[00:00:00] Ski training is honestly ultra training. Like you go for a four-hour run in the mountains and you bring snacks like that is ski training in the summer. And so as I was getting out and exercising again and moving my body, that’s what I gravitated towards was just like doing long days on the trails by myself and recognized that that was I could probably race if I wanted to. And so in 20 like kind of late 2015 and then in 2016, I started doing trail stuff again.
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Jesse: [00:01:17] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host Jesse Funk. My guest today is a pro ultra runner with Adidas Terrex. She’s a CTS coach, an exercise physiologist and the science writer. She’s done a number of things running-wise as well as some other stuff when she was younger, I’m going to bug her about, but most notably in recent years has two top ten finishes at the Western States. And currently, I believe unless I’m wrong, she’ll correct me here in a minute. Has the fastest known time, I think, for a woman on the Tahoe Rim Trail. Welcome to the show, Corrine Malcolm.
Corrine: [00:01:53] I’m so happy to be here. And I do. I still do currently have the fastest known time for supported women on the Tahoe Rim Trail, so fingers crossed I get to hold on to that one for a long time.
Jesse: [00:02:03] I don’t know how long like FKT stand for in ultras especially like the more popular stuff whether it’s like somebody sets it and it really stays around for a while or whether it’s just I have this perception that ultras are picking up in popularity, which may just be because I’ve had kind of a spate of ultra runners to talk to. But so I have this perception and I don’t know whether it’s like, Oh, people are going to be coming to the sport and it’s like knocking down times or whether it’s more established and it’s much harder to actually accomplish a new FKT.
Corrine: [00:02:41] It’s a combination of those things. I always joke though too. It’s like I want to get at the Colorado Trail before Courtney de Walter gets there because once she gets it, I don’t know, that’ll be broken. Same with, like, Caitlyn Gribbin on the Wonderland Trail here in the Seattle area.
Like, that’s going to be a really hard time to beat. Krissy Moehl held the FKT on the Tahoe Rim Trail before me and, you know, could have been close to an untouchable time. But I think that that was set in like 2015, 2016, I believe. So it was around for five years before I got to get after it. And I think that there’s more time to shave off there for for a woman. It’s just going to take the person who wants to run 171 miles to go do it.
Jesse: [00:03:20] Right. So, I mean, that begs the question, if you think about timing, how much does the logistical planning of this is a good weather week, let’s say, going to trail because we’re before we got going, we’re talking about the difference between trail and road and time variations, both from altitude and then obviously if a trail sloppy, then you’re going to lose time and it becomes monumental over 170 mile haul. You know, it’s maybe if you lose 10% during 5k like the actual time limit, not huge, but you start multiplying that and the margin of error seems like it could be pretty significant.
Corrine: [00:04:06] Yeah. So I think it’s — I think it really is dependent on the route that you’re going after and like what the norms and weather are. Like it’s why you can’t go on the Wonderland trail at a certain time because it’s still snowy. You are. You can’t go too late into the fall with Tahoe Rim Trail because it gets really windy and it gets really snowy. So I had watched Magda Belay the year before go after the Tahoe Rim Trail and actually have that issue where it was really, really windy and really, really cold. And then I had the issue where we delayed the Tahoe Rim Trail for six weeks because of smoke.
[00:04:39] We couldn’t run because our four national forests were completely closed for weeks on end. And so I postponed for six weeks and it was like I postponed and then we postponed again. And then I was like, We’re not going to do it. I’m going to do it unsupported with my friend and we’re just going to go have a fun time on it that got smoked out.
So by the time we actually got after it, we had gone from August 28th being our start date to like middle of October being our start date. And then the week after I did it, they had like 120 mile per hour winds on the ridge ridge tops like a week later. So we like snuck it in perfectly in between everything. Part of that’s luck and part of that’s probably just patience and the ability to be flexible. Like, I live, I live or lived rather in San Francisco. And so I could kind of wait it out and go after it once the weather actually kind of settled down and we could get on the trail again.
Jesse: [00:05:35] You know, maybe it’s just my brain spazzing out a little bit, but sometimes I think about. Those kind of efforts and, you know, setting new, new record times and like you said, just sneaking it in just so. And part of me goes my brain starts to focus on like, look versus destiny and like, do you like this? Do you have those stories that swell up in your mind as you’re delaying, or do you just focus on the logistics?
Corrine: [00:06:10] I mean, I think it was really hard to be like I’m am I too tapered? Like, when we were driving up to do the actual attempt, I texted my coach and I was like, Hey, like, I don’t care if we get the FKT or not, I just want to go run around the lake and like, I just want to complete it. I want my season to be done. I want to stop dragging this out like I want to. I want to do this thing and then get to take a break.
Like, I want to go climbing with my with my husband and with our friends. And so I think it was easy to like doom and gloom it and think it was canceled a bunch and have the wind taken out of your sails. But at the end of the day, it was like I was gonna do what I could. I was going to be hopeful that we could start. But you couldn’t dwell on that for too long, by any means, because it wasn’t productive.
Jesse: [00:06:58] I’d like your opinion on. So something I noticed when I was racing collegiately was that the races where I could let go of the desire for a particular outcome. I mean, you make a plan. You say, this is my pace and all that stuff. But then you just go like, I’m going to have a good time, which is exactly what it sound like. You said you’re like, I just want to run around the lake like I don’t care anymore.
Do you find that that as the case for yourself, that if you can find yourself in a place of like, I really don’t care anymore. Not a I’m pretending not to care to get the thing, but like a genuine place of no, like it’s cool. Whatever. Do you find yourself real running your better times in that kind of mindset?
