Tuesday is profile day. In this issue, we go back to our October 2012 issue for a 10 x 10 profile with Amy (Lane) Rusiecki. We asked her 10 questions and she gave us 10 great answers.
1. Who are you? How did you get started in running?
I came from an active family and running was part of that. Oddly enough, my first running memories are associated with punishment. When I talked back to my parents, they would sentence me to run a few laps around the neighborhood. In middle school running was the only sport that 6th graders could sign up for, so I did that and found I really enjoyed running through the woods – and I ran cross country through my senior year in college.
I was a competitive cross country skier from age 10 through college, so running was only a sport to keep me in shape during the off season and was supplemented by plenty of roller skiing, biking, and swimming to build my skiing strength. It wasn’t until after college, when it started to become tough to find reliable, groomed snow, and the time to wax and prep my skis, that running became more of my primary sport.
I bounced around for a few years after college, focusing on road running, triathlons, mountain biking, cyclocross, and finally found my passion with trail running and ultramarathons. I did my first ultramarathon on a ‘dare’ from a running buddy, but was instantly hooked and have been loving the challenge and fun of it ever since.
2. A fellow runner says this about you: “Amy is a real tough runner. She can take a major fall and keep going like no one I have ever seen. Ask her how many races she has finished with her knees bleeding!” Where does this toughness come from and how can others get it? And how many races have you finished with bloody knees?
I don’t think you can get ‘toughness’ from anything other than just deciding that you’re not going to let the little things (like bruised legs and cut up knees or puking your guts out) get you down and ruin a fun day out on the trails. But if I didn’t finish any race where I fell and got beat up, I would very rarely reach the finish line! I fall a lot – I’m just a bit klutzy. Most of the time I’m having so much fun that I don’t realize how badly I’m hurt until I finish and look at the carnage. Plus, I find it amusing to see the reaction from the aid station volunteers when they see my injury and freak out. They always want me to stop and let them bandage me up, and I just reply that I’m fine and will fix it up once I’ve finished. Bottom line: pain is weakness leaving the body, right?!?
3. You also have a reputation as a smart runner, often passing competitors in the second half of a race. How do you “keep your wits about you” in the heat of battle?
I’ve been competing in running races for over 20 years, and have many thousands of race miles under my belt. I am pretty confident in what my abilities are, and what I think I can accomplish on any given day, so at the beginning of a race I know how to pace my effort, knowing that folks who are ahead of me will either come back to me or will run an amazing race and beat me. I have learned to run my own race, and I am careful not to compare myself to others and not to race others until I’m close enough to the finish that I can go for it. Of course, if I start to catch people later in the race, that inspires me to push harder and catch more people.
4. Describe your best performance and proudest accomplishment.
Best performance? Maybe my 2009 Pineland Farms 50 miler – my 50 mile PR at the time was around 9 hours, but I just had the complete Zen race and finished ahead of the course record, in 7:25. I had no idea I had that in me. However, it may be tied with my 5k PR race, where I entered to pace a friend and realized about halfway that I had dropped her and was on pace to break 18:30 for the first time. I finished in 18:21, and proceeded to win and get a CR at a tough trail 50k the next day.
Proudest accomplishment? Likely my Vermont 100 race this year. I was running strong through the halfway point and started to have unusual leg pain – shooting pains up my legs with every stride like I had never felt. I fell back from 1st female to 5th, and 16th overall to 40th. I tried to drop out at mile 62 and my crew wouldn’t let me. They pumped me full of painkillers and told me to keep going. They brought me back to life, and I started feeling better – chasing down the competition. I ultimately surged back to 16th overall, and 2nd female just 2 minutes behind the winner (120 seconds over 100 miles), getting a new PR by almost an hour. It was a comeback for the ages on a day when I had all but given up. Ultimately, I give credit to my crew and pacers since they did the lion’s share of the work to keep me in the game and get me that result.
5. What’s your “go to” workout?
That’s a trade secret! But, honestly, I owe all of my improvement in running to finding an amazing group to train with, so my ‘go to workout’ is just to never say no to anyone asking to do a run (I’m always down for long runs, tempo runs, track workouts, whatever!). From keeping me company on long runs, pushing the tempo at track workouts, or getting me out the door on sub-zero mornings, the girls that I run with have helped me improve so much and have been more critical than any one workout or any detailed training plan.
6. How do you know you’re ready for a big race?
I honestly never know if I’m ready. It always seems like my runs leading up to my goal races feel slow and exhausting. I tend to run great races when they aren’t my goal race and then have epically horrific disasters during the races that I care about. So, now I try to not get so concentrated on any particular race and just have some fun and let the results happen.
7. Recently you completed a 6 day partnered race in which you ran side by side with someone for 120 miles and 20,000 feet of climbing. What was that experience like?
Stage racing and partner racing are a whole new ballgame. It was a lot of fun to have my partner, Dave James, coax my best performance out of me and watch out for me throughout the week. Racing day after day is tough – it takes patience to not race too hard on the first few days and rely on my ‘ultra-legs’ to build gaps over the final few stages, but it also takes giving a bit more than you think you have…because I found that my body recovered more than I thought it would. However, it’s sometimes tough – I felt incredibly guilty for leading us down a wrong turn on the last day and costing us 3 extra miles, which put us off the daily podium for the only time in the race. When you’re running on your own then your own stupid mistakes (wrong turns, not fueling properly, dehydration, bonking, ) only affect you. In this race, Dave’s fate was linked to my ability to execute.
8. Do you run doubles?
I do run doubles; it’s necessary for me to get in the mileage I feel like I need. But, I think they’re great for any runner who wants to boost mileage and/or train the body to run on slightly tired legs since you can go quicker in your pace for two short runs rather than one long run.
9. What do you do when you have a cold, ache, pain or bloody appendage?
I tend to run through most anything. I know when I need to take an easy day or maybe take a day off, but unless it’s a severe injury or cold then I’ll keep going. I’ve had a few random injuries, and if it hurts to run then I try to at least bike or cross train to get my heart rate up.
10. Describe your diet both when you are not running (regular daily meals) and while you are running ultras.
My diet is pretty boring. I try to eat healthy, but I have a wicked sweet tooth and weakness for crappy food. My husband is also a runner, so our trips to the supermarket involve getting a bushel of bananas for the week, plus fruit and veggies, skipping most of the middle of the supermarket (except for cereal and tortilla chips), and then heading to the refrigerator section to get yogurt and cheese. We have a share with our local CSA, so we enjoy trying to find a way to incorporate interesting veggies into our meals – through stir-fries, salads, quiche, or whatever wacky recipe I can find.
During an ultra, fueling is as important as training. I do my best to get in +/-250 calories per hour, which often involves a Gu (or Honey Stinger Chews) plus liquid calories in my bottle. I am a salty sweater, so I have to take in a salt tab or two per hour, plus plenty of fluids. I haven’t had much success with ‘real food’ during an ultra, the exception being watermelon, so I just have to take in whatever looks appealing and try to consume within my calorie goals. Sometimes it’s forcing calories and fluids, but it is necessary!
Look for Amy (bloody knees are her tell) at an ultra near you.
To read more articles from our October 2012 issue, click here.