show.
Taylor Lucey 2:07
Thank you for having me.
Richard Conner 2:09
Yeah, absolutely. So I’m totally inspired by your bio. And I want to get into it and just kind of learn a little bit about your background and how you got started into running.
Taylor Lucey 2:21
Sure. Sounds good.
Richard Conner 2:24
Unknown Speaker 2:24
Richard Conner 2:26
Yeah, go ahead.
Taylor Lucey 2:28
Sorry, I didn’t mean to jump right in. Um, it’s hard for me to hold back my enthusiasm when it comes to talking about running. And I would say, probably had a similar experience as a lot of people in high school, early high school. I played lacrosse and field hockey. And I was not the strongest athlete, I was never, I was never very competitive or aggressive on the field. And in order to train for some of those more field oriented sports, I decided I should really try to run. And I remember summer going into freshman year of high school, just absolutely just feeling like it was a slog to run even two miles, I would say, I’m going to get to the next lamppost and then the lamppost after that, and then I’ll turn around at those stop signs. And, you know, I probably also would procrastinate most of the day, and say, Okay, I’ll run in an hour, okay, maybe in another hour. And it turned into a, you know, one of those things that I definitely dreaded, and it was used as a punishment, of course, to run sprints, or at the end of a practice for field hockey and lacrosse. And it probably wasn’t until our high school had never had a lacrosse team, actually my freshman year when they first created one and I decided someone told me at one point that lacrosse is a running game, and it’s all about who can outrun who. And I took that to heart probably more seriously than I needed to, and trained really hard because I remembered how difficult training felt for field hockey season. And I’m, you know, I’m only 14 years old at this point. So I’m everything seems difficult. Anyway, and I ended up just running all the time in the winter. And then when I started lacrosse, I think I started to really love running more than most of the other things I was doing. So yeah, that’s kind of kind of the beginning of the running journey for me.
Richard Conner 4:25
That’s great. That’s great. And, you know, I have a very different story in high school. running Cross Country was the only sport that I felt like I could do. And I started I think my sophomore year and I really enjoyed it. I walked right in almost into the first race, and I did relatively well and I wasn’t at all prepared for it. I had cross trainers that were super heavy. I had relatively big feed for you know a high schooler and that wasn’t a pleasant experience, but they’re relatively well. I was like, Alright, you know, maybe this is this is for me, but your story is, you know, your story is similar to others how running has become kind of like what you do to prep for the other sports that that you’re really into. So but that that’s great. And you’re right, it’s for most folks it does for probably feel like a punishment, unfortunately.
Unknown Speaker 5:15
Yeah, it was, it was probably still probably one of the main reasons I feel like a lot of people think starting to run is so challenging because it was such a punishment, or you had to run the mile in gym or something, and you got recorded, and everyone watched you while you did it. And that I feel like that it doesn’t necessarily make you feel comfortable doing the sport when you feel like everyone’s watching you. And you only have to do it once once a year in the gym class or something. I think it can feel pretty overwhelming to get started. Or consider it as a relaxation sport.
Richard Conner 5:48
Right, right. Yeah. And you only get one shot at it do your mile and retime. You and that that’s it. So So tell us, you know, a little bit more. So I understand your journey through high school a little bit. So how did running progress for you at that point?
Unknown Speaker 6:03
Yeah, so I ultimately ended up leaving field hockey because I realized I was not good at it. So that was part of it. And then I had started running on the indoor track team when I was a sophomore in high school. And that also is just, I mean, talk about injuries, just the craziest thing to do to yourself when you’re young and running inside on hard gym floors. Our school did not have an indoor track of any kind. So every meet we had wasn’t away meet. And I remember my first race that I ever did, I think was the 600 for indoor track, because my coach didn’t know what distance I could do yet. So he just stopped me in the 600 because we didn’t have very many people on the team and no one was running that event. So I remember running it and a girl who was next to me tripped on one of the the dividers and fell flat on her face and slid across the gym floor and got up and beat me. You know, it was maybe not the best intro to
Richard Conner 7:07
She still beat you?