Corrine: [00:07:47] I mean, I think that’s my approach to racing, generally speaking, like I’m a very process-oriented person. And so I tell my athletes this as well, it’s like, Okay, what do I need to do? Like I check the boxes every day. Like that’s the success. Like those are my little goals and it’s like, okay, in the race, if you take care of yourself, like, I’m eating, I’m drinking, I’m monitoring, but I need to monitor like the result.
The result you want should come from that, I think, as opposed to focusing on the result itself. Like that’s how I was in high school, that’s how it was about like what being class rank in high school. I was like, Oh, if I do my homework and I show up to school like I should end up in this position.
[00:08:26] And that’s the same with racing. It’s not so much the like. It’s not to say that I’m not competitive or I don’t want to perform well. It’s the idea that like I’m taking care of the little things and I’m confident enough that if I think if I have a good day and I take care of myself, that the result that I think I’m capable of, which hopefully is performing well and being competitive will be a natural result of doing all those little things.
[00:08:52] So I think that was similar to the FKTs are different in the sense that like I’m not going to race against 100 other people and try to be at the front of that group. FKT like it’s, it’s, there’s only one there’s a positive outcome and I guess negative outcome, right? Like in a race it’s like, oh, I’m going to be top ten, I’m going to run under this time, whatever.
In FKT, it’s like I either get the FKT or I don’t get the fact. And so I think that sets it up a little bit different mentally where in which it’s like I mean, maybe that’s something I have to evaluate, right? Like in racing, I’ve gotten to the point where I can say I’m doing the little things. This is the outcome I expect. I don’t the focus on the outcome.
[00:09:33] In FKT, it’s like, I would love to run the Wonderland trail, but I worry that. I can’t beat Caitlin. And if there’s only. If it’s only beating Caitlin or not beating Caitlin, it’s that’s a harder thing to, like, not become outcome oriented. And so I don’t know. Now, I’m going to spiral on that probably for a little bit.
Jesse: [00:09:52] Oh, no, I said you did a bad place. No, you’ve got you got all the pieces right. You like. I understand. Believe me, I understand. Even though I don’t perform at the same level you do. I think we all worry about similar things in our own particular flavor of those things. But like you’ve got all the pieces, you know, just the ability and the practice to just let’s focus on are my shoes tied or my socks dry? Like, do I have enough food? Did I take in my fuel at the right place? Am I drinking the right thing at the right time? You know, did I bring my anti-chafe balm. I lose it on the trail. Like, do I need to get another one? What? Just all the little things.
[00:10:37] Sometimes I think, like, two parts. One, taking care of all those things really does take care of it. But then also sometimes I feel like it’s we’re Linus and that’s like our safety blanket, right? Like we can just we can just focus on those things and hold on to our safety blanket of routine. And then we don’t have to even worry about the other thing because our mind is occupied. It’s not like reaching a place of Zen master where you’re like, Oh, I’m like, I really don’t care about the world. You just think —
Corrine: [00:11:17] I mean things can still go wrong.
Jesse: [00:11:17] Right?
Corrine: [00:11:19] Things can still go wrong. And that’s like you still have to like you can’t like you still have to work through that when that happens. And that’s like that psychological flexibility piece of like there’s still a box to check there for sure, of like being able to adapt when things, when, when anything in your little checklist falls apart. But I still think you can, like, probably keep that within the security blanket, maybe.
Jesse: [00:11:44] So given that you obviously participate yourself in coach people. Is there, is there a hurdle or a stumbling block, something that goes wrong, that sends people down that like mental death spiral more often than anything else? Is there anything that stands out is like this is the most common way to send people down a negative mental spiral?
Corrine: [00:12:09] I honestly think that one of the most common things people do is they they get focused on that outcome goal. They focus on time. I want to run sub 24 hours. I want to run sub 8 hours. I want to run whatever. And they and they know what the splits are and they know at this aid station they need to be at this time, etc., etc., etc.. And if they’re not at that time. They fall apart, like, how can they reach this goal?
Like they don’t have a vat. They don’t have a value based goal that’s going to help steer the ship when that time-based goal, the outcome-based goal falls apart. And so very I feel like that’s very philosophical, but I do think that that’s the biggest thing. Like I tell athletes, no time goals. Like we’re going to set up a time chart for your crew because your crew needs to not miss you at eight stations.
[00:12:55] But then the time goals aren’t for you. Like you get to think about time at mile 80, you could think it’s about time at mile 35, wherever you’re going into like that last quarter, maybe last, I don’t know, some small percentage of the race plus 20%. Then you can use whatever that arbitrary time is to like get you to the finish. But I think a lot of athletes get unless you’re like going for world records and this is like the only focus in your life, I think and I think it’s cool to run a sub 2400.
I think it’s I think these goals are not invaluable, but I think it’s really easy to be so focused on that that outcome goal that when that thing falls apart because you have a low, because it’s an ultra and you’re going to have a low, like when that thing falls apart, I think it’s really hard for athletes to like correct and get back on board.
Jesse: [00:13:46] What I think is interesting about, I’ll say human psychology is like our desire at least runners, I would say probably other athletes as well, but runners to like grab on to these particular numbers and be like, this is it like this is, like you said, sub 24 hour, 100 mile race. You know, the sub four minute mile like there’s we we come up with these nice numbers and if I like I’m under this nice number then I feel validated. But it’s like. If you if you step back.
