Q&A with Ultra Runner Amy Clark

Amy Clark
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New Balance and RootsRated have teamed up to profile runners making a difference in their communities. We asked each of our runners a series of questions to learn a little more about what running means to them, where they like to run, and what are some of their running goals.

Amy Clark, 50, has found an interesting mix between hardcore athlete and glamour girl. Easily recognizable on the trails with her sparkly running skirts, Clark spreads the love for trail running in the Twin Cities area.

Do you belong to any running groups?
I am a member of UMTR (Upper Midwest Trail Runners), which is less of a "running group" (in the meet up style) than an overall organization, although the UMTR web page is a great way to find out who is running each weekend and where you can meet people. There is a core of folks who meet at Lebanon Hills on many weekends, and I often join them. I also have an informal group of early bird trail fans who meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at Hyland for an hour-plus of trail running and camaraderie.

Do you have any favorite trails?
The most overall uplifting trail I ran this year was the one in the Glacial Trail 50k in Greenbush, WI. It was unbeatable for uplifting beauty. The Superior Hiking Trail, particularly near Tettagouche State Park, has stunning vistas and is challenging. And I love any part of the Powerlines/Purgatory lower SHT/Duluth section for when I want to emerge a bloodied and beaten badass (or just bloodied and beaten). Locally, I do Lebanon Hills a lot on weekends, plus the River Bottoms and Hyland are my close-by options. Hyland is 15 minutes away, which makes it great for spontaneous hill repeats. There is new single track in Theodore Wirth Park, which is also sweet.

Morning runner or after work?
Morning! I have been on the sick-early plan for as long as I can remember. I love having it done, knowing that regardless of what the day brings, I've experienced that joy and worked hard. Plus, the sunrises are beautiful. That being said, I will happily meet a friend after work for a catchup run, etc., if that is the best time to connect, but I would never run in the evening by myself as a preference. In addition, my children are super-busy, and most of my nights are devoted to being with them, driving them places, etc.

Treadmill. Yes or No?
I have absolutely no problems with treadmills, unlike many runners. Mine is on my three-season porch (it doesn't get too hot when I run, since the porch is usually in the 40s during the winter, when I'm most apt to use it), and it looks out on my favorite tree and my street. I bring my phone and listen to NPR, play all my thousands of tunes on my Cloud, etc. As long as I have something to listen to, I can actually do a 20-miler on that thing and not have it be too painful. Sometimes my family just likes having me around, and will request that I "stay home to run today." How can you say no to that? The only rule is that unless someone is bleeding, I'm not jumping off. On the really early, really dark, really frigid, really icy/slippery days, it's satisfying to get the full distance and the full difficulty done safely and effectively.

Do you run year round? Outside in the winter?
I run year-round. I love running in fresh snow if it's not crazy cold. As a general rule, I run outside in winter if 1) it is above about 2-5 degrees--I have Raynaud's in my hands, and they get extremely painful below a certain temperature, and 2) It's not dangerously icy--I fell and gave myself a mild concussion on the icy streets last winter, and never want to do that again! If it is icy, really cold, or I have to run crazy early and don’t have partners, I will fire up the Clark Towers treadmill, or go to the gym and run there.

What's your routine? Coffee first? Out the door fast, or slow transition?
Alarm goes off between 4:30 - 5am during the week. Consider staying in bed with cats or perhaps random child who has had a bad dream and wandered in, then jettison those thoughts and leap up. Coffee has been queued up and pre-programmed the night before (a must). Go downstairs, feed the cats, get coffee, moving with mole-like stealth to not wake the rest of the fam. Dress, pack bag, take coffee in a travel mug, and hop into the car to head to the desired trail. (If I am running the Lakes, I just head out the door, since they are a mile away, but the rest of my locations require driving). Wakeup to departure is generally about 40-45 minutes, although I can do it in far less time if I am pressed. But I like time to move slowly, sip my coffee, listen to NPR while I dress, etc. I'm usually out the door by 5:15-5:30. The weekend routine is the same, although the start time is often a bit more civilized.

Do you listen to music? Have any favorites?
I don't listen to music while I run, because I am high-maintenance and hate having extra "stuff" (earbuds, cords, etc.) to deal with on the trail, but I love it on the ride to and from races, and it is essential when I'm on my home treadmill. I tend to like kind of big loud repetitive (often ridiculous) stuff to get me ready for a long run or a race... Green Day's "Know Your Enemy," Free Energy's "Bang Pop" and Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog," for example. Or I will go the classical route and put "Carmina Burana" on volume 11, or the "Dies Irae" from the Mozart Requiem, and just blast the roof off my car.

In the middle of a hard race with the devil on your shoulder telling you to quit, how do you keep going?
I have never DNF-ed yet, and although I have been known to actually sob in frustration in solo sections of the SHT (don't tell anybody) I have never really considered stopping. I have a weird Puritan work ethic side, that pushes me on and tells me that even though this may be the slowest 50k I've done or that everything is imploding, I will still feel proud to finish, and earn whatever treat I've promised myself (usually a huge fancy coffee beverage). I feel compelled to see things through. (I hasten to add that I've never done a 50- or 100-mile trail race, where many more factors can come into play).

Favorite post race/long run activity/approach to recover?
Immediately post-race, I live for a giant mocha, a hot shower, and a meal with friends to rehash the day's battles and show our scars. (In my case, these are often actual scars). I have a hard time easing off the running, even after big races, because I love seeing my running-group friends so much.

Bucket list races?
Some day, I would like to be good enough to do a destination trail race in one of the running meccas — Colorado, Utah, California. I would also love to run some of the hills and trails in England, Ireland, and Scotland, as I lived there for five years and loved the pristine countryside there. I will need about two years of solid hill work before I will be fit enough for any of those dreams, however!

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