Taylor Lucey 7:08
Yeah, she got up and beat me. And I you know, I went home just feeling absolutely horrible about myself thinking, I am not good at this either. I left one sport for this one. I did really enjoy lacrosse. But also I then, you know, leaving indoor track, I did make a lot of good friends who happen to also be on the cross country team. So when I decided to leave field hockey and joined the cross country team, by the fall of my I guess it was junior year of high school, my brother was still on the team. And he actually similarly to you It sounds like he when he started running, used to go to practice wearing jeans, did not want to, you know, wear shorts, didn’t buy the right running shoes. I don’t even know if he told us when his meets were. But he and I are really close. So I was excited to be on the same team as him. And he was also really good runner. So I switched over to the cross country team where a lot of my indoor track friends were and it turns out, I wasn’t that bad at it. I was I was actually Okay, um, and I got certainly got better over the course of the season. And a I think it was probably in those cross country races where I started feeling much more confident about running or my ability to run and run longer distances. And great camaraderie, of course, I feel like most people who have been on cross country teams just I had great teammates and made really good friends. And so by senior year, I did switch over to outdoor track. So then I was just running pretty much year round, which was great. outdoor track was a lot of fun, and I probably should have done it earlier indoor track never really got much better. But but the distances weren’t. What I was really good at anyway, indoor track. Yeah, so right. It was Yeah, there’s a lot of fun. I look back on that and think about the great friends I had and how fun it was to run on different courses around the state.
Richard Conner 9:06
Same same. So now I’m reminiscing now, but that That’s great. That’s a great story. So now you’re brace running your embrace cross country. So let’s fast forward a little bit. So tell us a little bit of how your journey continued after after school.
Taylor Lucey 9:23
Yeah, it was, um, it’s been a really long journey. I think since then, especially when I think about I couldn’t think of the one two mile run. I would do when I was 14 that I mentioned in the summer before my freshman year of high school. And I it’s so funny to think about that now and think about some of the stuff I ended up doing that I continue to do today. But yeah, after high school, I went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and it’s a D1 school so there was no chance I was not good enough to join the cross country team and I think I really loved school. I am pursuing my PhD next year, so I’ve just always been infatuated with learning. And so I wanted to focus on school and just kind of enjoying my college experience, I guess. And so I did join like a small cross country or not cross country, it was a, it was just a running club. So that was just pretty casual. They had pretty informal races, and they would do local races and stuff. But I realized that I loved running so much more in college once I wasn’t racing, or training for anything. And that was at the point where I really started going further and further. And I trained for my first marathon, my senior year of college, it was the Mohawk Hudson River Trail marathon, which is a net downhill case anyone’s interested in running it. As a first marathon, it’s, it’s a nice pick. So yeah, I really, really enjoyed running around Amherst, and it had a lot of, you know, there’s a lot of trails in in that area, and I had never really had access to that either. So moving away from suburbs where everything’s cut between highways, it’s really nice to, you know, have beautiful trail access. And I know not everyone has that. So it’s, it was it was an eye opener for me to realize I could run in the woods for long periods of time.
Richard Conner 11:17
Mm hmm. That’s great. So you’ve embraced running, and now you’re starting to run longer distances, and you’re not running competitively. So it sounds like for you not having that competition allowed you to enjoy the sport more, would you? Would you say that?
Taylor Lucey 11:32
Yeah, definitely. Um, even though I wasn’t, like I said that the best runner in high school, we had a woman on our team who ended up competing in the Olympic marathon trials, or might have been half marathon trials, but she was phenomenal. And I was, you know, I was never I was never near that level is what I’m trying to say. So I was more of a middle of the pack to, you know, somewhere in the middle of the pack. But the pressure felt really intense, I think is maybe you know, I’m sure that was a lot of pressure I put on myself, but I was good enough that I could earn points for the team. And I think that I felt pressure to do really well. And not having to compete was just great. I just didn’t know that. I didn’t know that there was a world after running 5K’s. Yeah, I think having the freedom to design my own runs and, and get into that headspace where I just feel like I’m going on an adventure out in the woods was very, very appealing. And it’s still something that I feel today. And I mean, I would say it was it wasn’t until after so after college, I end up moving to California, and then ended up moving to Alaska after that after about a year in California. And that was where I trained for my first 50k. And it was I think it was shortly after reading, Born to Run and thinking, Okay, well, maybe I could do these longer distances. Maybe this isn’t impossible, because I just thought it sounded crazy. I thought a marathon when I was thinking when someone told me they ran a marathon sounded like, oh, maybe I’ll do that once in my life. I never imagined I would do it regularly in my late 20s. But yeah, so when I moved to Alaska, there was just, I didn’t have a car. And it was a pretty small island town. And I, you know, I really wanted to explore the island. And I didn’t have any other way really, of getting around and obviously already loved running. So the the best way for me to get out and see stuff was, you know, to be out on the trails, or even just the forest roads that are there. Again, yeah, it’s just that, you know, you feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere. And it’s this great adventure, and I never know which wild flowers I’m going to see. Or, you know, I kept wondering if I’d run into a bear, which frequently was something I thought about running in Alaska. And I was like, well, at least you know, that would be, that would be a great story if something happens. So
Richard Conner 14:02
Well, there’s your adventure, right? That’s what you’re talking about?