That setup is arbitrary. To some degree, not entirely, but. But to some degree, it’s arbitrary. Well, how? You know, like how? I think a more realistic way to approach it is one like what gradation or what degree of separation is your current fitness from whatever thing you’re after, number one. But the number two. How? Where does that thing fit in the grand scheme of performance? The second part, I don’t think is quite as informative for an individual athlete, but at the same time give some context.
[00:15:11] So say like she wouldn’t. So I’m not putting words in her mouth. But I had a guest on Sherry Donohue a few weeks ago who runs Ultras, and she is a self-described cutoff chaser. Like she runs in the back. She’s just trying to make it to the end before the race calls it a day. If Sherry says, Oh, I want to do a sub 24 hour, 100 mile. Is that realistic for her? I don’t think so.
Corrine: [00:15:41] Depends on the race, but probably —
Jesse: [00:15:42] Depend on the race. Right. So, but it’s like. In the context of where she is versus like. Degradation of all ultra runners and how many are able to accomplish said task like I feel like that gives you a little more context to am I setting myself up for failure?
Corrine: [00:16:03] Yeah. I mean, I definitely think it’s if you if you can if your fitness really says that you can run a five hour marathon, but you want to break sub three, like you’re probably going to be unhappy with that marathon. Yeah, right. But it’s like, okay, are these stepping stones? Like you might start at a 445 and then run a four and then run a 330 like.
These things are not impossible by any means, but it’s like I think you can elucidate from someone’s training, like what’s within the realm of possibility for them. At the same time, I have athletes who they’re faster than me, but like often like there are athletes who will get to a race and like, I think they I think they can they’re underperforming sometimes.
[00:16:45] It’s like, I know what you’re capable of. Like, what? What do we need to crack so that you can actually run to your potential? Like, what does that actually look like? Because I’ve seen your threshold workouts. I’ve seen your long runs. Like, I know. I know what you’re doing. So what what mistake is happening once the gun goes off, you know, like, where are we falling apart there or falling short there? Because I’ve definitely seen athletes. I’ve seen peers in the same boat where it’s like, I think you’re underperforming based on your training.
But that’s the thing about ultrarunning is like there’s no one way to do it. And there’s, there’s, you know, the marathon PRs do not equate to your 50 mile per hour or a place in a hard race, right? Like there’s many other factors at play that are going to determine performance at something like 100, right? The heat, the altitude, the course profile, your ability to eat or or fuel yourself or hydrate and take care of those small tasks like all those things.
[00:17:42] All of a sudden are what are what are going to cause problems on race day? You know, and a lot of those things you can train away, like a lot of those things, if you’re properly trained, if you’re properly trained for the course, for the specificity of the race, you can train away some of those mistakes. But at the same time, like that’s why I think experience in a lot of ways can reign supreme in ultrarunning. I think it’s why ultra runners in their forties are winning races. It’s because they’ve got that experience under their belt to handle when things go wrong to to take care of things before they go wrong.
[00:18:18] But I think kind of going back to your question about performance and time and maybe setting someone up for success or failure has a lot to do with like, you know, not falling into the comparison trap, but being honest with yourself. And then I think setting up a like a stretch goal and then probably like an a goal and a b goal so that, you know, when it comes to the race, if you do need that outcome goal to kind of drive you forward during it, it’s like, okay, like maybe that, that a goal is a thing that’s like right at the cusp.
That stretch goal is the thing that’s like, like if everything goes perfectly type of thing or even a little bit beyond that, like a lofty goal and then, you know, a, B or C goal or things that are like well within your, your realm of ability. And that could even be finishing, I think finishing the race, be it a5k or a 200 miler like that can be that can be the bottom goal or the back goal or whatever it is.
[00:19:17] And then I think you can have degrees that work up all the way to your stretch goal as far as how are you going to define success? And then like having value oriented goals, like what’s most important to you I think is kind of that side, that side conversation that becomes really important once again, like very philosophical, not not necessarily physiological at all. But I mean, I don’t know what percent of the sports, quote unquote mental. So I think it’s important to to recognize that there is kind of this like a philosophical, psychological conversation going on.
Jesse: [00:19:50] I mean, if you listen to my eighth grade coach, it’s 90% mental and 10% physical. So –.
Corrine: [00:19:55] I like that.
Jesse: [00:19:56] It’s pretty I think it’s pretty accurate. It’s just your mind will will you through a 50 mile race, even if you haven’t trained for it, if it is just strong enough mind.
Corrine: [00:20:05] I mean, I have athletes who average like 40 miles a week. They have like slightly bigger weeks with some long runs or a targeted race or something who can run hundreds successfully. And I’ve got athletes who put in 120 mile weeks and can run 100 successfully and everything in between. So I think that’s the and aren’t like not to say and are performing maybe at comparable levels even. And so it’s like, yes, part of that’s talent part of that’s quality over quantity, part of that’s understanding.
You know, maybe that athlete’s fragile and like breaking themselves constantly is not going to elicit a good race result either. So I think it’s that is the beauty in maybe ultra and trail running is that there isn’t really one way even at like the upper echelon of the sport, none of us are training the exact same volume, intensity, all that kind of stuff. Like it’s, there’s, there’s little variations I think on the theme there.
Jesse: [00:20:56] Yeah, well, I think that’s one of the hardest thing for me, being new people to running at any distance to kind of come to is like there is a certain amount of increase in mileage that you need to do to increase your aerobic capacity. Just point blank. Big aerobic capacity. You got a big aerobic engine. You’re going to be you’re going to perform better to your own ability than otherwise.
