Q&A with Ultra Runner Andy Montgomery

Andy Montgomery
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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.

Since moving to San Francisco about a year and half ago, Andy Montgomery has tackled several ultras while immersing himself in the Bay Area’s trail running community. He talked to RootsRated about his favorite routes, post-run watering holes, and his passion for the trails.

If you had to pick a favorite trail route in the Bay Area, what would it be?
When I first moved to San Francisco, every Sunday I’d do a Mt. Tam ascent, and that’s still probably my favorite run in the area. If you do it early enough, you can catch the sunrise, and you’ve got the marine layer and the clouds sitting above the bay and the city. It’s a really nice way to start the day.

One of Montgomery's favorite places to run in the Bay Area is Mount Tam.
One of Montgomery's favorite places to run in the Bay Area is Mount Tam. Miguel Vieira

What’s your favorite post-run watering hole?
When I have friends come visit, we’ll go run in the [Marin] headlands, and then we’ll do brunch or lunch at Mill Valley Beerworks , which has a great brunch as well as beers they brew. If I run in the city, we’ll circle up afterward at Magnolia in the Haight. I have a friend I run with in the Mission, and we’ll go to Dear Mom afterwards. It’s big, so you can meet a group of people there easily.

What’s one lesson that’s really stuck with you throughout your journey as a trail runner?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is to really listen to my body. Getting older—I’m 37 now—you realize your body doesn’t heal as well as it used to. So understanding what your body is telling you in terms of pain or hydration or a need for rest, that’s one of the most fascinating things in terms of running ultras.

What would you tell runners who are looking to get into ultra running?
If you want to ramp up to longer distances, you have to put in those base miles. It’s just work—log the miles, log the miles. My comfortable base right now is 15-20 miles per run. What’s nice about that is that I could go out and run a 50K without it really breaking the bank, because I have that nice foundation of being comfortable at 15-20 miles. If you’re willing to build up that mileage, the payoff is huge.

You’ve got a 50-miler on the calendar—have you thought past that in terms of your next goal?
I’ve begun to consider a 100-miler after volunteering at Western States this year and getting to watch the winners come in. The 50-miler in December (North Face Endurance Challenge) will be a big test as to whether I want to train for longer races.

What about your diet—do you follow any guidelines or specific regimen, such as gluten-free?
I’ve experimented a lot with nutrition in recent years. I’ve been mostly gluten-free for about three years now, which improved how I feel generally. I was Paleo for the last few years as well and eat very little sugar. After doing some reading recently (like Jurek’s book Eat & Run; Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life; and Forks Over Knives), I’m now trying to go vegetarian/vegan. I feel much healthier in general as a result and I seem to recover more quickly. Not sure if it will stick, but it’s been interesting to experiment with.

How do you refuel on the trail?
Mostly with a combination of gels (Gu Roctane) and bars (Picky Bars are my current favorites). Salt sticks or Endurolytes as well and usually some kind of electrolyte drink in addition to lots of water.

And what’s your biggest culinary indulgence after a long run or race?
Ice cream. I rarely eat it and it’s a great recovery food if I can find some after a long run. Otherwise usually my recovery mix is a bunch of green vegetables blended up with protein powder. And a hoppy IPA of course!

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