Taylor Lucey 14:06
Definitely. So yeah, my first 50k race I did was actually in Vermont, because my dad has been doing a 50 mile mountain bike race, the Vermont 50 for over a decade. And they have a 50k race and a 50 miler. And I did eventually do the 50 miler, but I did the 50k when I was after living in Alaska, and training there, and yeah, I mean, I just I think it’s one of those things where you get to a point, you know, I’m sure people who have trained for any distance feel you feel this where, you know, when you’ve done a certain number of miles, you could push it a little more. And even if you end up walking, it’s okay, because you can still finish the miles you know, mentally you’re capable of walking across the finish line, if nothing else, and it’s that’s something that I’ve carried with me through all of my time running probably. But yeah, especially for the longer distances. You know, when you’re training for your first marathon, and you do your first eight Miles that’s like a new thresholds that you get to, and then maybe you make it to 20. And you’re like, God, how could I do another six? There’s no way I could do another six. And then you get to 22. And you’re like, well, I’ve done four miles a million times. So I know I can do four. Right? So it’s just tricking yourself repeatedly.
Richard Conner 15:20
Breaking it down, I think that’s there’s a lot of truth in that, right, breaking it down into those smaller segments, where it’s just another 5k. I know, I can do a 5k. You just gotta hang with it. Yeah, I totally, totally understand.
Taylor Lucey 15:34
Definitely. And I’d say, so the other and I, of course, have had, you know, like anyone else who runs long distances have had injuries and pauses in my long distance running, I did Peace Corps and Senegal, and I lived there for 27 months in rural Senegal, on the border of Guinea. And it was 120, during the day, and sometimes 100 at night. Um, and I was, I definitely was sick a lot. And I still, running just became something different to me, when I was there, it was kind of a reminder of something that I’ve always had as a constant in my life. But I just didn’t push myself the way that I do in the US, because I just couldn’t really when I was there, but it was still really meaningful to just be able to get out and feel that, you know, that feeling of exploration, and doing something on my own to because the community was really strong, and everyone wants to say hi to you and talk to you. So I go out, you know, at 530 in the morning, which I’ve never been a morning runner, and I just didn’t want to get seen. And I would go out very early in the morning and go for these pretty short sad runs, I think but I just never stopped doing them. Because running has always been that constant. I guess it’s provided a lot of constant emotional stability and confidence for me. So continuing to do it has always been really important for my, my journey so far, I guess.
Richard Conner 17:02
Yeah. And that’s, and that’s really interesting that you say that, because, you know, I think that might be a barrier for some people to even start running in the first place. Right? They may not know they can do it or have that confidence. And you’re saying once you get into it, and as you progress, it does help with your confidence and boost your confidence. It’s just getting to that point, I think is the is the challenge.
Taylor Lucey 17:25
Yeah, definitely. And it’s and, you know, that’s for every individual to decide when that point is for them, I think, and some people find a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon as their favorite distance to do. And I think that that’s such a beautiful thing, because it’s, you know, you’ve found this comfort level with a distance that you’re willing to put yourself out there and be be uncomfortable, honestly, running can be really uncomfortable. This is something I talk about with a good friend of mine all the time where it’s it’s also an ability to withstand discomfort for a period of time for the emotional, mental physical benefits that come after. And yeah, I think that that’s, that’s something else that is really hard to overcome in the beginning, and easing up on you know, telling yourself I can you know, you can walk anytime it’s not nobody’s nobody, you know, no coach from your gym class is standing there, you know, yelling at you to keep going. And, you know, I definitely, again, I think living in Senegal and doing Peace Corps, for me, it was I was something I was doing for myself. But it certainly felt like a chore when I was there because it was so hot. And I was just like, this is not I was not meant to run in this weather. This is awful. And and I think, also being seen by people in my community who I lived with, they just thought it was odd that I would run every morning or not every morning, but a couple of times a week, to being outside of the cultural norm as well was, I was like, oh god, I need to, but I just have to keep going. It’s it’s so important to just find the reason why you want to keep going. Yeah,
Richard Conner 19:11
sure. Okay, I love I love your story. I love how you travel to all these different places. You run wherever you traveled. I mean, Alaska seems like an interesting place to start your marathon journey. So that that’s cool, your long running journey. That that’s great. And I’d love to hear about, you know, your philosophy about running and the benefits that you’ve gotten from it. So, you know, let’s talk a little bit about like the ultra running experience that that you had, you know, tell us a little bit about like, what was the deciding factor, like you said, you know, someone has to really kind of make the decision about like that favorite race are the distance they’re going to go. So what was the turning point for you for the ultra running and kind of what was your experience there?