But it comes with limits. And I’ve talked to I don’t know how many different people, some people who can maintain higher mileage, some people who cannot. And regardless of like not forgetting his his name right now, previous guest who was like. A pretty good 10K runner in college. Like 20/8 somewhere in there, 20, 29 minutes. Who kept breaking every year as they you know, the coach wanted to run 800 mile weeks and his senior year he finally was like, I’m going to run 40 miles a week. I’m not going to run more. And then had his best year because he wasn’t broken all year.
Corrine: [00:22:07] Yeah.
Jesse: [00:22:08] And it’s like. He was able to perform better than. But. But like. I think sometimes people want people to hear that and they go, okay, well then all I need to do is run 30, 40 miles a week and that’s all I need to do and I’ll be awesome. Like, Well, no, you may actually need to run more miles. We don’t know until we figure out more about your particular physiological stressors and ability to adapt and recovery and all those kind of things.
Corrine: [00:22:39] Yeah, it’s definitely it’s not a one size fits all training plan or training program. People get stuck in comparison like so-and-so is doing this, so I should do that. But, you know, it’s it takes kind of finding where that limit is and understanding what your goals are, too. I’ve seen athletes who it’s like I’m convinced not my personal athletes, like peers in the sport who were friends or I’m like, I think you could train less and do better or you could train. I think you have capacity to train a little bit more consistently and do better.
It’s like I see potential in people and it’s like, I wish I could. It’s not my place to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. But like if I was in charge, I would tweak it this way or that way. So I think it’s it’s interesting to kind of see to to bear witness to that, I guess is what I would say. But, you know, people are going to people can’t can’t control them all and that’s okay.
Jesse: [00:23:34] Yeah. Thinking about comparisons, though, I wanted to ask you a little bit about I read an article I think it was on iRunFar You published recently, I think it was just a couple of weeks ago to talking about running as we age and the physiological changes that we go through. So feel free to fill us in both with some numbers and physiological facts as well as my curiosity in terms of comparing yourself to your younger self or not.
[00:24:08] I mean, there’s a point when we all reach, if we continue to run through our lives where we’re basically trying to slow down as little as we can rather than get faster. And, you know, I think I find myself already there. Just given my background in my interest, I like shorter stuff like 5k, 10k, it’s going to be near impossible for me to maintain the same kind of training I was doing when I was in college. So I want to ask you about what does happen and then how do you deal with the game, so to speak, of competing with now instead of competing with the past?
Corrine: [00:24:53] Yeah, it’s super interesting. It was a fun article to write, but also like we had a lot of back and forth with with our editing team. So I write them. I write a monthly column for iRunFar called Running on Science, and it comes out the third Tuesday of every month, I think. And we’ve been doing it since like 2018, which kind of feels weird that we’ve been doing this for years now. So I’ve written a lot of things for that space.
[00:25:18] But the aging athlete was an interesting topic in that we’ve touched on it and bits and pieces in different articles I wrote about joint replacement. I’ve written about cardiovascular health, kind of some implications out of some narrative papers that have come out from like Nick Tiller and other such folks. Nick’s brilliant. I think he’s one of the smartest guys kind of on the outside, like the outside of the sport, a little bit like he himself runs Ultras, but he works at UCLA doing respiratory science there. He’s a PhD.
Super brilliant, but trying to figure out what are the things, the biggest variables for folks and I think it’s natural. Like the biggest declines generally are related to lean muscle mass and part of that’s largely due to hormonal profiles. Women have go through menopause. So generally speaking, we go through it before men do before our our male peers in that it’s harder for us to maintain muscle mass starting even in our forties potentially.
[00:26:16] And then for men that generally starts later like in their sixties and declines at such and such percent. I’d had to pull up the article in front of me every decade thereafter, and so that’s going to be related to being able to maintain that high VO2 max as well. Like lean muscle mass is is pretty closely tied to to VO2 max and that it’s like milliliter per per kg generally speaking, or per minute per minute per kilogram. And so that muscle mass is really important. I think that’s the biggest thing that kind of sends people slowly down injury, like we recover more slowly, we don’t synthesize protein as well, which is part of that recovery process.
[00:26:56] That’s where like ingesting protein at the right time is one of those ways that we can battle like battle that like it becomes way more important. Lifting weights becomes way more important once again, because you’re trying to generate protein synthesis, you’re trying to to increase that, to maintain muscle mass and maintain just healthy, healthy function in general. And I think those are and then being able that I think allows you to maintain training. And that was the other biggest factor we saw was like being able to maintain some training volume and some intensity was the biggest thing that kind of prolonged, I would say like that success in sport or pro like prolonged the slowing down period was being able to maintain training because it can be motivational, it can be time restrictions, it can be ageism.
[00:27:42] Ageism is a huge factor here. And that was a really interesting part of the conversation that when I started writing it, I wasn’t really thinking about, but through communication, communicating with our editorial team and some masters in the community that was a bit like ageism is a huge factor as far as like keeping people motivated in sport. They don’t feel like they belong in sport. They feel like the cutoffs are too hard. It’s like, Why would I do this?
They’re told that they’re frail. Like all these things. Like every single article I read literally started with like decline like this really, you know, kind of aggressive, like you’re declining mentality as opposed to being like, okay, like exercise is good for your health in general. How do we allow that to occur for as long as possible. And we you know, we heard from all sorts of athletes in the aftermath of that article coming out as far as like how they felt about it, how they felt about their own aging and their own performance.
[00:28:32] We had athletes who they ran in their twenties and thirties and then took some time off and then actually have been setting like lifetime peers because they came back as a master’s athlete, you know, and and they feel grateful that they didn’t run in college because they might not they wouldn’t win that comparison game. I personally work with an athlete who was a very fast marathoner in his twenties and now is in his sixties.
And there are days like that. I feel like that’s what we’ve worked on for a lot of the last two years is. Not feeling bad about himself when like he still is going out and like running like eights. Like he runs faster than me most days. But he was a very fast marathoner in his twenties. And 40 years later, you know, he’s not going out and running six thirties all the time.
[00:29:14] And so like that comparison, like so the ageism from the society, from society and community. And I think in that self comparison, more than like cross peer comparison are the hardest things for people. Once again, like I’m sitting here as an almost 32-year-old, so I’ve got, you know, I’ve decades maybe before this, you know, is me and that was another comment too it was a lot of people felt like, yes forties like technically 40 is considered a master’s athlete, but man 40 seems young, like just kind of talking about how like we think this conversation should actually be about sixties and seventies and eighties, which I, I don’t disagree with.
[00:29:51] I’m just I’m here to report [00:29:53] what [00:29:53] the literature says and then start a conversation around what the literature is saying. So kind of big points there are that, yes, we are fighting decline and that sounds really negative. And generally speaking that’s predominantly linked to things like are the slowing down of regeneration, protein synthesis, all that kind of stuff. So some of that we can’t necessarily fight, but it actually turns out that continuing to train is one of our best ways to to stave it off and that there are people who are super satisfied masters athletes. And I think that’s that is really great to hear.
[00:30:33] I think that we actually we had a comment on a Trail Society podcast recently in which we were talking about a woman who set an age group record for like 72, 74, I want to say like the indoor mile. She ran like a 631 indoor mile, like. Wow. And I think one of us made a comment of the to the to the like made a comment along the lines of like like we all say, like, oh, I hope I’m running when I’m 70.
[00:31:01] I hope I’m I would love to run a sub10 minute mile when I’m 70. And I think, like, oh, I hope that I’m like not using a cane when I’m 70. And we had a someone write in to us and say, you know, like that was like, I just want you to know, like, we are like really happy masters athletes, blah, blah. And I get it. Like, I get like I want to help support masters athletes and make them feel like they’re not like fighting a losing battle that they like. Like that running is fulfilling, racing is fulfilling, that they’ve got competitive. Some of them want to go. And this is all runners in general.
[00:31:38] Some of us want to go smell the flowers and some of us like have time goals and place goals. And I think that’s independent of age, right? You can enjoy running in any of those various shapes and forms, but I think we oftentimes lump master’s athletes into the like if they have any competitive drive we like. I don’t know. It’s kind of like. What am I? What word am I looking for here? It’s kind of like patronizing, maybe to be like, Oh, you’re so cute. You’re like —
Jesse: [00:32:05] Oh, that’s cute. Yes, exactly.
Corrine: [00:32:08] And it’s like, we need to not do that. Right? We like we need to I think we need to encourage, like create some different cutoffs or say there’s a 50K and a 50 mile is Eliza Howard recommendation at a race like let’s let’s make the 50K cutoff the same as the 50 mile cutoff so that if there are people in the 50K like the course has to be marshaled that entire time. Why not allow the 50K runners who might who might not be to make that 50 mile cutoff but can make the 50K cutoff to do that thing. So kind of trying to find ways to support and encourage, you know, our sixties, seventies, eighties year old runners to feel like they’re part of the community as opposed to being patronizing.
[00:32:46] And I feel like through trail society and talking about all these topics, we’ve had a lot of like, oh, yeah, we, we were, we were really wrong about that or how we talk about this as inappropriate. So I feel like it was a, a lesson in ageism for, for me writing the article just in general to understand like how different communities feel about getting older and what it’s like to be a master’s athlete.
Jesse: [00:33:12] There’s a lot to unpack there —
Corrine: [00:33:13] There’s a lot. Sorry, that was my rant on ageism.
Jesse: [00:33:16] No, that’s fine. First talk about masters starting at 40. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that cut off, generally speaking, because I think, you know, there are obviously exceptions in the ultrarunning community, but generally speaking, Tom Brady aside, most professional athletes, people at the peak of their physical fitness are going to be sub 40. Just across the board, sometimes like 25 is, you know —
Corrine: [00:33:52] In ultra in ultra endurance sports I think it skews a little bit longer just because there’s something to be said about years of even like Nordic skiing and that kind of stuff cycling like you’ll see athletes performing at a super high level, maybe even peaking in their thirties. So I think it extends our support.
Jesse: [00:34:09] For endurance runners. I think Peak is closer to 35 and it’s getting a little bit older as is we’re getting, I think, better with nutrition, better with being smart about recovery and avoiding injury and all that kind of stuff. So like I get it from the other side of being, I’m not yet there, but we’ll be soon or sooner than I think so I can kind of peer that direction and go like I get it. Be on the other side of that, you’re like, I’m locked out and forever this master’s athlete.
But again, I think it comes back to like in part that looking at I come from a math background, so this is just my bent looking at the gradations of times and where am I on the distribution and just being realistic about like this is usually the performance of somebody my age. And then how do I stack up? You know, coming back to that, some of the recommendations in the article about about changing cutoffs or having easily visible FKTs for age groups like age group course.
Corrine: [00:35:21] Age course records I think are really cool. Western states does a great job with that. For example, we really like Western states really celebrates its age group records. For example, Ragna Debats set an age group. She set the master’s record as 42 at Western States last year when she was second like in one of the fastest times ever. So it’s like, I think it’s really cool to celebrate that. I think they’ve also celebrated, you know, what it’s like, oh, they’re going after the 60 to 65 year old record or the 70, the 70 plus record like that. I think I think that is cool to celebrate like I want. When I ran Leadville in 2017, the person who got the most round of applause was the one guy in the 70 plus age group.
