Q&A with Ultra Runner Rachel DuBois

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At the age of 29 a brief conversation with a wild-eyed, unshaven young man opened Rachel DuBois’ eyes to a whole new world of long distance hikes. Learning how long the AT thru-hiker had been on the trail was a revelation that planted a seed in her brain. After some down time when her kids were born DuBois decided to give running a shot to get back in shape. In 2011 she completed her first marathon and has since finished 33 more races of marathon distance or longer.

DuBois continues to be impressed by people she meets on the trail and shares her love of people, running, and the outdoors with her family. You read her full profile here.

You now have the title of mom and business owner, how does ultra-running fit in those job descriptions?
I look at this (ultra-running) as taking my long distance backpacking and cramming it in. I can’t afford to be out on trails for weeks on end. So now I’m cramming all that weekly mileage into one day. I still get my mountain time. It’s just condensed. I only run one event per month, I protect my weekends with my kids.

What do you eat to fuel yourself during a long race?
I don’t do a lots of fancy engineered drinks. Maybe some Cliff Shot Blocks. But a race, for me, is going to last 10 or more hours. I go with real food. Grilled cheese sandwiches, potato chips, chicken noodle soup. They always put on such great buffets at ultra events. I love the diversity of food that’s offered. But really it comes back to the grilled cheese.

How about after a tough run?
I’m very big on recovery beverages. White Street Brewing Company in Wake Forest is one of my favorites. They’re surrounded by good restaurants. You can order from any of them and they’ll bring your food to you.

What is your go-to training trail?
I’m very lucky because 10 minutes from my back door is Umstead State Park. That’s my go to, quick fix when I need trail time. The park spans the western edge of Raleigh. The Company Mill trail is a great option there.

And when it’s time to gear up, what’s your store of choice?
Bull City Running in Durham. They are incredibly patient, informed, and helpful. They’re willing to go through 10 pairs of shoes with you and they are happy to be helping. They sponsor a bunch of local running events and clinics. They’re a great resource in the community.

Speaking of community, is there a club you really like to run with?
The Mangum Track Club is not your standard running club. There are no dues, no officers, and no bylaws. Joining is simple. You have to complete a 15 mile “shirt run.” After the run you get your shirt and you’re a member for life. I love the diversity of abilities (in the club). From running legends like Doug Dawkins to people who walk the 15 miles. They even give out tags for dogs that finish the run.

You aren’t a life-long runner. What got you into the sport?
I stayed pretty active, then the kids came along. We would get out for day hikes sometimes and occasional camping trips. Those were nice treats but not daily activity. When the kids got a little older I needed to start moving towards some of my aspirations. I grabbed some shoes and started putting in miles with the goal of running a marathon in a year or two.

You did that marathon and several more. How did you transfer to trail / ultra-running?
A friend asked me to pace her at the Umstead 100. That day rocked my world. What I loved about it was the diversity. In a million years I wouldn’t have thought that some of them were runners, let alone that they were 100 milers. I always enjoy being surprised by others. I was reminded that you can’t judge someone by their looks. From that alone, you know nothing. I also love standing at the base of a mountain, looking up, and going “oh sh@#!” But then, when I get to the top, look at across the valley an realize that I was on the other side of that mountain 5 hours ago.

You’ve completed more than 30 races of marathon distance or longer. How do you get through the really tough ones?
My toughest race so far was The Ring. Of the 50 starters only 25 finished, I was number 24. I honestly thought that race cured me of ultra-running. When I got home my husband smiled at me and said “wow, you finished in the top half of participants.” I didn’t think I belonged with that caliber of runner and he turned it around. I also like that (my kids) are seeing that everything is possible. That your non-athletic, average mama can cover 100 miles.

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