Taylor Lucey 19:54
Oh, my gosh, it’s so funny. It’s probably the opposite of what most people think because I feel like I’ll A lot of people think the, you know, people who are doing ultra distances and doing these long distances must really love running. And I’m not saying I don’t, because I obviously love running, I love to talk about running, I love talking about running shoes and running gear and different foods people eat on the trail, but part of it is also that exploratory nature of being on trails and wanting to just see more and what’s around the next corner. And I really, you know, I really like to design runs, where I can go and see some Alpine lakes and see a different kind of forest ecology, especially in Oregon, and Washington State two, there’s just so many opportunities for that. And I would say, because I think I also realized in ultra running, there isn’t as much running. It’s a kind of counterintuitive, but I feel like when you know it, the first thing you learn about ultra running, if you read anyone’s blogs, podcasts, or listen to podcasts, or read books about people’s experiences ultra running, you learn that you can hike up hills, that’s the first thing. So everyone says don’t waste time hiking up or running up a hill, because you’re just wasting energy. And you’re not actually going to be going very much faster. Unless you’re one of these elite runners. Obviously, if you’re, if you’re the best ultra runner on the planet, or in that top 1% or whatever, it will make a difference because you’re trying to win a race. But in ultra running, everyone else is just trying to finish everyone else is just trying not to throw up trying not to pass out, just trying to not try not to get nauseous, like most people just want to finish, at least that’s my experience in talking to other people. So you feel like you’re kind of on this journey with other people. And I think I didn’t realize how much chatting there was going to be in a 50k as opposed to I mean, of course, in road races where there’s a lot of people, you end up talking to people when you’re running, if you’re like me kind of middle of the pack. And it is so fun to talk to those other people. And and I found that with ultra running too, because you’re hiking up a hill with someone it’s not like you’re, you’re not trying to beat them. They’re not trying to beat you. Everyone’s just kind of in it for their own personal battle. And no one’s trying to PR no one to track workouts to get there. So yeah, it’s a, it’s just a really different mentality. And so when I realized that, you know, I was like, wait, people aren’t running up the hills. Okay. All right, that sounds pretty good. And then when I got to steeper terrain, I realized, you know, people were using trekking poles, and that, you know, saves the pressure on your knees quite a lot. And I’ve thought, okay, alright, I can do this. And I got some trekking poles. But then I’d say the other big factor for me is that I found, I met a friend in graduate school, also who had run 50 mile races, and I didn’t know anyone else who personally who had done a 50 mile race, I’ve met people here or there, but no one that I saw regularly. And she started running, we started running together. And we’re very similar, very similarly paced, and very similarly interested in designing unsupported very long runs now from anywhere between, you know, 20 miles to 70 miles. She’s done one,
Richard Conner 23:16
Taylor Lucey 23:18
Yeah. So you know, we we go, we design giant loops or traverses and we bring all of our food supplies, you know, a jacket, usually a headlamp, we always have a way to drop out if we need to, for the most part, though, there have been some where we just can’t Oh. But yeah, I think finding this other person who I could train with, you then feel a little more confident about being out in the middle of nowhere. Because and doing these longer distances, it makes the training seem a lot more accessible when you have someone else to do it with because, I mean, honestly, I have done 40 mile unsupported runs by myself. But first of all, they’re way less fun than having someone else to talk to when you’re out there in the middle of it. And you look at a small hill and you think, are we running this? And we both say no, no way. So it is it’s fun to have someone else with you. And then I think feeling safer, certainly, in case of emergency or injury. Having someone else with you was was a big turning point for me in grad school meeting, meeting someone else I could do all this stuff with.
Richard Conner 24:27
Yeah, and I can certainly relate to that. Because when I was training for my first half marathon last year, we were in Vermont or New Hampshire, I can’t remember which. And I was doing I was at the point where I was doing my very long runs. And for the first time 10,11, 12 mile runs, I’ve never done it before in my life. And I remember being on the side of this highway basically right in between the mountains just running nobody else around me except the cars. And I even remember coming back and I hear howling I’m like are those wolves? So of course I picked up the pace a little bit, but I could certainly you know, relate like You know, having somebody with you is definitely a good idea, especially if you’re doing those longer distances.