[00:36:05] Because they do they do the top male top female for the whole race. And they do top three age groups. What are the age groups? That’s that’s the awards they give out. And he got by far a much louder round of applause. And like Ian Sharman and Devin Yanko, who won the race, that was very, very cool. So I do think that that stuff is really beneficial.
Jesse: [00:36:27] You know, in some ways, I think that masters athletes especially the older categories. So for you the listener and I know you didn’t do a track collegiately or. Pretty sure you didn’t cross country skiing. I believe there are open open track meets you can go to that are collegiate meets. Typically the higher up the school is towards division one in the NCAA, the less likely it is to be an open meet. But there are plenty of open opportunities for people to go compete at any age. And there’s like like 100 meter, 200 meter sprints and then there are age-graded. So like. If you want to do a 100 meter. You actually aren’t always doing 100 meters, like you’ll have a shorter distance depending on your age. And it’s, it’s it’s great to try to make it fair.
[00:37:26] So I think there’s some exposure in like looking at that and you go, oh, like these guys are having trouble running 100 meters. But then if I think about like endurance runners. Like who is the epitome of. I guess this is the thing I say to myself is what is the core of an endurance? Or to me the words I will endure simply whatever it is. Who else is the embodiment of that? Then somebody in their seventies or eighties who’s still out there doing it. You know what I mean like —
Corrine: [00:38:03] Have you seen Dipsea? It’s so cool. Have you seen you’ve seen the Dipsea race maybe. It happens in June every year in Mill Valley, California, so just north of San Francisco. And it’s an age and gender graded event and it starts from Mill Valley. They go up the Dipsea. It’s called Dipsea. It’s on the Dipsea trail and it runs from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. So it’s like. Six miles. I want to say seven miles basically climbs one.
[00:38:30] It’s basically a big climb and then a big descent more or less. But they start in waves and it’s age graded and gender graded. So you’ll have like 70 year old women and like nine year old boys starting together and the top. So the fast. Basically based on gender and age, the fastest people are starting at the back and they’ve got to run through all these people and it’s you get a black shirt if you’re in the top 30 with with your finishing number on it. And so that’s a big deal to get a black shirt. I mean, like 1000 people do this race, it’s kind of wild.
[00:39:02] And oftentimes the person with the fastest course time doesn’t win because it’s the person who gets across the finish line first that wins. And so routinely, it’s like a 50, 56 year old woman or a 62 year old guy. Like, it’s really it’s very cool to watch. And then like Alex Varner, who’s in our sport or has I think he’s officially technically I think officially retired now but he’s had the fastest Dipsea time for years.
[00:39:30] And he’ll be like second or maybe third, and then like in fourth will be like a 12 year old boy or like a 12 year old girl. Like, it’s really cool to see like this, like, you know, the top 30 people to make it across the line at the end of it. And it’s like a bunch of old guys, a bunch of ladies, like a bunch of like, kids. Like, it’s pretty funny to, like, look at this, like, cohort of of athletes based on this, like, gender and age graded. Like, it’s really it’s it’s the only race that I know that does it.
[00:40:00] And it’s, like, made even more complicated because the course is, like, pretty narrow. So, like, passing is very hard, and it’s, like, very wild to watch. To watch every year it happens. It’s generally like the second weekend of June and it’s very short and fast and furious, but it’s like a big deal. Like you have to apply. There’s generally bribes involved to try to get in. Like it’s, it’s a whole thing, but it’s like it’s, it’s like the Mount Marathon of the Bay Area essentially, where it’s like a lot of locals. But some fast people will come in and it’s a really cool, cool race. But I love the age grading and the gender grading of it just to kind of like see what all how it all plays out. Like it’s very cool. Finish line.
Jesse: [00:40:40] That seemed like I hadn’t heard of the race before. And —
Corrine: [00:40:44] Now you’re going to go deep, dive into it.
Jesse: [00:40:47] Well, now we’re in deep dive. But also, I’m like, I have I have secret plans of becoming a race director. And I’ve had race director at least one race director on the show that I know I can go to him. Ian, gosh. Ian, what’s your last name? He’s the race director for Run Ottawa. It’s like a race with, like, 40,000 people in it.
Corrine: [00:41:06] Cool.
Jesse: [00:41:07] Anyway, Ian Fraser, he’s a former pro triathlete. So now I’m like, like, I talk to people, I hear these different cool, like, race ideas, the Twilight 5000, which is run by TrackSmith. I’m like, I want to do that. And I’m like, Oh, just quirky things. It’s like quirky, but very accessible. I mean, that’s that’s the cool thing about that race idea, right, is like most races, 99% of races. The fastest people are at the front at the finish line trying to win. Right. Yeah. Whereas that set up, I mean it’s a wild card. I think that’s really cool because how many times, you know. What other opportunities do you have for such a mix of people to try to be the first across the line or the top ten across the line or like.
Corrine: [00:42:10] Yeah, it’s super cool. It’s why biathlon so I did biathlon, ice skating, a sample of the firearm for a long time or basically a circle. And that’s why I think although I love cross-country skiing in general, like that’s biathlon is so interesting because like. Yeah, you can be really fast, but man, if you have a bad day on the shooting range like you can be the last stage of a race, head to head even, and like have someone have a bad day and the race results can change dramatically.
[00:42:39] And so I think that that provides a little bit more engagement to have this other component to the race that I don’t know, like it’s not it’s not a given that you’re, you’ve got the highest VO2 max, you’re going to win anything that’s cross country skiing oftentimes. Besides, there are tactics, obviously, in any of these sports. But I do think that the shooting, having the skill component added to it makes it very interesting.
Jesse: [00:43:04] So maybe before we go, I did want to ask you about the the transition from cross-country skiing to biathlon. You’re with the national team, I think, for a while and then into ultras. So, I mean, what what’s the journey like?
Corrine: [00:43:22] Yeah. So, I mean, I skied collegiately at Montana State and I ran on loan for the cross-country team. It was kind of a comical experience in which I trained with the ski team but raced with the cross-country running team and as you can imagine, did not make me maybe phenomenally well liked on the women’s cross-country team because I didn’t go to any practices. But I had a good time. It was really fun and ski collegiately and actually dropped out of school to pursue biathlon.
[00:43:49] Kind of got an offer to go be part of the junior national team. I was still a junior athlete for one more year, so dropped out of school, packed up my car, was like, maybe I’ll come back next year, maybe I won’t like worked it out with the athletic department so that if I did come back, I wouldn’t be forfeiting eligibility by being gone for this year. And so because in skiing, you’ve a five year clock, once your clock starts, you have five years to compete, complete your eligibility.
[00:44:12] And in Nordic skiing, you can’t be older than a certain age. All of Nordic skiing is Division one. And so I think it falls under a bunch of those rules. And it it protects athletes from like older European athletes coming in as like 28 year olds and destroying everyone. So there’s an age cutoff for collegiate, collegiate skiing, which wasn’t going to be an issue, but I had five years to compete if I wanted them.
[00:44:34] And so I left my junior worlds that year, went to Europe, raced European Championships, podium at European Championships, made the national team. So I dropped out of school and eight months later I made the senior national team. So I wasn’t going back to school. I moved into the Olympic training center in Lake Placid, which was a super wild experience. So, like, I’m like very good friends with like all the obscure sports superstars, like a lot of Meyers, who’s now the most decorated black winter Olympian, I think of all time winning medals in the bobsled again this year.
[00:45:10] So I feel like that’s a really weird niche. I’m going to call them celebrities to have lived with for three years. So was on the team from 2010 until 2014 ish. I basically I did like going into the 2014 Olympics, essentially lost my spot on the team because I had moved back to Montana to kind of seek out like a more like emotionally stable place to train. The Olympic training center is pretty intense. And like the team I think is in a much healthier spot than it was at that point. But basically, I was really burnt out. And so instead of going to the Olympics in 2014, I enrolled in 21 credits at school. I went back to school full time. I was really like sick, burnt out, whatever you want to call it likely fits every criteria for overtraining syndrome.
[00:45:58] Very last stop on the train their pretty broken. And so took a bunch of time off, went back to school. But ski training is honestly ultra training. Like you go for a four hour run in the mountains and you bring snacks like that is ski training in the summer. And so as I was getting out and exercising again and like moving my body, that’s what I gravitated towards was just like doing long days on the trails by myself and recognize that that was I could probably race if I wanted to. And so in 20 like kind of late 2015 and then in 2016, I started doing trail stuff again, which turned into ultra stuff because I think it was my dad. I’m sure I’ve been quoted as saying this before. I did my first like I did like a 50K and some like sky, sky running type stuff.
[00:46:49] And my dad pulled me aside and was like, you know, Corey, I think if I think you’d be really good if you went longer, like I think, I think that would really suit you very well, probably because I’m stubborn and I’ve been stubborn since I was very small. So I went from doing that to, to diving into the ultra community just to see if I could do it. And I think that was 2016, that summer ran my first ultras and it kind of spiraled out of control from there.
[00:47:17] You know, by 2017, I ran my first hundred 2018 and 2019, I ran Western states like kind of, you know, dove fully back into a sport again and got very fortunate that 1, my body handled it pretty well 2, I had good support and guidance and was really happy doing it and that I wanted to like compete and see how I felt about racing and comparison and stacking up against people and found that despite having this like long chunk of being in a kind of a dark place with overtraining had kind of come, come out of that. It took a long time for me to one feel fresh again, like I had a run where I was like, Oh, this is what freshness feels like.
[00:48:02] And it also took a long time, I think until honestly like the last year or so, to really feel like I could take myself seriously as an athlete again. And that’s saying that as someone who just finished a three year contract with Adidas and signed a three year contract. So I’ve been I said I would say that I. People would assume, and I probably should be taking it seriously given that I have a contract. But I don’t think it was until like the last 18 months or so that I was like, I think I’m healthy enough, like mentally to take myself seriously.
[00:48:32] Like I’ve my approach to ultrarunning up to this point has been kind of like a laid back casual approach, because if I don’t if I don’t, quote unquote care about it too much, I can’t get hurt by it. Having done that in a totally different sport already. So I think it’s kind of cool to like feel like I’m at equilibrium with a lot of that. So I do stretch periodically now and I do try to drink my recovery drink now and, you know, prioritize getting sleep.
[00:49:02] So I think it’s it’s a good place to be. But yeah, I have a long, winding, messy kind of ski and biathlon career that accelerated really rapidly and then like decelerated very rapidly. But it’s been kind of I wanted to try ultrarunning in part because I really love to travel and I love getting to see different countries on my feet. And so it was an opportunity to to do that, to go to Europe, to go to I’ve gone to Hong Kong, I’ve gone to India, I’ve gotten to travel to some really cool, weird places like with running now.
[00:49:36] And so places that I didn’t get to go, but I did skiing in biathlon because you race in Western Europe when you do biathlon. So it’s it’s very fun to get to be in a sport that’s taken me to some really cool places over the last three years.
Jesse: [00:49:51] But it seems I mean, maybe it’s just a matter of hindsight’s 2020, that kind of thing. But it seems like maybe the the leap from one to the other isn’t quite as far as I might want to make it out to be. In my brain, I think just being from the Midwest, I mean, there are people who do winter sports, but generally speaking, it’s so far from my own little world that I’m like, you’re all these ski things. Like, what are these things that you’re strapping to your feet? Whereas like really it’s just you’re another class of endurance or endurance athlete. It just, you know, it’s not quite as divided from the sport is is my brain wants to make it out —
Corrine: [00:50:36] I mean I grew up in northern Wisconsin. I grew up the American Birkebeiner, which is the largest ski race in North America, finishes on Main Street of the town I grew up in. Yeah. So I grew up, we call it. I feel like they call it silent sports. It’s like, oh, things that are popular, like trail running and Nordic skiing and snowshoeing and open water kayaking, like things that are like calm and quote unquote silent sports. I grew up in those communities, and so I don’t think it was a big you know, skiing to me is like it’s like like Minnesota cross-country skiers.
[00:51:12] Courtney de Waltzer, cross-country skiing in college. Garrett Heath or not? I don’t know. She didn’t ski in college. High school like high school skiers that are currently ultrarunning are like Courtney de Waltzer, Steph Howe, Garrett Heath is supposedly going to come run some trail stuff but has a very good track career professionally. They all they all grew up in the Minnesota cross-country ski world.
[00:51:32] So it’s kind of funny looking back on those results because a bunch of a bunch of runners names Ben True super good American Road Runner skied ski collegiately at Dartmouth but also grew up cross-country skiing in Minnesota. So there’s like these weird endurance ties. And I think it’s because cross-country skiers have an immense not need, but they are really good at suffering because the sport hurts a whole lot.
And so I think that it’s akin to like the 10K runner in a lot of ways, like you’re good at every minute of that race hurts and it’s a lot of minutes. You know, every race, every minute of a 6k hurts and it’s not an insignificant amount of minutes to hurt for. And so I think that that translates super well to ultrarunning in which many minutes actually feel really good. But you can have an hour of feeling really terrible and you have you’ve survived probably worse. So I think that like inherently. Nordic skiers have been trained to thrive in those environments.
Jesse: [00:52:35] As a shameless plug for myself and not really myself, but taking it way back. Stephanie Howe was a very early guest on the podcast episode 19, so —
Corrine: [00:52:47] She’s amazing!
Jesse: [00:52:47] Check that out. So as we’re wrapping up here, you’ll get a different question than she did every year. I do a different question that I ask every single guest for that season.
Corrine: [00:52:58] Cool!
Jesse: [00:52:59] So this season’s question I’m asking everybody is — well, the question is because people don’t do this enough. So I’m hoping you do. Talking about value judgments on racing, how do you celebrate your wins?
Corrine: [00:53:17] Oh, so many different types of wins. So many different ways to celebrate. I don’t want to say foodstuff because food shouldn’t be a reward. You should just enjoy food like point blank. Right. So it’s not. It’s not like that. Celebrate my wins. What kind of wins? Big wins? Little wins?
Jesse: [00:53:36] You get. You get to decide what that means. It’s a very open-ended question.
Corrine: [00:53:43] I am not stumped. I will come up with something. How do I celebrate my wins? I think you have to give yourself time to let them sink in a little bit, because sometimes it might not feel like a win right away, or it might not be like, Oh, I won the race type of win, right? Like, I’ve won by like writing an aggressive email. Before I was like, yes, I stood up for myself. That felt great. But I do think it’s important to to let them sink in and to realize that you’ve done a good job.
[00:54:18] Because I don’t think I don’t think wins are always this really clear cut thing of like, you’re the first across the finish line. Hopefully people have wins in their every day. I used to have to keep an accomplishment journal so that I like could check in on my day, be like, okay, what did I accomplish today? I need a positive if you’ve been depressed, you know what I’m talking about.
[00:54:43] But I do think that that’s important to recognize that, like, wins and accomplishments aren’t these big things. Sometimes they’re I put on hard pants today, like I put on jeans or, you know, that kind of thing. But you know me, I’ll also be like, I get a mocha today because I went for my long run in the rain. So I think it’s like, you know, it can look different for different points in time and different styles of win. But I do think just like give yourself a moment to like enjoy it and then, you know, kind of do whatever you got to do next.
Jesse: [00:55:16] Corrine, you do a lot of different things, so I know there’s a lot of different places that people can get in touch with you if they want to listen to more of what you have to say, read your stuff. Any of that kind of stuff. Where can they find you?
Corrine: [00:55:30] Oh, my goodness. Yes, I wear too many hats for sure. You can find me. I’m not creative. My name is my name. If you can spell my name, you can find me. And so I’m on Instagram at CorrineMalcolm. I’m pretty active on Twitter at CorrineMalcolm I don’t — My website and blog is pretty out of date, so I wouldn’t necessarily use that. You can find my science writing at iRunFar under the Running on Science column, and then you can find me hosting the CTS Train Right podcast alongside Adam Pulford and the Trail Society podcast alongside Hilary Allen and Kelly Henninger.
Jesse: [00:56:07] Corrine, thanks for hanging out with me today.
Corrine: [00:56:08] Yeah, it was amazing. Thank you!