Taylor Lucey 25:07
Yeah, definitely. And we’ve, I mean, thankfully, up to this point have never had any serious injuries. But, you know, when you’re, when you’re with someone and you feel, you start feeling really nauseous, or you’re really, you know, maybe you didn’t drink as much water as you should have for the first first part of the run that you’re on, and you don’t feel well, and it just feels like, Oh, God, how can I finish this, having someone else with you who you can, you know, at least for me, and for my friend, Lauren, we tend to switch roles where the person who doesn’t feel who feels the worst usually is leading, because you have the person behind you to make sure nothing happens to you. And you can also set the pace. Right? And yeah, knowing knowing that she’s there, and she has my back in case something happens. And vice versa, you know, is is is definitely a comfort thing and makes you feel like you could do any distance. As long as you both are comfortable with that distance, of course, and whatever terrain you’re going to encounter.
Richard Conner 26:07
Okay, okay. So, you know, kind of as we wind down here, you know, just hearing your story about ultra running is super interesting. And I definitely have to get you back on the show and talk more about kind of the mechanics of it. So like, What is there is there any advice that you would give? For someone considering ultra running? And of course, we can get into more detail later. But yeah, what advice might you have?
Taylor Lucey 26:31
Yeah, um, I mean, I always think of the most obvious things that are probably silly, and people here, you know, you probably have been helped told us a million times, but listen to your body. And if you’re, you know, and take things slow, you don’t need to go from running 10 miles to running 25, or 30, or whatever it is. The overcoming the mileage mentally, and knowing you can do it is I mean, that’s 80% of the battle is just knowing, you know, I’m setting out to do this run, and I have I know how much food I’m bringing how much water I’m bringing what my dropout points are, I would say that just being really prepared, it might sound silly, because you’re like, Oh, I’m going to be in a race, there’ll be eight stations. But when you’re doing the training, I think knowing, knowing your body really well, and knowing how much you need to be eating and drinking is one of the most important and one of the hardest things to learn. I mean, I still make mistakes all the time when I, you know, go out too fast, or the weather is different, or the terrain is different. And I think that’s, that’s something that’s really hard to learn from a book and just comes from practice. And so yeah, I would say, definitely listen to your body as you’re trying to add on more miles miles. And, you know, it’s always just the next aid station away is also, you know, in terms of adding distance. It’s, you know, you think I can get to the next aid station. And when you adopt that mentality, when you’re training on your own as well, it’s, it becomes easier. And it’s always okay to walk always, okay, walk, especially in ultra running. I mean, there, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop and walk five or 10 miles in the middle of a long run because of a number of factors. So it’s always okay to walk and pay attention to your body. I would say those are in strength training. Okay. The things I would say.
Richard Conner 28:32
Yeah, sage advice. Thank you so much. This has been awesome. You know, I love this story. And like I said, we got to get you back on it to talk more about this. So how can In the meantime, how can the spire virtual runs community find you and follow your ultra running journey online?
Taylor Lucey 28:51
Yeah, so I have an Instagram handle. I’m not I don’t have a huge social media presence. But I do post a lot of pictures of the long runs on the trails that I’m on out here in the Pacific Northwest. And my Instagram handle is Keach, which is my middle name underscore Lucey Lucey it’s probably printed on the podcast as well. So yeah, so that’s if you want to see pictures of a lot of the runs and nerdy personal photos of me and my partner, then they’re all on there.
Richard Conner 29:22
Alright, sounds good. Well, looking forward to it. I will include that in the show notes.
Taylor Lucey 29:27
Okay. Yeah, I just want to say thank you so much for having me. I’m, I’m always happy to talk about running and would be super happy to talk about ultra running and all the strategy that goes into it, because it’s very fun. So thank you so much. I love your podcast.
Richard Conner 29:43
Thank you so much. Yeah, and thank you again, Taylor, for coming on the show. And yeah, with that, have a great day.
Taylor Lucey 29:48
You too. Thanks.
Richard Conner 29:50
I’d like to take a moment to thank Taylor for coming on the show and sharing her story. And I’d like to share with you my three key takeaways from the conversation. The first one is running is an adventure. It’s a personal journey that’s unique to each individual and means something different to everyone and can change over time. Number two is, it’s okay to walk. In fact it’s encouraged to start walking especially as you’re starting your your running journey, but also as you progress to being an ultra runner. It’s okay to walk and Taylor shared great examples or her experiences about what her races were like. The third key takeaway is find someone or meet someone who can share this running journey with you. We often talk about how important it is to have an accountability partner or an accountability group. And when you get to the point of an ultra running, having someone support you and help you along the way, is really going to enhance your experience and make it safer and more enjoyable. Hope you enjoyed this episode. Please leave a review. It really helps us out. Get this podcast out to a lot larger audience. Really, really appreciate you listening today. And with that, have a great day.
That’s it for this episode of Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast. If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave a review. Also, be sure to click the subscribe button so you don’t miss an episode. Thanks for listening.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai